Reluctant Habits

Form Follows Function

Posted by in Blogging

And on the seventh day, the Lords of the Blogosphere performed the two-step with literary enthusiasts and created the Valve — an exciting new collective from the folks who gave you Crooked Timber.


Seven Pillars of Bookstore Customers

Posted by in Bookstores

The Book Geek: S/he can be counted upon to buy something obscure or with literary underground streetcred (like say Steve Erickson or Kathy Acker) and will spend at least 20 minutes displaying her knowledge in front of a clerk or whoever else will listen. Unfortunately, it’s the clerks who are often the victims, as they have to stand for 8+ hours listening to this. (Variation: The Laconic Book Geek, who is a terrible eavesdropper, often nervous, and will sometimes bail a New Literate/Book Geek out at the last minute. Bookstore…read more


RIP Mitch Hedberg

Posted by in Comedy

Goddam, Mitch Hedberg has passed on. He was only 37. Here are some Hedbergisms in his honor: “The thing about tennis is: no matter how much I play, I’ll never be as good as a wall. I played a wall once. They’re fucking relentless.” “If carrots got you drunk, rabbits would be fucked up.” “An escalator can never break: it can only become stairs. You would never see an ‘Escalator Temporarily Out Of Order’ sign, just ‘Escalator Temporarily Stairs. Sorry for the convenience.’” “This product that was on TV was…read more


Sin City: New Meaning of “Faithful Translation to Screen”

Posted by in Literary Adaptations

Yahoo has a fantastic slideshow comparing the Sin City panels to the film angles:


The Publishing Industry is All About Time Management

Posted by in Publishing Industry

It seems that Windstream Publishing, who berated Stephanie Perry for giving Richard Bothelho’s Leah’s Way a bad review, can’t refrain from sending rude emails to anyone who dares to suggest that book reviewing is entirely separate from being a “liberal” or even being “religious.” Now poor Ron Hogan, one of the litbloggers who ran with the story, has been stung with further nonsense. Of course, if the book is as bad as Perry says it is, then the fact that multiple Windstream employees spend all of their spare time sending…read more


Ruminator — It’s Here and Much Better than the Tuminator (Pictured Below)

Posted by in Literary Magazines

Like the Rake, until we got the email, we had no idea the Ruminator existed. But there’s some good stuff, including an interview with Volker Schlondorff, a piece from Jhumpa Lahiri, and more. We’ll definitely be checking this vibrant Minnesota bimonthly out in the future.


Upton Sinclair, Soon to Appear in a Spring Break Video

Posted by in Sinclair, Upton

The San Francisco Bay Guardian takes a long look at Professor Lauren Coodley‘s almost single-handed Upton Sinclair boosterism. She’s prepared a new anthology, The Land of Orange Grove and Jails, of Sinclair’s writings for Heyday Books. What’s interesting is that Coodley discovered Sinclair almost completely by accident, while substituting for a political science class. And apparently, the Huntington Museum turned down a collection of Sinclair’s papers.


If It Isn’t Art, It’s Memorex

Posted by in McEwan, Ian

Ian McEwan has said that “life imitates art.” In the last year alone, McEwan reports that he witnessed a balloon accident and was stalked by a mentally ill man, published a tawdry photo in a newspaper, lived with the consequences of playing a prank as a child, and began sleeping with his siblings when both of his parents died. McEwan hopes that he can fix things so that “art can imitate life,” because this might make his novels more interesting, in light of the mixed reviews for Saturday. [RELATED: How…read more


Just Be Grateful They Didn’t Refer To Them As “Ingenuous Cripples”

Posted by in New York Times

New York Times Corrections: “Because of editing errors, an article and a review in The Arts on Saturday about the film “Murderball,” which looks at rugby players who use wheelchairs, referred to them incorrectly. They are quadriplegics, whose injuries or illnesses affect all four limbs and the trunk. (Paraplegics are affected in their legs and trunks.)”


Equal Opportunity Mocking

Posted by in Politics

We won’t comment on the blogger wars. We already defended the right to mock literary figures a few weeks ago and have nothing further to say. We plan to earn our black sheep stripes the right way (at least for today, largely because we’re feeling exceptionally immature), by moving onto mocking non-literary figures in the most tasteless manner possible, beginning with the Governator himself (as pictured below):


Cookie Monster Saddened By Recent “Sesame” Sellout

Posted by in Satire, Television

WASHINGTON D.C. (AP): This morning, in front of reporters, Cookie Monster revealed shocking allegations that his love for cookies was being curtailed against his will by the producers of Sesame Street. “Me so sorry!” said Cookie Monster in front of a mob of reporters. “Me still like cookies all the time. But Cookie Monster needs money to buy more cookies.” Three journalists, trying hard to remain objective, broke down almost immediately upon learning that a pivotal character from the long-running PBS children’s program had sold out. Kleenex was offered. The…read more


Linklater’s Omnipotent Narrative

Posted by in Film, Linklater, Richard

As Dan Green notes, Long Pauses has a very good post up about Richard Linklater’s films. Darren points out that all of Linklater’s characters are represented in an egalitarian light, but if one is to judge these characters, it is the behavior that is the culprit, not the social status or the circumstances behind it. Life’s the thing, whether it’s the cruel hazing by Parker Posey in Dazed and Confused or even Giovanni Ribisi’s slacker, reduced to living in a pup tent and unable to come to grips with a…read more


Insomnia-Charged Roundup

Posted by in Awards, Roundup, Waldman, Ayelet

Radio host Paul Kennedy is trying to win Leonard Cohen a Nobel Prize. “He’s different from a celebrity; he’s almost God,” says Kennedy. You can make the same claim about mescaline, but you’d never nominate a drug for a distinguished honor. It certainly isn’t news that laughter is good for you, but I didn’t realize that Anthony Trollope died laughing. Apparently, it was F. Anstey’s Vice Versa which was the culprit and has Orwell’s admiration. Ayelet Waldman describes her day. If Tom Wolfe’s slithering wasn’t enough, Natalie Krinsky’s new book,…read more


A Book A Day, That’s All We Ask

Posted by in Awards, Reading

Rick Gekoski’s idea of bliss involves reading a book a day. He’s a Man Booker judge for 2005. And with 130 titles to read in five or six months, the real question here is how much is too much. And is Gekoski the intelligensia’s answer to Harriet Klausner? (via Bookninja)


We Get the Same Way After A Bit of Whiskey

Posted by in Reading

Ulrich Baer has written to the Rake with a lengthy essay about the creation of his book, The Wisdom of Rilke: “My process of translation involves a lot of reading out loud, mumbling, and general behavior unfit for a public space. I read the German or French sentence a few times, try to allow its meaning, speed, and rhythm resonate within me, and then try it out in English. All the while I am more or less speaking to myself, listening for an approximation of the particular movement of Rilke’s…read more


Bush Tries to Galvanize Dog with Social Security Harangue; Dog Demands to Use Public Facilities

Posted by in Photo Headlines


The Harriet Klausner Mythos

Posted by in Book Reviewing

Booksquare suggests that Amazon reviewer Harriet Klausner (profiled in today’s Wall Street Journal by Joanne Kaufman) isn’t exactly a discovery of such stunning new finds as Tess Gerritsen, pointing out that Gerritsen’s career kick-started several years before. However, I’m curious why the Wall Street Journal didn’t make an effort to verify Klausner’s extraordinary claims. Kaufman only describes Klausner’s voice as “more than a few dips of helium,” but makes no reference to the geography of her home or Ms. Klausner’s appearance. I’m wondering if Kaufman even spoke with Ms. Klausner…read more


AM Roundup

Posted by in Foer, Jonathan Safran, Harry Potter, Miller, Laura, Roundup

Carrie Fisher will write a book revealing several secrets behind the Star Wars trilogy. Among some of the telling details: Mark Hamill was a midget who received two leg implants to increase his height, costume designer John Mollo modeled Chewbacca after a shag carpet he had the misfortune to walk on during a bad acid trip, and crew members were ordered to rub George Lucas’ feet and call him “Joseph Campbell II” before setting up each shot. John Lescroart has donated $50,000 to the UC Davis graduate writing program. Lescroart…read more


Obligatory Book Thing Pimp

Posted by in Blogging

This site doesn’t have a New Yorker cartoonist, but so as not to leave the Old Hag flailing in the dust, we should point out that if you have a few extra kopecks and you’re capable of siphoning off your beer money for one evening, you can do no worse than support the Book Thing in Baltimore.


An Introduction

Posted by in Personal

If you’re coming here from the New York Times article, welcome. This website is a dedication to the life of Edward Champion (1974-1998), who was unexpectedly beheaded by a samurai while giving a motivation speech in Chico, California. Champion was one of the most brilliant writers this nation ever had. His grocery lists were wittier than Oscar Wilde. He once wrote a note telling his friends to meet him at the pub that was exhaustively picked over by grad students. John Updike has said of the man, “Edward Champion: too…read more


Choose Your Own Adventure from a Freelance Writer’s Perspective

Posted by in Publishing Industry, Satire, Writing

1. It’s close to seven o’clock. You’ve spent most of the day doing everything in your power to put off deadlines. Now the phone won’t stop ringing as you pound away on the computer trying to finish some bland copy for a nonprofit foundation. Nevertheless, you’re curious. Who could be calling at this hour? If you pick up the phone, go to 22. If you keep writing, go to 5. 2. John Grisham’s dull prose has you pondering why you never became a multi-millionaire. Tanenhaus repeatedly calls. Due to unexpected…read more


The Book Review Reviewers

Posted by in Blogging, Book Reviewing

Holy frijole! Return of the Reluctant got a whole paragraph from the Gray Lady and was named with several other fantastic and swell folks. That conventional media has responded so quickly to the book review reviewers demonstrates that we are having an more of an influence than we thought. At the very least, they’re paying attention. I certainly hope that other litblogs (and blogs in general) pick up the slack and give their local newspaper coverage a hard look. Together, we might be able to remind today’s newspapers that book…read more


Win, Blog or Draw

Posted by in Blogging

The Liner: Where one guy is determined to draw the entire graduating class of Hamline University, 1925. He’s been at this since November.


Hugo Nominations

Posted by in Awards

Gwenda beat me to it (for obvious reasons), but the Hugo Nominations are up. A certain Christopher Rowe was nominated. If there’s a lesson to be learned here, put the word “iron” in your title if you hope to get nominated for an award. BEST NOVEL: The Algebraist, Iain M. Banks (Orbit) Iron Council, China Miť∂©lle (Del Rey; Macmillan UK) Iron Sunrise, Charles Stross (Ace) Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Susanna Clarke (Bloomsbury) River of Gods, Ian McDonald (Simon & Schuster UK) BEST NOVELLA: “The Concrete Jungle”, Charles Stross (The…read more


Tanenhaus Watch: March 27, 2005

Posted by in New York Times, Tanenhaus, Sam

WEEKLY QUESTION: Will this week’s NYTBR reflect today’s literary and publishing climate? Or will editor Sam Tanenhaus demonstrate yet again that the NYTBR is irrelevant to today’s needs? If the former, a tasty brownie will be sent to Mr. Tanenhaus’ office. If the latter, the brownie will be denied. THE COLUMN-INCH TEST: Fiction Reviews: 1 – 1 1/2 page review, 1 one-page review, 1 one-page roundup (Fiction in Translation), 1 half-page crime roundup, 1 half-page review. (Total books: 13. Total space: 4.5 pages.) Non-Fiction Reviews: 1 2 page review, 1…read more


How to Read When the Power Goes Off

Posted by in Personal, Reading

Last night, at Chateau Mabuse, the power went off. We were sorry to see our pages on the computer lost into the ether. But this did, nevertheless, lead us to the romantic notion of reading by candlelight for several hours. It proved more problematic than we expected. But since we had a few unexpected hours on our hands, we took the time to experiment and iron out the kinks. Here’s a checklist to help others plan for successful reading during a blackout: Have at least ten candles in reserve, but…read more


There’s a Problem When Harriet Klausner is “Infinitely More Qualified”

Posted by in Uncategorized

Stephanie Perry reviewed Richard Bothelho’s Leah’s Way. She didn’t like it. Little did she realize that the publisher (specifically Windstream’s Sue Eccleston) would write back, declaring her absolutely wrong and a “politically correct hate anything Christian liberal” and “a typical Gen-X whiner.” Last time we checked, hostility wasn’t a very good way of establishing rapport. Needless to say, we probably won’t be reviewing anything from Windstream anytime this lifetime. We’re committed to nothing less than honest reviews and we’re glad Ms. Perry is too. (via Collected Miscellany)


If You Foolish New Yorkers Read Books on the Subway, The Terrorists Have Already Won

Posted by in Uncategorized

The New York Times: “‘One time I witnessed a robbery on a train,’ Mr. Ortega said, explaining that the victim ‘was wearing earphones.’ Being vigilant is more important, Mr. Ortega suggested, than being entertained: ‘You never know, you know?’ One never knows indeed.” Here in San Francisco, MUNI Metro is just as susceptible to subway delays as New York. It’s never bothered me much, largely because I probably get an hour and a half of reading in just from commuting alone. And any subway delay is gravy. Because while other…read more


Bret Harte Gone

Posted by in Uncategorized

I’ve just learned that, Bret Harte, a friend of mine in the local theatrical community, was killed in a car crash. A little more than a year ago, Bret directed me in a community theatre production of The Man Who Came to Dinner. He was an extremely affable guy, remarkably mature for his years, and he knew how to get a versimilitudinous performance even from my flamboyant ass. What mortifies me is that he was so young. Younger than me. Probably nicer than me. In fact, Bret was one of…read more


The El Segundo Primer: Foreign Corporations Good, Foreign Authors Bad

Posted by in Uncategorized

El Segundo has once again demonstrated that it is one of the most ridiculous places on the planet. As David Kipen reports on KCRW’s Overbooked, the El Segundo City Council has rejected a request from the library to name two meeting rooms after Agatha Christie and Jack London. The reasons? Christie isn’t American and London, by way of being a socialist, isn’t American enough. Councilman John Gaines was the man who made the first objection. Mayor Kelly McDowell was the whiz kid who considered Jack London too politically charged. “I…read more