Ad Hom to Ad Hom

maxbarry.jpgDale Peck isn’t just a bitch, but he’s an hubric mofo who compares his Moody blues to both Edmund Wilson and Virginia Woolf. (And, of course, the standard Coleridge line.)

Judy Blume is on the defensive. Her book, Deenie, deals in part with masturbation. But Hernando County elementary schools are pulling the book from their shelves.

Chica has a nice roundup of author photos. Me? I’m still squirming over Max Barry’s photo on Jennifer Government (see right). The book, which was so bad that I gave up on it (and I rarely do this), is terrible enough with its amateurish prose and failure to live up its central idea. But Barry himself looks instinctively like a new fraternity pledge who barely made it into the house. And I’d say the photo has helped me to hate the book more. Which isn’t good. Because I’d prefer to just erase the book out of my mind and reclaim the time I invested.

NYT vs. Blogs

Wired: “So Withers decided to start the Wilgoren Watch, dedicated to deconstructing The New York Times’ coverage of Howard Dean’s campaign. Within weeks, the site had a prominent visitor: Wilgoren herself. The reporter has mixed feelings about the site. ”

Slate: “For his labors, Radosh earned an ugly set of threats from Landesman. And though apologies were eventually extended to Radosh by Landesman and the Times Magazine for Landesman’s behavior, the writer still reserves the right to punish the blogger in court for what he wrote.”

OpEdNews.com: “David Brooks, who joined the New York Times op-ed page with a reputation as one of the few neocons with intellectual integrity, has seen his reputation dwindle rapidly under the scrutiny of the blogosphere.”

7% of My Thoughts on January 30, 2004

1. I had a terrifying dream in which I lost all of my teeth. It should be stated for the record that this was not a nightmare. Nightmares have the consolation of being terrifying in a way that allows one to distinguish between consciousness and unconsciousness. Dreams, by contrast, involve a consummate mindfuck. They masquerade under the illusion that all is well, when in fact they give credence to paranoia and anxiety. Case in point: In this dream, my mouth was a congealed morass of blood, and I was unable to consume anything other than Jamba Juice smoothies. Why my mind fixated on this franchise choice, I cannot say. I’ve deferred my smoothie needs to a not-bad independent Haight Street joint. It is also worth noting that, in the dream, no one around me commented upon my lack of teeth. And this perhaps terrified me the most. Because I had not realized up till now how important my teeth were. I awoke to find my teeth perfectly intact, though I wondered if this dream was an insinuation that I needed to visit a dentist. Women.com, apparently a media outlet of some note, reports that, “Dreams of losing teeth are often dreams of embarrassment or potentially embarrassing situations. The parallel waking experience could be summed up in the phrase ‘losing face’ publicly.” This means nothing to me. I am a man. When I think of a man losing his teeth, I remember Walter Brennan in Red River, who gambled away his teeth and thought that it was nothing more than a slightly embarrassing inconvenience. Ultimately, shame guided Brennan. And shame guided me within the dreamscape. But my anxieties may have had something to do with Point 2.

2. I submitted my application for Wrestling an Alligator to the Fringe Fest today. Alligators, of course, have teeth. I will know on February 11 whether or not my play gets in. The chances, as I understand, are quite random. I tried to come up with a better title, but for whatever reason, Wrestling an Alligator took. I tested this title amongst peers. They seemed to like it.

3. At a restaurant, I ordered an alcoholic beverage known as “007.” The beverage was composed of Bacardi rum, orange juice and 7-Up. I hadn’t tried this concoction before. So I thought I’d give it a shot. It cost six bucks, and yet the drink didn’t include an umbrella. The waitress (or server, if you’re into that PC sort of thing) approached me and asked if “it was strong enough.” The drink, it should be noted, was served in a tall, thin glass, doomed to a predictably orange hue. I implored the waitress to inform me what an orange beverage, let alone an amalgam of orange juice and 7-Up, had to do with James Bond. I told her that Bond liked martinis “shaken not stirred” and that perhaps the 007 association might have been a misnomer. She told me she didn’t know. I asked for the manager, hoping for an explanation. The manager arrived, a short man with a receding hairline and a scowl. He informed me that I had no business asking such questions. I told the manager I wasn’t looking for any trouble, but that I was just curious. What was the 007 drink all about? It should also be noted that the drink had no effect upon me. The rum was diluted, the taste was muted. As a drink, I think we can all agree that it failed. So given the waitress’s query, it seemed to me that the drink was a dud. Really, I told the manager, I was disappointed by the exotic attempt. Why not something vaguely related to Ian Fleming’s creation? “Eat your Pad Thai and get out,” he said. “Is this really a way to draw repeat customers?” I asked. I ordered the drink, only because half the menu was devoted to beverages of this nature. “I don’t care,” he said. And I wondered if the chef had spit in my food. I ate the pad thai anyway, and it’s safe to say that I won’t be revisiting this particular establishment.

4. I met up with a friend and caught Nick Broomfield’s new documentary, Aileen: The Life and Death of a Serial Killer. I was considerably impressed. Broomfield offered his standard Robin Leach approach, with a few good gags and his usual slow but sharp everyday observations. But this seemed to me the most revealing film of his ouevre. On one hand, he was willing to dwell on Aileen Wuornos in unapologetic closeup, deferring the scathing power of this film to the serial killer whose intentions were not entirely clear. But he was willing to reveal his hypocrisy. For all of his criticisms of capital punishment and the media coverage, this was a man who misled Wuornos, by proclaiming that he wasn’t taping her conversations when he really was, an attempt to confess that she had committed her murders in self-defense. And yet I could somehow get behind Broomfield and despise Jeb Bush and his wholly unqualified psychiatric tests. The film functioned almost as a response to Capturing the Friedmans, and I was captivated. Friend wasn’t as crazy about the film as I was, but this somehow touched a nerve with me. Are documentaries now about revealing process? If so, how long will this trend last?

5. I sent too many emails today. For those who received them, I apologize. I wanted to atone for last week’s abandonment. The emails ranged from pithy observations to throwaway responses. But all were fun to write. Which begs the question of whether email, as a format, is something that encourages both the best and the worst out of us.

Maslin: Pop Lit Ghetto ‘Ho

Janet Maslin is a good critic, but any doubts that she’s been ghettoized by the Times as the “pop lit gal” should be removed. In fact, considered with this unfortunate headline, part of me suspects an anti-Maslin conspiracy.

Students now spend an average of $828 per year on academic books. A new study reports that the average textbook costs over $100, and that the cost has risen from $650 in 1996-1997. In related news, sales of Top Ramen have risen along the same exponential curve.

And you thought the David Denby coverage was bad? When I think about who to ask about sex, Steven Bochco is probably the last guy in line.

The lower your testosterone, the greater your chance of developing Alzheimer’s. Scientific proof that Ronald Reagan and Charlton Heston were never men’s men.

Donald Trump has a new book out in April, How to Be Rich. Random House will be paying Trump close “a lot more than a million dollars” with sizable royalties. Guess the folks at Random House didn’t learn from the book, did they?

The Sunday Times claims that Pete Dexter is the most injury-prone writer in the world and then, because the writer of the article doesn’t believe his own thesis, he offers a long expose of Dexter’s physical condition. What next? A 2,000 word essay on Saul Bellow’s hair?

Pay no attention to the title. Vintage Didion is not a Slouching/White repackage, but represents Didion’s work in the Reagan era.

Norman Mailer turns 81 on Saturday and the Scotsman tries to examine why he isn’t considered “America’s greatest living writer.” Without, of course, asking anyone here why.

Is the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette appropriating Crooked Timber’s Books I Did Not Read This Year idea?

Sarah compares the TMFTML imbroglio with Moonlighting.

And cool enough that Yardley champions A.J. Liebling, a guy I’ve been meaning to read, but Teachout’s there too.

Okay, So I’m About Four Months Behind on This, But…

Naomi Wolf: “But the effect [of porn] is not making men into raving beasts. On the contrary: The onslaught of porn is responsible for deadening male libido in relation to real women, and leading men to see fewer and fewer women as ‘porn-worthy.’ Far from having to fend off porn-crazed young men, young women are worrying that as mere flesh and blood, they can scarcely get, let alone hold, their attention.”

Tracking Sensations Is A Tough Racket

“If you reject absolutely any single sensation without stopping to distinguish between opinion about things awaiting confirmation and that which is already confirmed to be present, whether in sensation or in feelings or in any application of intellect to the presentations, you will confuse the rest of your sensations by your groundless opinion and so you will reject every standard of truth. If in your ideas based upon opinion you hastily affirm as true all that awaits confirmation as well as that which does not, you will not avoid error, as you will be maintaining the entire basis for doubt in every judgment between correct and incorrect opinion.” — Epicurus

Kucinich for 2004

November really boils down to one choice: Anybody But Bush. But since we’re in the primary stage, why not have a little bit of fun?

Kucinich doesn’t stand a chance in hell, but he’s got my vote in the primary. Despite what scaredy-cats decry as a wacko platform, Kucinich hasn’t managed his campaign with incompetence. Kucinich has never wavered from his stance. Kucinich has never had to clarify a comment or sleep with the Gore 2000 boys to save his bacon. Because Kucinich has a bigger pair of balls than Dean. He’s against the Patriot Act (unlike Dean). He’s audacious enough to end Star Wars and NAFTA. Kucinich has stayed in the race and remained true to his convictions.

I had problems with Dean’s position on the death penalty and his loose stance on civil liberties, as well as his intricate health care plan (compared to, say, a clear-cut Canadian style one). But I had contemplated voting for Dean because he had what I perceived to be courage. Now it turns out that Dean has been flying by the seat of his pants in nearly every capacity. And that’s no way to run a campaign or a country.

So while I’ll vote Anybody But Bush in November, I’m voting with my conscience in the primary. Do any of you lefties have the balls to do the same?

Dean’s Dead in the Water

New York Times: “Tricia Enright, the campaign’s communications director, said Dr. Dean was forming ‘a new creative team’ to overhaul its television advertisements. She said the campaign was not firing its media firm, in which Mr. Trippi is a partner. Many Dean supporters have been critical of the ad campaign, particularly in Iowa. Some questioned the arrangements by which Mr. Trippi forfeited a salary as a campaign manager but collected commissions � said to be as high as 15 percent in some cases � based on advertising buys.

Forget the Iowa yell. The Dean campaign’s financial incompetence stinks of cronyism and irresponsibility. And Trippi’s profiteering comes on the heels of the depleted war chest and Dean telling his 500 staffers to skip their paychecks for two weeks.

I’d say at this point that Dean’s goose was cooked. If Dean can’t manage the finances of his own campaign, then how can he manage the budget? Stacked against Bush’s deficit, Dean certainly comes across as fiscally conservative.

Clarifying the Conspiracy

There’s something which needs to be stated for the record. I am TMFTML. Neal Pollack is too. (And here you all are wondering why Pollack’s been quiet. Well, I assure you, the crazy bastard’s been a workhorse.) And sometimes the Hag and Moby (curiously absent too — with purpose, I assure you) get their say in. I’ve tried to throw you folks off, what with riffs against the first person plural. However, in the case of TMFTML, the entity that speaks is not unlike the one depicted in Theodore Sturgeon’s More Than Human, which is why “we” is sometimes invoked.

So you can stop pestering the purported singular author. We’re all laughing our asses off over the fact that you care and that you think that we’re one individual. When, in fact, we’re several people who cooked this idea up back in 1999, when we were drunk and wondering if all the computers were going to collapse because of Y2K.

The fact that you’ve believe us for so long has us chortling with laughter. The fact that you believe we have a day job and that we’re actually in New York has us reaching for the bottle. Because the gambit’s funnier with liquor.

The other great revelation, that has smething to do with all this, is that BOOG is actually Bill Keller. The Times has been paying cash installments to much of the blog cabal in an effort to increase its subscription base.

Terry Teachout and OGIC, however, have nothing to do with this.

Can Houghton Mifflin Handle the Truth?

Some distressing news from Publisher’s Lunch. The ironically named Committee for Truth in Psychiatry has sued Houghton Mifflin and writer Daniel Smith for $20 million in punitive damages. The suit comes about because Smith’s investigative piece on electroshock treatment appeared in The Best Science and Nature Writing, 2002.

Even if this suit is settled or dismissed, there’s still the larger issue of whether hard-hitting exposes will appear in Houghton Mifflin’s compilations. Will Houghton Mifflin backpedal on future selected essays? Even if the author were to prove all of the facts were on his side, my fear here is that tomorrow’s compilations will be fluff that maintains the status quo.

[1/21/06 UPDATE: It is difficult to determine what happened with this suit, for there has been no news reported during the past two years. The CTIP website looks like it hasn’t been updated since early 2004. A Google search reveals only Ron Hogan and myself dwelling upon the lawsuit. I’ve sent off an email to Natalie Angier, who edited The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2002, to see if she knows anything. Should I hear back from her or get any leads, I’ll report it in a followup post.]

Tainted by Influence?

Iowablog: “I think everything I learned at Iowa is wrong.”

These are good, honest words to hear from a young whipper-snapper who wants to write. If there’s a positive spin to this, it’s the fact that Concho is willing to question the lessons she’s learned. I’ve never been in a nuts-and-bolts creative writing class (screenwriting, nonfiction and journalism classes don’t count) and I have only a second-hand idea of what goes down in Iowa, but I do know the merciless world of rejection notices weighed against the ocassional acceptance and/or check. If anything, the pivotal lesson that any writing class or seminar should include concerns the world not giving two fucks about the writer’s circumstances, and a publishing industry that is worse than Cthulhu in its callousness. Any writer hoping to break in must have the thickest hide. Anything less than an iron carapace, a firm resolve and a dedication to the work will send out “AMATEUR” in bright neon lights.

Some folks may recall last July’s Clarion-Wolfe debacle, where an extremely sensitive gentleman mistakenly informed Gene Wolfe that the class disagreed with his hard criticisms. Wolfe bolted. An imbroglio ensued. And there was some controversy over whether Wolfe’s perceived ruthlessness was good or bad for the students. The authoritarian impulse that had gone unquestioned before was replaced by a general sense that workshopping should involve a back-patting atmosphere to foster encouragement.

Well, I cry foul. Constructive criticism is one thing. But personally, I could never trust anyone who would do nothing but praise every element of a lengthy piece I’ve written. Something I’ve observed of so-called “writer’s groups” is that their formation involves stroking egos rather than improving writers and preparing them for the harsh battlefields of Manhattan and beyond. Some of the finest criticisms I’ve received were from people who were honest enough to eviscerate every nicety that was slightly off. To do anything less is a betrayal, a celebration of monkey-clapping amateurism that’s as hypocritical as The New York Times running some bullshit story on sexual fetishes and failing to include the word “fuck.”

The rise of books about writing (and, to a similar degree, screenwriting) has unleashed a Pandora’s box where hope is more prominent than it should be. An “I can do it too!” spirit has emerged, but the hard truth is that writing is difficult work, that even if you manage to finish something, it can be torn to pieces in a New York minute. Even if you get your book published, you will face savage reviews and emerge from the fracas to convince frugal folks to lay down the twenty-five clams to buy the sucker on a book tour.

So why the contentment? Why the entitlement? Why the anti-snark movements?

The answer lies somewhere within the atavistic feel-good jungles that have permeated almost every facet of the liberal arts. The air stinks of softness. Nurture is certainly necessary, but there comes a point when the writer must understand that it’s a tough racket. If a writing instructor doesn’t have the effrontery to call a piece of shit by its true name, then he has no business instructing.

(Iowa lead via Maud)

Noir City #6

The Locket (1944): Normally, I frown upon the flashback structure. Unless you have a solid justification for it (like Memento), it comes across as gimmicky. There’s no reason to move backwards, particularly when the flashback does nothing to resolve the problems set up in a film’s early moments. But The Locket is a different kettle altogether. Not only does it have a flashback-within-a-flashback, but it has a flashback-within-a-flashback-wthin-a-flashback. Indeed, there were so many flashbacks in this movie that I feared writer Sheridan Gibney and director John Brahm would lead me to the moment in which sperm fertilized egg and Laraine Day’s character was born. Fortunately, the flashbacks stopped when the Day character was nine.

But the flashbacks in The Locket work. Because they tell how Laraine Day’s psychosis came to be. They also echo the perspectives of the characters surrounding Day. The film’s methodology runs something like this: A flashback is initiated when a previously screwed over s.o. of Day tells the story to an about-to-be-screwed over s.o. of Day. And we begin to see common patterns of how Day is in denial about her condition. We also learn how the men are foolish enough to play into her sympathies. Even as they tell their stories to the next guy, there is still a part of them that believes that Day is benign.

And if that weren’t enough, we get a silly middle-aged, upper-class Englishwoman singing and dancing a really terrible jig, to the unjustified pleasure of her audience. (“The Germans couldn’t stop her from dancing during the blitz,” we’re informed.) We get crude psychoanalysis with overgeneralized theories. We get Robert Mitchum cast as a cocky painter (and since this is a young Mitchum, it’s fascinating to watch the Mitchum stare in early development). We get the most ridiculous pretext for Day and psychiatrist Brian Aherne hooking up. (One bicycle, moving slower than a treadmill at its lowest setting, runs into the other and both fall down. Either people cycled slower in those days or the filmmakers were on crystal meth and failed to compensate.)

Plenty of the films programmed had better dialogue, better visuals and better performances, but this was one of my favorite films of the festival. I think it had something to do with the dancing Englishwoman.

Decoy (1946): The phrase “consummate trash” comes to mind. Nedrick Young’s script is implausible, the sets are more wobbly than an episode of Doctor Who, the production design is flat and uninspired (to the point where even walls and tables are largely unadorned). This movie looks and feels like the cheapest B-movie possible.

But nobody seems to have informed director Jack Bernhard that he’s propping up pulp. Benhard approaches this movie as if he’s David Lean. He dollies the camera across sparse prison sets that look as if they were put together under a WPA project. He goes for the arty shot, despite the fact that it will reveal the set’s limitations. He adorns the audio with an overbearing symphony, almost as if he expected the audience to rise from their seats and stand for the Queen. Bernhard’s remarkable tenacity reminded me of Don Edmonds’ work on the Ilsa films, whereby Edmonds raised the worst material possible to something oddly endearing.

The film has extremely baffling moments, such as the guy in the morgue who flips through the dictionary and howls with laughter over what the words mean. (And on top of that, he pronounces dichotomy “DI-SHAW-TA-ME.”) Or the philanthropic doctor in the skids somehow convinced to abandon his practice on the flimsiest of reasons.

And then there’s Jean Gillie, who gives Faye Dunaway a run for her money on sheer camp alone. Gillie’s idea of commitment is running over her partners and grabbing hold of a suitcase, shouting, “Mine! All mine!” It’s safe to say that Gillie wouldn’t last long in a job interview.

My only real quibble with the film was that I wasn’t tipsy when I saw it. If ever a movie was made to befuddle humanity, it’s Decoy. And I say this with the best of intentions.

Okay, Howard Dean is Almost Finished

To call Dean’s second place finish in New Hampshire “close” is to approach a cliff face, jump off, and attempt to land on the ground without so much as a bruise. But apparently it’s worse than that. Howard Dean is now down to $5 million. Barring a Missouri win next Tuesday, it looks like we may stuck with Kerry. Unless Dean musters up Robert Kennedy-like support in California and many of the big states, and reenergizes his campaign. Kennedy, however, was more of an idealist than Dean is. And it ain’t exactly 1968.

However, while I woefully miscalculated the percentage points, I was dead-on in my place predictions.

[UPDATE: Dan Spencer has compiled all blog NH predictions with success and failure rates.]

[1/21/06 UPDATE: Apologies for the introspective aside, but I’m truly astonished by the idealism here. Not entirely surprised, mind you, because wildly optimistic notions enter fresh upon my noggin on a daily basis, with several acted upon during any given week. Indeed, I can safely confess that, since I turned thirty, life has been a process of trying to hold onto any and all scraps of hope, bonhomie and idealism, as the wise and sober forces of adulthood demand me to be serious and responsible (I am to a great degree, but I maintain that one can be both!). Granted, there’s still plenty of helium in the Zeppelin, with the only real Hindenburg being my inevitable death, I suppose. But this is what it means to be a committed “optimistic realist” at 31. On one hand, and tying this into Howard Dean, it would be foolish to discount the role of the Internet in disseminating Howard Dean’s Muskie moment. The conservatives guffawed and remixed that twenty second holler and played it over and over and effectively obliterated Dean’s momentum. But let us also consider how refreshingly genuine Dean’s yell was from the stiffs. Here was a man who was ultimately punished for expressing a genuine moment of excitement during the 2004 presidential election. And how much of a telling statment is that of what the United States political process has become? Little wonder that we have no real candidates to choose from anymore. American media, and those who react to it, is particularly unforgiving when it comes to genuine enthusiasm.]

NYTBR Smackdown

The Observer leaks the shortlist for Chip McGrath’s replacement.

SARAH CRICHTON: Former publisher of Little, Brown, fired, with charges of commercialism and fights with Warner publisher Maureen Egan. Accused by Joe McGinniss of not promoting books. [Working glimpse of Little, Brown.] Before that, editor at Newsweek. Recently worked with Liebermans and collaborated on A Mighty Heart, Marianne Pearl’s book on her husband Daniel.

The Upshot: She was a champion of popularizing literary fiction at Little, Brown. And her journalism background and brief stint as an insider is a plus. Strong personality will be either problematic or embracing.

ANN HULBERT: Slate contributor. Wrote Interior Castle: The Art and Life of Jean Stafford and child development book. Acknowledged as “baby expert” by Boston radio.

The Upshot: Varied journalism background, including books, but emphasis of late has been outside the fray. Non-fiction edge?

BENJAMIN SCHWARZ: Literary editor of The Atlantic Monthly. On the National Book Critics Circle Board until 2006. Delivered clear manifesto in last Atlantic on why certain books are reviewed.

The Upshot: Schwarz embraces obscure work and is clear about his intentions. Although I’m not convinced that the Caitlin Flanagan Dr. Laura review represents the pop-to-literary balance that Keller is hoping for.

JUDITH SHULEVITZ: Writer of the Close Reader column in the NYTBR, which stopped last year. Ex-New York editor of Slate. Made so-so attempt to understand blogs. Might be counted upon to profile juicy disputes. Attacked Dave Eggers.

The Upshot: For those looking for some good fights, Shulevitz might be the one to do it. However, given her power couple status and connections, it’s likely that the bluster may be more talk than action.

RETURN OF THE RELUCTANT PICK: Benjamin Schwarz.

[UPDATE: It’s Schwarz, not Schwartz. Blame really bad Mel Brooks movies for the problematic spelling.]

The Link, The Whole Link and Nothing But the Link

Rittenhouse: “If you link to ‘Wonkette’ through your blogroll you cannot and will not enjoy, for what that might be worth, a link from The Rittenhouse Review.”

He claims he’s not serious. But given the focus on ad hominen and his failure to offer a single reasonable argument, I suspect he’s saving face. Allow me to clarify the linkage process.

Wonkette (and The Antic Muse) is linked on the left because the site meets the goods. I link ‘em because I like ‘em. There is no quid pro quo. That’s not the point.

The beef I have with James Martin Capozzola is that he seems to view the basic process of linking as somehow exclusionary, when, in fact, it’s more inclusive than anything else. While Sturgeon’s Law can certainly apply to blogs, there are so many of them out there that, even if 10% of them were excellent, the list would be long and unmanageable. To include everyone would require a time commitment that well beyond the realms of healthy human commitment.

There is no Machiavellian scheming or Oliver Stone conspiracy theory. There is no secret society, whereby one person links to another, and another person does not. A link on the left is based solely on merit or friendship or both. A non-linked blog is probably one I’m not aware of.

[1/23/06 UPDATE: And I should also note that many of the people on the blogroll are, in fact, people who loathe me for reasons I cannot entirely discern. I should point out that being a fairly forgiving person, I’ve never entirely understood the concept of hate at first sight. I understand being reluctant to talk to certain people because (a) they are high maintenance, (b) they are, in all interactions, a nuisance and (c) they are doing something which you perceive as damaging to your core values. But completely damning someone without trying to talk with them? Granted, I can be an emotional and intensely loyal fellow to my friends. But the idealist in me also believes that people can violently disagree with each other and still maintain a civil relationship. And I’m not certain how I got on this subject, but it’s probably me being introspective again (damn solipsism!) and contemplating the connection between being simultaneously forgiving and aggressive and whether it affects the blogroll. Perhaps Rittenhouse’s claims might hold some validity after all.]

Inside A Young Genius

While walking along Valencia St. a few nights ago, I came across a crumpled piece of paper on the sidewalk. I didn’t have any reading material on me, and, seeing that the paper was heavy bond stock, I somehow knew that this wasn’t your standard stray bit of trash. I unfolded the paper and began reading a story entitled “The Unforbidden is Compulsory, Forgotten and Altogether Tied Up in Importance Or, I Am Christ in the Literary Community.” Several paragraphs into the story, I detected a style that was familiar, recognizable in its aggravating repetitions and endless paragraphs. I couldn’t immediately place it. But, yesterday, when Salon posted the first installment of a political “satire” authored by Dave Eggers, I realized what I had in my hands.

I thought I’d post the pages I found here so that future scholars can appraise one of our finest authors. It should be noted that the partial manuscript was laser printed, and it included several handwritten remarks, which I have bolded and bracketed.

Fuckers! Bastards!” said Dimitri [No, too Strangelove.] Sergei.

“What do you mean by that?” asked [Character Named After Adam Sandler Movie].

[Beef up dialogue — that is, if you can come up with anything. Jesus, can’t believe Talbot’s asking me to write political satire. Mine from Didion.]

They could do anything, everything and everything, everything and nothing. In a race like this, that, and everything in between, this race, this ongoing battle which you must understand, which you must feel between your toes and your fingers and your nostrils, you see, because it pulsates like many other races, an important race, a pivotal race, a race that destroys careers, there was no oversight. [Do I really understand politics? Pollack’s better at this. Well, who cares? Go with it, workhorse.] There was no feeling of outrage, no general sense that people were willing to screw each other, which was strange because most political races are corrupt in an easily understood way. And thank [insert Judeo-Chistian reference here for kids] for that. Sergei [good, keep name, funny] and [Should I go with Happy Gilmore or Little Nicky?], manager and head of special products for the Stuart Craspenmonstrodacousticolostomy campaign [Consider shortening funny name. Name should be long but not too long. Vendela tells me that Americans don’t elect people with long names, but she really doesn’t understand humor. Add to shopping list: buy shampoo for VV.], wouldn’t want any oversight or general sense of the limits of taste and smell. It was important that Craspenmonstrodacousticolostomy smell nice, that every voter who shook his hand knew that he smelled nice when they shook his hand. This was a filthy contest already, and most of the other candidates did not smell nice, even when they were shaking hands, and most of the filth was theirs but it could sometimes be picked up from other people and other candidates and other filthmongers [Chabon has stopped taking showers this week. Research for his new book. But will he see himself in this piece? Must not offend him or anyone else important. Consider revising.] and today would be no different, for today, this day, different from yesterday, but also a holiday — the Fourth of July, Independence Day, the time when they tossed out the firecrackers and threw burgers on a barbeque designed for barbecuing burgers, big burgers, the day the nation had been founded forgotten, bereft of its origins [Getting too political there, padre. Must keep it goofy and about nothing too important.] — was a day too crucial for cleansing, showering, basting, and perhaps ignoring deodorant. Today, at the Independence Day Walk Long and Tall and Arts Fair [Does this fly? Again, keep names goofy but vaguely discernible.], the Craspenmonstrodacousticolostomy campaign had to achieve nothing less than Total Absolute Ultimate Visual Dominance [Heidi hates this, says I should cut down. Maybe I can get one of those 826 V volunteers to salivate over this and come up with something.]. If, through the relentless creation and placement of Craspenmonstrodacousticolostomy balloons [Now I know the name’s bad. Consider shortening], posters, buttons, flyers, pom-poms, kites, banners, [Keep calling ANSWER and Greenpeace and find out what they use. If not, resort to high school rally memories.] and giant, tremendous Styrofoam hands [Keep this. Not sure why, but keep.], they could achieve ___________________ [Rework TAUVD concept.]

[Motherfucker. That scruffy intern didn’t get me my latte in two minutes. Note to self: Breathe, lots of soy and yoga, exercise in Marin, non-negative thinking, no snark. These masses cannot help themselves. They’ll join the ULA and bitch, but I’ll be the Pulitzer finalist. Reminder: add more names to my list.]

[Maybe start again from scratch.]

At this point, the writing becomes illegible. There is one additional comment at the bottom of the page, but it resembles more of a jagged line that trails up the right margin and forms into a crude picture of a penis at the top of a page.

I have no idea what any of this means, but perhaps some of you scholars who know Eggers’ work better than I do can offer a proper assessment.

Naked Dentists Dog Markson & Marquez’s Potential Movies?

Nudity in Science Fiction Books (via Quiddity)

Only in John Updike’s universe could a person be prim about dental procedure:

?Let?s have lunch,? he begged. ?Or is your mouth too full of Novocain??

?He didn?t use Novocain today,? she primly told him. ?It was just the fitting of a crown, with temporary cement.?

Mark reviews The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. And he also points out that David Markson has a new book coming out.

Perry Anderson tackles Living to Tell the Tale, comparing Garcia Marquez’s life against Mario Vargas Llosas.

David Edelstein and A.O. Scott square off over the Biskind book, comparing it against J. Hoberman’s The Dream Life.

Noir City #5

Noir attrition has kicked in. And it’s not just me. I had to assure a fellow film buff that Sydney Greenstreet did indeed appear in Casablanca. And neither of us could remember Leon Ames’ name a mere 24 hours after viewing his fantastic performance in The Velvet Touch. We only knew that he was also in Postman. Even Eddie Muller was susceptible on Monday night, going crazy about The Velvet Touch right before Crime of Passion. The hard lesson is that the more films you watch, the more you realize that nobody’s perfect.

Of course, this means nothing for those who are attending Noir City in piecemeal. But for the truly devoted film freaks, for the people who are either going every night or most nights, it’s fascinating to watch people who were once so lucid degenerate into atavistic carnivores whose only duty is to wander in for more. I blame Muller for this. The guy programmed four extra nights this year. And he knew that we film freaks would keep coming. Even with our day jobs and other obligations.

But no matter. With two nights left, I’ve already wistful about my nightly dose of noir soon coming at an end.

Crime of Passion (1957): If Crime of Passion demonstrates anything, it’s that a fifty year old Barbara Stanwyck could probably have Gwyneth Paltrow’s kidney for a midnight snack and still remain hungry. Stanwyck plays an advice columnist who falls for and marries a cop played by (who else?) Sterling Hayden. Hayden, perhaps the actor to play by-the-book characters, is extremely sensitive to Stanwyck’s needs — that is, when he’s not demanding ham and eggs (though not the Desert Fury variety), working long hours, growing stubble, and roughing other cops up shortly after spitting out a freshly lit cigarette. Shortly before marrying Hayden, Stanwyck quits her job and finds herself not only bored, but a tad febrile about her husband getting ahead. To the point where she’s even willing to do the horizontal tango with Raymond Burr, among other things.

The implausibility of this setup is helped in large part by the solid acting. Stanwyck delivers lines like a firecracker, with just the right amount of innuendo. Hayden is every bit her match. And their scenes together display solid chemistry (what Hayden does with his hands and Stanwyck with her eyes is nothing less than amazing), particularly when juxtaposed against drab parties of husbands hanging with husbands drinking beer and wives hanging with wives getting excited about social developments. There’s a dark undercurrent in this film that attracted me, but left me ultimately unfulfilled. I’m all for pre-Friedan examination of the housewife’s predicament, but why should the problem that has no name have its filmmakers intimidated? The ending, which cried out for a Lina Wurtmuller-like explosion, was too neat and anticlimactic. But it’s passable fare, though more Ladies’ Home Journal than noir.

The Velvet Touch (1948): Imagine The Sweet Smell of Success crossed with a good murder mystery and you have The Velvet Touch, an overlooked little gem bristling with wit and heartache. Whether it’s contemplating the secret meanings of chess or directly invoking Oscar Wilde, the dialogue is so crisp that I was astonished to learn that this was Walter Reilly’s only film script (the IMDB listed his only other writing credit as an episode of Climax!). Rosalind Russell propels this noir with class, playing an aristocratic actress locked up with a sleazy producer played marvelously by Leon Ames (think a low-rent William Holden type oozing with sleaze). Russell inadvertently kills Ames in the opening moment and, as is the custom of noir, we flashback to learn how it all happened. She’s wooed by an Englishman (Leo Genn) who orders her meals for her. And she’s trying to break out of her typecasting in painfully unfunny farces by appearing in Hedda Gabler. But then there’s the murder and the efforts to cover up.

The film is guided more by its dialogue and performances, than its predictable story arcs. Velvet features a spectacular theatre (that Mueller reports was constructed entirely on an RKO soundstage) and, if the lovely friction between Russell and Ames wasn’t enough, it throws in Sydney Greenstreet — this time, as a good guy, a detective that’s a cross between Columbo and Nero Wolfe.

More films seen and to be seen, all to cover later.

Why I Am Avoiding DBC Pierre

Not one motherfucker in the States says “fucken.” What was the point in spelling it this way? If we are to look at this from a phonetical standpoint, it comes across as “PHUCK-EN” (not to be confused with “PHUCK-IN,” aka “PHUCK-EEN,” often used in tandem with the first letter of the alphabet in expressing surprise and very good in a sentence like “I was fuckin’ Joaquin Phoenix”).

If DBC Pierre had substituted “fuck me,” “fuck you” or “motherfucker” instead of “fucken,” then there’d be no problem. There would instead be verisimilitude. But the conundrum stands: Pierre/Finlay/Whatever the Fuck Pseudonym That Booker Winner is Using Today seems to think that we Yanks say “fucken ‘ell” a lot, or some truncated version thereof, which is a very Brit thing to say in terms of phrasing and pronunciation.

And besides, when it comes to intransitive verbs, Americans are inclined to shorten “ing” to “in.” We just hate those fucking Gs. Plus, the idea of following a great word like “fuck” with something as dour as “en” just doesn’t mesh with the American character. And, as such, the “en” thing is about as American as pronouncing the last letter of the alphabet “zed.” Perhaps because deep down inside, we Yanks want to “fuck in,” implying a desire for indoor copulation. Whereas “fuck en” implies entropy, sex begrudgingly begun to appease the s.o. and get through the night, the obligatory task.

Well, fuck that. And fuck fuckin’ Vernon God Little.

Anne Tyler: Unwavering Instigator of Irritation

Michiko on Joe Ezterhas: “As for the rest of this ridiculously padded, absurdly self-indulgent book, the reader can only cry: T.M.I.! Too Much Information! And: Get an editor A.S.A.P.!” What the F.U.C.K. is up with the A.C.R.O.N.Y.M.S.?

A new book will explain the seven most important unsolved math problems. One of them involves working out the probability ratio for the Democrats in November.

How the hell did the Washington Times snag a review copy of the $3,000 Ali book? Did the reviewer have to fill out a loan application and submit a credit report?

The new issue of the resurrected Argosy is out. It’s the first issue since 1943, with work by Jeffrey Ford, Michael Moorcock, Ann Cummins and Benjamin Rosenbaum. Each issue will be packaged in two volumes: one the main magazine, the other a novella. The magazine is printed bimonthly and has an affordable subsciption rate. The Moorcock story is the return of metatemporal detective Sir Seaton Begg.

The Age weighs in on the legacy of long novels, but cites Tolkien and Patrick O’Brian instead of David Foster Wallace and Rising Up and Rising Down.

Bookslut has posted the standard response the Times is issuing.

Christopher Paolini: the next J.W. Rowling?

A.S. Byatt weighs in on the Grossman translation.

The Globe and Mail reports that Tyler “hasn’t a boring or irritating word in her vocabulary.” Of course. You can find the boredom and the irritation in the Caucasian malaise and the treacle.

And Radosh and Slate are looking into the reliability of that Times sex slave story.

And the Nominees Are…

The nominees have been announced.

1. Spellbound was ignored in the Best Documentary category.
2. Granted, he was fun. But Johnny Depp for Pirates of the Caribbean?
3. The Triplets of Belleville doesn’t stand a chance against Finding Nemo.
4. City of God was a surprise. It’s up for cinematography, directing, film editing and writing. It’s also a Miramax film. So it was probably pushed like gangbusters.
5. A surprise Pollock win a few years ago and now a Mystic River nomination. The Academy really loves Marcia Gay Harden, don’t they?
6. Keisha Castle-Hughes for Best Actress in Whale Rider. She may be the youngest lead nominee ever. The kids are moving from the Best Supporting nominees (i.e., Anna Paguin for The Piano) to the lead roles.
7. Typically, the Best Writing category is the sympathy Oscar. So no surprise to see American Splendor, Dirty Pretty Things and The Barbarian Invasions ghettoized there (although the latter also scored a foreign film nomination).
8. Alec Baldwin in The Cooler — another surprise.
9. I feel sorry for any film up against Return of the King in the technical categories. It’s clear they don’t stand a chance.
10. A Mighty Wind up for Best Song!

NYTBR & Keller Update

I’m stunned by the sudden influx of email I’ve had concerning my call to action re: Keller and the New York Times Book Review (thanks in no small part to the Mighty Book Blog Cabal kind enough to link it). Apparently, a lot of people care about literary fiction. (If I don’t get back to you all immediately, please bear with me. I’ll do my best.) Since I see the makings of a multilateral coalition, I’ve started outlining a plan. More details later.