Mergers, Revelations and Glorious Kooks

The Independent notes that separate literary entities are being killed by their corporate parents. HarperCollins recently killed off Flamingo (home to Ballard, Lessing & Coupland) and Random House threw Harvill into Secker & Warburg, turning it into “Secker Harvill” and forever expunging Warburg, Orwell’s publisher, from the label. When asked about how this will alter diversity, a HarperCollins rep replied, “What do you think literary fiction is? Some kind of affirmative action?” In unrelated news, Bell Curve authors Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray are said to be at work on a new book, The Book Curve, whereby 1,000 pages are devoted to explaining why popular fiction sells more than literary fiction, and proving that some publishing executives have less attention span than the average reader. (via Literary Saloon)

Maud has been interviewed by the Gothamist. Among some of the more interesting revelations: Maud turned down the lead in an Off Broadway revival of The Verdict. Every morning, Maud practices her jujitsu on waterbugs that have a mean height of six feet. (Mr. Maud apparently cowers from anything remotely entomological.) Maud also single-handedly disarmed a posse of Remington-firing Confederates in Brooklyn. She reports that her combat moves were inspired by Carrie-Anne Moss kicking butt in The Matrix.

The Sydney Morning Herald interviews Isabel Allende. Allende’s quite the eccentric: She starts all of her books on January 8, she thinks about Zorro while having sex with her husband, and holes up in her office writing for 8 to 10 hours a day without speaking to a single soul. She also dresses funky, though the Herald couldn’t get specific answers on this end. I wish I was making this paragraph up, but I’m not.

In one of the most anticlimactic journalism moves seen from the Grey Lady this month, the Times reports that the Doyle-Joyce fracas is simmering. Really? 1,000 words to state the obvious in a major newspaper? Sign me up.

The Independent talks to Marjorie Blackman. Her Noughts & Crosses children’s book trilogy examines race relations in an unknown country.

Regina Taylor’s Drowning Crow looks like a fascinating update of Chekhov’s The Seagull. If you’re in New York, it’s playing at the Biltmore. The Times also has a 26-second video excerpt of Alfre Woodard giving Anthony Mackie hell.

And Stephen Fry goes nuts: He’s called the Hilton sisters “a pair of bloody whippets,” Sting “false,” and damns Americans for believing that the key to happiness is thinking about themselves. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortuantely, given the recent Dean demise), Fry wasn’t running for public office.

Don’t Blame the First Lady. She Still Doesn’t Know About EKG Treatment.

The Age has the Mark Haddon profile to end all Mark Haddon profiles. He confesses that he’s a fortysomething who listens to the Flaming Lips and Sparklehorse, is 30,000 words into his next novel Blood and Scissors, and (regrettably) has been reading the McSweeney’s crowd.

Laura Bush has called gay marriage “a very, very shocking issue.” She also reports that she faints at the sight of blood.

The American Prospect has some fun with a comparative review of stalker/sucker/spineless wanker memoirs.

Caryn James examines the recent rise of Hollywood fiction.

And if, like me, you were an RPG geek back in the 80s, you might be interested to know that Paranoia has returned.

Most People Just Go to Anger Management Training Or Get An Antidepressant Prescription

Salon: “And instead of playing the peace-loving Christian, Gibson is swatting at critics, real and imagined. Of New York Times writer Frank Rich, Gibson admits to having said, ‘I wanted to kill him. I want his intestines on a stick. I want to kill his dog.'”

And that’s not all, kids:

Sawyer: You said, “The Holy Ghost was working through me.”

Gibson: I’ve received a lot of ridicule for that statement. I think that the Holy Ghost is real. I believe that he’s looking favorably on this film and he wanted to help.

Proclaiming himself “somewhere between Howard Stern and Saint Francis of Assisi on the scale of morality,” Gibson also seems creepily preoccupied with evil, both apparently in the focus of his film and in his current situation.

Sawyer: You said at one point, “The big dark force didn’t want us to make this film.”

Gibson: Sure.

Sawyer: What was the force?

Gibson: What was the force? It’s the thing you can’t see. I’m a believer, by the way. So if you believe, you believe that there are big realms of good and evil, and they’re slugging it out.

(via A.O.)

Quickies & Jesus, Not the Book Babes Again

Ro Sham Bo in lit: Unfortunately, the article stops just as it begins to reveal something.

McSweeney’s vs. Partisan Review/Agni: guess who gets more coverage.

The Book Babes are so absurd that I’ve decided to start addressing their columns on an equally absurd first-name basis. This week, they weigh in on the Amazon brouhaha, with predictably vapid results:

“How are readers supposed to trust reviews if they don’t know who the reviewers are and what their biases might be?” Absolutely, Margo. So why not cough up your own biases up right now and explain why you allowed Norman Mailer to get away with that ridiculous New Journalism claim a few weeks ago? Or why you and Ellen didn’t press Keller further? Or how you both remain silent over the pre-NYTBR regime change’s move to non-fiction? You two think you’re covering the book scene?

“Everybody is entitled to an opinion.” Everybody’s entitled to an informed opinion with a reasonable argument, Ellen. And confessing your love for a has-been as tripe-heavy and WASP-blindsided as Anne Tyler suggests to me that you might be unqualified to review literature.

I Must Confess That This is REALLY Good Tylenol

Janet Maslin demonstrates how you can write a redundant-laden lead about nothing: “The history of Texas would seem to be a natural subject for the popular historian H. W. Brands. For one thing, Mr. Brands, biographer of Theodore Roosevelt and Benjamin Franklin, is a professor at Texas A&M University. For another, the much-vaunted wildness and wooliness of Texas’ story would seem to lend itself to Mr. Brands’s accessible, personable approach.” That’s three mentions of Texas in three sentences and more adjectives than you can shove onto a Hometown Buffet plate. Hasn’t Maslin learned anything from Twain?

The Daily Californian has a modest Octavia Butler profile up. Apparently, Butler’s working on a vampire novel.

Who needs the amateurism of Writer’s Digest when you can hear the same obvious swill for free from romance novelist Debbie Macomber? Before her writing ritual, Debbie reads the Bible and devotionals. And of course, Debbie’s convinced that women aren’t interested in steamy sex scenes (and, as she states, what does she know about sex being married?). Yes, kids, Debbie’s that best-selling romance novelist that you can read in the break room without embarassment. Sexed up trash? What are you thinking? Pick up Debbie Macomber tomorrow. Remember, kids: a Debbie Macomber “airport novel” purchased from a Barnes & Noble is a purchase for America! You too can turn your head away from reasonable standards and become a published romance novelist!

Tilda! The real Tilda! Tilda and her beautiful voice! The real Tilda and I meeting in a gay bar! Tilda! Tilda! Movie-life and real-life often do not bear any resemblance to one another, but Tilda!”

Don Kleine — quirkyalone professor? I hope not.

Kevin Smith’s on tap to write and direct The Green Hornet.

No less than four recently published books agree upon the notion of an “American empire.” And in the first half of 2004, 25 books critical of Bush will be published by commercial houses. Yee haw! It’s beginning to look like 1968 again, isn’t it?

Fuck No

Sarah Jacobson has passed on. She died last night. She was only 32. Cinetrix points to this forum for those as bummed out about this news as I am. And if you’re lucky enough to be in the East Village, tonight, there’s a screening of all her films at the Two Boots Pioneer Theater. Words fail me.

Too Good to Keep the Silence

The Observer: Camille Paglia, who traded blows with Ms. Wolf in the early 1990’s over their radically different views on female sexual power, said she was no longer at war with Ms. Wolf, but was “shocked” to learn of Ms. Wolf’s accusations against Mr. Bloom, who is a long-time mentor of Ms. Paglia’s.

So I guess in Camille’s world, “you are either with us or against us.” I’m guessing here that Wolf is Oceania and Paglia is Eastasia. Either way, I’d love to see how Bloom gets out of this. This could be the Greer-Mailer matchup of our time.

And in the same article: Caitlin Flanagan’s been hired by the New Yorker to write pieces on “modern domestic life.” Would that involve how a well-to-do mother can blow $100,000 a year on child care? I think that’s something within everyone’s resources, don’t you?

Okay, back to recuperation.

Sorry, the Bronchitis Has Made Me Angry

Asimov’s somehow emerged as a magazine choice in a school fundraising drive. But one mother flipped through the magazine and was “shocked” to read about “young girls with no panties, young girls in white socks, young girls looking at his wank-mags with him, young girls doing it with one another while he watched.” What pisses me off about this is not only does Ms. Suburban Mom miss the point about what spec-fic is about, but that this perpetuates the impression that spec-fic is nothing less than stories about bug-eyed monsters and gender domination. A quick glance through the collected works of Urusula K. Le Guin, Octavia Butler or Margaret Atwood (the latter having escaped the “science fiction” ghettoization) shows that it’s a lot more than this. And if Ms. Suburban Mom can rally against the “naughty” qualities of spec-fic, how dare she remain silent about the sexuality expressed on magazine covers, television commercials, album covers, advertisements that eroticize children, and the like. Fuck the yokels in Grandville, MI. And fuck ’em hard.

The New York Times interviews Anne Tyler by e-mail. Amazingly, she characterizes her work as “truthful.” Hey, Anne, I’ve got your truthful right here. It’s called five figures a year. Apparently, Tyler’s based in Baltimore these days. If that’s the case, please, Hag, beat some sense into her.

Following up on the Jacqueline Wilson news, the Guardian has the top 100 borrowed books in the UK up. It’s not inspiring.

Well, fuck me, the Globe has tried to examine “fuck” without mentioning it.

An Uncharted Desert Isle

Rashomon’s been asking bloggers what their top 10 albums to take on a desert island are. Here’s my ten (at least right now in my present quasi-bronchitis mood, and discounting classical):

1. Johnny Cash, At Folsom Prison
2. Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde
3. Janis Joplin, Cheap Thrills
4. Jurassic 5, Quality Control
5. The Kinks, Something Else by the Kinks
6. Miles Davis, A Kind of Blue
7. Minor Threat, Complete Discography
8. Nirvana, Bleach
9. Sly and the Family Stone, Fresh
10. The Who, Tommy
10. Hank Williams, The Complete Hank Williams

Meeting Minutes for the Sunday Major Metropolitan Newspaper Review Society, Sioux City, Iowa Branch — 2/15/04

7:15 PM: Meeting Coordinator Alice Koon let down the gavel, deferring floor to President Horace Henrietta Woosey (hereinafter “HHW”), who slid the curtain (meager partition to be replaced with available funds from till; note to self: cost benefits analysis) and called meeting to order.

7:17 PM: Till noted to be $4.37 for month. Detailed accounting to be taken up at next meeting.

7:18 PM: Alfalfa (not real name, but sobriquet he prefers) had not arrived with organic nonfat snacks. Cell phone reception was poor, confirmed unavilable by Sprint PCS, T-Mobile and AT&T Wireless. HHW went outside, trying to call Alfalfa. Koon carried out roll.

Attendees: Horace Henrietta Woosey (not present at roll, but present @ 7:15 PM and likely to be present approx. 7:22 PM), Alice Koon, Milagro Sanchez (self/secretary), unnamed bearded gentleman who declined to reveal name (unless “I’m here for the free food” is legitimate answer; the Secretary leaves future scholars to make the distinction between declaration and Christian/surname shenanigans).

May Arrive: Alfalfa (real name not to be jotted in lodger)

7:21 PM: Estimation correct. Secretary pats back without anyone noticing. HHW returns. Alfalfa on way.

7:22 PM: Paper of Record (hereinafter referred to as “Lady of Off-Black Hue,” aka “LoO-BH”) presented to Society. HHW asks if all attendees had read it. 3-1. Free Food Man declined to vote. Counted as nay to add exciting plurality.

7:23 PM: Alfalfa arrives with food. Dried fruit is not organic. Koon calls for Alfalfa’s temporary explusion, declined. HHW notes that all snacks are nonfat. Alfalfa would have subcommittee on his rear end if he violated dichotomous snack conditions. But he has only overlooked one. Free Food Man grabs package, sets up in back of room.

7:25 PM: Daniel Okrant’s Week in Review column discussed. Has Okrant gone off deep end? Koon adds testimony to record: she received call from (212) 557- prefix last week, man initially breathing into phone with “obscene fortitude” and then claiming to be LoO-BH reporter. Koon provided necessary information, but notes that Okrant singles out ancillary prefix. HHW notes that all email has gone unanswered and that average length (according to Powerpoint data) is 23 words.

7:31 PM: Free Food Man deposits empty package into collections box, asks for more food. Koon consults Robert’s Rules of Order, sees no precedent. Free Food Man persuaded to sit down after given second package of dried fruit.

7:40 PM: Additional discussion about Radosh deal, as addressed by LoO-BH’s Corrections column. Is Peter Landesman legit reporter? HHW adds to record that Landesman threatened financial and professional ruin to Radosh and that current till amounts to $4.37, not enough for a retainer agreement. Koon makes note to look for “ACLU type” who will take on Society’s legal defense pro bono should Landesman find out that Society is discussing his article, Landesman call Alfalfa on cell with harsh language and threats, et al.

7:42 PM: Free Food Man, stirred by Landesman discussion, offers to be Society’s “bodyguard” and brawl with Landesman (or anyone else) should he hinder society business. Free Food Man (now identifiying himself as “Dennis”) then places a $100 bill into till and vows to attend every meeting. Dennis’s intervention offers nice segue away from dangerous Landesman topic. Dennis is inducted. HHW calls for vote on whether Society Funds should go to three month gym membership. 4-0 in favor.

7:45 PM: Meeting adjourned. Aside: Dennis has nice pecs.

Anonymous Eggers Review: You Make the Call!

Since Sarah did some digging, I became a bit curious myself. The following review has a very similar feel to McSweeney’s house style. Is it from Eggers?

From “A reader from San Francisco, CA,” February 6, 2004, four stars, for Vendela Vida’s And Now You Can Go:

Unlike some close-minded readers, I found the premise of basing an entire novel around one incident fascinating and was hooked after the first page. However, it was El’s dry wit and sharp, detailed observations that I quickly found I could laugh out loud at and even identify with. The often sarcastic and self-deprecating tone kept me chuckling, even at seemingly serious, inappropriate moments. Unexpected moments like that are what make a story truly stand out to me. This is a terrific first novel that keeps up a swift, satisfying pace, which kept me up, finishing the book late in the night.

I recommend this highly to those who are open to examining a potentially harrowing incident from a fresh, and often very witty, perspective.

[REASONS IT MIGHT BE EGGERS: The obvious reason: Vida is Eggers’ wife. And given how protective he was towards Julavits, he’ll be tenfold so to his main honey. The short-hand reference to “El” instead of “Ellis,” implies greater attention to detail. There’s the implication that other readers are “close-minded” (deliberately misspelled?). The follow-up phrasing, which is very much like Eggers: “and even identify with.” The annoying McSweeney’s modifiers: “often,” “seemingly” and the like. The deliberately awkward phrasing: “Unexpected moments like that are what make a story truly stand out to me” instead of “These unexpected moments made the story stand out.” The extraneous Eggers-like clause after “kept me up” (which already implies that the “reader” stayed up all night).]

Current Feelings Towards Unfinished Books on My Bed

The Crimson Petal and the White by Michael Faber: Oh, come on. I’m almost done with you. You’ve been good for about 500 pages. But isn’t this getting a bit anticlimactic? I’ve followed you this far and I’ll finish you, of course. But you can do better than this, even though I still love you. For the most part.

The Fifties by David Halberstam: Lots of info there, pal. Too bad I’m reading another longass book. And a couple of recent dense reads burned me out a bit on history. But I’ll finish you up eventually. You’ve done your homework like a good boy. But what’s up with the “us” shit?

Empire Falls by Richard Russo: Sorry, boss, you’re a bit too simplistic and cartoonish for my tastes. In fact, you resemble a popular novel. But I have to finish you this week for the book club. What were you thinking naming the daughter Tick? And sure, you can move characters around on a chessboard, but I’m a bit puzzled why you won the Pulitzer. The blue-collar people here are fey facsimilies of upper-class upstate types: both in their makeups and their problems. 50 pages in and no one’s hurting. Please tell me, Mr. Russo, that all of your books aren’t like this, and that things will get more effed up here.

American in the Twenties by Geoffrey Perrett: I’m not quite sure why I haven’t jumped into you. You’re sincere, you’re informative, you’re a labor of love. But you’re not quite my cup of tea right now. Maybe we can both blame Halberstam. Can’t wait to get into you, but there’s still this quasi-bronchitis thing. Go figure. Maybe we’ll sleep together sometime this week.

Fuck Me, It Had to Happen on a Long Weekend

I get sick very rarely, but one thing I do know: the current loss of appetite, aching muscles, headaches, lack of concentration, and weird pain in my alveoli is not normal. Plus, I’m having difficulty putting sentences together and revising dialogue. And I’ll need to rack up some energy for my obligations tonight and this weekend. What this means is probably not much here over the weekend. But for couples, happy Valentine’s Day. And for singles, avoid the propaganda. You’re all sexy too. But you don’t need a partner/date or some Quirkyalone bullshit to affirm this.

In the meantime, check out some of the fine folks on the left, or revel in Lindsayism’s IM conversation or Tom’s description of “the Witch.” Or keep track of the closing days of Will Leitch’s Life as a Loser. (To hell with Dave Sim. Leitch only has seven columns left!)

Sad news from Lusty Lady: Sarah Jacobson has cancer. For those pipsqueaks who weren’t in San Francisco during the mid-90s, Jacobson was a shining beacon in the indie filmmaking community. I saw Mary Jane is Not a Virgin Anymore back in the day, and dug it. All my best to Sarah, hoping she can beat the rap.

The Effect of Reviewing Backwards

Big news from the Times this morning: An Amazon glitch unmasked the psuedonyms of reviewers. One “David K. Eggers” (confirmed to be Eggers) called Believer editor Heidi Julavits’ novel “the best book of the year.” Eggers’ response was put up to counter negative criticisms that he believed to stem from the Underground Literary Alliance. But it turns out that everyday people thought that the Julavits book sucked. Did Julavits author the anti-snark manifesto to prevent not so much “savage” reviews, but the singling out of her own mediocre writing? Most people in this business have thick skins and can simply ignore negative reviews. Furthermore, how ethical is it for a close associate to post a book review because of their own paranoia? The more I hear about Eggers’ shenanigans, the more I am convinced that, behind the “nice guy” image, the talent, and the charity, lies an unethical and highly scrupulous enfant terrible. Then again, much of this impression is, like Eggers’ ULA conspiracy theory, framed on hunches and things I’ve heard from bookstore clerks. The difference is that I’m willing to admit that I might be wrong.

A Special Guest Column by Dale Peck

Several weeks ago, the Village Voice told me never to write for them again. My literary outing had come, as it were, as a hatchet man. But after talking with my therapist and having lots of sex one wistful Friday evening with my main man, it suddenly occurred to me that I could continue to write articles about the articles I had already written. Furthermore, I could become something of a schizophrenic, wavering between long savage reviews and a kinder, gentler Dale Peck. A Dale Peck as adorable as a plush toy, a cuddly critic, but not too cuddly.

So it was with some relief that I accepted Edward Champion’s offer to clarify a few things on his blog. What Mr. Champion realized, unlike my other enemies, is that I would never shut up about my thoughts on the novel. And so he encouraged me.

If criticism can be called a sandwich, then it is composed of tuna fish. Nearly every critic today fails to consider the mayo once they’ve opened the can. But I, Dale Peck, am always capable of mixing my tuna with the mayo. Sometimes with relish, sometimes without. If you get my obvious metaphor, properly preparing a tuna fish sandwich is a duty that has eluded the current generation. And while the Voice and others may not appreciate this, someone very important out there does. Namely, Dale Peck.

It’s destiny, I’m sure, to take up space on the blogs that celebrate literature, sandwiched between the LiveJournal entries and the link-plus-commentary approach which counts for punditry. The reasonable argument is for the loser. And the true critic must remain chronically bitter, because the situation is well out of control.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming any particular book blogger for the phenomenon. I lost my love for literature the minute they started publishing my books, but certainly I’d rather write about my enmity than work in an office. Either way involves a unique form of hatred. If I didn’t express my contempt for authors, I’d probably be expressing it to a manager. I’d make any manager’s life a living hell, possibly stalking them after work.

When I read any sentence I get angry with it, and I am convinced that all sentences are out to get me. Thus my hatred is directed lovingly towards anyone who composes a sentence in the English language. This is because I see myself as a kind of self-loathing human being, not so much towards others but to the sentences they crank out.

So when Roddy Doyle goes after Joyce, I say, let the man go hog wild. I support Mr. Doyle’s ranting because I happen to think his nose is sexy, and I’m sure he would be a good lay. Mr. Doyle hasn’t yet returned any of my calls, but as any writer knows, perseverance is what counts.

The plain truth is that I am less and less capable of intellectual engagement because I no longer have any ideas or emotions left in me, save one that you probably aren’t interested in.

In Defense of Terry

Since everybody wants to see some dissing (well, maybe only Mark), and Terry’s been accused of “joining the ranks of other conservative authors and commentators who have recently been expressing their disdain for ‘modern art’ and literature,” I thought I’d weigh in.

Terry has been called “conservative” for expressing his dislike for Virginia Woolf, who he dared to call “marginally readable.” But how precisely is this conservative? Is Terry conservative because he writes for Commentary and The Wall Street Journal? Is Terry conservative because he expressed disfavor towards a woman? (And if that were the case, why then did he also praise the Algonquin Round Table, led by Dorothy Parker, in the same post?) What precisely is it, in Robert Green’s mind, that makes Terry the literary equivalent of a gun-toting right-to-lifer?

Point of Order: “One would think that conservatives would value an approach to literature that keeps the emphasis on its literary qualities, on its capacity to reinvigorate the aesthetic impulse, to exemplify imaginative ‘human accomplishment,’ to use Murray’s phrase. In my mind a truly conservative approach to art would seek to preserve the Western tradition of artistic skill and innovation to which writers like Joyce, Faulkner, and Woolf decidedly belong.”

Beyond the extremely conflicting manner in which Daniel “I Came Off the MFA Assembly Line” Green lays down his terms, what this basically boils down to is another literary vs. popular snobfest. I can imagine literary champions shoving such terrible misfires as Faulkner’s Sanctuary and Woolf’s The Voyage Out down throats like plastic polymer vitamins we have to enjoy, that we must not admonish, and that we must hole up with, a glass of claret in our hands, killing all doubts, extolling the literary qualities in the same shameful way that an unemployed steel worker stands in the dole line. The Grand Literary Author, it would seem, can do no wrong.

And how reactionary is that?

The conservative critic is the one who falls into line, who likes everything handed to him from the canon, and who regurgitates the same tired arguments. The conservative critic is the one who stands against snarky fun, setting forth the “play nice” dogma into a bullshit manifesto for a fledgling magazine. The conservative critic is sometimes like Heidi Julavits, Dale Peck, Laura Miller, and (in this case) Scott Green: replacing valid criticism and the joys of reading with a stunning need for attention.

Terry may not have elucidated his reasons for disliking Woolf, but I can give you a one sentence exemplar, res ipsa loquitur really, that might express why:

She thought of three different scenes; she thought of Mary sitting upright and saying, ‘I’m in love — I’m in love’; she thought of Rodney losing his self-consciousness among the dead leaves, and speaking with the abandonment of a child; she thought of Denham leaning upon the stone parapet and talking to the distant sky, so that she thought him mad.

That’s from Night and Day. And if you think that convulted attempt to get at consciousness is even remotely readable, then I shudder at your sensibilities. Woolf may have been among the first authors to describe every nicety of existence under the sun, but that doesn’t mean that she should have.

Excluding A Room of One’s Own and Mrs. Dalloway (from what I’ve read of Woolf — and I started, unfortunately, at the beginning), I’m in Terry’s camp. But then I whole-heartedly confess that I am bored by ponderous and humorless prose.

Now That I Have Your Attention

H Bomb is one thing, but now that a Yale panel has concluded that the U.S. is too uptight about sex, I’m convinced that the next wave of unfettered sexuality’s coming from universities.

Today, Kerry plans to respond to Drudge’s claim. Predictions: Much ado about nothing and a Playboy spread for Alex Polier.

In South Korea, activists are miffed by an actress’s muff shots. Lee Seung-yeon is selling nude and semi-nude photos of herself donned in WWII sex slave attire.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram copy desk must be bored. How else can we explain this headline?

And a German edition of Psychology Today reports that men can remember how many women they sleep with (even if they boast about it), but seldom remember their names. Women, by contrast, have total recall.

Norman Mailer: Innovator In His Own Mind

A couple has donated $100,000 to the University of Mississippi for the only national scholarship devoted to the work and life of William Faulkner. “We hoped that we could stop Cliff’s Notes from publishing summaries of Faulkner’s work, but Cliff wanted more cash,” said Campbell McCool. “So we thought: Why not get the kids spinning cart wheels?”

Ernest Gaines has been nominated for this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. Not a single American has won in ten years. (Toni Morrison was the last winner.) So it might be our time. Then again, both Bush and Blair are nominees too (for the Peace Prize). So who knows? The winner will be announced in mid-October.

Jacqueline Wilson is the most borrowed author in UK libraries, unseating last year’s Catherine Cookson. But it could be worse. Danielle Steele was number two.

The following quote may not explain why Bernardo’s obsessed with the bump and grind (namely, in his new film, The Dreamers), but it does offer compelling evidence that Bertolucci may be insane: “The passionate love I have is for the cinema. It is very strong, so that the first time I meet the director Jean-Luc Godard, I vomit on him; that was the expression of love. He understand. We have a talk in the bathroom of the Mayfair Hotel, where we are cleaning our suits.”

The March Atlantic (which hasn’t yet been posted online) deals with the issue, but, for the nonce, “America’s oldest college newspaper” has the scoop on the SAT’s new writing section According to the new standards, Shakespare, Hemingway and Stein are slipshod. Ted Kaczynski, on the other hand, scores off the charts.

Sometimes, sex doesn’t sell. Thor Kunkel threw in sex, Nazis, and Nazi pornography into his novel, finished his book, and then returned home from vacation to discover that his publisher dumped the book two months before its release. One of his editors reported, “He’s read too much Thomas Pynchon and has over-estimated his artistic possibilities.” If only Manhattan could be as honest about certain “political satirists” on our side of the Atlatnic.

Focus on the Family’s latest target? Christian porn addicts. They even have fey billboards up. (via Quiddity)

Jose Saramago gets medieval on Bush’s buttocks. (via TEV)

And Norman Mailer claims he’s the father of New Journalism: “Tom Wolfe claimed he was the discoverer of New Journalism … Actually, we were both doing it quite separately. But I’m much older than he is … by eight or 10 years. So I’m the only one of the post-World War II generation to practice it. Sorry if I shoot down your theory.” What most people don’t know about Mailer is that he also invented beat poetry, postmodernism, and the footnote. No word on whether he’s still terrified of the word “fuck” or getting his ass kicked by Germaine Greer in a debate.

Drudge on Deck for Old Sparky

Does Matt Drudge seriously believe that an unconfirmed rumor is going to stop Kerry? Because if he does, and groundless character flaws are the best he can muster against Bush’s National Guard AWOL, his failure to offer an Iraq-WMD link, and the skyrocketing deficit (to name just a handful), then his finger ain’t even close to the American pulse.

Let’s say the allegations are true (and, so far, the burden of proof is shaky). Does anyone really want to go back into Monicagate territory? No. Been there, done that. Trivial, really, in a post-9/11 world and a shaky economy. And there’s no simply way that Bush will be able to escape deficit/lack of Iraq-WMD link questions, even if Kerry slept with an intern. The media, even with its shaky ethical plinth, wouldn’t let that double standard happen. Call it the fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me syndrome.

If it turns out to be true, then this may be the piece of news that destroys Drudge’s career, much as Harry Knowles’ credibility was eviscerated when he “predicted” the Oscars. It’s a shame. Because there are Internet columnists and bloggers out there of all stripes who actually bother to fact-check.

Elder Statesmen

Ann Taylor Cook, aka the Gerber Lady, has been using her postpartum postergirling to move copies of her first novel. Cook said that she sold 10 books in an hour when the Gerber drawing was on the table next to her. The 77-year old newcomer plans to start drooling and repeatedly banging her spoon into a bowl for future in-store appearances.

Harlan Ellison’s copyright case against AOL has been revitalized by an appeal. The 69-year old curmudgeon declared that his blood pressure hadn’t dropped and that he would “beat the shit out of those motherfuckers, tearing their obsidian sphincters out with my bare hands.” When asked how he would unleash this violence before a judge and jury, Ellison offered no explanations, but he called the journalist asking this question “a parvenu of the first order.”

A “quirkyalone party” has been planned in New York for Valentine’s Day. Several dateless thirtysomethings plan to attend, crying for hours into a collective cistern, and then spending the afternoon dwelling on their misery rather than ignoring the silly holiday (like most single people). The Quirkyalone label that has now been trademarked. An I Am Quirkyalone! Hear Me Wilt! affirmation video can be found in Wal-Mart in August.

The Guardian reports that, far from being a dour bore and a real pissant, Immanuel Kant was a wild and crazy guy. According to three new biograhies, Kant was actually known as “the Robert Downey, Jr. of his day.” So committed was Kant to debauchery that attentions are now being paid to a recently discovered treatise called “Critique of Crystal Meth.”

New census results reveal that Americans would rather curl up with a good book than surf the Web. It was also reported that book bloggers would prefer this to, but that most of them could not refrain from posting links because “their jobs were unbelievably boring.”

And happy birthday, Sarah!