Happy Halloween

[Forrest J. Ackerman] [Clive Barker] [Jessica Barone] [Charles Beaumont] [Ambrose Bierce] [Algernon Blackwood] [Robert Bloch] [Poppy Z. Brite] [Grimm Brothers] [Ramsey Campbell] [Hugh B. Cave] [Thomas Disch] [Edward Gorey] [Shirley Jackson] [M.R. James] [Jack Ketchum] [Stephen King] [Joe R. Lansdale] [Richard Laymon] [Thomas Ligotti] [Bentley Little] [H.P. Lovecraft] [Robert McCammon] [George R.R. Martin] [Richard Matheson] [Yvonne Navarro] [Joyce Carol Oates][Edgar Allen Poe] [Tim Powers] [Ray Russell] [Mary Shelley] [Joseph Sheridan le Fanu] [Dan Simmons] [Bram Stoker] [Peter Straub] [J.N. Williamson]

and to anyone else I might have missed.

Insomnia-Charged Roundup

  • Audrey Niffenegger confesses that she wrote the sex scenes in The Time Traveler’s Wife last. Niffenegger is also penning a a writing book called You’ll Only Finish Your Novel If You Save the Best for Last.
  • Thomas Harris has finished yet another Hannibal novel, which will not only describe how Lecter developed his appetite for evil, but include a metafictional subplot involving how Harris developed his appetite for beating a dead horse.
  • Ten writers have won Whiting Writers’ Awards, including Dan Chiasson, Alison Glock, A. Van Jordan and Tracey Scott Wilson. Each will receive $35,000, a Tijuana vacation for two, and the keys to Tina Brown’s Beamer for one weekend.
  • J.M. Coetzee tackles Philip Roth.
  • Susanna Clarke has nothing on Lula Parsons. Parsons took 50 years to write her novel. She’s 92.
  • Frank Darabont’s script for Indiana Jones 4 was rejected by Lucas. Now it’s Jeff (The Terminal) Nathanson on hand and an almost certain temple of doom.
  • The Flaming Lips are publishing a photo book.
  • Michiko’s verdict on Charlotte Simmons? A flat-footed new novel. The Sun also calls it “Wolfe’s worst novel.” This does not augur well.

Transcript of the Unedited Azzam Tape

azzam.jpgMUFFLED VOICE: Is this thing on?

AZZAM: Yessss…it iz on. I can see ze blinking red light. Do you have zee After Effects software for ze menacing logo?


AZZAM: Very good. Hahahahahaha. I am Azzam the American. Heed my worrrrrrrrrrds.

MUFFLED VOICE: Azzam, keep your hood on.

AZZAM: Yesss…you are riiiiiiiiiight. We mest scare ze bejeeeesus out of the crooked American peoples. Rumorz on zee Internets. Zey won’t be able to authenticate zis.

MUFFLED VOICE: For God’s sake, Azzam, don’t use plural like that. You’ll give away our cover.

AZZAM: Shut up, Umar. I am zee great Azzam and this esss my show. I speak en zee tones of an ominous Middle Eastern stereotype zat cannut be corroborated. America is evil and shall pay. It is a tyrannous nation with blood dripping out of my nose. I, ze great Azzam the American, shall frighten all evil Americans. Including ze smallest of children. America is a tyranny.

MUFFLED VOICE: Pronounce it tie-ryanny.

AZZAM: Yessssss, America is a tie-ryanny! (inaudible, followed by loud maniacal laughter) It ess a country where ze oil flows like wine. Rumsfield, Bush. All evil. (Here, the word “evil” has been accentuated with post-production reverb) I am Azzam the American. My voice shall bring great terrrrrror and much blood in the streets. Bill Maher will be my personal pony. You have been warned.


AZZAM: What essss it?

MUFFLED VOICE: Your fly’s undone.

Literary Roundup, Or How I Learned to Stop Linking to One Thing and Love Dumping A Lotta News

The Literary Hipster’s Handbook, 2004 Q3 Edition, Or How I Learned to Stop Snickering and Love the NYTBR

“Anne Rice”: A dish tainted with hallucinogenics served at a literary function causing its eater to whine about lack of literary ability. In the worst of cases, the afflicted eater continues wallowing in her own despair and transposes this despondency (often inexplicably formed) to online bulletin boards such as Amazon.com. Banned in at least five states, Anne Rice (and its deadlier cousin, Queen Anne Rice) has enjoyed newfound popularity in certain underground enclaves. Much like its dark cousin absinthe, Anne Rice is often consumed as an appetizer by those who haven’t learned to ignore rejection, even when its users (aka Anne Ricers) are sitting on a trust fund or otherwise basking in unsullied success. For angst-ridden literati fearful of a Xanax prescription, Anne Rice serves as an illicit, but nevertheless distinct alternative. However, medical authorities are currently investigating the problem and Anne Rice is not expected to sustain its scintillating status through the New Year. (Note: It is believed that Anne Rice is grown in New Orleans.)

“Clarke”: (v.) To write endlessly about a frivolous and often misunderstood topic. (Ex. Friends urged Roger to throw in the towel, but he couldn’t stop Clarking his 800 page epic about two battling pieces of macaroni during the Napoleonic Wars.)

“Edinburgh”: An undesirable place to head to, such as a city or a building, generally populated by attention-starved individuals. (Or. The Scottish capital.)

“Hollingshurst”: (adj.) The most popular person at a swank party, but one whose sexual preference is inexplicably discussed. (Ex. Jerry was the Hollingshurst of the evening. His friends couldn’t stop discussing his subscription to Barely Legal Bush Voters.)

“Jelinek”: (n.) A person snubbed unreasonably because of personal success, often one unknown before said emolument. (Ex. Ana Marie Cox, once so admired by the commonweal, was shuttled with the other Jelineks after nabbing her lucrative book deal.)

“tender house”: A surprise development from the original “tanner house.” Literary hipsters use this disparaging phrase when they see one of their peers reading an unquestionably horrible novel. (Ex. I told him the party was on Saturday instead of Sunday. The last thing we needed was some asshole tendering house with a Nora Roberts paperback.) Also, tenderhouse (n., disparaging).

“to Bentley”: To find spiritual awakening in something silly and to use it to advance a career.

“Wieseltier”: A dirty old man fond of perversions who sees scum everywhere.

The Secret to Speed Reading, Or How I Learned to Stop Sniffing Coke and Love Sniffing Even More Coke

A reader writes:

You recently mentioned reading the whole of Ulysses in less than an hour, and you frequently allude to the novels you read while you’re imbibing a fifth martini. As someone who never seems to have enough time to read, I simply don’t believe you. I’d like to know two things: how you read so fast, and how you fast while reading.

The fact is, dear reader, that, in addition to the starving you reference, I do most of my reading on speed, bringing new meaning to the term “speed reader.” In fact, I can finish off a book of normal length and density while snorting up a line of good Colombian. It’s certainly a little faster than that Teachout fellow, but at least Teachout doesn’t have to resort to drugs to remain hyperliterate. His loss.

While Teachout wastes precious hours of his life (specifically, the uncertain period he refers to “between Friday night and Monday morning”) operating at regular speed reading levels, with the help of illegal substances, I’ve stumbled upon a life of hard drugs, fast women, and even faster reading. Every weekend, you’ll find me at Cabo San Lucas blading up a good bag with my homies, my head bobbing up for air from a nineteen year old girl from Topeka trying to extend her spring break year-round, with the latest Shirley Hazard and John Upike propped up on my lap. It’s quite the life, baby. More fun than those impacted weekends. And you better believe I’ve read more than Harold Bloom.

The Song Remains the Same, Or How I Learned to Stop Prioritizing Just One of the Guys Behind the Screenplay and Love Peter George and Stanley Kubrick

“At that time, 1962 and earlier, practically all screenwriters — I would say there were about eight exceptions — were full-out hacks, completely incompetent in any other form of writing, and, of course, disastrous in their own. You’ve got to understand that it is not easy to make a bad movie — it requires a very special combination of non-talents and anti-talents…and that was generally the case, and unfortunately all too often still is. It used to be that the people — they were not writers — who would get into the screenwriting would do so through talents much more appropriate to selling shoes than to writing…in other words, extroverted, hard-sell, bullshitting assholes. Agents…people like that. Hustlers…people who suddenly decided there was more money in selling ‘stories’ to the studio than in selling siding or used cars, and since they had a brother-in-law already in the biz, why not give it a whirl? Once they had a credit, of course, there was no stopping them. The studios had rather employ a screenwriter with eight disasters to his credit than a William Faulkner with none. In fact, when Faulkner — who had the greatest ear for regional dialogue of his time — was finally used in Hollywood, his work was invariably rewritten, by hacks, simply because producers and directors were suspicious of anyone who had not written for films before — as if there was something special about it, or about the crap they were turning out. In short, it used to be there was no way to get into screenwriting, except through a brother-in-law process. Now independent production has changed this — but not as much as one might think. In the majority of pictures with budgets of five hundred thou or more, studio participation is involved, and whenever thee is studio money, there is the dinosaur mentality and the apelike interference which are unfailintly part of the package.”

— Terry Southern, 1972



‘Twere it possible to pluck
The grimy residue from recent oceans
Or to stand resolute with sturdy sea legs
Upon a foundation shaky in its firm conviction

Their woes were pedantic
They used their resilient muscles
To plant tumers that would not grow

Transparent tears stinging upon flesh
The hard work of nothingness
A void to ensnare defiant dreamers
Through the dull blue orb

But the yeoman
Surrounded by their poisonous tongues
Anthracite ventricles
Glutinous voices
Ended the vicious cycle
By striking the flint of his ambition

The yeoman walked alone
Through treacherous copses and corpses
Never abandoning the light
Just beyond the vale

Aging ungracefully
The yeoman steered his stead
To a cloudy clearing
Soaring rather than souring

Aphorism! Aphorism!

Don Paterson hopes to revive the aphorism: “More than anything, the aphorism tries desperately hard to be memorable. (Of course, this is the aim of all writing, but usually we make some attempt to conceal the desperation. Another reason why aphorisms, when they fall, fall very hard indeed.) But perhaps they also reflect our conviction that all the most important things we need to say must find a way of inhabiting the single breath, the instant, if they’re to shock awake our real, breathing, present moment – because if we don’t stay alive to that, we’re dead to everything.”

The New Six Degrees of Bacon?

J-Fly has a cool concept she lifted from a film teacher.

Step One: Name your five favorite films off the top of your head and write brief summary.

1. O Lucky Man!: Guy hopes to make money as coffee salesman, engages in debauchery, wanders around English countryside, gets set up and booked, tries to proselytize, eventually smiles.

2. After Hours: Go nowhere word processor sees cute girl, starts talking, goes to Soho, gets involved in deranged New York universe, can’t get home, but is forced by unseen god to take charge.

3. The Wizard of Oz: Dislocated girl arrives in fantasy world, has adventures, meets friends, goes on quest, finds self, concludes “there’s no place like home.”

4. The General (1927): Go nowhere engineer can’t enlist, has his train stolen, pursues it like crazy, has adventures, proves himself hero, gets girl, finds inner self.

5. Brazil: Man stuck in drab bureaucratic job in totalitarian state dreams of girls, gets caught in plot, and finds escape in his own mind.

Step Two: “Chances are, those films will tell essentially the same story. And chances are, your films will tell that story too. Because that is your story.”

Yup. Common theme here is a passive human stuck in routine who goes through a series of incredible adventures and eventually finds self.

[UPDATE: This may have been accidentally pilfered from Cinetrix. Whatever the case, send some sugar her way.]

Dale Peck Should Sue for Breach of Intellectual Property

Lionel Shriver: “Joyce Carol Oates is an atrocious writer.”

When you’re pilfering the mines of histrionic snark over Joyce Carol Oates (“to call the novel under-edited would be to imply that it had been edited at all,” “Oates gives the impression of publishing nothing but first drafts, which helps to explain her astounding output.”), chances are that you’re either someone frustrated because he can’t keep up with the JCO oeuvre (honestly, who outside of JCO’s husband has read every book?) or you’re another cretin pissing in the snow.

A far more thoughtful take on JCO can be found over at the Mumpsimus. And I think Matthew Cheney gets at the JCO conundrum (and the larger issue of prolificity and length) quicker than anyone: “Eventually, we will be able to look back over Oates’s entire career and find the gems, but for the moment we’re stuck with sorting through all the dreck. I, for one, have given up, because I don’t want to keep wasting my time hoping Oates will write a masterpiece.”

I’ve been formulating some theories about “sifting to find a masterpiece” and the thickass novel at large — specifically over whether the reader has the right to dismiss a book because of its length. One day when I have some time, I hope to dwell on the issue at length. The chief query: why does a novelist have to be punished for writing too much? If readers cannot keep up with a writer’s output, whether it entails the breadth of a novelist like Richard Powers or the relentless pen of JCO, then have they truly earned the right to impersonate some constant kvetcher who missed the nudie show by ten minutes?

AM Hit & Run

Vote for the Slurpee

As my eyes fail to flop to stage one, I find myself wondering what it’s like to be a Bush voter. How does a Bush voter confine herself so willingly to the mortified state of status quo? What is it about leaving this nation in the hands of a unilateral-minded Chuck Bronson type who wouldn’t consider an alternative viewpoint if God gave him a rimjob in the middle of a brisk run that suggests confidence?

How does a staunch Republican believe that a blathering, brisk-spending cur like Bush is the best that our nation can offer? That a man incapable of distinguishing between singular and plural in general discourse is a skilled statesman?

I ask this because I’m tired of the televised suspense. I’m tired of the weak-kneed undecideds in the swing states. They resemble thirtysomething bachelors who wouldn’t know the benefits of commitment if it bit them on the ass. I’m tired of the blather from both sides and the fact that not a single poll can figure out what the hell is going on amongst the vox populi. I’m tired of perpetuating a climate of fear, because that’s what Karl Rove wants us to feel. If I hear another tale of some otherwise sensible person moving to Canada, I’ll scream. Fuck you. This is your country. You don’t give up. And if you care enough about the nation and the world at large, it’s your goddam job to convince at least five people to cast their decision for the other guy, however insalubrious he might be.

Yes, the man to replace Our Fearless Leader comes across at times like a discombubulated somnabulator. But then so was the hefty, chronically napping William Taft. Of course, back in 1908, Taft was up against the blustery Williams Jennings Bryan and Eugene Debs (the Nader of his time) running on the Socialist ticket. Taft won. But then Taft was a Freemason and a third-rate Teddy Roosevelt trustbuster. But he was the best our nation could do at the time. It was either Taft or the raving evangelist running the country. The people made the right decision. Even when it involved putting their confidence into a trusty hand-me-down.

And that’s the idealistic conundrum in a nutshell. The United States of 1908 possessed cast-iron balls to vote for the least insane candidate on the ballot. The people of today are so obsessed with getting the candidate that they want that they grasp for straws in the same harried manner that they bitch to a 7-11 manager about a sludgy Slurpee. I say live with the goddam Slurpee for four years. If he’s truly a dud, you can always vote him out in 2008. It’s the closest thing this country has to a refund policy.

How You Like Me Now, Pinstripes?

I told you so. How could you have doubted? Part of the problem with the so-called Sox stigma was that people weren’t willing to believe in a comeback. Even as the Sox climbed their way out of a championship shutout, there were many baseball junkies I talked to who remained convinced that the Yanks would win, that it could not happen, and that the Sox, as adorably crimson as they might be, simply weren’t going to do it. But 10-3? That’s what I call a goddam blowout.

But taking the allegory I propounded the other day (which has launched some Grade-A comment silliness) one step further, I suspect that the Sox needed to win, just to demonstrate to the damn world that nothing is certain, and that there are marvelous surprises behind every corner — just so long as people believe in them and don’t give up hope. Case in point: If you told me two weeks ago that I’d be waxing whacked out sports-related metaphysics on these pages, I wouldn’t have believed you. But the Sox’s gradual entree into the Series proper gives the kind of true faith and freedom that the shaky boys at the top couldn’t fathom for a second. It’s a fatalistic whirlydirsh that needed to happen. Completely secular, entirely unprecedented, and downright joyous.

And on that note, holy frijole. Sarah’s nabbed an interview with Alexander McCall Smith. Joe Bob says check it out.

One Paragraph Review

Stephen King’s The Dark Tower is the silliest and most anticlimactic book I’ve read this year, with plodding prose, thin characters, meaningless deaths, and clunky exposition. It is perhaps King’s worst book since The Tommyknockers. However, as a Kaufmanesque stunt intended to piss off loyal fanboys, in this regard, it’s icily effective. The question, however, is whether such a ploy needed to kill so many trees and drain so many simpering saps’ wallets.

The Crimson Batter and the White House

It’s the fifth inning. Boston is 4-0 as I write these words. Mark my words: the Sox will make it. And if the Sox make it into the Series, then I have a strange feeling that Kerry will take the White House with ease. It’s only a working theory and I have nothing sizable to go on other than the Massachusetts connection. But for the love of baseball and for the love of the nation, suffuse all your good juju into the Sox, baby. Let’s take this nation back. Preternaturally. This will be Mass’s year.

Because I Can’t Sleep

New Codephrase for Remaining a Shut-In: “Operating in the Realm of Language and Ideas”

Terry Gross: “I think radio is a great medium for someone who�s shy and self-conscious. It terrified me at first, really badly, but once I got over that, the nice thing about radio is that you are invisible, so any physical self-consciousness that I have is irrelevant when I’m on the radio. In terms of being shy, hey, I’m alone in a studio with producers in the control room, producers who I know really well, and I’m with a guest who probably isn’t even in the room with me. So I�m really operating in the realm of language and ideas.”

Well, for my money, Terry Gross needs to either interview more people like Gene Simmons (MP3) or have one hell of a lost weekend. She’d be a lot cooler if she expanded her realm. (via Jimmy Beck)