Take Care Of Your Shoes

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1. "Whatever you do, take care of your shoes" -- Phish.

2. I don't always finish his books, but I always get a kick out of Chuck Palahniuk. His signature novel Fight Club established him as a guy's guy kind of writer, and he still carries an aura of sweat and blood and testosterone (not to mention soap). Give the guy credit for throwing curveballs at his readers, because several of his follow-up works (like Diary and the new Tell-All) seem to lavish in a feminine sensibility. Tell-All is a send-up of vintage Hollywood, featuring a pampered aging movie actress and the allegedly dubious literary legacy of Lillian Hellman. Honestly, the book baffles me, and I had to stop reading it because I felt I did not know enough about the era it is parodying to understand the references. And yet, even this slap in the face to Palahniuk's sweaty male following does not seem to hurt his sales (nor has the author's revelation that he is gay) I don't always finish Chuck Palahniuk's books, but I will always be fascinated by his mystique, and curious about what the hell weird book he's going to write next.

3. A novelist friend recommended I read a novel published in 1982, Family Happiness by Laurie Colwin, an author I hadn't heard of before. I picked it up and now have a new favorite writer to add to my list. What a pity that the awesome Laurie Colwin died young in 1992.

4. Doctor Sax may be my least favorite Kerouac novel (the prose is uncharacteristically thick and knotty) but I still like it that the National Trust for Historic Preservation is campaigning to save a bridge, sometimes known as the Moody Street Bridge or the "Watermelon Man Bridge", described by Kerouac in the book.

5. Also in Massachusetts, check out what the Thoreau Farm Trust is doing.

6. Maureen Johnson refuses to be a brand.

7. I like the MobyLives headline here: Jackass Compares Books to Horses.

8. Poet S. A. Griffin stands next to a bomb and channels Gregory Corso.

9. I agree with Jessa Crispin's use of the term "bloodless" to describe the new Letters of Sylvia Beach. I couldn't find much to grip on to in these pages, which prove that Sylvia Beach, a bookseller and not a writer, truly was not much of a writer. Still, the book has value as a historical document; here's some more material relating to Sylvia Beach.

10. Why is Gertrude Stein important?

11. Did E. M. Forster's sex life kill his writing talent? Maybe so. Too bad he couldn't have taken a cue from Chuck Palahniuk on how to elegantly handle the contradictions of sexual identity.

12. Via @largeheartedboy, 22 fictional characters whose names you didn't know.

13. I understand why some bloggers and writers are suggesting that hyperlinks should not be included in online writings. When I began my serial memoir of the Internet industry last year, I decided not to use hyperlinks in the chapters, believing this would help set the tone I wanted for this work. However, I don't think the decision to use or not use hyperlinks ought to be politicized. It's obviously up to the writer of any individual online piece to strike the right balance appropriate to that piece. This has been a basic fact of online writing since the World Wide Web was invented.

14. Speaking of online writing: I absolutely disagree with Scott Esposito that articles in his excellent journal The Quarterly Conversation have more lasting value than blog posts in his excellent Conversational Reading. I think this is a case of wishful thinking. It's like believing that you will necessarily look more beautiful in a posed wedding photo than in a candid snapshot. In fact, you are just as likely to look beautiful in a candid snapshot. Sorry, but that's the way it works.

(Follow me on Twitter for more occasional links, literary or otherwise).

3 Responses to "Take Care Of Your Shoes"

by Mayowa on

Ms. Johnson does a great job describing the side of author promotion that makes me just a little bit uncomfortable...The proleteriat (authors) have risen and now refuse to be pimped. Instead, we will pimp ourselves to all and sundry.

Methinks it's an unavoidable consequence of gaining control.

Thanks for the great links Levi.

A hyperlink serves the same function as a footnote. Really, if the reader wants to click on the link and go somewhere else in the middle of a piece, that's her decision. I'm not going to be some asshole asking the reader to read the whole of my piece before providing the links. That's just rude and insensitive to another person's consciousness, which is every bit as valid as my own.

Of the several Chuck Palahniuk books I've read, my favorite is Diary, which I enjoyed very much. My least favorite is Haunted. I haven't read Fight Club but I love the movie.

Doctor Sax is one of my favorite Kerouac books! Possibly my favorite after On the Road and Big Sur. I had always assumed it was about some jazz player blowing saxophone in a night club until I finally read it was gleefully surprised by:

"Doctor Sax I first saw in his earlier lineaments in the early Catholic childhood of Centerville, deaths, funerals . . . the dark figure in the corner when you look at the dead man coffin in the dolorous parlor of the open house . . . figures of coffinbearers emerging from a house on a rainy night bearing a box with dead old Mr. Yipe inside . . . Earlier, too, horrors of the Jesus Christ of passion plays in shrouds and vestments . . . at the foot of my bed pushing it one dark Saturday night - either He or the Virgin Mary stooped with phosphorescent profile and horror pushing my bed . . ."
- Jack Kerouac, Doctor Sax

ahhhh, yeeeaahhhhh . . .

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