Eat the Viscera

National Book Awards 2008

I had a great time at the National Book Awards ceremony last year, but I'm skipping the show this year, partly because I can't get excited by these nominations. I'm predicting that Marilynne Robinson will win for Home and Jane Mayer will win for The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, but neither possibility has me jumping up and down. As far as I'm concerned, this year's fiction award should go to Cost by Roxana Robinson and non-fiction to Human Smoke by Nicholson Baker, but neither title was nominated.

Kindle Konfusion

Yeah, I got my hands on a real-life Amazon Kindle e-book reader for a few minutes. Did I "feel the power"? Hell no. The physical packaging reminds me of the Coleco Adam. I tried to read a story by P. G. Wodehouse and I felt like I was playing Pong.

The Two Times I Was Wrong

When I'm wrong about something, I'll admit it. I called Amazon's Kindle e-book reader a loser last year -- not because I don't believe in e-books, but because the device is too expensive and too big.

Spectator Sports

1. Shirley Jackson on "The Lottery" at Shaken and Stirred: "People at first were not so much concerned with what the story meant; what they wanted to know was where these lotteries were held, and whether they could go there and watch."

Writing to Write

So, while Levi was busy getting married, I was busy watching him getting married and then doing the Hokey Pokey at the reception. And then when I came back home, my refrigerator broke, my computer crashed, my blog’s database exploded, and then when I tried to log in to write my post here, WordPress was all, “Access DENIED. No, seriously. Go away.” The moral of this story is, of course, don’t come back from vacation. Take it from me. It’s a bad idea.

High Tech, High Touch

Back in 1982, a business book called Megatrends by John Naisbitt made a big splash. The most memorable phrase in this study of future trends was "high tech, high touch", describing a product style or marketing approach that combines technical wizardry with heightened emotional appeal.

Good Ideas

1. Now this is a good idea. I've said this before and I'll keep saying it: readers are ready for e-books, but we don't want to buy puffed-up $400 Kindles or $300 Sony Readers. We want to read e-books on the devices that are already in our pockets: iPhones, Blackberrys, high-end full-screen cell phones. This is the way e-books will succeed in the marketplace.

Tough Love

1. I used to review a lot of poetry chapbooks on LitKicks. I really loved doing that, but then more and more chapbooks started coming in the mail and I couldn't figure out what to do with them. One day I looked at a stack of chapbooks by my front door and realized I'd just been stacking them there for the last few months. I hadn't opened a single one.


1. It's an honor to review the first posthumous Kurt Vonnegut book (and, in a way, the final note in his career) at The Quarterly Conversation.

2. Another good piece in this issue: Richard Grayson on his experience publishing his own book. My own experiences with print-on-demand indie publishing have been about equally mixed. It's a hell of a way to try to make a living.