Remember the Ladies

This Monday, a number of smart and fantastic women (including Meghan Daum, Heather Juergensen, Erin Ergenbright, Michelle Richmond, Samina Ali, Kimberly Askew, Carla Kihlstedt, Flor Morales and Erin Cressida Wilson) will be reading from The May Queen at A Clean, Well-Lighted Place for Books. The fun starts at 7:00 PM. And then after the reading, there’s an after party at the Hotel Rex bar. Your correspondent will be attending both affairs. Do come by and say hello.

Let the Hate Flow Through You

I can’t tell you which book I loathed more: the one that was 342 pages or the one that was 368 pages. 368 pages were, let’s face it, 26 pages longer than 342 pages. But the 368 page book had a larger typeface, which meant that each book took just as much time to read.

As I turned each page, I realized that it was impossible for me to love anything. I despised the characters, I despised the plot, I despised the writer. Sometimes, I even despised myself. Hatred coursed through my veins as my eyes scanned each sentence. I hated the subject. I hated the verb. I hated the subject-verb agreement.

Why should I give any book a chance when it was so easy to hate? The authors had sweated years, but I had sweated hours just reading. I took both books and threw them against the wall. Then I picked them up and threw them against the wall again. And again. Until there was a few dents. Yeah, that will teach you, books. Then I unzipped my fly and urinated on one book. And when I was done, I pissed on the other.

Then I scooped up both books with a dustpan and took them outside and urinated on both of them in public. I was careful with my micturition, making sure that I hit Page 362 in the longer book.

Then I unleashed a torrent of epithets on the books just to show them who was boss.

Then I went back inside and sat down to the computer and wrote this post. I don’t have anything to hate right now. But I’m pretty sure I’ll come up with something. Permit me to reflect.

I still hate both of those books. I will go on hating them until the end of my days. In fact, I’m scowling right now just thinking about the author of the 368 page book. And if these two books have their defenders, then I will hate them.

I hate this blog. I hate you.

Plagiarism: Cracking Down on the Hard Cases

Plagiarism has found a slimy new instigator in the form of a ten year old Dutch girl. This evil little urchin, whose four ventricles beat of anthracite, a girl who only smiled once in her decade on this earth (just after pushing her babysitter fell down a stair well), handed back prize money from a children’s poetry competition just after eagle-eyed readers noticed that she had lifted the work of children’s author Francine Oomen.

An Amsterdam court ordered the girl to wear a bright red P around her neck until the age of 18. But until the P is forged by the great Amsterdam blacksmith, her parents are taking away her weekly allowance for the next two months.

I say, lock her into a dungeon for eight years and throw away the key.

I May Be an Internet Fiend, But There ARE Limits, People. Browsing Over Carousing? You’ve Gotta Be Shitting Me.

Carolyn Kellogg on SXSW: “As a group of us finished lunch, we realized we had an hour to kill before the next session. ‘Where should we go for a beer?’ I asked, standing up. They looked at me blankly. One checked his watch (it was 2:15 p.m.). ‘Come on, it’s SXSW!’ I urged, not realizing I was barking up the wrong network cable. Everyone demurred, preferring to get back to the conference hall, they said, to get connected to the Internet again.”

Tell Caitlin What You Think

It looks like Caitlin Flanagan is scheduled to guest blog at the Powell’s blog next week. But here’s the important thing: the Powell’s blog has comments.

What does this mean? The opportunity for readers to respond to Ms. Flanagan’s Eisenhower nostalgia and specious logic.

Since Ms. Flanagan is apparently very careful about who she talks to and won’t even talk with the likes of Bat Segundo (we’ve asked multiple times, in an effort to challenge Ms. Flanagan one-on-one on her points, but we were told by a representative who we shall not name that “she doesn’t talk to lefties like you”), this may represent the only opportunity for readers to introduce Ms. Flanagan to a democratic idea she may not be aware of: being exposed to dissenting opinions.

So do check in at the Powell’s blog next week and do tell Mr. Flanagan what you think.

Players and Quitters

Levi Asher reports on yesterday’s book publishing panel with Sarah Weinman and Akashic‘s Johnny Temple: “Next up was a young woman with a forlorn Fiona Apple look who said she’d once written a novel that had sold 5000 copies. But she’d lost her footing in the publishing world and was now completely lost, unpublished and angry. She played the pathos card, almost starting to cry, and like the previous questioner did not seem satisfied with the realistic responses her question received. Sarah Weinman counseled her to not give up hope, but the woman replied that this answer was ‘just bullshit’, at which point Sarah began to visibly sneer and both publishers on stage began to draw big imaginary ‘X’ marks over the poor woman’s head (‘X’ being the code for ‘Do Not Publish This Writer Under Any Circumstances’).”

Maybe It’s a Two-Way Street After All

Josh Marshall writes:

My point is to call out the assumption among too many reporters that original reporting on the web amounts to free pickings, a separate class of journalism they can snag and call their own. That’s gotta stop.

I couldn’t agree more. In fact, I find it interesting that outlets have been utterly hypocritical in scolding bloggers for being somewhat parasitical in their approach, while simultaneously leeching off of the leads that can be easily find through a Technorati or Ice Rocket search. It seems to me that most, though certainly not all, bloggers are perfectly respectable in attributing where they found an initial link. (I certainly try to be.) Why not newspapers?

I feel that any journalist or blogger piecing together a story, whether it be a series of links or any outside work going in to confirm a rumor, has the duty to offer as much of their work product as the situation will allow. That way, another person looking to cover the story, perhaps stumbling upon it for the first time, knows what news is old and what news is known and she is in the position of unfurling additional story angles.

It is entirely irresponsible to let competitive animus get in the way of revealing this trail of crumbs. It is also counterintuitive to the investigative process.

Savage Hypocrisy

October 17, 2002: Dan Savage writes, “These developments–a Republican administration recognizing that support for dictators in Third World countries is a losing proposition; a commitment to post-WWII-style nation-building in Iraq–are terrific news for people who care about human rights, freedom, and democracy. They also represent an enormous moral victory for the American left….”

2006: Dan Savage creates ITMFA. “Did the world need another anti-Bush slogan? Did we need another anti-Bush website? Instead of launching the campaign, I punted, asking my readers what they thought. Well, they thought we should go for it—and my readers are usually right about this stuff.”

Yo, Dan, step aside, shut the hell up and leave this to the professionals. Believe it or not, some of us have been against Bush and the war from Day One.

(via Atrios)

Note to the IQ Test Spammers

While I can pretty much ignore most of your ignoble cousins, it is you who, for whatever reason, seem to think I might be receptive to your pitches. Understand that I was tested many years ago. I didn’t believe the results back then and I certainly don’t believe them now, even though certain adults bragged about what I apparently scored and it allowed me to get into some dubious program called “GATE.”

I imagined a drawbridge or a moat, but there were, I assure you, no gates to speak of. And in fact the program was quite slipshod in encouraging my supposed “gifted and talented” abilities, bussing me to a school on the other side of town and having adults, all of them speaking in soft and sensitive timbres reminiscent of Alan Alda and Phil Donahue (my only real reference point, seeing as how the television was an unfortunately prominent fixture growing up), letting me “do whatever I wanted.” So I was able to wile away the time quite egregiously, knowing very little of the art, the books, the science and the PET computer that was “accessible” to me, but never tossed my way. In short, I learned nothing and had no idea how to go about “doing whatever I wanted.” I was nine years old for crying out loud. Of course, had the soft-spoken teachers thought to demand something of me, I might have picked up a thing or two.

But I do remember a very cute girl (an older woman in fifth grade) named Kirstin, who was tall and blonde and a bit prematurely developed, if you know what I mean, and who I was relentlessly attracted to and who I longed to kiss at the age of nine and who I tried to impress with stunts on the ratty BMX bike I had and who I cried about on the phone to one of the men my mother was dating. Because I didn’t understand these profound feelings that crippled my solar plexus. Because I was confused that I could feel so much over one of those girls, who were declared “disgusting” and “icky” and other verboeten adjectives in the elementary school vernacular of that time. Fortunately, this guy was nice enough to encourage my mother to buy a box of After Eight mints, no small task given that we weren’t exactly living in style, which I then wrapped up with a bit of leftover Christmas ribbon in an inept way and which I then presented to her on the school bus, knees knocking together, nervousness and shyness spilling over the edge, and my face redder than a family dinner at the Red Lobster.

To my great shock, Kirstin received the mints with equanimity and proceeded to give me a hug and then further proceeded to smack me one on the cheek, leaving me utterly speechless and baffled and delighted. Kirstin and I gabbed to no end for the rest of that year. And that very day, during recess, we wandered off to the other edge of the school lawn and, neither of us knowing the protocol, proceeded to kiss each other deeply, outside the view of the supervising faculty members. She introduced to me this fabulous thing called the French kiss, which single-handedly sealed my heretofore unabated love for women, and older women in particular. And of course I cannot ever hate any woman named Kirstin. (Perhaps this might be one slight though subconscious reason why I voted Kirstin Allio’s Garner a 10? Or why I have had an inexplicable interest in Kirsten Dunst, who is much too young for me and not, from what I can tell, all that smart?)

Anyway, as you can see, none of this has anything to do with IQ tests. Nor is the consequential behavior that I have presented to you any indication of my intelligence. Nor are tests really the way in which one’s strengths and weaknesses come to occur. For I know very well that I’m not a genius and actually quite a fool, particularly with regard to the women I have dated and fallen in love with.

I have no idea if you obtained my address because I apparently maintain a literary blog or a “smart blog.” Or because perhaps in giving my email address to someone. Or maybe it’s the few Mensa members I’ve talked with having a laugh on me. I have long maintained that I am a few points short of this “genius” label and certainly a few beers short of an emotional genius’s six pack.

Thoughts From a Real Writer

Earlier this week, I had a chance to talk with writer B.S. Napkin, a local writer who has published several books, including A Hose for Mr. Bigass and A Bend Near the Bottom. He claimed that he had been suckered out of the Nobel Prize because “the fuckers have a quota on authors who use their first two initials.” Mr. Napkin, a septuagenarian who lives in a rest home near the corner of Geary and Fillmore Streets, understands that his name does bear some resemblance to another writer‘s name and suggested to me that this unnamed author sent critic James Wood a check shortly after Mr. Napkin did, but that this other writer sent the higher bid and that Mr. Wood had abandoned his planned essay, essentially a scholarly series of encomiums, on Mr. Napkin’s work.

Understand that I found much of Mr. Napkin’s assertions quite strange and unfounded. Of course, I’ve seen writers freak out before. Some have even sobbed on my sleeve, suggesting that, as interviewer, I am a pro bono therapist. In fact, I was a bit astonished to receive a check last week from one author who seemed to open up to me the minute I asked him about his mother. I think he misunderstood me. I had asked about a “mother” who appeared in one of his novels. But I was, of course, all too happy to cash this unexpected windfall.

Irrespective of this, Mr. Napkin’s neuroses were cut of an altogether different and quite furious cloth. As I began to ask Mr. Napkin some serious questions about his work, he unleashed all manner of invective. The strange thing was that none of it had anything to do with his own work. Mr. Napkin’s veins quite literally bulged out of his temples as he talked with me. Had he not been busy knitting a sweater for his niece, he likely would have thrown his hands around my neck and strangled me. Anything, of course, to gain the attention of the press.

Shortly before telling me, “I will write no more!” while waving his arms frantically and confessing that a correspondent from Narcissist Quarterly was planning to talk with him right after I finished, Napkin confessed to me the following statements.

“Ernest Hemingway was actually an army of dwarves with a mean penis size smaller than Henry Kissinger’s,” he shrieked, saliva dripping from his mouth.

“Charles Dickens was the son of a motherless goat and really wanted to own a whorehouse. How else do you explain his obsession with the theatre? Such reprobates have no business writing novels.”

Napkin proved, however, to be quite complimentary towards the work of Edward Bulwer-Lytton (“a first-class swashbuckler”) and championed Benjamin Disraeli’s Vivian Grey, insisting to me that Disraeli was a much better novelist than a politician — particularly in his younger years, when he was “flush with piss and vinegar.”

Other than these plaudits, however, Napkin had nothing positive to say about contemporary fiction and promptly asked one of the nurses to wheel him away.

I was a bit stunned that the interview had been cut so short. But at least I had a fantastic interview to unleash to the world.

Or so I thought. I had intended to reproduce Mr. Napkin’s words for an upcoming podcast, but unfortunately I accidentally erased the data.

So I’m afraid you’ll have to take my word for it that B.S. Napkin is the angriest novelist alive, more indignant than those who have taken in Trinidad’s fruit. He will go to the grave bitter, furious and resentful — more so than any other writer in literary history. And so long as he lives, Napkin will find something at fault with even the very oxygen he breathes.

Roundup

It is, as they say, a crazy week. Amazingly, no monkeys are involved. So blog participation must be scarce. Trust me on this: prolificity is in the works like you wouldn’t believe. In fact, I can’t really believe it. For the moment, however, here’s a roundup:

Boilerplate for All Future Comics Articles

Once [considered a lesser art form] [limited to superheroes and lasers], today’s comic books [are evolving into a bona-fide literary form] [are tackling personal stories in addition to superheroes] [are becoming more ambitious than their orignators].

[NOTE TO JOURNALIST: Insert quote here from major comic book source to justify lede. Source can be Daniel Clowes, Art Spiegelman, Chris Ware, Alex Robinson or Marjane Satrapi. It is important that you get a quote so that our septuagenarian readers know that you've done the legwork.]

Comic books (use at least two of following) [are being taught in today's classrooms] [are selling ___ copies (insert sales figure of your choice that you feel best reflect economic boom)] [are being compared against Ulysses (MANDATORY COMPARISON)] [appeal to the young at heart] [are a sexy alternative to the novel].

Comic books are more than just Superman and Batman. [NOTE TO JOURNALIST: Avoid esoteric superhero references here. Stick with the big guns.]

[Frank Miller reinvented the form with The Dark Knight Returns.]

[Art Spiegelman tapped into personal experience for Maus.]

[Chris Ware has now transposed his talents to The New York Times.]

I guess it’s safe to say that comic books aren’t just for teenagers anymore. They just might be [categorized as literature] [be more than a guilty pleasure] too!

Roundup

  • The Seattle Weekly devotes a remarkable amount of space to the Courtney Love-Paula Fox family history. Needless to say, it’s about as stable and functional as a Microsoft OS. (via James Tata)
  • RIP Ian Hamilton Finlay (via MAO)
  • Pinky’s Paperhaus unveils Part 1 of a Jonathan Ames podcast.
  • At MetaxuCafe, there’s apparently some controversy by an anonymous fool over whether litbloggers suck. John Barlow suspects that this “BB” character is actually Kate Braverman.
  • “But megagazillion-sellers like the ‘The Da Vinci Code’ prove a book doesn’t need literary quality to score big in the quantity department.” And the Hartford Courant proves that a newspaper doesn’t need to avoid the obvious to score lackluster in the op-ed department.
  • Forget literary merit. Today’s memoirs can now be judged solely on who has the most interesting sex life. What next? Books judged by which author is more likely to put out?
  • Banville on Beckett (via Who Else?)
  • Some disturbing news from Sasha Frere-Jones: “Mariah Carey is thirty-six years old, and, barring a debilitating illness, or another movie as bad as ‘Glitter,’ her 2001 vanity project, she will likely break the world record for the most No. 1 songs before she turns forty.” No word yet on whether Ms. Carey will require more personal assistants to balance her checkbook, wipe her bottom or occlude her gaze from the riff-raff.
  • Poet Roger McGough has pulled out from a Liverpool concert after hearing that Condoleeza Rice was showing up. (via ReadySteadyBlog)
  • Laura Miller on Phillip Lopate’s American Movie Critics anthology.
  • Large Hearted Boy initiates Large Hearted List, an itemization of the top eleven music posts that caught his eye during the past week. No plan yet on how he can make the Pitchfork people any less bitter.
  • Tito has pics up of the Flaming Lips Noisepop show.
  • San Franciscans: The Jell-O model of San Francisco will be on display at the Exploratorium on April 1. It is my profound hope that nobody gets hungry.
  • Apparently, there’s an epidemic of unsolicited manuscripts in France. Part of the blame has to do with the 35 hour French work week, but mostly it’s because a substantial bloc of the French population is completely insane.