Reluctant Habits

Leave It to Updike to Pop Those Cherries

Posted by in New Yorker, Updike, John

John Updike takes on the new Gabriel García Márquez novel. He decries the book’s narrator for not considering “the atavistic barbarism of buying girls in order to crack their hymens.” But more interestingly, he offers one of the oddest sentences ever seen in the New Yorker‘s history: “The narrator’s asshole, we are told more than once, burns.”


Sufjan Stevens: The Kieslowski of Indie Pop?

Posted by in Music

Bookish reports that singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens is now writing 50 songs for 50 states.


Men Who Read Magazines: Easily Bored or More Complicated?

Posted by in Literary Magazines, Reading

BusinessWeek reports that men aren’t reading magazines the way they used to. I’m going to suggest something radical: Could it be that men are more complicated than the current lad magazine world gives them credit for? Of course, with this decline comes one thankful development: “Maxim and the laddie titles it spawned are hardly in danger of disappearing, but their newsstand sales are far off their previous peaks. Meanwhile, ad categories that gravitate toward men’s titles, such as domestic automotive and technology, are down this year.”


Shorter and Shorter

Posted by in Personal

During a particularly harsh bout of insomnia that involved carrying on a colloquy with my skull, I buzzed down my hair to the shortest length that it has ever been. Now it was pretty short to begin with, but this time, I used a #1, dammit. I shaved the pesky fuzz down mercilessly. Not Max Barry length, but pretty damn short. My hair is tantamount to a Chia Pet in the early stages of growth. The early reports are in: OPINION: “You look more like a dude.” ANALYSIS: Was I…read more


Chick Lit, Feminism and the Double Standard

Posted by in Literary Motifs

Funny how when it comes to a form like comics being bastardized, Jessa Crispin has no problem broadsiding the critics for declaring a specific genre less than literary. But that apparently isn’t the case when it comes to chick lit. Without citing a single example, Crispin suggests that “chick lit treats women like they’re stupid.” Well, that’s interesting. Because while reading Weiner’s latest, Goodnight Nobody, I didn’t really get the sense that the female characters within its pages were stupid. And while I never really cared for the Bridget Jones…read more


Scariest. Halloween. Ever.

Posted by in Politics

Trailer for Halloween: Washington — (MP3) (57 seconds)


Chris Ware: the Next Jim Davis?

Posted by in Comics

I think it’s time for the Yankee Potroast guys to start summarizing Chris Ware’s The Strip: Building Stories. Because much as I love Jimmy Corrigan, this ain’t going nowhere and this sure ain’t funny.


Lovebirds in Prison

Posted by in Prison, Relationships

If, like me, you’re looking for that special someone, it’s always good to keep your options open. But if you’re the type to play with fire in this department, thankfully, the shady folks over at Meet an Inmate have set up what may very well be the 21st century’s answer to the mail order bride (particularly given increasing incarnation rates). If you are a red-blooded male, for only $3 each, you can obtain the contact information for a prison inmate of your choice. (Male addresses are free. So you’re in…read more


In Which Jennifer Weiner Is Assaulted by the Marina People

Posted by in Bookstores, San Francisco

Jennifer Weiner is back home and she notes this strange question about a woman asking her at the San Francisco Barnes & Noble if she was “self-actualized.” This is not much of a surprise, as this Barnes & Noble is very close to the Marina. Such strange terminology is bandied about by residents there on a daily basis. Although for those of us in the Haight and the Mission, we would never think of asking any distinguished lady if she was “self-actualized,” as most living bipedal mammals, are by their…read more


“Mr. Franken, I Served With Jonathan Franzen. I Knew Jonathan Franzen. Jonathan Franzen Was a Friend of Mine. Mr. Franken, You’re No Jonathan Franzen. And Nix the Tie While You’re At It, Sir!”

Posted by in Doppelgangers


Colors of the Rainbow

Posted by in Vollmann, William

William T. Vollmann’s The Rainbow Stories, the illustrated version. (An incredible find from the Rake.)


Excerpt from Lewis Libby’s Next Novel

Posted by in Uncategorized

CBS News: From 1982 until 1985, he served as director of special projects in the Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs. It was perhaps this post that inspired him to write “The Apprentice,” his 1996 thriller that takes place in 1903 Japan. BREAKING NEWS ITEM: Libby, inspired by the turn of events while serving as Dick Cheney’s Chief of Staff, has decided to return to novel-writing. Return of the Reluctant has obtained an early excerpt of Mr. Libby’s next novel, tentatively titled The Yesman. Synopsis: It is the winter…read more


Lost & The Third Policeman

Posted by in Author Publicity, Television

The Book Standard asks if a reference to Flann O’Brien’s great classic The Third Policeman on the television show Lost has had any sales impact. Aside from confusing O’Brien’s book with an O’Brien title I wasn’t aware of (The Last Policeman? Man, I wish that wasn’t a typo.), it’s revealed that Dalkey Archive ordered an extra print run of 10,000. Lost writer Craig Wright has also gone on record, suggesting that the O’Brien book would be “invaluable to fans seeking to unravel the island’s mystery.” I find this claim skeptical,…read more


“Don’t Call Me Tiny” Takes On a Whole New Meaning

Posted by in Uncategorized

George Takei comes out.


The Bat Segundo Show #11

Posted by in Uncategorized

[PRODUCER'S NOTE: Jorge was unavailable this week. So we were forced to enlist a man who claimed to have performed voiceover work for the 1970s incarnation of Battlestar Galactica to precede Mr. Segundo. Efforts are being made to coax Jorge back to the program, but it's a little complicated. Mr. Segundo explains the problem in full.] Authors: Laila Lalami, Scott Esposito, Beth Wadell and Tito Perez. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Not the brightest pervert in the daisy chain, but surprisingly alcohol-free in light of the Jorge contretemps. Subjects Discussed: Laila’s…read more


The Coolest Brush in the World

Posted by in Uncategorized

The I/O Brush.


At Theatres: Atwood

Posted by in Atwood, Margaret

Margaret Atwood has made her acting debut. Sort of. The deal is that there’s a staged reading in the works of The Penelopiad, Atwood’s latest novel. The book is a reinterpretation of the Odyssey told, go figure, from Penelope’s perspective. Atwood will be playing the part of Penelope. But what’s particularly interesting is how Atwood justified the way women helped Odysseus: ” It’s surprising how many women there are in the Odyssey and they all help Odysseus, which is why I made him so charming. He’s the kind of guy…read more


Wickett Rejuvenated

Posted by in Wickett, Dan

The erstwhile Mr. Wickett has returned from vacation and, once again, he’s demonstrated to the world that he has the stamina of ten men. (Might he be a literary Hercules? Well, who is to say? All we know is that the world is a better a place with Dan Wickett.) Wickett has served up another panel of literary journal editors, featuring the heads of the New Orleans Review, the Colorado Review, A Flasher’s Dozen, The Laurel Review, Thieves Jargon, and The Harvard Review.


On the Job, Going Postal’s a Close Second to Blogging

Posted by in Blogging

Forbes Magazine has peered into the workplace and determined that it’s the bloggers who are evil incarnate. Good to see time and money spent on exposing the real threats to society (and, of course, business).


Conversation from Deep Within the Pentagon — Last Night

Posted by in War

HANK: All these millions of dollars they’re giving us. HAL: Billions, Hank. Billions. HANK: Alright, billions. HAL: I understand, Hank. It’s hard to maintain a little humility around here. But don’t forget. We’re living in a golden age. I hope you’re taking advantage of the masseuse. HANK: Well, you take any chance you get. Hey, speaking of which, you want to see the new toy that just came in? HAL: You mean, that $3 million weapon that will allow us to kill those Iraqis ten times faster? HANK: Even better….read more


Powell’s — Another Outlet Promoting Online Classism?

Posted by in Bookstores, Reading

What M.A.O. said. Dave Weich can keep living in a glass tower as long he wants. But to take on the attitude that one must have a credit card in order to survive, let alone purchase books, is to subscribe to the same atavistic and paralogic thinking as doze poor peeples kints read and dere checks will bounce bekaz dey poor. Shame on Weich and shame on Powell’s for refusing to accommodate a form of payment that has been around much longer than the credit card. [UPDATE: Dave Weich responds…read more


Chronicle of Outsiders

Posted by in Literary Hipsters

The Expatriate Literary Circle (via Largehearted Boy)


The Golden Boys of Literature

Posted by in Eggers, Dave, Vollmann, William

The inestimable Tito Perez sends along this Sam Sacks item concerning Dave Eggers’ Best American Nonrequired Reading Series, largely because of the Vollmann shoutout. Sacks decries the “wriggling spinelessness of [Eggers'] reviewers” just before going nuclear on the Eggman. The review is interesting for a few reasons: (1) I had thought that the New York Press was catering to centrist suburbanites under the new regime. Apparently, this isn’t the case with the literary section. (Will we see more Mark Ames-style takedowns?) (2) Sacks is quite right to point out that…read more


Anthony Burgess: Liar But Fantastic Journalist

Posted by in Uncategorized

The Telegraph has a review of Anthony Biswell’s long-awaited biography of Anthony Burgess (now available from Picador). But it looks as if the Telegraph has their crosshairs locked on Burgess’ twelve year old corpse when comparing Biswell’s previous biography (The Real Life of Anthony Burgess) with Roger Lewis’ 2002 biography. Among the charges: Burgess was a liar, “provisional and opportunistic,” a “highly developed” potency complex, Burgess’ second son not of Anthony’s loin, and the charge that Burgess thought he was Don Quixote. But if it’s the words that count, then…read more


In Lieu of Meaning

Posted by in Hemingway, Lethem, Jonathan, Roundup

Litkicks offers a contrarian take to the Lethem-Birnbaum colloquy. Legion (via Brandywine Books). Hemingway and Dos Passos, war buddies. (via Rake) At Galleycat, various folks comment on this Elizabeth Royte article. (Hint on our take: If we weren’t on brownie hiatus, Tanenhaus wouldn’t be getting any.) A presentation of The Canterbury Tales. Open Brackets on giving translation services away. Scribbling Woman on business speak pervading academia, which isn’t exactly something academics aren’t loath to negotiate themselves. More on the Google Library dispute from Scrivener’s Error. The MacAdam/Cage site has relaunched.


Outrageous Fortunes

Posted by in Publishing Industry

First Warren Buffett, now Terry McAuliffe. Sweet Jeebus. What provokes these nutball seven-figure advances? Sure, Buffett and McAulife have both proved quite adept in the cash-raising department. But why do publishers think that these money skillz somehow translate into a book that will move copies just as well? Unless, of course, Buffett and McAuliffe know something about book proposals that we don’t.


Small Wonder

Posted by in Blogging

The Wonder Chicken returns, although he’s playing hard to get and feeling a bit introspective about this aging thing: a existential predicament that we can certainly relate to.


The Dartboard, Alas, Is Not Represented

Posted by in Writing

Idea Generation Methods (via MeFi)


Target: Refusal Clause Happy

Posted by in Fundamentalism, Politics

It looks like Target policy involves refusing to fill emergency contraception prescriptions. In a Missouri Target store, a 26 year old woman was refused an emergency contraception prescription. When she asked why, she was told by the pharmacist, “I won’t fill it and I don’t have to fill it and that’s my right!” Why should something as ridiculous sounding as “Target Greatland” have control over a woman’s body? I’m not really surprised, given that when you walk into a Target store, you are a “guest” not a “customer.” This is…read more


Is the AAP’s Google Lawsuit Truly Reflective of Its Members?

Posted by in Google, Publishing Industry

Richard Nash has returned from Frankfurt and he’s now blogging up a storm. Perhaps his most interesting entry is this exchange between Nash and the Association of American Publishers over the Google Library Project lawsuit. (Background reading on the subject can be found here.) What’s particularly interesting is that the AAP’s litigious ardor stems from its representative government. Further, other AAP members (say, smaller presses) don’t seem to factor into the Board’s decision. The unnamed representative at the AAP writes: As you know, AAP has a Board of Directors that…read more