Tuesday, April 28, 2009

M-I-C. See you real soon. K-E-Y. Why? Because we love you.

Hello, readers. My posts have been fairly absent of late. This is due to many things, none of which are the swine flu, Tokyo's self-propelling goo, or Barbara Streisand. Two things to which it is actually due would be those events to which sometimes I refer (and involve my family hopefully not all deciding to die simultaneously), and also this thing here, which is a magnelephant blog started by me in which I plan on discussing everything ever. There will probably be a lot of posts about cats.

In other words (are there any other kind?), this may be my last post here, and it may not, depending on how the moon strikes me. It's been fun and this magazine will have many wonderful people, not me, working for it next year. One of them you can read her stories here and here. If you ask her nicely, maybe she will sometimes post on this blog, or poke someone else into doing it. If she pokes hard enough, that someone else maybe will sometimes be me.

One last/more/erm time, here's a list of things that I more or less found interesting enough to compose into a list, occasionally annotated by my silly serious ruminations:

The Nebula Awards have been announced. LCRW tabluates winners according to gender, which makes sense if you understand the concept of Tiptree-ian momentum.

A person with my name, along with my brain and my fingers and my ankles, has published an article in Strange Horizons called, "Imagining the Perfect Man: Science Fiction and the Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin." The pictures are quite nice.

A list by John Crowley in which there are suggested many books for people, especially those with fantasy and sci-fi inclinations [taken, as are most of my ideas, from the man in black who doodles rats and doesn't--yet--have a famous album of him singing in a prison. Though there are reports of him carrying dead women in alleys.]

Happy tomorrow, readers.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Thursday Things

Hello, readers. As you may know, it's possible that the brief, but fervent, rioting over Amazon's supposedly targeted deranking of GLBT books was a lot of roused rabble over nothing, or that maybe it wasn't.

Here are things you can be sure are worth getting excited about.

A review in the New York Times of Yoshihiro Tatsumi's graphic memoir, A Drifting Life. Tetsumi, born 1935 in Osaka, Japan, came of age during the era of atomic bombs, washing machines, and Coca-Cola. This was also the era of Manga, of "big, dewy eyes; tiny mouths; piles of spiky hair." Tetsumi went a different way, though, being the manifestee of a form called gekiga, a "darker" and "often more violent" graphic style. His memoir covers all of this, the emergent culture and art, in a mere 855 pages. "It’s as if someone had taken a Haruki Murakami novel and drawn, beautifully and comprehensively, in its margins."

Neil Gaiman discusses Sir Clement Freud and Grimble.

Nathan Bransford, literary agent, challenges you to be him.

And finally, once upon a time, in an LA Times article, Seth Grahame-Smith said he had "no plans to build a classic-books-remix career." "I don't know," he said, "if I want to be the guy who writes 'Pride and Prejudice and Zombies' and then 'Sense and Sensibility and Vampires,' or 'Wuthering Heights Reloaded.' " And, well, he's not that guy. He's the guy who's writing Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Apparently it's a historical horror remix career he's after. Next up, 'Plato versus the Blob.' Followed soon, of course, by a super historical horror remix in which Elizabeth Bennett, Abraham Lincoln, and Plato join forces to battle giant mutant rabbits.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Monday Mobs...

That logo delights me, not necessarily because it's the prettiest or most clever logoed rage ever made, but because of what it implies concerning the world we live in, namely, that righteous crusaders/mobs/concerned and informed activists, through the interweb (especially now with Twitter and hashtags) have a remarkably easy time gathering together and taking action against perceived and/or actual injustice. This has it's downside, I suppose, as occasionally angry mobs have made mistakes, but still, it's thrilling to see how pitchforks have evolved into google bombs. Amazon Rank.

Amazon's "glitch" in which GLBT books have been deranked is wonderfully discussed here and here and here. Read and become enraged, readers. It's intoxicating.

Happy rioting.


Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Robot Tuesday

There's every possibility I'll be unable to post tomorrow, and there were things to important not to mention and arrange pictures about.

For one, Fantagraphics is offering 15% off their roster of Eisner nominated books. These include bits by Kevin Huizenga and John Kerschbaum, collections of Village Voice strips and the WWII cartoons of Bill Mauldin, as well as several editions of The Comics Journal. My favorite, though, based solely on the cover and description would be The Last Musketeer by Jason. "The now centuries-old Athos" panhandles and trades on his old fame until, one day, Martians invade and once again "there is a need for swashes to be buckled..."

For two, I read this past weekend a book called Genesis by Bernard Beckett. If I were to sum it up in a sentence, a perfectly reasonable thing to do, I think, I would say it's a Platonic sci-fi think-piece about what it means to be human in which there are featured: an orangutan robot, occasional laser beams, a shadowy Academy, and one very long and revelatory job interview. Also, it reminded me of a certain movie which I can't mention for fear of ruining certain things. Plus that would involve writing a second sentence about the book.

For three, A Beautiful Revolution, the blog of Andre Jordan. He wrote a book called Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now. Maybe don't visit the blog if you're in the mood for cartoons where people do not cut off their heads with a saw. It's kind of funny, though. And it might just make you smile, readers, and so maybe it's exactly the place you've been looking for all your life.

Mythical Monday

Hello, readers. I've decided this is the sort of Monday which may not exist. It's unseasonably cold and there's every chance it may rain. It's possible this is a late April Fool's joke. Nature is reliably disorganized about these things.

Here is a list of stuff which probably exists.

Samuel 'Chip' Delaney profiled in the Philadelphia Inquirer. The man truly does have a fine beard. [via LHB]

More news from the future. The interstices of publishing in a world of Kindles and iPhones and gWheezits gets discussed in a New York Times article. Specific topics include: e-books, Gatsby's twitter account, inserting cutscenes within prose similar to Wing Commander III, and the one-day future of interactive electronic narratives (as in, like, interactive fiction? Not really. Video games? Nothing so ambitious. More like snazzy web-pages.)

Learn of the very important, or maybe insignificant, matter of Shakespeare's possibly being a hottie.

To sum up: "Myth isn't about something which never happened, but about something which happens over and over again." Like a certain day of the week, no?

ttfn, readers.

p.s. Yes, it is Tuesday. This only adds evidence to my theory of Monday being a myth, though.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Hello Again

Hello, readers. Events occurred somewhat separate to the Book Conference which involved me reporting less than I had intended. A summary of fun will come, but for now, here are new things which are happening.

David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlases and Ghostwrittens, as well as a Black Swan Green, will have a new novel out in June 2010. [via Ed]

Gabriel Garcia Marquez retires.

Last week, Alison Bechdel graphically reviewed Jane Vandenburgh's non-graphic, plain text memoir, A Pocket History of Sex in the Twentieth Century. It's beautifully done and made reading the actual book almost seem beside the point, but maybe I just have a thing for predominantly blue comic book panels. In any case, considering the fairly ubiquitous practice of textually reviewing graphic works, it seems high time the tables were turned* on the written word.

In completely unrelated news, here's one more article on the assimilation/acceptance of comic books into the literary establishment. It's actually quite cogent and my somewhat exasperated introduction shouldn't dissuade you from reading it.

The second volume of Interfictions, an anthology of interstitial writing, has a cover and it would be the rising sun swedish congolomeration pictured to your left (unless you're looking at your monitor upside down, in which case, I worry about you). Also, you can go here, and flickr your way through the pool of pictures from which the eventual cover was chosen.

*What if the table's round? Would anyone notice a round table turning? Does it mean to flip someone's table upside down, as in ha-ha, written word, you thought you were going to have a nice spaghetti dinner, but lo, now the table is upside down and your dinner but a flattened memory!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Oxford Conference for the Book

Quick post, events occurring.

Today marks the beginning of the 2009 Oxford Conference for the Book. Each year, a Mississippian of artistic bent, generally deceased, gets celebrated. Last year it was Zora Neale Hurston. This year it's Walter Ingils Anderson, an author, blockprinter, and children's book illustrator, among other things.

If you're in the area, check the schedule, stop by for some of the events.

On the third floor of the University library, there's an exhibition of Mr. Anderson's watercolors and ink drawings inspired by classic works of literature (Alice in Wonderland, Paradise Lost, Don Quixote, and so forth).

Tomorrow morning (Friday morning), Trenton Lee Stewart author of The Mysterious Benedict Society will be reading and talking with fifth graders. He'll be signing books, as well, along with Jay Asher at Square Books, Jr. at 3pm.

And on Saturday, don't miss Jack Pendarvis doing something Pendarvisian at his reading alongside fellow author folk, Steve Yarborough and John Pritchard.

The whole thing ends Saturday at 6 at Off-Square, where there'll be a marathon book signing/Granta/Square Books party.

Reportage and pictures forthcoming.*

ttfn, readers.

*Unless they don't, but hopefully they will. Depends, mainly, on batteries being properly charged.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wednesday Whatsits

The semifinals of the Tournament of Books has begun. First up, 2666 vs. City of Refuge. Second up, A Mercy vs. Shadow Country. After that comes the zombies.

Philosophy is cool again.

Matthew Cheney discusses the links between Philip K. Dick and poet Jack Spicer at Strange Horizons. Included: a brief scene of strong sexual content, "Beatrice/Shimmering in infinite space," and an imagined goodbye.

The first volume of Samuel Beckett's letters discussed by Nicholas Lezard at the Guardian and Anthony Lane at the New Yorker.

Over at a mysterious place called The Stranger, there's a write-up of a showdown "to determine, once and for all, which popular young-adult fantasy series--Harry Potter or Twilight--is the best." The showdown consisted of a debate between two teams of three girls apiece. The whole thing reminds me of another great battle, that of David and Goliath, except in this case David is a "stereotypically weak girl" with "low self-esteem" and Goliath is an orphan with a chip on his shoulder and a lightning bolt on his forehead. Also, in this case, Goliath wins. [via Omnivoracious]

And in MacArthur Park, tamales and books have joined forces to survive in the face of economic woefulness.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Ada Lovelace Day

Hello, readers. Today is Ada Lovelace Day. Ms. Lovelace, besides having a name* nicely suited to a Victorian burlesque act, is generally considered to be the world's first computer programmer. She was a friend of Charles Babbage, imaginer of the Difference Machine, and she wrote of possible programs for his imaginary machine. She also articulated the concept of symbolic manipulation that foresaw the capabilities of computers to be more than mere "number-crunchers."

As part of Ada Lovelace Day, some thousand and more bloggers have pledged to write about a woman in technology they admire. Examples would be here, and here, and here. And also of course, here, which would be the place you are now and which will shortly discuss the work of one Shelley Jackson.

Shelley Jackson has illustrated Kelly Link's books. She has also written her own books, such as the short story collection The Melancholy of Anatomy and Half Life, a novel about conjoined twins, Nora and Blanche, which won the Tiptree Award. What is unusually spectacular about Shelley Jackson, though, is her forays into unconventional manners of storytelling.

Electronic literature is a literary genre consisting of works that originate within digital environments. In other words, a Google scan of A Tale of Two Cities does not a piece of electronic literature make. Examples of actual electronic literature would include SMS (text message) novels, as well as interactive fiction and hypertext fiction. It happens that perhaps the best and most well known piece of hypertext fiction was written by Shelley Jackson. It's called Patchwork Girl. It was published in the old times, when Prodigy and Compuserve roamed the Interweb. 1995 to be exact.

Patchwork Girl is the story of Frankenstein's second monster, the companion for monster number one. If you are remembering that in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein this second monster was destroyed, you are remembering correctly. Shelley Jackson's story imagines a different thing, that Mary Shelley herself completed work on this second monster, who subsequently falls in love with her creator and then travels to America. Readers read the hypertext by clicking links and images that one further into the story's world. It's immersive and cool and an experience difficult to replicate with a normal book, seeing as how it's made of paper and impervious to clicking.

But what matters my opinion. Listen to noted critic Richard Coover:

"Perhaps the true paradigmatic work of the era, Shelley Jackson's elegantly designed, beautifully composed Patchwork Girl offers the patient reader, if there are any left in the world, just such an experience of losing oneself to a text, for as one plunges deeper and deeper into one's own personal exploration of the relations here of creator to created and of body to text, one never fails to be rewarded and so is drawn ever deeper, until clicking the mouse is as unconscious an act as turning a page, and much less constraining, more compelling."

So, readers, knowing you are the patient sort, go forth and travel back to a time before twit-lit. Partake in the history of literary electronica. Celebrate women, technology, and stitching.

Happy Ada Lovelace Day.


*Technically, her given name would be, Augusta Ada King, and she happened to be the Countess of Lovelace.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Goodbyes, Realizations, and A Thing Somewhat Unrelated to the First Two Things

Hello, readers. Today I said goodbye to many dear friends: human, robot, and otherwise. There was wine, some tears, and a few questions as to the groovyness of jiving automatons. I'm speaking, of course, of the final episode of Battlestar Galactica, which reminded me, at different points, of Ulysses, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and Out of Africa. It was that kind of show. And one day it may be nominated for a Hugo, as was this year's mid-season finale, "Revelations."

Other things nominated for a Hugo this year: (nominations being announced yesterday)

Best Novel:
  • Anathem by Neal Stephenson (Morrow; Atlantic UK)
  • The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (HarperCollins; Bloomsbury UK)
  • Little Brother by Cory Doctorow (Tor Teen; HarperVoyager UK)
  • Saturn’s Children by Charles Stross (Ace; Orbit UK)
  • Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi (Tor)
A very interesting list. Several Brits, a couple of young adult books, and a single pair of homonyms.

Best Novellette (All available online):
  • “Alastair Baffle’s Emporium of Wonders” by Mike Resnick (Asimov’s Jan 2008)
  • “The Gambler” by Paolo Bacigalupi (Fast Forward 2)
  • “Pride and Prometheus” by John Kessel (F&SF Jan 2008)
  • “The Ray-Gun: A Love Story” by James Alan Gardner (Asimov’s Feb 2008)
  • “Shoggoths in Bloom” by Elizabeth Bear (Asimov’s Mar 2008)
Little to say here except that this category may feature my favorite title ever. I'll leave it to your imagination as to which, though. I'm having trouble picking between the two of them.

Check out SF Signal for the rest of the categories and nominees, including links to those which are online and free. Also, for further discussion of said nominees, generally considered to be a talented bunch, check out Wired, as well as John Scalzi himself on what it feels like to be nominated among such illustrious foes.

Happy Friday, readers. Remember: Instead of saying all of your goodbyes, let them know you realize that life goes fast. It's hard to make the good things last. You realize that the sun doesn't go down. It's just an illusion caused by the world spinning round.


Thursday, March 19, 2009

In Between Times

Hello, readers. I planned on posting a thing about the present future of internet fiction and poetry. A sort of round-up of the online world as pertains to literariness. As perhaps should have been suspected, this post seems to be ever-expanding, very much like our universe, except that so far I've avoided any major cosmic accidents. If all goes well, we will avoid the inevitable collapse, though, and the post will eventually exist in an actual way.

Here's things to bide your time with:

Maud Newton judging 2666 vs A Partisan's Daughter. She calls Bolano's work a "brilliant, far-ranging, occasionally trying, meditation on art, life, and the relationship between the two." For Mr. Bernières, she says, "The story is lean, the prose straightforward, the unreliability of the lust object’s narrative almost, but not wholly, plausible." I'll leave the verdict a surprise.

Still more prizes for Joe Hill's ever-expanding Love Your Indie Contest. Originally, it seemed we would all be winners in the sense that we would be supporting local and independently owned bookstores. Now it seems we might all be winners in that the number of prizes is asymptotically approaching the number of entrants.

In case you missed it: Peter S. Beagle has a new book out, a collection of stories called, We Never Talk About My Brother.

Also, in case you missed it: People died this week. At least two of them writers. James Purdy and Millard Kaufman.

Happy Thursdsay, readers.


Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Little Green Men, Also the Many Mysterious Varieties of Edwin Droodism:

Ah, St. Patrick's Day, the day of greeniness and a sudden uptick in sales of Guiness and Baileys. It's also a day where if aliens did invade, and they were, in fact, little green men, a great majority of people wouldn't take much notice. It would be like if werewolves and zombies and vampires and ghosts ever teamed up for a Halloween rampage. Except that would never happen, of course. Everyone knows that demons take Halloween off. It's gotten too commercial.*

The Mystery of Edwin Drood, so far as we know, wasn't about vampires. It chiefly concerned the mystery surrounding the possible murder of a man named Edwin Drood. Charles Dickens died half-way through writing it, though, so there's been a long-running debate as to who actually killed Edwin, and if he was murdered at all. A mock trial was held by the Dickens Fellowship, featuring G.K. Chesterton as judge and George Bernard Shaw as foreman. No definite conclusions were reached. So, it's always possible Dickens had a Sixth Sense-esque twist planned. Edwin Drood was undead all along, sort of thing. Probably not. But the Wall Street Journal has a cool article up about two writers, Dan Simmons and Matthew Pearl, who have somewhat concurrently published two novels exploring Dickens and his unfinished novel.

Dan Simmons, a hardboiled sci-fi horror writer, enters the discussion with Drood. He takes the perspective of Wilkie Collins, a Dickens rivalish contemporary who wrote such books as The Woman in White (which influenced greatly a friend's love and suspicion of mice) and The Moonstone (which some consider the first great detective novel). The two of them are riding a train one night. It crashes. They barely escape with their life. It is on that fateful night, though, while attempting to rescue fellow passengers, that Dickens encounters a phantom named Drood, "who had apparently been traveling in a coffin."** Charlie and Wilkie team-up buddy cop style at this point and follow the, perhaps, undead Drood into the "nightmarish" world of the London underground. These adventures, a la Shakespeare/George Lucas in Love, provide the inspiration for Dickens eventual unfinished novel.

Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club and The Poe Shadow, has titled his Drooish take, The Last Dickens. In it, he takes us to a world just after Dickens death, when pages from Dickens' last novel are being carried along by a clerk who naturally gets run over by an omnibus. The pages are lost. The publisher sets off to England to discover how Dickens intended his novel to end. And as such, the game is afoot.

Kirkus names these books as inhabiting the alternative literary history genre. Which is a fine enough name. I'm just excited to see if Simmons somehow introduces mice into either of his two protagonist's pockets.

Oh, and lastly, there exists a Mystery of Edwin Drood musical named, as with Simmons' novel, Drood. Thought you should know, readers.


*Bad writers imitate, good writers steal. In this case, from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

**My vampire theory sounds less crazy now, no?

Monday, March 16, 2009

Monday Quickies

Alan Moore interviewed and profiled in the Guardian.

More prizes added to Joe Hill's Love-Your-Indie contest, this time from PS Publishing.

Twilight drives up sales of Wuthering Heights in France.

Neil Gaiman is on The Colbert Report tonight. Set your expectations to fantastic.

ttfn, readers.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Square Finds

Hello, readers. Your blogger spent his Sunday walking around the Oxford Square, perusing the shelves of our local booksellers. And he found things, some of them interesting, a few of them he'll share with you here. Pictures included where appropriate.

In the Believer, there is a list of the Fifty Greatest Things That Just Popped into Jack Pendarvis' Head. Included are such things as windows, curtains (because sometimes windows are too good to be true), and also, erm, something else representative and humorous but which I can't think of at the moment. For more of Jack, a person/thing which is great and often pops into my head unannounced in a hilarious manner similar to that of Kramer from Seinfeld, visit here, which is the place where Jack Pendarvis has a blog.

At Square Books, Jr., John Green's Looking for Alaska called out to me, but he will be read later. As well, perhaps, as will something called The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica, a series concerning the geography of imaginary places. What truly stuck out to me, though, was the great number of books concerning the awkward and occasionally tragic experiences of attending high school with zombies, or as they're called in Generation Dead, the living impaired, or differently biotic. It seems zombies are not quite the brainless moaners of yesteryear. They listen to music. They ride the bus. They hope you will sit with them in the cafeteria, but they know you won't because they smell funny. In You Are So Undead to Me, they receive counseling from a fifteen-year-old girl named Megan Berry. She's a zombie settler. It's her job to help the recently undead adjust to being no longer dead. Perhaps that all sounds a bit hokey, and rather--excuse the mixed monster punnage--defanging to the zombie mythos, but such premises appeal to me, at least in theory, because of their implicit and empathetic message that monsters are people, too. Frankenstein could have used an understanding listener like Megan. Perhaps he wouldn't have ended up quite so homicidal or alone.

Finally, but not leastly, a book called Born in Flames: Termite Dreams, Dialetical Fairy Tales, and Pop Apocalypses surprised me by existing and the more so by containing many amazingly schizophrenic and insightful rants into pop culture's milieu. Howard Hampton is the author. He's like Quentin Tarantino if Quentin Tarantino went back in time and ate Lester Bangs' brain so as to take his powers of criticism and hyphenation. Topics for Howard include a dissection of the beflanneled songstresses of the "weirdo republic"--Cat Power, Lora Logica, and Enid Coleslaw, plus a wonderfully long-winded and overly hypenated discussion of Lester Bangs himself. As someone once said, "knee-jerk intellectuals may find it easy to lampoon someone who takes pop this seriously, but Hampton is a writer--possibly the only one--who can analyze Buffy the Vampire Slayer in the context of D. H. Lawrence ("American Daemons") and make it work."

Until next time, dear readers, happy Monday, and if you see a zombie, take a moment to not run and really listen to what they're trying to say. If after a few minutes, it seems to only be "Grr...Argh," or the like, and also if they try to bite your shoulder, then probably you should go back to Plan A and start running.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Rainy Friday Goodness

Hello, readers. It's Friday and it's raining, but there's much to sing and dance in puddles about.

Joe Hill, blogger, twitterer, writer of heartfelt horror (20th Century Ghosts, Heart-Shaped Box) has decided there should be a contest in recognition of March being love-your-indie-bookstore month. He's giving away a signed, slipcased copy of his novella, Gunpowder. Subterranean Press, so taken by Joe's contest coolness, has decided to offer up ten prizes of their own, including a limited edition of Neil Gaiman's Newberry Award winning, The Graveyard Book.

A lengthy interview with Lynda Barry has popped up over at the Chicago Tribune. Read it to learn about her spaceship in the middle of a farm and her supernatural ability to sit still. Also, there's some kind of narrative concerning her rise and fade and current resurrection as far as being the hero of underground comics. Chris Ware says she taught comic book writers how to "write from the inside-out." Ivan Brunetti says, "it's becoming increasingly known she moved the medium [comics] closer to real literature."

Also, Dave McKean is interviewed by Seven Impossible Things. An absurd amount of cool, dark, yearning sort of art abounds. Seriously, there's a lot of pictures. But also some words. And occasional evil laughter.

Have a shiny weekend, readers.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Michael Chabon, Saturday Morning Villains, Hope.

Hello, readers. Happy day-that-you-are-reading-this.

Michael Chabon (complete with nifty hat accessory) appeared at Wondercon with Matt Fraction. io9 did a nice write-up of the event, although, frankly, they were not nearly suspicious enough of Mr. Fraction. Truly, it is a name worthy of Saturday Morning villainy, or at the very least, Electric Company chicanery. Questions should have been raised as to his plots (erm, plans) concerning the Kingdom of Rational Numbers.

But in more topical matters, the content of the panel focused mainly on Chabon's blooming nerdom, the resurrection of his childhood passions in his more recent adult work. See The Fantastic Four references and Lovecraft doppleganger in Wonder Boys, the comic-centric opus, Kavalier and Clay, and his more recent full-fledged forays into genre like the fantasy novel, Gentleman of the Road, or the alternate history Jewish noir, The Yiddish Policeman's Union. Chabon's narrative was placed "within a larger story of a kind of nerd cultural insurgency by which the literary and artistic worlds are gradually being made safe for geekdom." io9 cites writers like Jonathan Lethem, Kelly Link, and Susanna Clarke, who have taken the fairy tales and ray guns of their childhood and crafted awesomeness. This sort of embrace and defiance of genre is near and dear to Chabon's heart. For his own take, check out his collection of essays, Maps & Legends, in which he praises and defends the importance of ray guns, along with mythology, detective novels, comics, and the sometimes frowned upon idea of providing entertainment to the reader.

Chabon's more speculative tendencies were frowned upon while getting his MFA at Irvine, which is what led to his more realistic turn in Mysteries of Pittsburgh. That book is now a movie with Peter Saarsgard and an abundance of dramatic lighting. I hope the Cloud Factory makes an appearance, too. That was a good bit.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Kevin Brockmeier Interview : The Online Version

Hello, readers. Several months ago, I had the shiny fortune to interview writer Kevin Brockmeier for the latest issue of The Yalobusha Review. Due to the finiteness of our print journal, over 2,000 words had to be cut. Please find below those excised words, including: "suicide," "the," and "listkeeping," among others.

CK: I guess I’m sort of just curious where you are? Are you in your house?

KB: I'm in my office, at my desk.

CK: Is that where you usually write?

KB: Yes, yes.

CK: Are there, is there a window you can look out?

KB: Well, there is, yes. There’s a sliding glass door that looks out onto my back patio, but, you know, there’s not much [laughing] excitement to be seen out there. I have a garden of six foot tall weeds.

CK: Is that on purpose?

KB: I suppose it is. The space was there when I moved in and I just wanted to see what would happen to it if I left it alone, so it’s wild and kind of lovely.

CK: Do you walk out into it?

KB: Well, I could if I wanted to. It’s not that big really. I’ve never troubled to measure it, but it’s probably about eight feet by eight feet or something like that---that’s a guess. I’m looking out on it right now. It's a raised bed of weeds and vines and small trees, at this point. It's deep enough that I have trouble seeing into the interior. Yesterday, I frightened a cat out of it.

CK: Are there things you do in your office or in your house when you want to decompress from writing?

KB: Well, I do spend an awful lot of time pacing, so there is that. I spend a lot of time reading. I would spend a lot of time reading whether or not I was writing, but that’s usually part of my working day, interrupting myself to read a passage here and there when I happen to get stuck. I might take a break to listen to a song or a CD. I might step out to get lunch or dinner with a friend. It’s quiet sorts of things like that.

CK: Are there specific books you go to, some old friend you pull down to read a passage from?

KB: Well it depends on what sort of dilemma I’ve gotten myself into. I feel like my writing day is filled with dilemmas, one sentence after another, and if I’m reading a new book, which I usually am, then that’s where I’ll turn. But it’s never been unusual for me to pull down an older book from the shelves---any number of older books---just to return to a passage that I think might somehow give me the solution to whatever muddle I’ve gotten myself into. If you’re asking for specific authors I love I could give you a long, long list.

CK: [laughing] Yeah I’ve seen the list of fifty books.


CK: You talked earlier about what you liked about writing for children, is that a downside? That you can’t be as complex?

KB: There are definitely things you can’t allow yourself to do with the voice, big words or complex structures that you can't allow yourself to use. And I’ve noticed with the children’s books I’ve published so far that my editors seem to be much more concerned than the editors of my adult books are with any element of the story that steps beyond the pale in some way. You know, the audience for children’s books might be the children themselves, but that’s not the market for children’s books. The market, the people who buy most of the books, are the parents, and the teachers, and the librarians, and you have to find a way of approaching the children through the window---and it's a pretty narrow window sometimes---of the adults. My editors have worried about various little things that adults might find inappropriate for an audience of children.

To give you a tiny example, in my first children’s book, City of Names, there’s a moment in which the the kids are in a restaurant, and they decide to drink a “suicide,” mixing all the different sodas together in a single cup. Maybe my editor hadn't heard the term before, but she was worried about using the word “suicide” in the context of a children’s book. Which seemed very, very strange to me, because we mixed those drinks all the time when I was a kid, and that's just what they were called.

CK: Yeah, I remember drinking them after little league games.

KB: Yeah.

CK: I don’t think we really thought about the name all that much.

KB: Yeah, no, neither did we [laughing].

CK: Is that something you have to navigate when you’re writing, children’s or adult fiction, that pull between what as a writer you feel like you ought to do and what as a writer you feel like your responsibility is to the readers?

KB: I like to imagine that the readers for my books are basically people who have the same sort of taste I do, so that if I’m writing the story in a way that I find pleasing, then whoever my readers might be will find it pleasing, too. With the children’s books, I’m trying to please ten, or eleven, or twelve year olds like the one who is still lingering somewhere in the back of my own mind. If I write the kind of book I would’ve enjoyed at that age, I figure I’m doing justice to the story I’m telling.

CK: Do you think about providing entertainment for the reader?

KB: Well, entertainment isn’t necessarily the first word I would use, but I do think of myself as providing interest to the readers, and interest is a form of entertainment.

CK: What are you trying to interest? What do you hope to engage with the readers?

KB: Number one, their aesthetic sense and their pleasure in the way a piece of writing is put together, and number two, their sense of what it is to be human, the truth of the experience on the page.

CK: Why are you a writer? What joy do you get out of it?

KB: Maybe the richest joy in my life is reading. I feel the impulse to participate in conversation with the writers I love and to, I hope, offer the same sort of pleasure to other people that the books I love have brought to me.

CK: In one of your stories, I think the Rube Goldberg story, you have a character talking about how every virtue has its corresponding vice…

KB: And that character is trying to remember where he or she read that idea, and it’s actually from a C.S. Lewis book called Mere Christianity. That was the most interesting notion in that book to me.

CK: That something I wanted to ask about your writing, what you felt your virtues as a writer were and what you’re corresponding vices might be?

KB: That’s one of that I might have to puzzle over, but just to kind of gesture vaguely in the direction of the question, I would say that, among my virtues as a writer—god, it’s almost embarrassing to talk this way—let me say that the virtues I’m striving for as a writer, at least, are clarity of vision, depth of feeling, and maybe an excitement or a tension inside the story that’s produced by the effort to see and understand things properly. As for my vices as a writer, I don’t know. I’m sure there are things I don't do very well. I’ve probably figured out ways of working around most of my weaknesses, but off the top of my head it’s not easy for me to tell you what they are.

CK: Is there a reason why you chose Coke as the instrument for distributing the virus? (ed. In The Brief History of the Dead, a virus gets into a coca-cola bottling plant and from there spreads death to all corners of our world)

KB: I wanted to find a vector of distribution that seemed plausible to me, or at least possible to me, and that also seemed fairly unique, something I hadn’t seen done before. It struck me that a consumer product might be the solution. Initially, I tried to work around the brand name: either not mention at all---but I couldn’t find a way to do that---or just invent a brand name. Every time I did, though, it just sounded ridiculous to me. This phony name in the middle of all these sentences---it would tear them apart from the inside. So eventually I just resorted to Coke, which was what I’d been thinking about to begin with. I don’t where you grew up, but here in Little Rock you can walk into a restaurant, and they’ll ask you what you want to drink, and you say, "I’d like a Coke," and they’ll say, "Okay, would you like a Coke, a Dr. Pepper, a Sprite, a root beer?" Coke is the term of choice for all these different beverages. The word is so widely used that it almost has a generic quality about it, so it seemed to nestle in more neatly with the sentences than a less widely used brand name might.
I certainly got a lot of questions about it. It never occurred to me when I was working on the book that the folks at Coca-Cola might be unhappy [laughing] with the use I had made of their product, but then the book was published and everybody started asking me about whether I had heard from Coca-Cola. I haven’t. The Brief History of the Dead has been published in a number of other languages, though. Some of the countries have libel laws that are very different from our own, so in certain editions of the book you might find elaborate disclaimers on the copyright page about how (obviously) Coca-Cola did not engage in any of the activities they are alleged to have engaged in, in this book, it’s entirely a work of fiction and not meant to disparage the Coca-Cola product, etc.

CK: What are you working on now?

KB: I’m working on a novel now. I’m approaching the middle of the book, but I never talk much about it during the process.

CK: Is that a matter of saving the energy, or keeping sort of the writing in the writing world?

KB: It’s both of those. Partly it's a desire to keep the story’s energy centered on itself, but also I feel that if I talk too much about it, I’ll make it concrete in a way that I feel obligated to live up to, rather than simply letting the story slowly reveal itself to me. And then there's simple superstition.

CK: I wanted to ask, you know Bradbury had that collection, Medicine for Melancholy…

KB: Yes, I haven’t read that book, but I’ve probably read a lot of the stories in it. He tends to repurpose his stories. A couple years ago he had a big thick compendium of what he considered his best work, and I bet portions of Medicine for Melancholy are in that.

CK: I just wondered, just taking that phrase, if there were medicines you turn to when you’re frustrated with writing, or with life, places you go when you feel melancholy?

KB: I turn to the books I love all the time, but, you know, some of the books I love are as likely to cultivate melancholy [laughing] as they are to rid me of it. I’ve got friendships that are very important to me. I’m a moviegoer, so at least once a week I’ll go to the movies. And I’m a music lover, so I listen to my CD collection.

CK: Is there a movie or a particular CD that you’ve discovered recently that you loved?

KB: Sure, I’ll give you one of each. Like my fifty favorite books list, which came up earlier, I’ve got a fifty favorite movies list and a fifty favorite albums list. I’m always reconsidering and updating these things. It’s a silly way to spend my time, but that itself ---listkeeping---might be something I return to as a way of addressing any anxiety or melancholy I might feel. It gives me a lot of pleasure to work on these things. In any case, the last movie to work it’s way onto my list was The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which I thought was profound and beautiful and experimental in a way that felt completely natural to the story being told and not at all pretentious. And then, maybe not the last album to make it onto this fifty favorite albums list, but the last album I fell head over heels for is an album called Melody Mountain by Susanna and the Magical Orchestra.

CK: What a name…

KB: It's a Norwegian band, only two members actually. Susanna Karolina Wallumrod, who does all the singing, and a guy named Morten Qvenild, who does all the instrumentation. This particular album is an album of slow, delicate, gorgeous, sorrowful cover songs. Some of them are by the usual candidates, like Leonard Cohen or Prince or Bob Dylan, but some of them are very unexpected, by bands like Depeche Mode or AC/DC. It’s a stunner. That’s my most exciting musical discovery of the past few years.

CK: There was a Norwegian singer named Sondra Lerche that I got into for a while. I don’t know what it is about Norway, maybe it’s just the weather, but Norwegian music always sounds cold or…

KB: I don’t know what it is either, but I’ve been listening to a lot of Norwegian music, viewing a lot of Norwegian movies, and reading a lot of Norwegian books the past few years.

Kevin Brockmeier on Fairy Tales

All week, we've been running excerpts from our interview with Kevin Brockmeier which appears in the latest issue of The Yalobusha Review. Today, being Thursday, is part of this week, and so here's another bit of Brockmeier goodness in which he discusses why he loves fairy tales.

CK: To switch back to something you were talking about earlier, trying to translate stories you loved as a child for an adult audience, there’s the epigraph at the beginning of Things That Fall From the Sky from G.K. Chesterton about fairy tales. A lot of people when they think of fairy tales, they just think of them as a sort of children’s literature you grow out of, but it’s something you acknowledge and seem to draw inspiration from. I wondered what you loved about them, why they inspire you, and how they influence you?

KB: I suppose it’s just, well, two things: one, is that they always seem to be driven forward by a very strong storytelling voice, one that welcomes you into the narrative. I find that compelling. Aside from that, as a reader I’m simply attracted to stories that have an element of fantasy about them. Not all of my own writing does, but some of it does. Probably the writing that’s gotten the most attention does. That element of fantasy is an important part of the fairy tales I loved when I was growing up, and then the fairy tales I’ve discovered as an adult as well. Italo Calvino is one of my favorite writers, and I slowly read through his body of work over the past ten or fifteen years. The last of his books I got around to was his edition of Italian Folktales, which is a set of retellings, maybe an 800 page volume. It contains many, many traditional Italian folk and fairy tales. I resisted reading it for a long time because it didn’t feel like one of Calvino's books really, since none of the stories were original to him, he didn't produce them out of his own imagination. And yet I found myself completely immersed in it when I did read it, and the fables in the new collection were generated out of a desire on my part to write the kind of stories that might fit naturally into a collection like that.

Tune in tomorrow for those portions of our interview with Mr. Brockmeier that due to space didn't make it into the magazine.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Kindly Ones, Trashy Holocaust Novel?

Happy Thursday, readers. The Ides of March approach. Do you know where your betrayer is?

The Kindly Ones is a novel by Jonathan Littell which fits nicely in the old man recollects his life genre. People seem worked up about the whole thing, though. Perhaps because the old man is a once upon a time Nazi who sometimes slept with his sister and also spends a the majority of the book describing, in apparently great detail, the bodily horror he, and others, inflicted on fellow human beings during the Holocaust. Yet still he asks, if not for forgiveness, then at least for sympathy from the reader--an understanding that in a similar situation perhaps you would've done the same or worse (except for maybe the part where he slept with his sister).

The press seems divided as to whether the novel bravely explores the Holocaust from a fresh, albeit slightly evil perspective, or if the whole thing is a l0w-brow "sex n' fashion horror comic" themed bit of cynicism and vulgarity. Sarah Nelson, writing in the Wall Street Journal, believes the novel "gimmicky", that it "leans towards prurience," and that American publishers are banking on "the seemingly bottomless...appetite for scandalous attitudes and behavior." Michael Korda called it "brilliant" and counts it in the same league as Crime and Punishment and Thus Spoke Zarathustra. The Canadian Press wonders if the novel might be an example of "Nazi Porn."

Here's my haven't-read-the-book-yet take. Littell is an American Frenchman who lives in Barcelona, Spain. His father was the American mystery writer, Roger Littell. Littell's first book, as discussed at Omnivoracious, was a mass market science fiction novel called Bad Voltage. Here was a tale of a "riot-torn future Paris", of simboots and violence and terror, of revolutionary youths and their unfortunate tendency to fall for uptown girls, throwing a wrench in their revolutionary plans. In light of this, it got me wondering if maybe there's not another way to view The Kindly Ones and it's gimmickry, violence, incest, and sexual shenanigans. Pulp Holocaust, perhaps?

Then again, I'm reading Lolita, at the moment, and it's nothing if not trashy and vile and also about a monstrous narrator asking us dear readers to please, please, don't overlook the fact that though we may see his acts as horrible, he is still, in the end, the same as us, a human being at the mercy of fate and his own mysterious desires. So, who's to say that no matter how graphic and disgusting The Kindly Ones may be, no matter how pretentious, it may still be great.

But it probably won't have wrist lasers, though, and that's a shame. Maybe in the sequel.


Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pullman, Pinkwater, and Beer (Not necessarily in that order)

Hello, readers. This used to be Wednesday, but that's all gone now. In our last post, we excerpted a bit of our Kevin Brockmeier interview (see it in print by buying our latest swanky issue), in which he discussed those things he loved reading as a kid. One of those things were the books of a man named Daniel Pinkwater. It just so happens there's an interview/paen of Mr. Pinkwater at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast. Go there to learn of Daniel's days "living on the slopes of Kilimanjaro", the name of his dog (rhymes with Zuzu), and his childhood dream of growing up to be a liar and criminal.

Speaking of honor, Philip Pullman gave the keynote address at the Modern Liberty Convention. He manages to avoid too much talk of daemons, or the godlessness of the universe, and yet still manages to be erudite and inspirational when it comes to the morality of a nation or individual. "Joy does not flourish in the garden of anxiety."

Oh, and one more thing. Small Beer Press has uploaded their backlist of books to something called Scribd. This means that such wonders as short stories by Kelly Link or John Kessel or Benjamin Rosenbaum, plus novels by Geoff Ryman, Elizabeth Hand, and so forth, are all free and digital. Occasionally the future is a neat place, no?

Oh, and one more one more thing. We made a promise to excerpt a bit of our Brockmeier interview in which he discussed further favorite authors, mysterious gardens, and/or the apocalypse. And we are bloggers of our word. Except for the mysterious garden bit. That will come later.

CK: How did you feel in that book [The Brief History of the Dead] about eradicating pretty much the entire human population?

KB: I was happy to do it [laughing]. You know, honestly, my hand kind of seemed forced. I wanted to tell a story about how the end of our own world brought this other world to an end, and also about the way that people continue to exist in our memories even after they had fallen out of our lives. It seemed to me that the best approach to the story was to narrow the personalities in our world down to one, so that’s what I ended up doing. But I can also say that I’ve read and appreciated a fair amount of post-apocalyptic fiction. Above and beyond anything else, I’m talking about the short stories of J.G. Ballard. All of his early stories and novels were these beautiful, crystalline attempts at world ending. And also people like Thomas Disch, and John Wyndham and, George R. Stewart. A lot of the classic science fiction novels about the end of the world engaged my imagination.

CK: Have you ever thought about why the end of the world appeals to you so much? Have you ever worried about it?

KB: You know, I’m not realy sure. I think it might be that those themes came to appeal to me simply because the books I had discovered that dealt with them were so very well done, and I sought out other books of the same type. Ballard is just a genius at making sentences. After I read his Complete Stories, I felt like the rhythms of his sentences and the way he approached the world remained in my head for a long, long time.

Happy Wednesday that was, readers.


Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Tuesday Things

Thing One: The first round of the Tournament of Books, as mentioned here, begins on March 9th. First round highlight: Shadow Country vs. The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks judged by Anthony Doerr. Every battle has it's own judge. Later judges include John Hodgman and last year's winner, Juno Diaz. Bets can be placed here, and for a good cause, too.

Thing Two: Monday was Dr. Seuss's birthday. Him being the man what introduced us all to those indelibly and abstractly named creatures of chaos, Thing One and Thing Two. His books have influenced a lot of people but had very little affect on me.

Thing Three: Kevin Brockmeier on things he loved to read growing up.

More than anything else, I read comic books. And I read a lot of them. And I spent almost all of my allowance money on them. I’m talking just the superhero stuff, the typical Marvel and DC comics. If you’re talking about text, rather than text and picture, my favorite writer when I was a kid was Daniel Pinkwater. He’s still one of my favorites today. He wrote a book called Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars, that I fell in love with when I was about ten years old, and then any number of other great books as well: Lizard Music, The Hoboken Chicken Emergency, basically these funny little fantasies involving average kids in very strange situations. I loved the Choose Your Own Adventure series when I was a kid, too. I’ve got a story in tribute to those books in my latest collection. And then I grew up in the era of Judy Blume and Beverly Cleary and writers like that. All of my classmates were reading them and I was reading them too. But on my own, aside from comic books, I gravitated to the children’s fiction that had elements of science fiction and fantasy to it, and then, when I got a little bit older, to actual science fiction and fantasy.

Tune in tomorrow, readers, for additional things, including more from Kevin Brockmeier on his favorite authors, the mysterious garden in his backyard, and/or the apocalypse.


Friday, February 27, 2009

Well, hello. How are you?

I'm fine. Thank you. Except for some things, but then, there are always things and hidden amidst the things are sometimes gnomes or rhinoceroses which liven things up a bit.

And in other news...

March 1-7 is Will Eisner week. He's the creator of The Spirit, among other things. He's a big name in the comics world. So big they named an award after him. So far as I know, he's not related to Michael Eisner, but I've never actually checked.

Yiddish Literature is online and free. If I knew more Yiddish there would be a pun or other funny kvetchy line here.

There's a new Ted Chiang short story, and it too is online and free, in podcast form. Ted's stories are like comets, coming by once every long while or so, sometimes flying backwards, but always wondrous and worth taking a moment to look at. He's also won awards.

Here's an excerpt from The Yalobusha Review's interview with Kevin Brockmeier.

CK: There are some stories like “The Lady with the Pet Tribble” that’s sort of set in a fictional universe, and then something like The Brief History of the Dead, which is the real world, but added on there’s this fantastic element. Are they distinct modes you go into when you’re writing, realistic or fantastic?

KB: I don’t know that they are. Sometimes I’m aware I’m writing a story that won’t permit an element of fantasy, and sometimes I’m aware I’m writing a story that seems to be set in a wholly fictional universe, but oftentimes I’m writing in some weird sort of netherworld between the two, and even with the most realistic stories I write, you know I feel as if in the act of trying to observe the world clearly, it somehow turns into fantasy, anyway. It’s almost unavoidable for me.

CK: Why do you think observing the world clearly leads you toward fantasy?

KB: I’m not quite sure, but I can tell you that the books that I’ve enjoyed reading the most, which is to say the realistic writers I’ve enjoyed reading the most, are often people---oh just, some names like Marilynne Robinson, Louis de Bernieres, William Maxwell, Bohumil Hrabal---who seem to see the world through such a sharp lens that it suddenly becomes strange again in your eyes as you’re reading.

CK: Is that something you strive for when you write, to make the world new again or strange?

KB: New again, definitely; strange, perhaps by accident. It’s often a great effort to make each sentence approach the world with that sort of clarity. So it’s not as if the world is necessarily blossoming open before me in this new way as I’m writing. I'm slowly working to transfigure it in my own eyes.

More excerpts to come (every day next week in fact), including the bits that wouldn't fit within the finite limits of our paper universe. These will be free and online, like so many things these days.*


*For the full print interview, though, it will mean shelling over ten bucks. Mail check or money to the address at right and you'll get spiffyness in your mailbox.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Jane Austen and Zombies

Hello, readers. Recently my world seemed drab and without hope. And by this I mean that Elizabeth Bennett seemed destined to never cleave a zombie's head from its shoulders.

But thankfully that's all been taken care of now, courtesy of Seth Grahame-Smith.

Yes, in the midst of the current crazy for all things zombie (Zombies vs Unicorns, Nazi Snow Zombies, and the growing canon of Zombie Survival Literature ) someone has decided that Pride and Prejudice, for all it's wit and romance, was lacking something, and that something was rampaging hordes of the undead. According to the publishers, they're keeping the original text and adding "all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action." I'm not sure how this will work, but then again, I'm not completely sure how velcro works either. Maybe this will be as snappy and magical as velcro. Maybe it will be as noisy and annoying. We'll see.

Charles J. Brown suggests titles for other classics to be Zombie-fied, including Portnoy's Complaint about Zombies, which adds evidence to my theory that Philip Roth is, in secret, waging a never-ending struggle against the undead. Some other possible titles:

The Great Gatsby Zombie
Lolita and Other Zombies

A Little Zombie Princess
As I Lay Dying, which doesn't really need a name change and is sort of about a zombie anyway. Addie Bundren lives!

See also: The Times and The Guardian.

Thanks to a shiny girl for the tip.

Happy Thursday, readers.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

What News, Wednesday?

Once there was a man who was Thursday. He battled shady shades and hot-air balloons. That sort of thing is for tomorrow, though, so for now, let's see what's happening in more sensical today-like matters.

David Galef, former Ole Miss faculty member and occasional lender of James Tiptree, Jr. stories, has won the Dzanc Contest for Short Story Collections.

Mary Gaitskill talks with The Believer about Buffy, wives, and blue bird romances. [via LHB]

Stephen King on Twilight, and the safety of it's sex.

A blogger attempts the impossible task of aggregating links concerning Neil Gaiman's recent flurry of interviews (brought about by his winning the Newberry Medal for The Graveyard Book).

And finally, for teenagers of a pictorial proclivity, the ALA has released a list of their favorite graphic novels for Teens.

Happy Wednesday, readers. I will try, in the future, to not be absent for so long as I have been. Also, if you see a hot air balloon following you, don't try to understand it. Just run faster.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Thursday Things

Hello, readers. It's been a while. A few things have happened. There's a new president, for one. People seem to think he'll be great, or possibly fail, but most hope he succeeds. Except for this guy. Also, it's possible that life, the universe, and everything, including you, reader, is just one big hologram.

Three other things, then, from our holographic universe:

Thing 1) Haruki Murakami wins the Jerusalem award, which is given to those authors, like Arthur Miller or Simone de Beauvoir, whose work deals with "human freedom, society, politics, and government."

Thing 2) The Louvre opens an exhibition of original plates by comic book artists, which makes sense considering the French love of Tin Tin and Asterix and other les bandes dessinees. "Just like comics are not only fun or for entertainment," curator Fabrice Douar says, "the Louvre equally is not dusty and boring." [via Rhea Cote Robbins, photo AP/Thimault Camus]

Thing 3) TIME talks the evolution of publishing, relating our current time of economic and technological transformation to the fluxy turn of the 18th century when new fangled things like capitalism and printing technology brought about the "novel" as we know it today. Things like fan-fiction, wikipedia, and YouTube, according to TIME, have lessened the freakiness of self-publishing and pushed copyright to its limits, and may lead to a form of fiction "ravenously referential and intertextual." The article ultimately posits a future dichotomy between Old Publishing ( "stately, quality controled, and relatively expensive" ) versus a New Publishing ("cheap, promiscuous and unconstrained by paper, money, or institutional taste"). [photo Getty/Chris Jackson]

Happy Thursday, readers.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Literary Thursday

Hello, readers. I'm not sure at what point these posts began having particular subjects for particular days, but that seems to be what's happening so I will go along with it.

Two Ursula K. Le Guin interviews appeared before me tonight, one by Guernica from February of 2008, and one by Vice from more nowish. In them, you'll learn the importance (or unimportance) of being literary, as well as what Ms. Le Guin believes essential to art (hint: passion, patience, obsession). [via LCRW].

A new issue of Ninth Letter came out today.

The Rooster 2009 tournament matches 2008's literary hot-shots against each other in a sort of March Madness-esque Thunderdome throwdown. 16 books enter...

The literature of Lost as discussed on NPR.

And finally, some good news, it would appear the reports of the death of the reader have been greatly exaggerated. The NEA says fiction reading among adults is on the rise.

Have a happy Friday, readers. I know I will.*


*As much as anyone can know anything of course. It's quite possible, I suppose, that a day spent watching fourteen hours of Battlestar Galactica might lead to unhappiness. But I have a mind to do it, and so it will be done. So say we all.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Illustrated Wednesday

Good evening, readers. As has been discussed before on this blog, literature isn't always about words. Sometimes it's about pictures. Sometimes, too, it's about girls deflowered by swans, but we'll leave that for some future mythical Monday.

Edward Gorey wrote and illustrated many a whimsically ominous book. Many of them were popular with children. A great deal of them were set or drawn in a decidedly Edwardian or Victorian style (I was never that good at telling the two styles apart). He was not, though, particularly fond of children. Nor was he particularly British, despite the fact that I thought he might be when first I saw his work. He actually came from Chicago. Reading bookslut, I came across scans from a Gorey book called, The Recently Deflowered Girl: The Right Thing To Say On Every Dubious Occasion. It's a parody of etiquette books and includes advice on such various and likely situations as deflowerment by proxy or deflowerment by a chinese detective. No word on what to do if an Australian illustrator takes your flower, though.

Speaking of Australian illustrators (by which I mean, of course, illustrators who live in Australia and not the sort of people who spend their time illustrating continents), there's an interview with Shaun Tan over at The Walrus. His 2007 book, The Arrival, won book of the year in Australia. In the same year, he also received the World Fantasy award for best artist. Tales from Outer Suburbia, his latest work due out in the States in February, is a collection of fifteen stories exploring the strange things that sometimes happen in our ordinary world, such as a little girl asking directions from a giant water buffalo.

Happy Wednesday.