No New York Times Book Review coverage here this weekend, though you can find some at HTML Giant, where they seem to have picked up my weekend habit. I'm busy moving this website to a new host and new software platform. The data migration heavy lifting is now complete, which means I can now start in on the fun stuff: new navigation features, an updated design, bringing my game into the new decade. Goodbye WordPress (you treated me well) ... hello Drupal.
I've really been looking forward to checking out the Nook e-reader, Barnes and Noble's new major competitor to Amazon's Kindle. I had the most positive attitude in the world last week when I showed up at a big new Nook demonstration booth on the ground floor of the Barnes and Noble bookstore on Union Square in New York City. One reason I've had high hopes for the Nook is that I haven't been impressed by the Kindle's physical specifications or its price, and I'm just waiting for some company to develop a practical, affordable, compact, ergonomic device that will blow the electronic reader marketplace open.
Here's Alice Ziplinsky, troubled hero and narrator of Katharine Weber's wild new novel True Confections, telling us about the job search that ultimately led her to a leadership position at a family-owned candy factory in Connecticut:
My next interview was for a receptionist position at a big law firm on Church Street, but when I met with the human resources lady, before I could say a word about which job I was applying for, she took one look at me and shook her head, and then she quickly told me the job had been filled and then she started typing really fast and didn't look at me again. I stood on the sidewalk in front of the building in my dowdy interview outfit feeling waves of shame as office workers on their lunch hour brushed by me. I had just been intercepted attempting to pass myself off as a regular person.
I got nothing. I usually locate a spark quickly when I scan a new issue of the New York Times Book Review: something to love, something to hate, something to correct, something to mock. I scanned every article in this weekend's Book Review singing that same refrain from a now-forgotten hiphop tune from the last decade -- what's the hook gonna be? I give up. There's just nothing to write about here.
I still haven't mentally returned from vacation, still haven't gotten back into the LitKicks swing. I've been running around a lot, actually, as well as working hard behind the scenes on a new software platform for the site that has so far only succeeded in breaking the Action Poetry pages (they will be back soon, I promise). More soon! Till then ... links:
(Daniel Barth has written for LitKicks on writers like Richard Brautigan and Jack Kerouac. Here he introduces another underground favorite. -- Levi)
If Tom Robbins writes the way Dolly Parton looks, as one reviewer has suggested, then Ed McClanahan’s prose resembles Dolly’s more voluptuous sister. McClanahan is the anti-Hemingway, a man who never met an adjective—or digression, aside, simile, extended metaphor, or play on words—he didn’t like. Here’s a representative passage from his latest book, O the Clear Moment:
Fourteen days into the new decade, tastemakers and hipsters are already buzzing about two groundbreaking artistic sensations that may define the current generation: MTV's "Jersey Shore" and Joshua Ferris's The Unnamed. What I'm really concerned about is that I've sampled both and I like "Jersey Shore" a whole lot better.
Nice Reviewing the Review moment #1: last week I wondered why a reviewer mentioned a character named Maud Norton in Gail Godwin's novel Unfinished Desires without clarifying whether or not this was intended to refer to a well-known blogger named Maud Newton. Gail Godwin emailed me to explain that the name was not only a coincidence but an inspired one:
I chose "Maud" for this particular girl in Unfinished Desires because of Tennyson’s spooky poem: "Come into the garden, Maud; the black bat night has flown ..." And Norton, I don’t know why. Perhaps because, combined with Maud, it slid fairly easily off the tongue.
1. Forest Hills. I don't know these people but I feel like I do.
1. So the New York Times is going ahead with a payment wall for its website. I still say this is a bad business decision. Newspapers have always made more money on advertising than on sales, and newspapers that force readers to pay for online content will significantly harm their advertising numbers without bringing in a lot of subscription revenue. The New York Times is about to get much smaller.
(Here's a list for the ages. The first decade of our new millennium will be remembered for many things, but during these years there has been no creative form more alive, more original, and more attuned to a unique sense of craft than hiphop. Born in the late 70s, exploding with raw talent in the mid-90s, classic hiphop (like jazz and blues, an American original) reached a new level of artistic maturity and expression in the 2000s. Some may not be aware of the value of 2000s-era hiphop, but genius must never be ignored, so Literary Kicks is honoring the past decade with a countdown of its five greatest hiphop album masterpieces. We'll profile one album a week, for five weeks, beginning here with #5. -- Levi)
This article is part of the Hiphop Masterpieces From the 2000s series. The next post in the series is Five Hiphop Masterpieces From the Past Decade #4: Get Rich or Die Tryin'.
Jay McInerney impresses me today. I didn't know if he had the cojones to give a trendy "serious novel" like Joshua Ferris's The Unnamed a bad review, but apparently he does. Maybe my concern that we'd have to spend this entire decade hearing about the genius of Joshua Ferris was misplaced; the novel has gotten mediocre reviews in Chicago and Washington DC as well. Sometimes the lit-crit establishment is better at spotting fakes than I expect.
Oh, he had to go out last night and meet this television writer for a drink downtown, in the Village and all. That's what started it. He says the only people he ever really wants to meet for a drink somewhere are all either dead or unavailable. He says he never even wants to have lunch with anybody, even, unless he thinks there's a good chance it's going to turn out to be Jesus, the person -- or the Buddha, or Hui-neng, or Shankaracharya, or somebody like that.
-- J. D. Salinger, Franny and Zooey
The Zen bard of Cornish, New Hampshire has died, according to his son.
Now Peter Piper picked peppers, and Run rocked rhymes
I'm 50 Cent, I write a little bit but I pop nines ...
Oh, he was so authentic. 50 Cent feels like a cartoon character lately, because his last three albums were weak and nobody wants to hear over and over again how much money he has, how big his house is, how far he's removed himself from the street. Get Rich or Die Tryin' was 50's first album. He still had everything to prove when he recorded it, and the story he told was as real and as common as yesterday's newspaper.
This article is part of the Hiphop Masterpieces From the 2000s series. The next post in the series is Five Hiphop Masterpieces From The Past Decade #3: Graduation. The previous post in the series is Five Hiphop Masterpieces From the Past Decade #5: Come Home With Me.
This isn't widely remembered today, but for about fifteen years Patti Smith was nearly as reclusive as J. D. Salinger. First she helped invent punk rock and released four superb albums in the 1970s, then she disappeared to marry fellow musician Fred "Sonic" Smith and live quietly as a mother and wife on the shores of Lake St. Clair in Michigan.