Whatever happened to the film adaptation of J. M. Coetzee's stunning novel Disgrace, starring John Malkovich? If, like me, you've been under the spell of this book, you may have been wondering this too. We heard about the film when it was in production, and word began to spread over a year ago that the much-awaited film was playing festivals, but it was in and out of New York City and Washington DC theaters before anybody I know had a chance to see it. It didn't get terrible reviews; it just didn't get much of a release at all. Then, two days ago, I suddenly spotted the title on a long list of Time Warner Cable "Movies on Demand" on my TV, hiding unceremoniously between Did You Hear About The Morgans? and Easter Bunny Kill Kill!.
I pressed a button to magically pay $4.99, and there I was catching a private viewing of the much-anticipated and mysteriously vanished film in my own living room.
1. "Our main leisure activity is, by a long shot, participating in experiences that we know are not real." A good Chronicle of Higher Education piece by Paul Bloom about what it means for humans to have the capacity to imagine. We often use terms like "imagine" and "dream" in a sort of gushy hopey way -- "follow your dreams" and all that -- but it's also worth pondering at the phenomenological level the fact that this mechanism, this remnant of existence called "imagination", has immense presence and power in our lives.
2. Very cool: a forensic astronomer has identified the meteor shower that inspired a poem by Walt Whitman. "What," Walt asks, "am I but one of your meteors?"
2. It's very weird that attempted Times Square terrorist Faisal Shahzad left a DVD of the anomie-striven movie Up In The Air to be found in his home. Novelist Walter Kirn, who we recently interviewed about the film of his book, wrote this on Twitter: "times sq. bomber leaving behind copy of 'up in the air' reminds me of chapman, lennon's killer, and catcher in the rye. icky feeling now."
1. Beat poet Michael McClure's new book of poetry is called Mysteriosos. In his long and exciting career McClure has collaborated with Janis Joplin and Ray Manzarek, written influential plays like The Beard, and appeared as a character (a voice of sanity, strangely enough) in Jack Kerouac's novel Big Sur. He's also, in my opinion, a better nature poet than W. S. Merwin, and a whole lot more fun to read.
Mysteriosos is a wildly adventurous (typographically and otherwise) romp through existence and language. Characteristically for McClure's work, the consciousness of the poetic narrator is not restricted to the human species, and instead generally aims for a universal or animal awareness. Sometimes this is even achieved. Check out this good book (an earlier version of which was previewed temporarily on LitKicks during our 24 Hour Poetry Party in 2004).
Eco-Libris, a company dedicated to positive environmental practices in the book publishing business, is currently sponsoring a Green Books Campaign, a blogger event designed to call attention to green publishing in which 100 blogs will simultaneously review 100 green-published books.
I'm not completely sure what exactly "green publishing" means, but I like this organization's entrepreneurial focus and I was happy to join in once I saw the array of fairly freaky book titles available for review, including Hope and the Super Green Highway, Adventures of an Aluminum Can, Raw For Dessert, Listening to Trees, Ethnic Knitting Exploration and Sleeping Naked Is Green. I picked a title called Savage Gods, Silver Ghosts, a book about fishing with poet Ted Hughes.
This book looks like a regular slim hardcover, and if I hadn't been told the book was "green" I would never notice a difference. Is there actually a difference? It's printed on recycled paper, but that doesn't seem to me to go far enough. There are lots of reasons to wonder if there is any substance to "eco-friendly" publishing at all -- MobyLives recently asked some probing questions about this.
The biggest concern for eco-friendly book publishing is not the small run chapbooks but the mass-market titles, and when it comes to these I think the book industry will have to do much more than print on recycled paper before they can wear a "green" stamp. I'm mostly thinking about the obscene amount of waste produced by the bad habit of printing massively hopeful over-runs of expected supersellers in bulky hardcover, shipping them on giant container ships from the third-world countries where they are manufactured to the chain stores near you where they are often displayed for a few days, forklifted back to the warehouse, packed off to discount outlets and eventually pulped.
Like every modern industry, book publishing will have to do some real soul-searching before it can credibly start wearing green. Still, any spot is a good place to start.
And none of this has anything to do with the eco-friendly book I will now briefly review, Savage Gods, Silver Ghosts: In The Wild With Ted Hughes by Ehor Boyanowsky, published by Douglas & McIntyre of Vancouver, Canada. This is a book about two things: fishing and poetry. The author indulges ecstatically in both, preferring the Pacific Northwest territory near Vancouver as his stomping grounds. Years ago, his infectious enjoyment of both arts caught the attention of renowned British poet and former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes. Boyanowsky brought the British poet to his favorite rivers to bond with a certain type of fish known as steelhead salmon, and this book is the account of their sport and their conversation.
Boyanowsky is an elegant and sensitive writer expressing unabashed joy at finding himself with his two favorite things in the world -- a great poet and some great salmon -- at the same time. The truth is that I don't particularly love either fishing or the poetry of Ted Hughes, but it's Boyanowsky's powerful voice that holds me and makes me like this book.
There are also dark currents in this book -- naturally, since Ted Hughes was the husband of two women who committed suicide, one of whom was Sylvia Plath, and since their son Nicholas Hughes, another enthusiastic nature scientist, committed suicide just this year.
Nicholas Hughes appears several times in this book, usually with fishing gear in hand. But like his father, many of the fish in this book, and nature itself, his secrets remain mysterious.
Some of my literary/blogger friends have taken to tweeting their literary links. Not me -- I'm holding out for the blog format, just like McSweeney's is holding out for newspapers. Here's another roundup involving great writers and other finds ...
1. Nature magazine goes way back.
2. Orhan Pamuk's real-life Museum of Innocence.
3. The many facets of Roberto Bolano.
4. The many quirks of William Golding, who originally wanted Simon the Christ symbol to actually witness the arrival of God in his great Lord of the Flies.
5. PopMatters interviews Nicholson Baker.
6. Gregory Maguire, whose Wicked novel is much better than the Broadway musical created from it, joins in on an open publishing experiment.
7. Holocaust victim Horst Rosenthal had the idea for Maus before Art Spiegelman.
8. Jessa Crispin tells it like it is.
9. I had no idea that Stanley Kubrick got "Daisy" from a real singing computer.
10. In my opinion Nick Cave sang the best "Stagger Lee".
11. Bill Ectric presents an excerpt from Tamper.
12. Probably inspired by Clarence Clemens's enjoyable and funny new book Big Man, Bruce Springsteen may write an autobiography. All the newspapers are blubbering about the size of his advance, but why shouldn't he get $10 million? He's that good, and I would love to read this book.
1. I've seen a lot of things in my life, but I've never before had the pleasure of watching a bookstore get born. I met blogger/bookseller Jessica Stockton Bagnulo three years ago when we both joined the Litblog Co-op at the same time, and I noted it here in January 2008 when she was awarded seed money to start her own bookstore in Brooklyn. The store is now about to open and looks just great. I hope to make it to the opening day party this Saturday at 7 pm, and you're invited too ...
1. I think it's pretty amazing that Google is putting deep newspaper archives online, including not only the Halifax Gazette (1753 issue, pictured above) but the complete Village Voice, dating back to the 1950s. You know the phrase "An embarrassment of riches"? This is, to me, an embarrassment of archives, because I want to read it all but I just don't know where I will find the time.
2. Words Without Borders presents Into The Wild: International Nature Writing. Nice.
3. Matthew Pearl, author of The Dante Club, on what it is about Dante.
4. Why Dante? Why Plato? Personally, I get much more out of Plato than Dante, but then I'm not Catholic. Nor Guelph.
5. Somebody's putting on a play about Allen Ginsberg's Kaddish (always a favorite poem of mine).
6. "Fingerblast" is a music video by Adira Amram, who is clearly channeling the "She-bop"-era 1980s.
7. Speaking of the 1980s, it's a fact that John Hughes was among the best comedy film directors of all time (though, let's be honest, he managed to be great exactly three times -- Sixteen Candles, Breakfast Club, Ferris -- and was otherwise way too willing to churn out profitable but repetitive junk). I remember reading him in National Lampoon magazine before he switched to film, and I hope National Lampoon will consider publishing a retrospective of his early work there. Or maybe Google will eventually index the Lampoon archives.
8. Speaking of the 1980s, here's Mike Watt at the Bowery Poetry Club, remembering the Minutemen.
9. Jay Diamond appreciates Jay-Z.
10. Bobby McFerrin does something a lot cooler than "Don't Worry, Be Happy".
12. David Updike writes about his father.
13. I'm confused why, if great singer Nick Cave has written a book, he's now singing it. Maybe he knows what he's doing, but I don't, because to me this kind of kills the novelty of Nick Cave creating a book instead of another record.
14. Richard Nash on the end of indie culture. "Which is OK, because it won. Open source, Twitter. Indie won. Etsy. The irresistible decline of major labels and network TV and corporate publishing. Indie won." Now what?
1. How delightful to learn that James Joyce may have invented the word 'blog' during a typical conversational ramble in Finnegans Wake! Here it is in context:
Now from Gunner Shotland to Guinness Scenography. Come to the ballay at the Tailors' Hall. We mean to be mellay on the Mailers' Mall. And leap, rink and make follay till the Gaelers' Gall. Awake ! Come, a wake ! Every old skin in the leather world, infect the whole stock company of the old house of the Leaking Barrel, was thomistically drunk, two by two, lairking o' tootlers with tombours a'beggars, the blog and turfs and the brandywine bankrompers, trou Normend fashion, I have been told down to the bank lean clorks? Some nasty blunt clubs were being operated after the tradition of a wellesleyan bottle riot act and a few plates were being shied about and tumblers bearing traces of fresh porter rolling around, independent of that, for the ehren of Fyn's Insul, and then followed that wapping breakfast at the Heaven and Covenant, with Rodey O'echolowing how his breadcost on the voters would be a comeback for e'er a one, like the depredations of Scandalknivery, in and on usedtowobble sloops off cloasts, eh? Would that be a talltale too? This was the grandsire Orther. This was his innwhite horse. Sip?
Enough puns for you there? I assume that "blog" is a play on "bog" (and in fact the word "blog" has always seemed to carry an appealing sort of Joycean phlegmatic physicality). Pictured above: an Irish peat bog.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti, poet, global activist and indie publisher extraordinaire, turns 90 years old today. Here's his Litkicks biography page, and here's the poem we've been running on this site for many years:
The pennycandystore beyond the El is where I first fell in love with unreality Jellybeans glowed in the semi-gloom of that september afternoon A cat upon the counter moved among the licorice sticks and tootsie rolls and Oh Boy Gum Outside the leaves were falling as they died A wind had blown away the sun A girl ran in Her hair was rainy Her breasts were breathless in the little room Outside the leaves were falling and they cried Too soon! too soon!
The great folksinger Pete Seeger will also turn 90 on May 3, and New York City will celebrate him in big style on this date at Madison Square Garden featuring performers like Bruce Springsteen, Eddie Vedder, Arlo Guthrie, Dave Matthews and John Cougar Mellencamp. That's going to be some hootenanny birthday party. Pete Seeger and Lawrence Ferlinghetti are two American sages, feisty, stubborn and deeply politically engaged. What blacklisted Communist Pete Seeger and embattled Howl publisher Lawrence Ferlinghetti had in common is that they both loved to fight for their causes. They both wore out their competition.