1. Beat poet Gregory Corso has made the cover of this week's Economist. Some clever illustrator has formatted the opening of a recent Barack Obama speech about nuclear disarmament as an homage to Corso's great 1958 poem Bomb (though I couldn't find a Gregory Corso credit anywhere in the magazine). Also, I bet you anything the Economist illustrator cribbed the layout from this LitKicks page, though I couldn't prove this in court. Via Stop Smiling.
2. Amazon.com made a really stupid decision to de-rank books with gay/lesbian content, and suffered through an Easter Sunday twitter tornado for it. Can you imagine what our great literary legacy would look like if all gay/lesbian-related books were subtracted? Forget about it. Amazon has apologized for the "glitch", but the success of the spontaneous #amazonfail movement on Twitter will certainly inspire other protests to come.
3. The unforgettable Beverly Cleary just celebrated her 93rd birthday!
4. When the Flock Changed is an excerpt from Maud Newton's upcoming novel.
5. Jay Thompson on Marcus Aurelius and Stanley Kunitz at Kenyon Review blog.
6. Mike Shatzkin on a racial showdown at circa-1950s Doubleday.
7. Yeah, I post about John Updike a lot. More to come. Via Books Inq, here's On Easter and Updike by David E. Anderson.
8. The Onion on Beckett.
9. Bill Ectric attempts to singlehandedly resurrect the career of Charles Wadsworth Camp, author (and father of Madeleine L'Engle).
10. A celebration of the chapbook.
11. Carolyn Kellogg on John Fante.
12. City Lights (a bookstore that would never de-rank books with gay/lesbian content) has published Days I Moved Through Ordinary Sounds, the record of a creative writing program for "juvenile detention facilities, homeless shelters, inner-city schools and centers for newly arrived immigrants" (more here).
13. Okay, real quick, here are a few things I don't like about The Beats: A Graphic History by Harvey Pekar, Paul Buhle and Ed Piskor. Pekar's drawings are rather ugly; I yearn instead for the affectionate emotional shadings of Robert Crumb. The section on Jack Kerouac seems to be based on a close reading of Ellis Amburn's biography Subterranean Kerouac, the only major biography that claims to find closeted homosexuality at the center of Kerouac's life and work. As I wrote when Amburn's book was published, this interpretation really doesn't illuminate the work very well at all. Conversely, the biographical section on Allen Ginsberg all but ignores the crisis Ginsberg endured as a child when his mother went insane, which actually does illuminate the poet's work considerably. The book also suffers from chronological problems and all-out mistakes, as when the book claims that the Jewish Torah is equivalent to the Christian Old Testament (actually the Torah is only the first five books, the books of Moses). However, The Beats: A Graphic History does have some excellent material on lesser-known Beats towards the end.
14. What the hell is up with a cheezy-looking book called City of Glass (by Cassandra Clare)? We already had a perfectly good City of Glass.
The New York Times Book Review keeps a bench of dull and competent specialists like Alan Light, including John Leland, who gets called up whenever there's a Beat Generation-related title to review. I don't know why they can't find a writer with some panache or maybe an original viewpoint to review these books instead. Leland's summary of The Beats: A Graphic History by Harvey Pekar, Ed Piskor, Paul Buhle and others in today's Book Review could not be more rote and mechanical. He hits all the standard points in the standard history, and even dishes up Kerouac's quote about "the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live". But there are no new ideas or angles in this article; it may as well have been generated by an algorithm. I read the Pekar/Piskor/Buhle comic-format book myself, was pleased by a few of the tangential chapters towards the end but disappointed by the flat aspect at the book's core. Leland doesn't even touch on the book's real deficiencies, instead delivering a sniffy complaint about clunky prose before winding up for a weak conclusion: "Here was a group of writers who hoped to change consciousness through their lives and art ... They rocked."
Supposedly every snowflake in the world is unique. Can't the New York Times Book Review find writers who will make sure their reviews maintain the same standard?
The problem may be intrinsic to the Book Review, because even the thoughtful Walter Isaacson seems to strain for insight in his review of Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution by Richard Beeman. He points helpfully to the book's new emphasis on the role played by a South Carolina politician, Charles Pinckney, but even so his article feels surprisingly conventional (a little pun there, if you think about it). The drafting of the US Constitution is not exactly fresh material, so the main thing the review needs to do is explain why this book is important enough to deserve a full page in this publication. After finishing the article, I'm barely convinced.
Luckily, there are several examples of excellent writing and original thought in today's Book Review. Arthur Phillips' novel The Song Is You is on the cover, and here's reviewer Kate Christensen first sentence:
If novelists were labeled zoologically, Arthur Phillips would fall naturally into the dolphin family: his writing is playful, cerebral, likable, wide-ranging and inventive.
Now we're getting somewhere. Christensen's intense level of engagement gives this article life, and so does David Kirby's in his consideration of poet Kathleen Sheeder Bonanno's Slamming Open The Door. Michael Meyer's endpaper essay about how book publishing advances have evolved over the centuries is extremely informative and useful, but a strong point of view also buttresses the piece, conveying a sense of relevance and conviction that makes the piece not only useful but memorable. I hope the Book Review will run more examinations of book publishing practices (a hot topic that gets much better coverage in the blogosphere) in the future.
I always like anything Liesl Schillinger writes, even though she unwisely kicks off today's review of A Fortunate Age by Joanna Smith Rakoff with an utterly pointless generalization:
Do you remember how bored we all were a decade ago? The cold war was over; the stock market surfed a rising wave; President Clinton had announced a national budget surplus; and good fortune was so rampant that rich neurotics paid therapists to be reassured that it was O.K. to be happy. Belatedly, we've learned how lucky we once were to live in uninteresting times.
Hmm, well, as my memoir-in-progress will shortly show, I was personally going through a terrible divorce and a painful work crisis a decade ago, so "uninteresting times" is hardly the phrase I would use myself to describe 1999. I imagine many other readers of this article will react the same way, since we do not measure out our memories by news headlines but rather by events of personal importance, making generalizations like this one rather silly. Still, I would read a Liesl Schillinger review over an Alan Light or John Leland review any day, and her coverage of A Fortunate Age gets better when she explains the novel's intriguing parallel to Mary McCarthy's The Group.
The Great Weaver from Kashmir by Halldor Laxness and Leaving Tangier by Tahar Ben Jelloun get some attention from Alison McCulloch in a fiction roundup, and Michael Beschloss offers fresh thoughts following Power Rules: How Common Sense Can Rescue American Foreign Policy. This all adds up to a satisfying Book Review in a Sunday New York Times that also includes a Deborah Solomon session with Joyce Carol Oates and a Wyatt Mason profile of poet Frederick Seidel in the magazine. There's also a searching piece by David Barstow on the mystery of Sylvia Plath's son Nicholas Hughes's suicide on the front page of the news section.
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.
1. Ed Champion isn't won over by Fool, Christopher Moore's comic spin on Shakespeare's King Lear, which is enough to warn me away (I considered spending time with the book, but the cover art didn't pull me in either). In other Lear news, I'm just plain happy that an Anthony Hopkins film version of King Lear has been cancelled. Hopkins was marvelous in Remains of the Day but has been disappointing in many big roles, mainly because he can only play one character, the "Anthony Hopkins guy". I really wasn't looking forward to seeing King Lear with an icy stare and trembling lips. Meanwhile, Al Pacino's Lear may still happen, and while I also don't need to see a surly over-caffeinated King Lear, I believe Pacino has a greater range of character than Hopkins.
Another requirement for an actor attempting Lear is humility, since the King must play straight man to his Fool and read his best lines while upstaged by a storm. This is why I liked Kevin Kline's modest Lear, and would be happy to see this one recorded for posterity as well. Historic King Lears we can still enjoy include Paul Scofield, Ian Holm, Laurence Olivier and, a personal favorite of mine, Albert Finney in The Dresser.
2. Not ... another ... unpublished ... Kerouac novel ...
I am glad the estate is publishing the archives, but I don't like the hyped-up hardcover release formats and I find it strange how much excited press coverage Kerouac bottom-scrapers like And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks and Atop An Underwood or the new The Sea Is My Brother get, as if any reader would be better off reading these books instead of, say, Big Sur or Desolation Angels or Doctor Sax or Subterraneans or Town and The City or Visions of Cody or Wake Up or even Good Blonde or Satori in Paris or Vanity of Duluoz.
I think Kerouac had excellent judgement about his own work -- that's why he carried manuscripts of so many of the above-mentioned novels in his rucksack for years waiting for the world to eventually smarten up and appreciate them. But the novels he was carrying in his rucksack for years were Subterraneans and Visions of Cody and Doctor Sax, most decidedly not Atop An Underwood or And The Hippos Were Boiled In Their Tanks or The Sea Is My Brother. I trust Kerouac's judgement.
3. I enjoyed Roy Blount Jr.'s well-written editorial about whether Amazon's text-to-speech feature violates authors' rights, but I'm really not getting excited about this boring controversy. To quote a description I once read of a 1970s bar brawl between David Bowie and Lou Reed, watching the Kindle team battle the Author's Guild is sort of like watching two old ladies try to pat fires out on each other's bellies.
4. Tom Watson, author of Cause Wired, takes on Rush Limbaugh for the Huff.
5. Norman Mailer.
6. Cam'ron is working on a television comedy project, and cites Larry David as an inspiration. I can't think of many hiphop artists who could make this work, but Cam has the talent and the crude/funny chops to pull it off, and I hope it happens.
7. Apparently Alan Aldridge, the artist who drew the cover for Elton John's excellent 1975 autobiographical album "Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy", was the Chip Kidd of his time, at least in England.
8. Rambling on. (If you click through you'll get to Frank O'Hara, but we're taking the slow route).
9. Jack Tippit's cartooning rat race, from a 1950s cartoonist's insider sheet.
10. Laura Albert is writing a new work of fiction at Five Chapters.
It took about two seconds for me to fall for De Eenzame Snelweg, a paperback chronicle of an American journey by two young Dutch Kerouac aficionados, writer Auke Hulst and artist Raoul Deleo. The book Hulst sent me has not been translated into English (the title apparently means The Lonely Highway), but it's enough to scan and enjoy the sensitive and funny continuous cartoon strip that runs across the entire text, following a journey from New York City to San Francisco by way of Nebraska and Denver and the other usual Keroauc stops from On The Road (though, unfortunately, Hulst and Deleo don't make it to New Orleans, an essential corner in On The Road). These tourists have fun with their Kerouac -- a "Bear Crossing" road sign inspires an artistic examination of God as Pooh Bear, and I bet Jack himself would have loved the jazzy drawing of the Lombard Street Shuffle ("the world's crookedest dance") in San Francisco, where they also visit the Beat Museum. The book smoothly captures and transmits the excitement Hulst and Deleo feel as they travel in Kerouac's path. And, as the photo of the artist's rig above shows, the artwork is a scroll.
I first read Jack Kerouac's Wake Up when it was serialized in the Buddhist magazine Tricycle over ten years ago. This is an earnest, almost artless biography of Siddhartha Guatama, the sheltered prince who left his comfortable palace and became the Buddha 2500 years ago. Buddhism clearly brought out Kerouac's most reverent instincts, as the prose appears to have been carefully written and bears few marks of his signature "spontaneous" style. It's clear that Jack Kerouac felt a strong personal connection to the story of the once-spoiled wandering prince who struggled so hard to understand the meaning of desire in human existence. Wake Up, unpublished during Kerouac's life, has finally been released in book form, and seems to be more valuable than many other recent releases of unpublished Kerouac work. The book may surprise or enlighten readers who are not familiar with the spiritual aspect of Kerouac's literary mission.
The sympathetic and peace-loving Buddhist religion was always essential to the Beat Generation mindset, and it was a strong influence in the life of the magnetic and eclectic New York City semi-Beat, semi-Warholian poet John Giorno. Subdoing Demons In America: Selected Poems 1962-2007 is one of the more appealing poetry books I've seen in a while. Giorno's very approachable and casual verses remind me of the best of the short poems that often show up here on LitKicks Action Poetry. Urbane, experimental and user-friendly, they are often grounded in day-to-day experience. One poem simply contains the lyrics to the chorus of the Rolling Stones song "I Can't Get No Satisfaction" (a Buddhist plea, of course) and others seem to transcribe subway signs or the directions on a tube of suntan lotion. Unlike much of what passes for poetry these days, these sensitive, crafty verses will never leave you mystified or bored.
Three new and worthwhile Beat Generation books! 2009 is shaping up well. I'm also looking forward to catching a rare East Coast appearance by poet Gary Snyder at the New York Public Library this Saturday, January 31 at 3 pm. Gary Snyder's career is celebrated in another new book, the Selected Letters of Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder, which I haven't yet had a chance to read.
I took a trip to the South Loop in Chicago to visit the Holy Grail of American Literature -- the Kerouac Scroll manuscript of On the Road. It was being shown at Columbia College as one of the stops in a four year tour of museums, universities and libraries. I walked up to the second floor of the College’s main building, to the Center for Book and Paper Arts, and there, laying in a long glass display case was Kerouac’s Scroll, what seemed like almost 100 feet of it rolled out flat, the rest curled up on a glass rod.
It wasn’t what I had imagined. I had read somewhere that Kerouac used teletype paper for the Scroll, so I expected to see the telltale sprocket holes on the sides. Instead, what Kerouac really used was 12 foot long sheets of architectural tracing paper. He taped ten of these sheets together, to form a continuous page 120 feet long, wide enough to fit into a typewriter carriage. The Scroll paper is thus thinner and more fragile than what I had envisioned. It was mounted on a continuous white sheet of backing paper to help support and preserve the manuscript.
The next thing that I noticed about the Scroll is that it is one continuous stream of typewritten words. There are no indentations for paragraphs, no page breaks. It starts at the top and goes for 120 feet. On closer inspection, you can see that the scroll has been edited. There are handwritten changes and additions in the margins and on the page.
I stood there for a long time and I looked at this object, this extraordinary artifact from a writer who died forty years ago. I didn’t think about the events or characters in On the Road. I thought about the writing process, and I thought about Jack Kerouac the writer. Jack Kerouac taped these 12 sheets of tracing paper together and fed them into his typewriter in the spring of 1951. He was married at the time to Joan Haverty, and the two of them were living in Manhattan, on West 20th Street. It was in their apartment, over a three-week period, that Kerouac wrote the scroll version of his most important book. A three week period. It was a tremendous feat of writing.
Today, we have computers and word processing software, but if you have ever composed anything on a typewriter, you know that the time it takes to pull the finished page out of the carriage and feed in a new page slows you down and breaks your rhythm. Kerouac reportedly could type around 100 words per minute, which is very fast, so the idea of a continuous sheet of paper would have been appealing to him in 1951. It would allow him to write his book as one giant page. The act of changing paper was eliminated from the process. Also eliminated was the urge to immediately edit the page just completed.
Kerouac was now geared up for a mammoth writing session. But why? Let’s look at Kerouac’s career in spring of 1951, when he sat down to write. He had published his first book, The Town and the City, in 1950. It got decent reviews, but it didn’t sell. Although many of the Beat characters appear (under fictitious names), the style was heavily borrowed from Thomas Wolfe. The Kerouac style had not yet emerged.
So Kerouac had one published book under his belt when he sat at his typewriter and loaded in the 120 foot scroll. But he didn’t just sit down and start typing and create a book in three weeks from scratch. Kerouac was the kind of writer who carried notebooks with him everywhere. He jotted down scenes, thoughts, ideas. And Kerouac had made some wild trips across the country with Neal Cassady in previous years, and had seen and experienced a great deal. In his mind he had been working out a way to weave these experiences into a novel. He had an image of the book in his mind. Now it was time to turn it into words on the page.
But there was more to the Scroll than Kerouac being ready to put the novel he had already composed in his notebooks and in his head down on paper. Kerouac had a theory of writing that he had developed in talking with other Beat writers. He called it spontaneous prose, and he even set down its tenets in “Essentials of Spontaneous Prose”. Spontaneous prose was like jazz improvisation. You free associated, you followed riffs that occurred to you while writing, and you let the words flow, not trying to force them into a particular form. Another important tenet of spontaneous prose was “If possible write ‘without consciousnesses in semi-trance’”. It is the writer as jazz man. So Kerouac rigged out his 120 foot Scroll to put his theories into practice. The use of tracing paper perhaps came from the idea in spontaneous prose that you should sketch the words quickly, like an artist -- “sketching language is undisturbed flow from the mind of personal secret idea-words”.
Kerouac was ready to put his ideas to the test. He had one conventional novel published, but it didn’t set the world on fire. He had a bunch of great experiences and a cast of incredible characters, and he knew he could set the world on fire if he found the right words, the right way, to tell the story. Damn the publishers with their double-spaced typed sheets with each page numbered and the author’s name on the upper-left hand corner. Damn their query letters and synopses and SASEs and rejection slips. I’m gonna write this thing, and I am going to write like it should be written -- the way Charlie Parker blows the saxophone, the way Neal Cassady talks.
And so Kerouac sat down at the typewriter one fine day in April, 1951 and started writing. And what he came up with truly does blend the rhythms of jazz with descriptive prose, as evidenced by the following image of Neal Cassady as a parking lot car hiker: “he can back a car forty miles an hour into a tight squeeze and stop at the wall, jump out, race among fenders, leap into another car, circle it fifty miles an hour in a narrow space, back swiftly into a tight spot, hump, snap the car with the emergency so that you see it bounce as he flies out; then clear to the ticket shack, sprinting like a track star, hand a ticket, leap into a newly arrived car before the owner’s half out, leap literally under him as he steps out, start the car with the door flapping and roar off to the next available spot, arc, pop in, brake, out, run…”
After Kerouac finished the Scroll, he had the nucleus of the book that would become On the Road. I imagine that the experience of writing like this must have been truly liberating for him. He used all the characters’ real names. He did not edit the sex scenes. He was able to write down the raw emotion that he felt at the time, not trying to hold back or disguise his feelings. The Kerouac style was solidified.
While he was able to create the Scroll in three weeks, the task of turning it into a publishable novel took quite a bit longer. Kerouac brought the Scroll to Robert Giroux, who had edited The Town and the City. When Giroux suggested that the 120 foot long manuscript needed some editing, Kerouac is said to have replied "There shall be no editing of this manuscript; this manuscript was dictated by the Holy Ghost." Eventually, Viking Press agreed to publish the book, and after many revisions supervised by Viking’s editor Malcolm Cowley, the book finally was released in 1957, six years after the initial draft.
The Scroll represents the part of writing that is the most difficult, yet also the most rewarding. You have an idea for a story. It percolates in your brain for a period of time. Perhaps you write notes on it, or start a tentative outline or an initial chapter. Then one day you know it is big enough for a novel and you sit down and start writing it. The first draft. And you go through all the negatives that this phase in writing is prone to: procrastination, being blocked, sitting at your desk for an hour and producing two paragraphs, dreading having to sit at your desk at all. These are all the downsides to writing. But then there is that day when you start writing, and the writing flows. And it’s good. And you have this incredible emotional high that can be the only reason that we put up with all the negatives – one or two hours of flowing words, images coming easily, the brain and the fingers working as one. After the draft is finished comes the editing and eventual marketing, but the scroll phase is what I think we all live for.
The Scroll is physical evidence of Jack Kerouac’s struggle and joy. His days of despair and his days of exultation, all stretched out on 120 feet of architectural tracing paper, and preserved for us to see and reflect on.
1. Jerome David Salinger was born on January 1, 1919 -- ninety years ago today. Charles McGrath offers some new observations about the relationship between J. D. Salinger and his second most enduring character, Seymour Glass, and wonders what might motivate Salinger's ongoing and unyielding pursuit of solitude and silence. I have no answer, but I would compare Salinger on one hand to Beat poet Bob Kaufman (who was similarly obsessed with silence) and on another hand to Kurt Cobain, who like Salinger was dreadfully afraid of being phony.
A fictional account of Lou Salome's acquaintances with Rainer Marie Rilke, Sigmund Freud and Friedrich Nietzsche, inspired by the author's own real-life family connection with Lou Salome.
It's great to see these fascinating 19th Century thinkers mined for drama (and it's interesting that a similar story is told in Irvin Yalom's novel When Nietzsche Wept, which was also made into a film.)
A charming and surreal Lower East Side romp that begins when a bemused housewife finds a dead old lady's body on the laundry room floor, decides to put the body through a spin cycle to freshen it up before notifying the family and police, and then gets into all kinds of trouble with the government. Ms Madeson has also presented this rather unique story as a one-woman play.
Largo, author of a recent death compendium called Final Exits here examines and annotates the culture of transgression in similarly clinical detail. A broadly encyclopedic but eclectic and satisfyingly intellectual sweep, ranging from Boudicca to Samuel Taylor Coleridge to Chris Farley to Franz Kafka to Tupac Shakur.
Wisely realizing that they have to spruce up their Thesaurus with value-add commentary to compete with online versions, Oxford American assembles an impressive and street-start cast of postmodern writers to contribute "Word Notes" and other inserts along with the regular indexed content. A successful effort, I think, and a nice parting gesture from David Foster Wallace.
Mahajan, a young debut novelist, turns in a comic tale about a man in New Delhi who suffers from an unsatisfiable compulsion to have more and more children (in a society that encourages small families) and finds himself pretending to be a pro-Hindu fanatic obsessed with rising Muslim birthrates in India to cover up the more personal and romantic motivations for his rampant fathering.
This is the only book on this list that I can't recommend. I try to read the Best American Short Stories (proudly published by Houghton Mifflin) every year, but I could barely sludge through most of the ruminative, chic, flat postmodernist displays that Salman Rushdie considers the very cream of the crop in 2008, and if there are a few more editions like this one (the last great Best American Short Stories selection was by Michael Chabon in 2005) I'm just going to drop the habit completely. These stories read as if Salman Rushdie chose 20 younger authors to exemplify all the worst habits of his own fiction: endless playfulness, diagrammatic conceptual plots, lack of emotion.
A chronicle of a fugitive family life in Mexico and America during the early hippie era. Bonnie Bremser travelled with her husband, Beat poet Ray Bremser, as he escaped an armed robbery charge. A stark true story in the Beat, all-too-Beat tradition, featuring an introduction by Ann Charters.
A fanciful and strange children's story about bugs, with a rich Victorian tone, beautifully illustrated by E. B. Harris.
In the midst of this mayhem, it's interesting to read in GalleyCat that a paperback trend is sweeping publishing. We've only been yelling for this sweep for years, but despite GalleyCat's optimism, there is evidence of an opposing trend: book prices are getting higher. Like malnourished children whose bellies grow, new hardcover prices are swelling -- $40, $45 -- even as retail spending drops. Affordable (paperback, small) book publishing is the right answer, yes -- but I am not as confident as GalleyCat is that publishers are moving towards this trend anywhere near as quickly as they should be.
2. The great folksinger Odetta has died. I've seen her in concert twice, once at a Gerde's Folk City reunion where she was stunning, and once at a strange Greenwich Village event called the Microtonal Festival which celebrated experimental musicians and vocalists who used tones between the twelve notes of the scale. It might surprise those who think of Odetta as a traditional folksinger to know that she was considered by experts in the field to have a rare way with microtones, and that she delivered the best performance of this night, belting out a few old spirituals and showing us all how much room there really was between a C and a C#. I don't know if that show was recorded, but here's Odetta singing "Rock Island Line" and here's her "Water Boy".
3. Natasha Wimmer, translator of Roberto Bolano, will be appearing with Francisco Goldman at a very special Words Without Borders event Thursday night, December 4, at Idlewild Books in Manhattan.
4. Also at Idlewild, apparently a new hot spot: Ben Greenman celebrating Correspondences on Friday, December 5.
5. And then comes the big Literary Trivia Smackdown 2.0 this Sunday at 4 pm, and you better believe I'm studying up on my American Lit. Our opponents at PEN America have been announced: David Haglund, Meghan Kyle-Miller, Larry Siems and Lilly Sullivan. They sound smart, so please come to the Small Press Indie Book Fair and cheer your favorite lit bloggers on! For real.
6. New Nixon tapes! Choice bits:
"Never forget: The press is the enemy. The press is the enemy. The press is the enemy. The establishment is the enemy. The professors are the enemy. The professors are the enemy."
All your base are belong to us, Nixon.
It's a happy Christmas for Watergate buffs like me, what with the new tapes and the release of the film version of the play Frost/Nixon. Haven't had this much fun since Mark Felt turned up.
7. Christopher Hitchens points out that the widespread decision to use the city name "Mumbai" rather than "Bombay" actually carries an implicit political message, and possibly a fraudulent one. I was not aware of this, though I remember hearing similar things at a panel discussion regarding the recent attempt to replace "Burma" with "Myanmar". Since many of us are in the dark about this, it seems that major news organizations like the New York Times (Clark Hoyt, are you out there?) ought to address the significance of these name changes directly.
8. Dewey, a litblogger, dies.
9. Frank Wilson remembers the once-popular novel Dharma Bums, Jack Kerouac's affectionate tribute to the fashionable Buddhism of the Beatnik era, on its fiftieth birthday. This is one of my favorite Kerouac novels.
10. Jay-Z gets typographical.
Here are some links I've been saving up ...
1. How would Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22, vote today? His daughter Erica Heller tells us her guess, charmingly.
2. Sean Quinn of FiveThirtyEight.com sneaks in a neat On The Road reference.
3. A new device, the Pony E-Reader, via Ed.
4. Dancing, dancing with Mr. K.
5. Keyboardist Merl Saunders, who distinguished himself as a member of the Jerry Garcia Band, has died.
6. Speaking of keyboardists, did you think the recent death of Pink Floyd's sublime Rick Wright got lost in the shuffle? Here's a well-deserved appreciation by Sean Murphy.
7. Eminem has written a book.
8. They didn't win the World Series, but Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Fernando Perez can enjoy the best consolation: literature.
9. Carolyn Kellogg catches a grammar error in the New York Times. They're probably short on copy editors lately.
10. Don't forget, November 4 is Cooping Day!