(Peggy Nelson, a new media artist and blogger, tells us about her Kindle. -- Levi).
I hadn't meant to get one. A Kindle. But when we got one at work, to "evaluate," my curiosity got the better of me. In my day job I'm an user experience designer for educational technology, where we create and evaluate online courses, games, simulations -- as well as new delivery models, like augmented reality assignments, smartphones, mash-ups, e-readers, virtual worlds, and whatever else rolls out. Plus my friends have been (somewhat heatedly) debating the relative merits of the Kindle online, and I wanted to "evaluate" one for myself.
The first thing I noticed about it was its "objectness:" it's light and thin, more like card stock than hardware. The soft grey screen creates a Peaceful Reading Environment, easier on the eyes than the harsh glow of an LCD. And the screen's small size is better in real life than its profile photo; it actually didn't feel small, it felt like a *page. Or I should say, it *read like a page; each screen gives you about 3 good Evelyn Wood-style scans.
Onward from the object to the experience: I read Lauren Weisberger's "The Devil Wears Prada," Lytton Strachey's "Eminent Victorians," and am in the middle of Jonathan Lethem's collection of essays, "The Disappointment Artist." Also tried out LitKicks, as well as some magazines and newspapers, and accessed a monochrome Google.
Pseudo-speed reading in greyscale, I could *almost lose myself in the story, although not completely. Perhaps that was because I am so used to turning pages; pressing the 'next' button does require fewer muscles, but it is a much newer behavior, so there was a heightened self-consciousness about the experience. Although -- it was not so heightened as to be a deal-breaker, and the newness (or the awareness of such) would perhaps fade with use. That's compared to books. Compared to reading onscreen it's *significantly* better. I'm online all day, and a reader, but if I have to read anything onscreen longer than a few paragraphs I like to escape from the screen and print it out. It's not so much that it bothers my eyes as it bothers my attention span. The Kindle didn't trigger the escape button in the same way, despite the fact that it does have the web.
Overall I find the Kindle to be more of an icon linking back to the book, than a full-blown substitute: if I liked something, I wanted the 'real' object to own, afterwards. As if I had to 'bookend' the experience with a real book! Which is probably good news for the publishing industry, if representative. I still imagine there's something "alive" about a book on the shelf, which is paradoxical because the *real life of a book is fully virtual. Language has been flowing in and out of various forms for thousands of years, from speaking to pictures to writing to -- code? And beyond, inevitably.
However, there is something significant about edges. A codex satisfies the analog part of our nature, both the real periphery of our vision (both pages at once) and the virtual periphery of our perception ("flipping through it" to any page, what's next to it on the shelf, etc.). A somewhat similar experience even holds with websites - with the Kindle, the layout is replaced by a list. Most of the 'page elements' are there, eventually, but in *sequence, not in simultaneity. And with sequencing comes a denial of the virtual periphery: you can scroll or click through, but the page you were looking at is cleanly gone, and the pages you might see next do not yet exist. You can't hold on to them, except via trust in (Random Access) Memory. When we lose the edges we lose the analogies, the associations, the as-yet unknown possibility spaces. When we target too closely the known, we lose the jumping-off point for all else.
So I welcome the Kindle, but cautiously: as an *addition* to my library, but not as its replacement.
1. Okay, so I flip-flopped on the Kindle. I still dislike the high price, the DRM policy and the secrecy about sales numbers, but on the other hand Amazon appears to be showing conviction, focus and flexibility in the way they are evolving the product. Also, a few months ago I wrote that I've never seen anyone reading a Kindle on a train, but I have recently seen two people doing so. This says a lot. I remain mixed in my feelings about the product, but it's clear that the Kindle is here to stay, and this is probably a good thing.
Following the lead of several other literary bloggers, I've now made this website available for Kindle subscription. I don't own a Kindle myself, so I can't even check out how it works, but if any Kindle owners out there can check it out, please tell me what you see!
2. More technological developments: here's Slate on the semantically-charged new knowledge engine Wolfram Alpha, supposedly a challenger to Google: "If only it worked ..."
3. There are a lot of intense debates revolving around the triple satellites of e-books, blogs and Twitter, all of it possibly leading to same grand conflagration (or, more likely, not) during next weekend's Book Expo 2009 in New York City. Till we all meet there, Kassia Krozser is tracking various debates involving electronic publishing.
4. Allison Glock flaunts her silly prejudices in a Poetry Foundation article about blogs. Based on her piece, I'm betting she's never actually seen a blog.
Instead of fostering actual connection, blogs inevitably activate our baser human instincts—narcissism, vanity, schadenfreude. They offer the petty, cheap thrill of perceived superiority or released vitriol. How easy it is to tap tap tap your indignation and post, post, post into the universe, where it will velcro to the indignation of others, all fusing into a smug, sticky mess and not much else in the end. You know those dinners at chain restaurants, where they pile the plate with three kinds of pasta and five sauces and endless breadsticks and shrimp and steak and bacon bits all topped in fresh grated cheese? Blogs are like that: loads of crap that fill you up. With crap.
5. Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman is one of my favorite plays. It's now running in New Haven with an African-American cast, featuring Charles S. Dutton as Willy Loman.
6. Jamelah tells me: "Paste Magazine is a really really good publication and it would be sad if it went under".
7. The New York Public Library is facing deep budget cuts and asking for a show of support. Let's keep those lions well-fed.
8. A Michigan high school bans Toni Morrison's novel Song of Solomon.
9. Flannery O'Connor in Atlantic Monthly.
10. Arthur Conan Doyle and spiritualism. And here's what Robert Downey Jr and Jude Law are doing with Sherlock Holmes.
11. A glance at a surprisingly healthy publishing industry in India.
12. I didn't realize Britian's legendary publishing firm Faber and Faber was only 80 years old.
13. John O'Hara's wonderful novel Appointment in Samarra gets some appreciation from Lydia Kiesling at The Millions.
14. Another form of Action Poetry: Yoko Ono is arranging Twitter haiku.
1. Japanese search parties have found the remains of poet and volcano enthusiast Craig Arnold, who had been running a blog called The Volcano Pilgrim. Jacket Copy's piece on Craig's death is the best of many I've read.
Nobody needs to wonder why a poet would love volcanoes; the metaphorical appeal is obvious. The word "volcano" is itself literary, evoking the Roman god Vulcan (the Greek god Hephaestus). Then there's Malcolm Lowry, and Susan Sontag, and let's not forget that the San Francisco beatniks hung out in a North Beach bar called Vesuvio.
Some might disagree with me, but I don't think it's exactly tragic when a poet who passionately loves volcanoes dies exploring a volcano. It's tragic if a poet who loves volcanoes dies of cancer, or catches a stray bullet during a liquor store robbery, or kills himself in a moment of desperate depression. For a poet to die in courageous pursuit of his greatest dream and fascination does not seem tragic in the same way.
(The homemade volcano photo above was found here).
2. Las Vegas Sun maps the Seven Deadly Sins to the states and counties of USA.
3. Keith Gessen gets himself into trouble reporting on an election in Russia.
4. "While the publishing industry chases the new, the young, the instantly commercial, readers are often looking for something else -- for a kind of enduring quality." Agreed. Reissed jazz-age classics from Bloomsbury.
5. Wyatt Mason invokes Emerson.
6. Bill Gates's father is writing a book called Showing Up For Life.
7. 25 Microchips that shook the world.
8. To embarrass is to block, to em-bar.
9. How George Orwell was feeling (hint: not good) while he wrote 1984.
10. Literature and classic rock (I used to try to maintain a list something like this, but haven't kept it up to date).
11. Why does everything Bret Easton Ellis writes get turned into a movie?
12. Anne Waldman on why chapbooks matter.
13. Carly Kocurek, a smart young writer from Texas who used to contribute to LitKicks as "violet9ish", is one of the authors represented in Republic of Barbecue: Stories Beyond the Brisket by Elizabeth Englehardt.
14. I get interviewed by Mike Palecek at New American Dream. I like it that Mike asks questions like "Are UFO's real?" instead of the usual stuff about e-books and blogs.
I'm in the process of moving to a new apartment, which means I just finished boxing up and shipping my entire book collection. This was a lot of boxes. I'm the kind of person who likes to travel light, so it's at moments like this that I really see the value in the so-called e-book revolution that's apparently heading our way. If the e-book revolution means I can enjoy these same objet's d'art in a virtual form about 600 pounds lighter, I'm for that.
As those who follow book industry news know, electronic books are the hot topic of 2009. Much of the coverage has been negative, in tones ranging from poignant to tragic. Another wave of media attention is coming, because Amazon has just purchased Lexcycle, the Texas-based startup that created Stanza, the most popular iPhone e-book reader. We've been interested in Stanza for a while, and we're not sure what to think about Amazon buying the Kindle's biggest competition.
As for the larger debate about the negative effects of electronic publishing, though, we remain confident that the transition from a print-only literary publishing environment to a print-and-electronic literary publishing environment will be a positive one. I'll say it again: that was a lot of boxes I just had to move. Sometimes when we carry a lot of weight with us everywhere we go, we forget to think about how good it might feel to become free of that weight. I'm looking forward to someday carrying all the great literature that's currently residing in 35 cardboard boxes in my new apartment in a device that fits inside my pocket. I don't see how anyone who truly loves books can not be excited about the idea that this will soon be possible.
One thing you have to say for Little Brother, Cory Doctorow's recent book for young adults (now nominated for the Hugo Award for best novel): it's ambitious. It is an adventure story about teenage terrorism that's also a screed on the importance and meaning of the right to privacy and a guide to bad government practices and how to fight them, a novel made manifesto and handbook.
The book tells us, for example, why anti-terrorism measures like ramped-up airplane security are bad, or how to safely destroy the RFID tag in a passport. It's useful. It's also pretty blatant propaganda, and it is its nature as a work of propaganda that ultimately undermines its effectiveness as a work of fiction.
In the wake of a terrorist bombing of the Bay Bridge in San Fransisco, teenager Marcus Yallow and his friends are rounded up by Homeland Security for no apparent reason and put into a Guantanamo-style prison on nearby Treasure Island. Once released, Marcus embarks upon a dangerous campaign to combat the government's anti-terrorism efforts in San Francisco and otherwise publicly humiliate and embarrass his former tormentors. He is a "Little Brother", fighting with tooth and nail the efforts of "Big Brother" to take away our rights and keep us all under a watchful eye.
1. Isn't it somebody's job to say clever things like "Jenny Holzer is the patron saint of twitter"? I guess it falls to me if nobody else wants to. Anyway, noted 90s-era electric sign artist Jenny Holzer has a new show at the Whitney Museum in New York City.
2. Apparently it's a lot of people's job, though, to crack jokes about the annoying news that ex-President George W. Bush will be inflicting upon us a book. Just what we needed, right? I will not be reading this book, though I do retain a fascination with this enigma, this monument of know-nothing American chauvinism, as he fades into his sunset days. Bush's post-Presidential strategy seems to involve nursing a public feud with Dick Cheney and practically apologizing to the American people for his clear failure in leadership. Hand it to the guy -- it's the best strategy he could have come up with, though it still won't earn him a spot on Mount Rushmore. Anyway, I hope nobody buys "The Decider For Dummies" or whatever this bad book is going to be called.
3. Here's a much better farewell: the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper is shutting down, and newly unemployed book critic John Marshall has posted favorite memories of his Seattle book-critic days. I hope Marshall will continue generating literary memories, on a blog or somewhere. For more on the morbid gasps of the print newspaper industry, here's a contrarian but heartening take from Ed Champion: The Covenant.
4. An interesting online reading trend in China.
5. Survey Says is a book of poetry inspired by Family Feud, from a new indie publisher called Black Maze Books.
6. A new dedicated litblog: How Books Got Their Titles.
7. Devo traces the lyrics of "Whip It" back to Thomas Pynchon and Horatio Alger. I had no idea.
1. The e-book scene (also known as the d-book scene, if you read Booksquare) is buzzing again with news of Amazon's new iPhone Kindle application, which allows readers to enjoy the considerable benefits of the Kindle store without buying a bulky and expensive dedicated device.
Does this mean I'm going to brag yet again that I was among the first to attempt to point Amazon in this exact direction, even though everybody thought I was crazy at the time? Yes, it certainly does. It also means that I can stop beefing with Amazon.com, a company I used to like until Jeff Bezos started trying to be Steve Jobs. Some will still beef with Amazon/Kindle over DRM, but there's no doubt Amazon is moving in the right direction by allowing Kindle books to run on non-Amazon devices.
Meanwhile, the dumb, dumb articles about how e-books are ruining everything just keep coming (this one via Frank, who shares my derision). What is wrong with these people? At least one minor miracle takes place within Sven Birkerts piece: he doesn't tell us he loves the way books smell.
2. Like Mark Sarvas, I used to mill around the Librarie de France bookstore in Rockefeller Center (though unlike Mark Sarvas, I don't read French). This small store was a nice worldly touch for midtown Manhattan and I'm very sorry to hear that it will be closing this
3. Was Ludwig Wittgenstein really the greatest philosopher of the 20th Century? I think he was, assuming that William James belongs to the 19th Century, and many others think so too.
4. Via Largehearted Boy, a long list of fictional computers.
5. How Jeff Kinney and his Wimpy Kid made it big.
6. Roxana Robinson, inspired by a mockingbird's call.
7. Literature as an alternative to traditional incarceration.
8. NPR on Carlo Collodi's original Pinocchio. And let's also pay good attention to Kanye's personal spin on Collodi's tale.
9. I do not have high hopes for a movie based on Beverly Cleary's Ramona The Pest, one of the books I loved most as a kid. What do you want to bet they'll screw up the big Halloween parade scene and leave out the Q's with the cat tails?
10. Jamelah gets framed.
11. Another Bret Easton Ellis movie is heading our way.
My second day at O'Reilly's Tools of Change electronic book publishing conference kicks into high gear in the early afternoon with Kassia Krozser's "Smart Women Read eBooks" panel. It's fascinating to hear from Malle Valik of Harlequin that this romance publisher has long ago figured out how to profit from electronic books, and is patiently waiting for the rest of the industry to catch up. Another good speaker is Sarah Wendell of Smart Bitches Trashy Books, who lays out in clear and concise terms what she wants from book publishers (digital, available, open, now). There's a lot of substance to this panel, because these panelists are not pondering a future with E-books but instead actually use them now.
After a coffee break I take my seat for four afternoon keynote presentations. I'm happy enough with Jeff Jarvis's perky pep talk and Sara Lloyd's impressive record of achievement at Pan Macmillan. But I'm less impressed by the third speaker, Jason Fried, who offers a very lackadaisical prescription for success in e-book publishing: you just, kinda do it, just throw a PDF up there, and then a million people will buy it. Easy!
The problem is, this little trick only works if you run a software company that has a million customers. Most of us, unlike Jason Fried, do not run a software company with a million customers. So if we "throw a PDF up there", a million people will not show up to purchase it. It's really difficult to see what practical business lesson Jason Fried intends this hungry audience to gather from his success story, though the success story gets a hearty round of applause.
I'm much more impressed by Jason Epstein, former editorial director of Random House, co-founder of the New York Review of Books, author of an excellent publishing memoir called Book Business and now a technology entrepreneur with his Espresso Book Machine. Epstein is a feisty octogenarian who manages to insult USA's Middle East policy and environmental policies several times during his excellent speech, in which he also argues for a writer's privacy, and speaks up (Cory Doctorow be damned) for the fairness of DRM. He mostly talks about his company's new Espresso Book Machine, a portable device that produces perfect individually selected paperback books from digital files in multiple languages at a low cost.
After the speech I go to see a demo of this machine and find Jason Epstein standing quietly with a companion, so I introduce myself and try to find out if he has any memories to share of his friend John Updike. Epstein quickly changes the subject, asking me what I think of his Espresso Book Machine. I tell him I'm very impressed by it, and can easily see the practical benefits of affordable, portable on-demand book publishing. I also tell him that the machine's bulky appearance seems to be turning some people off (I want to say "it looks like something from The Office", but I don't know if Jason Epstein watches The Office). He then asks me how I can make a living as a blogger (I don't, I explain), and then I take his picture and blubber a bit about how much I enjoyed Book Business and how cool it was that he founded the early paperback house Anchor Books until he gets tired of me and waves me away.
An evening of enjoyable and friendly conversation at a downtown TOC party is rudely followed by an alarm-clock morning, because I want to be back at the Marriot Marquis by 8:45 to catch Neelan Choksi of Lexcycle, the software company that created the iPhone application Stanza, currently the most popular mobile platform in the world for e-books (sorry, Kindle, but Lexcycle does release its numbers, and they're good).
I'm very fond of Lexcycle's business model, and in fact I predicted their success here fourteen months ago, seven months before Stanza was launched, when I wrote this:
Here's a hint (a hint worth more than $400) to those companies looking to profit from electronic books. Forget standalone devices. Consumers want their devices to serve multiple purposes -- camera, music player, internet browser, phone, organizer -- and that's the way we're going to want to read electronic books. If you want to succeed in the e-book business, find ways to make full-length books look good on existing high-end devices (iPhones, Blackberries).
Neelan Choksi is a charming and relaxed speaker with a strong technical background, and his rundown of Stanza's past, present and future is refreshingly sensible and bullshit-free. When he opens it up for questions I get my hand in the air before anybody else and ask my question: "I'd love to use Stanza, but I have an LG Dare". I wave my phone in the air, as if to show that I am not ashamed to admit that I'm not rocking an iPhone like everybody else at this damn conference, and Neelan consoles me by saying that the tech team is working on this right now. As a team of enterprise Java developers, he explains, they are all too happy to move off the iPhone's Objective C language for a while. Good answer, I think, because as much as I like the idea of Stanza, I just don't see why I should have to switch phones and phone providers to use it.
Second keynote speaker Nick Bilton of the "New York Times R&D Lab" is next. He's a very funny and engaging speaker, he bursts with confidence, and he's one of the only presenters at this conference who actually bothers to make his slide show look good. I'm amused to hear that the New York Times has an "R&D Lab" (and something tells me this "R&D Lab" is just Nick Bilton's office), but this smart and energetic person is probably the best choice for the thankless task of evangelizing technology at the New York Times, and I'm sure the Times is spending their money well on him (until they lay him off). Bilton's main thesis is that media companies must adapt to serve the needs of the growing generations, who demand instant media gratification at all times. Makes sense to me. I wonder what they think of Nick over at the Book Review.
The eponymous Tim O'Reilly, humble and rumpled hero of the venerable O'Reilly technical publishing firm, is the last keynote speaker this morning. He doesn't have to say much to impress; there are few book publishers in the world right now whose stature matches Tim O'Reilly, who began by cornering the market in serious Unix expertise two decades ago, and has been an evangelist and a success model ever since. O'Reilly basks in the glory for a few minutes, wrestles with his Powerpoint presentation (not his most impressive technical moment, but let's move on), and fields questions from Cory Doctorow, who is still pissed off that anybody involved with E-books would even contemplate DRM.
Because I care very much about the potential of electronic book publishing, and I believe that 2009 will be a year of remarkable success in this area, this was the right conference at the right moment. Sure, there was plenty of fluff (did we mention that Jeff Jarvis was there?), a few cookie-cutter presentations (did we mention that Jeff Jarvis was there?), some demographic weirdness, and one or two dull moments as well. Still, what I value most are the conversations I had with others who are as fascinated by this emerging technology as I am.
Also, I finally got my picture taken at a GalleyCat party. Hah.
1. It's fitting that O'Reilly's electronic book publishing technology conference Tools of Change is happening at the Marriot Marquis in swirling Times Square, still the publishing bellybutton of this city, with the New York Times toiling down the street, Conde Nast fretting across the block, Simon and Schuster, Time Inc. and Random House not far away. Well, are the smartest people in publishing here on the 6th floor at the Marriot Marquis today? Time will tell.
The big news at the conference when I arrived at noon was the earlier nearby Amazon Kindle 2.0 announcement, complete with an amusing Stephen King fly-by. The buzz about the Kindle is not positive among this crowd (closed single-vendor technologies do not play well here in O'Reilly country). My afternoon session turns out to be a grueling but satisfyingly information-packed three and-a-hour introduction to E-book formatting specifications and methods. Many of the attendees were sweating or looked pale by quitting time at 5 pm, but we all felt smarter. I was most impressed by Garth Conboy's evangelism for the open EPub format, which seems to be emerging as the much-needed industry-wide digital publishing format. I enjoyed Keith Fahlgren's helpful real-world tips for E-book publishing, as well as his Kindle-bashing. One of the three speakers, Joshua Tallent, was a Kindle expert, and I enjoyed his presentation as well, though it seemed like divine justice for the Kindle's intrinsic isolation model that his presentation on Kindle publishing crashed halfway through. Why? The projector didn't have the Kindle-specific fonts. Ah ha haaa ... anyway, it was a moment of levity that this audience of tech-exhausted publishers and technologists didn't mind.
Tools of Change goes into full swing tomorrow with presentations by Bob Stein, Jeff Jarvis, Cory Doctorow, Laurel Touby, Kassia Krozser and Jason Epstein.
2. Chasing Ray tells us about a children's book about Gertrude Stein, Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude by Jonah Winter.
3. Bad news in the magazine biz as a major distributor ceases operations.
4. Are the creators of Twitter living in the last Dreamworld?.
5. Three Percent is getting angry about funding cuts.
6. Will Self ponders W. G. Sebald.
7. Let xkcd explain the mysterious base system. Funny.
8. Like many a Long Island kid, I grew up listening to Jackie Martling on Bob Buchmann's morning show on WBAB. He was always terrible, but in a really good way.
9. My old boss's boss Walter Isaacson has written a rather surprising article about micropayments for online content, and he's on Jon Stewart right now speaking about this same proposal. There may be long-term possibilities here, and I like it that Isaacson is thinking outside the box. However, his proposal lacks immediate appeal, especially since online advertising remains a perfectly viable support system for many content websites. If Isaacson thinks this idea is ready to take off right now, I think he may be reading too many books by Bruce Judson (but that's an inside Pathfinder joke).
10. Saturday night's benefit for humanitarian aid in Gaza at McNally Jackson was a surprisingly moving event, featuring readings from Mary Morris, Wesley Brown, Alix Kates Shulman, Elizabeth Strout, Dawn Raffel, Melody Moezzi, Beverly Gologorsky, Chuck Wachtel, Leora Skolkin-Smith, Robert Reilly, Jan Clausen, Barbara Schneider and Humerea Afridi, and I was proud to be a part of it. I also heard an exciting update from organizer Leora Skolkin-Smith (reading, below), whose novel Edges: O Israel O Palestine will soon begin film production in (remarkably enough) Jerusalem and Jordan. Tools of change? We can hope.
1. I like Burger King's weird Angry Whopper thing. As far as anthropomorphic fast food goes, this is far more interesting than, say, McDonald's Hamburgler. It also involves onion rings and I want one.
2. I love everything O'Reilly does (I was just reminiscing about one of their early books) and will be attending most of Tools of Change, their three-day conference on publishing and technology in New York City next week. I'm looking forward to hearing from Kassia Krozser, Jeff Jarvis, Laurel Touby, Bob Stein, Peter Brantley, Cory Doctorow, the distinguished Jason Epstein (author of Book Business and a great choice for this conference), the equally distinguished Tim O'Reilly himself, Joe Wikert, Kevin Smokler, Ron Hogan and Chris Baty on topics like e-books, XML, digital convergence, Kindles, Stanza, and survival techniques for writers in the digital age. It's a big agenda, the timing is right, and I will certainly be filing a report or two from this conference.
3.I'm looking forward to participating in a benefit reading for humanitarian aid in the Gaza Strip this Saturday, February 7 at 7 pm at McNally Jackson bookstore in Soho. This is to raise funds for the International Red Cross, though I'm not kidding myself that we're going to raise Warren Buffett/Bill Gates money in a downtown Manhattan bookstore on a Saturday night. I think the real value of an event like this is that it gives a chance for angry and concerned people to share ideas and express hope together.
4. On Friday, February 13 at 7 pm McNally Jackson is also presenting How History Was Made: Books That Inspired A President, a panel discussion about the admirably literary roots of our current President, featuring Laura Miller, Colm Toibin and Eric Alterman.
5. The February Words Without Borders features graphic fiction from around the world. WWB is also sponsoring a discussion of Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote this Thursday, February 5 at Idlewild Bookstore in New York City, featuring translators Edith Grossman and Eduardo Lago.
6. I get interviewed by Finn Harvor at Conversations in the Book Trade.
7. TRUTH FAIL. I am being very careful to keep my memoir entirely truthful, but I've already had to fix two minor mistakes after searching through old paperwork to verify my facts. I confused my salary and job title in 1994 (after I got a big promotion and raise) with my salary in 1993, and I also confused two book publishers I worked with in the 90s -- it was McGraw-Hill who offered me a contract to write a book on client-server programming with Sybase SQL Server, not Manning (which would eventually publish my book Coffeehouse: Writings From the Web).
The first mistake was caused by rewriting: I had originally set a scene in 1994, and after I decided to reset the scene in 1993 I failed to adjust certain details accordingly. The second mistake was simple confusion: my friend Len Dorfman had been the book scout responsible for both this book contract and my later one with Manning, and I remembered incorrectly that he only scouted for Manning, when in fact he also worked with McGraw-Hill. This truth stuff is harder than I thought! Interestingly, author Tim Barrus (a friend of LitKicks, who got a lot of attention after publishing an award-winning memoir as a Native American named Nasdijj) has posted some provocative comments to one of these posts about the ideal of truthfulness in autobiography. This a complex and fascinating topic (I've also written about it with regard to Bob Dylan, JT Leroy and Ishmael Beah), but I pledge to uphold simple and strict standards with my memoir, and am embarrassed to have had to fix mistakes so quickly after beginning the project. I hope this disclosure is sufficient punishment.
8. I didn't realize that Sara Nelson, the highly-regarded but laid-off recent chief of Publisher's Weekly, came up at Inside.com. Inside.com is one of the Silicon Alley companies that will show up in later chapters of the above-mentioned memoir, since I had many conversations about content management technology with Deanna Brown when she was founding the company at the height of the dot-com boom in late 1999 and early 2000. I almost joined the Inside.com team but, as strange as this sounds, I was too busy. I probably would have made more money if I had gone, and I would have gotten to work with Sara Nelson too. Hmm!
9. Yahoo music blogger Rob O'Connor's attempted put-down of Bruce Springsteen's Super Bowl performance is weak. "You may find this hard to believe," he begins before letting the insults roll, "but I am a Bruce Springsteen fan." Yet this "fan" is surprised that Bruce cajoles the audience, slides into the camera, pulls hokey comedy routines and "kills us with show-biz overkill". Actually, overkill is the essence of any Bruce Springsteen/E Street Band concert. He's an extremely dynamic and energetic performer, which is one reason he can sell out stadiums for dozens of nights in a row. Rob O'Connor was apparently expecting Bruce to stand still and whine into a microphone while fondling a guitar like Jason Mraz, which only proves that he has never been within fifty miles of a Bruce Springsteen and E Street Band concert and should stop lying about being a fan.
10. Popular author Jennifer Weiner would like to freshen up literary coverage in newspapers. Here's just a sample of her good suggestions:
As matron of the arts, here are some things I don’t want to read about: new books by Philip Roth (I prefer the old ones, which were funny). New books by Cormac McCarthy. New books by any male writer prone to complaining about the indignities of old age, either general or prostate-specific, or or having his male protagonists do the same.
New short-story collection by Alice Munro. Instead of wasting eight hundred words, just say it’s every bit as wrenching and finely wrought as the last short-story collection by Alice Munro, and be done with it.
11. The politically conservative Pajamas Media blog ad network has gone out of business, and is falling over itself on the way down. Just in case anybody thinks this means the blog ad format is to blame, I'd like to point out how happy I am with BlogAds.com, the company that sells ads for LitKicks. I make a couple hundred dollars every month via BlogAds -- sometimes more, sometimes less, but the business model appears to work just fine when sensible and realistic expectations are applied.
12. Tom Stoppard on his Cherry Orchard (via Maud).
13. Justin Taylor of HTML Giant appreciates a George Saunders short story, and explains exactly why.
14. From Boing Boing, this is your brain on fiction. Or maybe on an angry whopper.