I'm too lazy to try to put together a coherent "best books of 2012" list on Literary Kicks, though I'm happy to point you to some other good lists. "A Year in Reading" at the Millions overflows with contributions from smart folks like Kate Zambreno, Scott Esposito, Alexander Chee and Ellen Ullman. Elsewhere, Michele Filgate gathers literary reveries over at the Salon What To Read Awards, and here are Ed Champion's faves and Largehearted Boy's monumental list of lists. Finally, plodding earnestly along behind its paywall, here's the New York Times Book Review's Ten Best Books of 2012, which includes 5 novels and 5 works of non-fiction.
Me, I read more non-fiction -- philosophy, history, politics -- than fiction this year, and I can only think of a few novels that impressed me in 2012. Kino by Jurgen Fauth was a refreshing, tantalizing comedy about art cinema obsessions. The World Without You by Joshua Henkin brought a real family to life. Laurent Binet's HHhH seemed to be an acrobatic work of self-exploratory fiction about World War II, wrapped like a KFC Double Down inside another acrobatic work of self-exploratory fiction about itself. (I'm not sure if I just made that sound good, but I really liked the book).
We can all use some poetry right now. Whether we're writing it or reading it, we can all use some.
Action Poetry is open to anyone ... either post an original poem (using the comment form below) or respond in verse to somebody else.
I'm psyched to be included in an impressive series of interviews about the Beat Generation conducted by Michael Limnios at Blues @ Greece, a Greek web publication devoted to underground music and culture.
This surreal image is a real screenshot from a real website -- the victory website that went live after the polls closed on USA election day 2012, because apparently, stunningly, incredibly ... Mitt Romney's staff was that sure that they would win. They had given unconditional orders -- unconditional! -- to launch the website when the election ended.
Four days after the election, the revelation that not only Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan but their entire entourage and staff were sure they would win is still rocking the world. It turned out that Romney spent the evening of election day stewing in his hotel room with his yes-man entourage, doing nothing but smoothing out the final draft of his acceptance speech.
The prior evidence that he would lose was, of course, rather overwhelming. His campaign had gone unusually badly in the public eye, he had barely unified his own party, and had never dominated any polling cycle. Nate Silver, the most influential poll analyst in the world, a nonpartisan observer who in the past had correctly predicted Republican victories as well as Democratic ones, had already announced in the New York Times that polling numbers strongly favored President Obama. The Obama administration knew it would win, and said so. I knew Obama would win. Even Bob Dylan knew Obama would win.
Yes, of course, the Romney campaign was projecting confidence in its public statements, and everybody on Fox News and conservative talk radio was parroting the weak evidence that Romney might win, but few of us imagined that the Romney inner circle had wrapped itself so deeply in delusion that they believed it deep inside. This was a greater cognitive disconnect than anyone expected. Isn't Mitt Romney supposed to be a solid businessman? Don't businessmen use actual information and data to make decisions? If his judgment was so murky about his own chances to beat a popular President, how could he be expected to produce rational policies involving, say, the chances that a hostile approach towards Iran or China would be successful, or the chances that greater tax breaks for the wealthy would help the middle class, or the chances that deregulating Wall Street banks would not enable another orgy of corruption, or the chances that global climate change was not a serious scientific concern? Romney's final day as a candidate found the man who would be President at an absolute peak of cluelessness, his head completely in the clouds.
What a sweet surprise! The calescent American novelist Joyce Carol Oates has taken to twittering between novels, and she's awfully good at it.
"A tweet is a synaptic leap with no neuron awaiting", she wrote on October 18, preceded by this: "Consciousness is most tolerable when semi-, quasi-, or un-." She seems to be aiming for a fast connection to her readers, and is clearly enjoying the freedom the new medium gives her. She's also not above telling stories about her cats or her campus adventures at Princeton. Joyce Carol Oates, who Litkicks still thinks ought to be in the movies, because she's so magnetic, has also recently found the time to edit a new Oxford University Press anthology, The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, featuring some well-worn classics along with newer names like Lorrie Moore, Pinckney Benedict, Junot Diaz.
The final episode ever of the long-running literary podcast series The Bat Segundo Show, hosted by Ed Champion, will be recorded live on Wednesday, October 3 2012 at the McNally Jackson bookstore in New York CIty. The event is an interview with J. Robert Lennon, author of the new Familiar: A Novel, a book I'm looking forward to checking out (I've enjoyed his short stories in the past).
What a great idea! Words Without Borders, which usually devotes monthly issues to diverse nations, languages, cultural groups or themes, is tackling a slippery subject with its October issue: Oil, captured in the form of fiction, drama, graphic fiction and verse from various areas of the planet.
Here at Litkicks, we always knew about Rust Belt Chic. There's some kind of magical aura to the cold, hard-bitten industrial cities of the Great Lakes region, and a few years ago we would visit a website called Deep Cleveland, a site inspired by the memory of poet d. a. levy, to get a hit of this cultural flavor. Now there's a new entry representing the spirit of the northern urban netherworlds, aptly titled Rust Belt Chic. The new website has also published its first book. Our own definition of rust belt chic? Eminem ... Michael Moore ... Hart Crane ... MC5 ... Alan Freed ... Devo ... Harmony Korine. And these two websites, well worth checking out.
After spending two months redesigning Literary Kicks and migrating it from Drupal 6 to Drupal 7, I asked my wife Caryn what she thought of the new look. "It looks the same as before," she said.
That really made me laugh, because it's true. I spent two months trying out about ten new themes, two different responsive/mobile strategies and at least three crazy ideas about completely reinventing the look and feel of the blog. I then ended up choosing a design/layout structure that strongly resembled the layout and design that was in place before. I guess I don't like to screw with a formula that works.
But, even if the difference isn't obvious, I've made significant improvements in the site's content architecture which will allow me to keep digging deeply into my archives, cross-pollinating by taxonomy and various metadata, and adapting to new reader devices and display formats. Most importantly, the entire site is now fully HTML5. If you don't know much about HTML5, you might have at least caught a glimpse of one of its champions, Tim Berners-Lee, a long-time tech hero of mine, at the London Olympics Opening Ceremony.
I'm only a few pages into Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan. Here's the setup: