So, what's next for the draft I've just completed? I'm very happy with the response I got from many of you, and I certainly think I've got a mandate to prepare a book proposal and seek a publisher. Some may ask, do I even need a publisher? Haven't I published it already, and isn't the book biz a total clusterfuck right now? Yes and yes, but even so I want to give this a try, and I wouldn't mind working with an excellent editor to bring out the very best in this material. My search for a publisher may also prove entertaining in its own right: I wrote the book out here "in full view", and I plan to handle the next steps the same way. Thanks again to everybody who posted comments, suggestions, feedback or advice, and you'll be hearing more about this soon.
2. I've got some busy days ahead -- as I work on this book proposal, I'm also hoping to relaunch Literary Kicks in Drupal. I've barely begun the work so I don't know if it will fly or not. Stay tuned, I hope.
I'm also planning to shut the site down for the rest of the holidays, and will shortly be putting up an Action Poetry Random Poem Selector like we like to do every year around this time.
Okay, enough about LitKicks ... here are a few more literary links you might like:
3. An informative look at the circumstances behind Louisa May Alcott's Little Women.
4. PEN President Kwame Anthony Appiah calls sentencing of Chinese dissident writer Liu Xiaobo a "mockery" and a "scandal".
5. Beat-related videos by the excellent Laki Vazakas.
6. Was John Keats killed by a bad review?
7. Arthur Conan Doyle as Metafictionist.
8. Wizzywig, a hacker memoir by Ed Piskor.
9. Yay! Just Kids, Patti Smith's memoir about her friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe is heading our way soon.
10. A word cloud representing Houghton Mifflin's Best American Short Stories series.
11. Drawings from Moby-Dick.
12. Very nice: Pride and Prejudice in emoticons.
13. You know that Joseph Conrad classic. The N-Word of the Narcissus.
14. And, just to prove I have some Christmas spirit, here's a Christmas memory from Henry David Thoreau (via @geoffwisner).
1. This expressionist portrait of Joyce Carol Oates is one of many interpretations of modern authors by Swedish artist Carl Kohler, who died in 2006.
2. If you prefer cute to modern expressionist, here's John Pupdike on Etsy.
3. Sarah Palin's new memoir appears to be a hit, enraging many Americans who dislike her, but I think it's time for many of us to lighten up about this clever charmer. Palin is clearly not qualified to be President -- but then neither was George W. Bush and he actually got elected, whereas Sarah Palin does not seem interested in playing it safe and is really very unlikely to even get her party's nomination in 2012. I strongly disagree with almost everything she stands for, but I think it's a waste of effort for liberals to focus their anger on the one funny and brash big talker in the conservative gang, instead of on the countless bland mumbling nobodies selling similar platforms, like Mitt Romney, Joe Lieberman, Mitch McConnell, John Boehner and Dick Cheney.
I do thank God that John McCain and Sarah Palin did not win the last election, but I honestly believe that Sarah Palin was the less dangerous part of that ticket, if only because she appears to have no foreign policy agenda at all, unlike John "blood and guts" McCain, who wanted to be a war hero so bad he probably stormed the beaches at Normandy every night in his dreams.
Anyway, I do think a Jonathan Safran Foer vs. Sarah Palin cage match is great idea. And Tom Watson also semi-defends Sarah Palin here.
4. The American Library Association is looking for your essays about libraries.
5. Electric Literature will be tweeting a new work by Rick Moody. I have watched a few "tweeted novels" fly by, usually in disjointed reverse-chronological sentence fragments that repel any attempt at reading. Will these apparently clued-in folks find the formula that works? Hint: we write our tweets forward, but we read them backwards. Hint #2: if you're tweeting a novel and you can't make your sentences work at 140 characters or less, you're really not tweeting a novel.
6. I like these classic British rock stamps a lot.
7. A robotic version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, on the other hand, just creeps me out.
8. Despite being billed as "best writing tips ever", Allen Ginsberg's newly published writing tips aren't quite as great as his friend Jack Kerouac's. But they are pretty good.
9. Maud Newton is related to Pretty Boy Floyd.
10. Was Nietzsche pious? Maybe so, maybe so.
11. Frequent LitKicks contributor and Proust expert Mike Norris on being an ESL teacher in Paris.
12. Some good literary agents who are looking for new writers.
1. A creepy publicity stunt involving flies carrying little paper advertisements at the Frankfurt Book Fair. Doesn't this make you feel bad for the flies?
2. San Francisco Beat/hippie poet Lenore Kandel has died at the age of 77. Here's an appreciation of her work by John Yates.
3. Carl Jung's awesome visual side.
4. A detailed financial biography of F. Scott Fitzgerald. (And why not? Money was certainly among his major themes).
5. East Village poetry legend and perennial Presidential candidate Sparrow and LitKicks poet Mickey Z. are creating a poetry anthology together and they say:
Calling all feminists, wizards, Queer theorists, ex-Black Panthers, Christians, Green activists, avant-gardists, Kabbalists, vegans, Hawaiian nationalists, kickboxers, Punks, Hip Hop evangelists, New New Leftists, pink-haired emo warriors, organic gardeners -- submit your work for "The Big Book of Revolutionary Poetry," edited by Sparrow and Mickey Z. Send up to 3 poems to: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Go for it, I say.
6. Guernica Magazing is turning 5! Jonathan Ames, Howard Zinn, Katie Halper, Mia Farrow and David Byrne will be joining the party this Wednesday, October 28. Wish I could make it (but I can't).
7. The eternal philosophical battle over the real-life ethics of German intellectual Martin Heidegger goes on. Personally, I don't agonize over Heidegger's Nazi past, because I never thought much of his work. You can find the same message -- the utter immediacy of existence -- in Nietzsche or Kierkegaard or Sartre, and with a lot more finesse and humor.
8. Building a brain inside a supercomputer. And here I am just trying to get Drupal to work.
9. I recently posted about Fall 2009 books I'm looking forward to; little did I know that Orhan Pamuk and Kurt Vonnegut books were coming out too ...
10. Jeff Kinney's Wimpy Kid is rocking the cash registers. My stepdaughter reads these books and I think they're hilarious.
11. I love this, from McSweeneys: YouTube Comment, of e. e. cummings?.
12. HTMLGiant on Glimmer Train: "Winning one of their ubiquitous contests is like winning $2 on a $2 scratch ticket or a free small soda during McDonald’s Monopoly promotion." They also admit that Glitter Train was once "a decent, if not rather traditional literary magazine". I used to read them, but I don't read print literary journals much at all anymore.
13. If you've been reading my memoir, some of these events will be familiar: A History of the Internet from 1969 to Today.
14. Speaking of bygone times, one-time high-rolling community website GeoCities is shutting down. Caryn is sad about this, and xkcd posted a tribute.
1. In between making videos for LitKicks and arguing with me about Roman Polanski, Jamelah Earle asked me to write a piece commemorating the 1000th front page feature for the wonderful "tribal photography" website Utata. I was honored to do so. I am not much of a photographer myself, but I recommend this vibrant and friendly community to anybody who is.
2. New York spoken word poet Lemon Anderson, who you might have caught if you ever watched Def Poetry Jam, is starring in his own autobiographical play at the Public Theater, County of Kings. This play is a Spike Lee joint.
3. My buddy and former co-author Christian Crumlish has just published his latest book: Designing Social Interfaces. This book is an O'Reilly joint.
4. Blues expert and ethnomusicologist Sam Charters has a new book, A Language of Song: Journeys in the Musical World of the African Diaspora, and describes how he helped unearth the recordings of Robert Johnson recently on the New York Times Paper Cuts blog. When Sam Charters talks about music, listen.
5. Fictionaut is a beautifully designed online writing community, just out of beta. Let's see where this one goes.
6. Naked poets in Canada.
7. Vol 1 Brooklyn presents Battle of the New York Nerds.
8. Simon Owens on xkcd and what newspaper cartoonists can learn from web comics.
9. Wrestling poems. I don't really get it, but maybe John Irving would.
10. "And there's one kind favor I'll ask of you
and there's one kind favor I'll ask of you
and there's one kind favor I'll ask of you ...
See that my grave is running Solaris."
I enjoyed the response to Monday's article about the words "modernism" and "postmodernism" as they are used in the separate fields of architecture and literature. Serendipitously, a tangentially related article has now drifted my way, an illustrated piece by Joseph Clarke about modern architecture in religion and business.
We hear a lot about postmodernism these days, but it's important to realize that postmodernism is just one of many tips of the iceberg known as modernism. Modernism, the trunk from which many branches spring, was a primal and broad movement born, roughly, as part of the pre-Revolutionary French enlightenment in the 18th Century. It developed gradually along with Romanticism and Impressionism and Symbolism during the 19th Century, then reached an artistic peak in the early 20th Century in the age of Joyce and Beckett and Picasso and Kandinsky and Stravinsky and Schoenberg. Modernism is, of course, still alive today, and still stands as a challenge to traditional society in many forms. Postmodernism is just one small candy-coated facet of the whole thing, and it doesn't really make sense to talk a lot about postmodernism unless we talk about modernism first.
When I was young, I used to go to the public library and head straight for the "P" aisle in the fiction section. Then I would wander through the stacks until I came to Proust. I would gaze with awe at the seven volumes of the work that was called, at that time, Remembrance of Things Past. I would take a volume off the shelf, leaf through it, and put it back. The strange sounding titles, Swann's Way, Within a Budding Grove, The Guermantes Way, The Sweet Cheat Gone, seemed to me like the chronicle of some secret world; a world that I could experience if I just read the novel. However, I never checked out any of the books. The thought at the time of reading a novel that long seemed too daunting. I said to myself, someday I will read it. Someday.
1. So downtown Brooklyn will not be getting a Frank Gehry building after all (thanks for nothing, Jonathan Lethem). However, New York Times architecture critic Nicolai Ouroussoff gives a thumbs-up to a new postmodernist spectacle by Thom Mayne, very much in the Gehry vein, near Cooper Union and St. Marks Place. Call me a fool -- I just love a building with broken lines. This is what big cities always looked like to me in my dreams.
2. Evan Schnittman aptly invokes Magritte in thinking about Google as a book publisher.
3. Benigni in Hell.
4. I'm so glad a John O'Hara renaissance is finally happening.
5. Literary (mostly kid-literary) cakes.
6. A nice implicit Burroughs reference in this piece on early computer advertising art.
7. And Wow He Died As Wow He Lived. Jason Boog on Kenneth Fearing.
8. On The Great Tradition by F. R. Leavis.
9. Literary Losers selected by Mark Sarvas.
10. Chris Felver's film on Ferlinghetti.
11. From a superb new blog representing Allen Ginsberg's legacy: Buddhists Find Beatnik Spy! And scroll on, much good stuff here.
12. Shattered childhood much?
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.
It's as though the author couldn't resist snatching up a pair of sewing scissors and, now and again, snipping a little rent in the fabric of her own work ...
The rent fabric is clearly a reference to a Jewish funeral tradition -- the misplaced term "rent" is a bald tipoff here, as is the fact that the reviewer is named Leah Hager Cohen. But what is a reference to a Jewish funeral tradition doing in a review of a book about a frontier woman named Sally who has human-faced tadpoles swimming around her face? The review is all over the place, and I have no idea what Joanna Scott's novel is actually trying to be.
I am also puzzled by Pico Iyer's very favorable review of Geoff Dyer's travel novel Jeff in Venice, Death in Varanasi (and maybe it's my own mind that lacks sharpness today, though it's not like I'm quitting coffee or anything). I read Iyer's piece twice and still can't get past "Huh?". He offers Thomas Mann and Allen Ginsberg as reference points for Dyer's narrative, describing a mission to "summon and advance European high culture with a slack casualness, to mix a with-it, slangy, trans-Atlantic prose with the concerns of classic fiction (about self and morality and God)". Fine, but we don't need to go any further than Allen Ginsberg to achieve that: Iyer's has just described the entire cultural program of Ginsberg's Beat Generation. So what do we need Thomas Mann and Geoff Dyer for? And what do Martin Amis, Susan Sontag, Philip Roth, V. S. Naipaul, W. G. Sebald, Colson Whitehead, Ed Ruscha, Tintoretto, Lewis Thompson, Richard Lannoy, Somerset Maugham, Henry James and Dante have to do with it?
Again, I don't think it should reflect badly on this novel that I can't figure out what the review is talking about. But maybe critics like Pico Iyer and Leah Hager Cohen should stick closer to their source material, present some quotes (so we can get a flavor for the prose being praised), and, most importantly, do a whole lot less spinning. A good fiction review doesn't just plop us into the airy regions of appreciation and free association that result from finishing a good novel -- a good review must take us there. Both Cohen and Iyer appear to be deeply moved by the books they've just read, but their readers are left behind.
I also can't figure out what the appeal of Charlotte Roche's Wetlands is supposed to be. Michael Orthofer got a jump on me this weekend, critiquing critic Sallie Tisdale's review of this book for missing the author's basic message. I'll have to take his word for it -- this is just not my kind of book.
Bad illustrations are a big part of the problem in today's Book Review. I'm not sure what to say about Robert Sullivan's The Thoreau You Don't Know: What the Prophet of Environmentalism Really Meant, a book I skimmed even though, as reviewer David Gessner says "if you already know Thoreau, you already know the Thoreau you don't know." Sullivan's book must have some value, though it does come off like "Walden for Dummies". I wish David Gessner's review adopted a grander tone in sympathy with its subject, but most of all I wish his article wasn't illustrated by a Monty-Python-esque collage featuring champagne being poured into a split-open Henry David Thoreau head. Perhaps this illustration was inspired by Gessner's reference to Thoreau attending parties and "dancing a jig" during his years in Concord, but since the article does not imply that Thoreau was interested in alcohol (I'm pretty sure he wasn't) it's a really dumb connection to make.
Another bad attempt at illustration -- a review page as a web form -- mars Michael Agger's otherwise reasonable review of Julia Angwin's Stealing MySpace. I don't know who is responsible for all today's bad illustrations, but I would be gratified to learn that the Book Review's art editor has been on vacation and will be coming back soon.
Good articles today include Mary Beard on the literary marketplace of classical Rome -- I'd like to read more historical perspectives like this -- and James Longenbach on two new volumes of C. P. Cafavy's poetry translated by Daniel Mendelsohn (Longenbach is enthralled by Mendelsohn's ability to capture the subtle mix of high and low tones that characterized Cafavy's work).
Jennifer Senior's summary of Dave Cullen's Columbine is chilling and effective. Jonathan Freedland is not too impressed by liberal pollster Stanley Greenberg's Dispatches From The War Room, though I may check out the book anyway, and I am also interested in Tall Man: The Death of Doomadgee by Chloe Hooper, a book about a prisoner death in a former Aboriginal prison camp, reviewed by Alison McCullough.
On the economic/psychological front, George Akerlof and Robert Shiller's Animal Spirits: How Human Psychology Drives the Economy, and Why it Matters for Global Capitalism sounds like a particularly relevant book, and Louis Uchitelle describes it simply and clearly for the reader's benefit. And maybe our animalistic economy is actually starting to get better: this weekend's New York Times Book Review has enough ads for a 28-page issue for the second time this month.
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.