Reluctant Habits

Deaths, Revivals and Roastings

Posted by in Boyle, T.C., History, Roundup

Historian and one-time Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin has passed on. Boorstin was best known for his American trilogy and his fascinating books on human innovation. (I highly recommend The Discoverers and The Seekers.) One read a Boorstin book for the best of reasons: to ride a journey across human progress with an enthusiastic mind eager to make connections. Boorstin was an American James Burke, adept at showing the strange way in which the world was charted and everyday things were created. He’ll definitely be missed. T.C. Boyle’s enemies…read more


This Getting Older Thing Ain’t So Bad

Posted by in Personal

Tonight, a really good friend of mine, a guy I have known since my college days, confessed to me that he was a father. Now this guy is a veritable goofball, a man who’s concocted corny humor with me that only we can understand, a good man who married a good woman, a guy that I still give a lot of hell to (and vice versa), the unlikeliest father this side of the Mississippi. But when I heard the news, I felt a real sense of excitement. My face flushed….read more


Dump the Book Babes

Posted by in Book Babes

Being out of touch with literature is one thing. Letting Norman Mailer get away with that New Journalism remark was another. But when the Book Babes went soft on Joe Eszterhas, the Book Babes did something unpardonable. I had little choice but to add my vote to this petition to dump the Book Babes. For goodness sake, they can’t even type the word “fuck” for an online column. I urge all self-respecting lit lovers to do the same. (via Mark) [UPDATE: In a shocking twist of fate, Bill Keller has…read more


Arnold Threatens to Return to Mr. Freeze Role If Voters Don’t Give Him What He Wants

Posted by in Photo Headlines



Posted by in Awards, Literary Magazines

Moorish Girl has the rundown on the StorySouth shortlist. Laila not only has links to all the stories, but she e-mailed all the authors and got every single one of them to talk about their stories. This is the kind of supercool effort that really demonstrates the potential of the blogging community. (I mean, seriously. Would a major newspaper do this sort of thing? No, they’d defer to J-Franz’s latest.)


There’s a Lesson Here Somewhere

Posted by in Everyday World

Local 6 News: “An 83-year-old man was found lying dead in his yard next to his wife after he fell, became stranded and ordered his wife not to get help for three days despite heavy rainstorms, according to authorities.” (via Metafilter)

1 + Dalkey. Someone’s Clearly Profiting Here.

Posted by in Book Collecting

Ron is an evil man. Either that or a Dalkey PR flak. If you’re interested in good lit, you can purchase 100 books for $500. I won’t bother to describe what’s in their catalog. But there are enough goodies here (Elkin, Gass, Markson, Matthews, Millhauser, et al.) to make any lit geek take out a second deed of trust. If you take advantage of the deal before March 1, you get several Flann O’Brien books. The deal goes through April, however.


More Knut

Posted by in Hamsun, Knut

Mark pointed me to this James Wood essay on Knut Hamsun. Despite an obvious effort to play down Hamsun’s allegiance to the Nazis, Wood suggests that Hamsun’s novels “belong to the classical comic tradition of Don Quixote and Confessions of Zeno. In this tradition, what is both funny and awful is the hero’s obvious delusion that he is in control of his own unpredictability — that he is, in short, free. The reader can see otherwise, that the hero is the victim of bottomless compulsions and drives. ” During Knut…read more


Whatever It Takes, Apparently

Posted by in Marquand, John, Writing

Not so many years ago a teacher of the art of writing began the advertisement of his services with the announcement that millions of people can write fiction without knowing it. He would have been safer had he said that millions of people are certain that they can write fiction a great deal better than those engaged in the profession. Even so, it is my belief that the consistent craftsman of fiction is very rare. His talent, which is in no sense admirable, is intuitive. In spite of the dictum…read more


Who Wants to Be a Literary Billionaire?

Posted by in Harry Potter, Hemingway, Journalism, Roundup

J.K. Rowling joins the billionaires club. Unfortunately, since writing the Harry Potter series has largely involved the act of one, there has been nobody for Rowling to downsize. So Rowling, in an effort to turn the maximum profit from her stories, has made it a habit of regularly firing and rehiring herself for 17 cents an hour, only to resell her labor for the greatest price. The Daily News has more on the Jayson Blair tell-all: “Zuza [my girlfriend] took pictures of me prancing around the newsroom wearing a Persian…read more


The Ultimate Sophmore Slump

Posted by in Film

So what happened to the Blair Witch guys? Apparently, they’re still trying to make a second film. So let’s see: you make millions of dollars from a movie and you can’t figure out in five years that cameos from Don Knotts, Gallagher, Jimmy Walker and Erik Estrada doesn’t make a marketable movie. And yet Rachel Cohen, Artisan’s former vice president, insists that they deserve a chance to make a film.


Any List with Knut Hamsun On It’s Fine By Me

Posted by in Best of Lists, Hamsun, Knut

The English Pen has launched The Bigger Read, an effort to trump the dumbed down Big Read contest held by the BBC. The BBC plans to rebut with The Biggest Read. One thing’s for certain. This contest is going to involve more than a few testicles. (via Literary Saloon)


Is This Your Subconscious Trying to Tell Me You Want Me in EST?

Posted by in Personal

Not only has Maud mistaken me for a Faulkner expert in her dream world, but she also turned me into a schizophrenic blogger. There are many things I could say here. But I’ll just register my complete astonishment that I beat many superior bloggers to the punch. However, I do want to assure anyone who dreams about me that (1) I’m honored to be part of your dramatis personae and (2) feel free to cast me as anything. I do heroes, heavies, and character work, and I don’t mind working…read more


On the Rebound

Posted by in Bookstores, Borders Books, Clarke, Susanna, Mitchell, David, Roundup, Wolf, Naomi

Perhaps consulting the will of Dr. Evil, Susanna Clarke has netted a millionaire’s deal for Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell, an 800-page novel dealing with the last two magicians in England. Fortunately, Clarke has staved off Harry Potter ripoff claims. Because Clarke conveniently started her book “10 years before.” News of the Clarke deal has spread far and wide across the publishing industry, with agents encouraging novelists to “backdate their drafts” for anything remotely derivative. Is David Mitchell’s Ireland’s answer to Pynchon? The Telegraph tries to find out (user:,…read more


A New Plan for the NYTBR

Posted by in Keller, Bill, New York Times

This morning, while I was lying in bed, at long last forming an intricate theory about James Doohan’s purpose in “Spock’s Brain,” I came across this stunning news. The NYTBR editor search is being restarted. Let us not vex ourselves too much. The Times has plenty of cash and resources to blow up their noses for these parlor tricks, but not nearly enough to pay their pressers. But no matter. It’s clear that Bill Keller is wasting all of our time. As my loyal readers know, I campaigned vigorously here…read more


Maybe It’s the Damn Rabbits Coming Through the Walls Right Now

Posted by in Silliness

QUICK UPDATE: For all who have sent well wishes, thank you. Will respond to all e-mails, most of which have nothing to do with state of health, when I’m of sounder and healthier mind. In the meantime, here’s The Book Quiz (via George, I think). My results: You’re Watership Down! by Richard Adams Though many think of you as a bit young, even childish, you’re actually incredibly deep and complex. You show people the need to rethink their assumptions, and confront them on everything from how they think to where…read more


A REAL Respite

Posted by in Personal

What most people often overlook about hospitals are its staff members: fit, extremely attractive, sometimes even genuinely sympathetic. Certainly the job demands require that one remain in shape. There’s hustling, medical babble, gurneys rolled in and out of bright flourescent hallways. Sometimes you’re attended to. Sometimes you’re forgotten. Often there are apologies. And there are the surprise interventions, such as my accidental interruption of a “conference meeting” with a “Heya” and repeated coughs. “Ssssshhhh!” said this assistant, who seemed to be unaware that I was planning on identifying pulmonary portions…read more


For Those Looking for a Feud

Posted by in BEA

BookExpo 2003 Smackdown: Al Franken/Bill O’Reilly BookExpo 2004 Smackdown: Terry Teachout/Jessa “This isn’t your blog, Terry” Crispin? Aren’t there better things to argue about during an election year?


Link-Pilfering? Nah, It’s Really About Courtesy

Posted by in Blogging

Well, now that it’s out in the open, and Jessa seems to want to turn this into a contentious war (which it isn’t and it shouldn’t be), I’ll go on public record and state that Jessa has pilfered links from my site many times. I know this to be true, because specific phrasing that I’ve used here has been recycled without credit for her site. In one case, she believed my satirical embellishment about Toni Morrison’s The Bluest Eye being under review because kids were exchanging “penis jokes” in the…read more


Out-Blog Blogging?

Posted by in Allen, Woody, Christensen, Kate, Kundera, Milan, Oates, Joyce Carol, Poetry, Roundup, Wolf, Naomi

Milan Kundera’s in demand in Shanghai, enough to make him the best-selling foreign author in the city. Hybrid publishers are reported to be preparing Mao’s Little Red Book of Laughter and Forgetting. Kate Christensen, whom Ron was kind enough to alert me to, is interviewed by the Journal News. From what I’ve been able to tell, the new book involves a man diagnosed with McDonald’s disease, but who is still obsessed with eating Happy Meals. If he doesn’t stop eating fatty foods, he’ll die a horrible, miserable and stunningly descriptive…read more


Thoughts Between Coughs

Posted by in Publishing Industry, Roundup, Writing

It’s been linked several places, but this excellent thread is a must-read for any aspiring writer. Any neophyte may want to spend their time reading James D. McDonald’s advice rather than subscribing to Writer’s Digest. Sarah has some good followup to the McCrum article about publishing changes, raising the validity of proposal/synopsis only justification for a contract. But one thing she overlooks is that the new synopsis trend may very well reflect a profit-driven industry looking to cut corners wherever possible. Short-term profits with little concern of the book’s gestalt…read more


Shit-Stained Icons

Posted by in Graphic Design, Image, Technology

Like a good geek, I upgraded my browser from Firebird to Firefox. (I’m presuming Mozilla renamed it because their barebones browser has become more devious. Never mind a proper explanation.) Version 0.8 hasn’t had nearly as many problems as Version 0.7. But there’s one terrible problem. Note the icon which precedes this paragraph. I’ve resized it to how it looks on my taskbar. It resembles either a gall stone being pushed through an unsightly orifice, or a penny gumball tinged with an orange-tinged fecal coating. In either case, it makes…read more


Well, At Least He Has His Priorities Straight

Posted by in Dubya, Image

An entire page has been put up to celebrate Spot (the presidential dog) passing away at 15. But there still isn’t a single page up in tribute to the 500 dead soldiers. I hate to get Godwin, but this is just too damn close to the “But he loved his dogs” Hitler apologia.


Mel Gibson, Audacious Filmmaker or Creepy Stalker?

Posted by in Photo Headlines


Lone Star Antics

Posted by in Politics

The Kos has the scoop on something very close to hitting the mainstream media. Texas Gov. Perry’s wife left Perry. Why? Perry was found in bed with another man. And that’s not all: the other man was Jeff Connor, Secretary of State. I can’t wait to see what effect this will have on the same-sex marriage debate. Particularly since this involves Big People in Texas who are on record against sodomy.


The More Things Stay the Same

Posted by in Politics, Robbins, Tom

“After the doctors and scientific experts testified in Congress that cigarettes cause or compound not only cancer but a number of other diseases and are responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths annually, the senior senator from Kentucky stood up just shaking with anger and moaned, ‘You’re trying to wreck our economy.’ And what did Henry Ford II say when the government began insisting on safety devices in cars? ‘The American people don’t want anything that’s going to upset the economy.’ And what’s more, Ford was right. Fifty thousand a…read more


NYTBR — A Dead Place for Fiction

Posted by in New York Times

Perhaps an inadvertent confession from Laura Miller? “The only thing more powerful than a worldwide conspiracy, it seems, is our desire to believe in one.” Incidentally, the NYTBR fiction coverage is still looking grim. Far too much non-fiction (and yet another review of the Biskind book). The most telling sign is that David Markson’s Vanishing Point, which would seem to me one of the most ideal literary books for the Times to cover for a full-length review, has been ghettoized to the “And Bear in Mind” section.


Olivia Goldsmith Update

Posted by in Goldsmith, Olivia, Plastic Surgery

It’s been a little more than a month since Olivia Goldsmith passed on, and comments and send-offs still roll in, responses to my visceral reaction from the news. This suggests to me that the Goldsmith death is an issue that’s resonated with a lot of people, both in Goldsmith’s premature loss and the potential dangers inherent within plastic surgery (to say nothing of discussion over why it’s considered a necessity). Unfortunately, as someone passes on, the circumstances that led up to the death sometimes get ignored or left by the…read more

5 — Maintaining the Status Quo Since 1995

Posted by in Online Dating, Relationships

Well, if Haggis can do it, so’s can I. The Physical Attraction Test, purportedly millions of dollars and years in the making, is a disturbing image-oriented Flash thing that asks you such terrible questions as “If these were the only five women left on Earth, who could you tolerate?” Now how the hell can any vaguely humanistic-minded person answer that? Well, dear readers, you’d be surprised by how quickly you cross into darkness. Particularly if, like me, you’ve seen The Omega Man and Logan’s Run more times than medically…read more


Shameful Joy? I Don’t Think So.

Posted by in Gay Marriage, San Francisco, Uncategorized

Derek has posted some marvelous photos of City Hall marriages. It’s bad enough that the Republicans seem shocked or outraged by the idea of other people experiencing happiness. (What kind of a sourpuss do you have to be to deny that?) But I cannot fathom why the Democrats (including John Kerry, that so-called all-American bastion we’re all doomed to vote for in November) don’t have the courage to get behind normal people who want to be married. Do these swell folks look like they’re going to destroy this nation? Has…read more