Excerpt from Upcoming “Atlas Shrugged” Script

Starpulse: “After years of delays, Ayn Rand’s famous novel ‘Atlas Shrugged’ is being made into a feature film starring Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, according to media reports. Lionsgate Films bought the rights to the film version of the 1957 novel, considered in many polls to be one of the most influential books in history. According to Hollywood trade paper Variety, the Mr. And Mrs. Smith co-stars, who are both fans of the Russian novelist, would play the lead roles of Dagny Taggart and John Gault. [sic]”

Return of the Reluctant has obtained an exclusive excerpt of the upcoming Atlas Shrugged script, which was reportedly written by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie themselves.

INT. TAGGART TRANSCONTINENTAL OFFICE — DAY

Taggart is bent over the desk. Galt is behind her.

GALT
Your name is neither Jen nor Aniston. She is not selfish enough.

TAGGART
That’s why you came to me. It is the natural way of things.

GALT
If you do not give into your latent selfish desires, I will impregnate you again. Say it! Say it!

TAGGART
Who is John Galt?

GALT
That is quite a witticism. Again!

Galt handcuffs Taggart’s wrists.

GALT
I can’t hear you. If you do not have a response, I must ask you to whimper. I am an intense man, Dagny. Do not test me.

TAGGART
Who is John Galt?

GALT
Do you feel pain?

TAGGART
Yes. Pain is the best thing for America. Pain is the best thing for me, and therefore for America. We can build railroads. We can accumulate capital.

GALT
I am satisfied that you have come to terms with this concept. We can do more. This is a battle of wills. Who’s your daddy, Dagny?

TAGGART
John Galt!

(via Bookdwarf)

Equivocation: Are These Folks Really Aware?

Terry Teachout offers some interesting thoughts about the way politicians. publicists, and people for the most part fail to state what’s really on their mind, tying it all in to one of my favorite Orwell essays. I’ll agree that this is a peculiar problem and I’ll be the first to confess that I sometimes fall prey, in an altogether different way, to the manic possibilities of language. Often, something I should probably utter in a sentence is somehow stretched into three. Thus, despite repeat readings, Orwell’s valuable suggestions fail to latch into my noggin.

I would differ slightly with Teachout that these tendencies are “anti-human” or even unknowing. While it is true that politics, office or otherwise, often transform adept conversationalists into utter bores, it is, nevertheless, a very human impulse to seek approval by speaking with a sanctioned tongue. The results may be machine-like and the level of inventiveness may be slim to none — particularly with gerund-happy passive voice. But I think it’s a mistake to underestimate the way that speakers of the Time spokesperson variety, having mastered this dreaded equivocal-speak through careful practice, then go on to speak this way without effort or awareness. That’s the truly frightening thing here.

Which is why I’m happy to raise my hand as a rambler aware of his problem. So should we all. Guilty as charged, m’lord. And I’ve been looking for a twelve-step program for many years where I can weep in front of other elocutionary flunkies and declare that I (and they!) can beat the rap.

Guess It’s Time to Fly South

At the risk of postulating neuroses writ large, I have slept seven and a half of the past seventy-two hours. As I snoozed during five of these hours, Windows Update decided to restart my machine (without giving me an opportunity to save my work) and didn’t bother to ask me about my feelings on the matter♠, which meant that I lost a good deal of the work I had done on this week’s LBC podcast. The Heti interview will have to wait until next week. I suspect that a good pal hated the band we saw the other night♣ and, if so, I feel guilty♥ that he blew some bucks on a band I had been dying to see live since 2003.

Much of these thoughts and feelings have, of course, been shaped through a rather incredible confluence of exhaustion, overwork, and, most of all, a failure to account for my own limitations. Of course, if I had to do it all again, I’d sacrifice sleep and fall on my face again. That’s what it says to do in the government-issued manual♦.

Aside from all this, things are positive, happening and toe-tapping. And I shall scribe again for public consumption on Tuesday — hopefully, with clean hands and composure. Do have yourselves a fantastic weekend!

♠ — Maybe I’m alone in this, but I feel that, aside from informing you just how they intend to cripple your system resources, operating systems should ask you how you feel from time to time. It would certainly advance the relationship chasm between humans and computers.

♣ — The Quasi show at Cafe du Nord wasn’t bad, but was seriously impaired by the terrible sound afforded to Sam Coomes’ keys, which did a gross injustice to Coomes’ propensity to slam on the ivory like a mad musician. The minute Coomes (now sporting a beard) took up the axe, things improved greatly — in large part because he was dishelved, looked somewhat bemused and had a rather joyfully spastic stage presence. Also, Janet Weiss is a solid drummer. But if you’re a Sleater-Kinney fan, you already know this.

♥ — Guilty because said pal attended a previous show with me that he didn’t care for. I’m not adverse to going to shows that he suggests, but I’ve apparently been the vocal party in this “Do you wanna go see a show?” business and feel horribly solipsistic as a result.

♦ — You got the same thing in your 1040 booklets as I did, didn’t you?

Hiatus

Folks, I have officially burned out. Five days, four interviews. No sleep, bad dietary habits. Two more podcasts from me before some weekend R&R, but you’ll (likely) not hear from me until next Monday. Do check out the fine folks on the right.

In the meantime, Paul Koretz is my new favorite California Assemblyman.

One other thing: I had meant to say this last year, but the finest moment of Doves’ Some Cities, which I’m listening to right now, comes at 2:04 on “Sky Starts Flying.” But I suspect I’m the only one who feels this way.

Also: For those in the San Francisco area, one of my favorite bookstores, A Clean, Well-Lighted Place for Books, has had its domain hijacked. I called the bookstore to find out what happened and they told me that they’re aware of the problem and that they’ve taken steps to remedy it. The new URL is http://www.acwlpforbooks.com. They should have a new website up and running eventually, but they have Edmund White, Gay Talese and many more people coming through in May. You can get the scoop by picking up a flyer at the bookstore.

One more thing before we depart: 120 Questions with George Saunders (via Mark). Okay, with the exception of an LBC podcast, I’m done. I’ll clean up any messes next week.

Well, That and a Sizable Paycheck, One Presumes

This guy (NSFW) claims he can help you take better dirty pictures. Among some of his tips: “Seem complicated? Not at all. You just have to concentrate on a few things… talk to her, remind her to look at the camera, tell her often that she looks GREAT, (yes, that old cliché of a photographer saying. ‘yes, yes, baby… great, great, show it to me…beautiful’, works!. Say it!). Keep moving side to side, closer and closer…That’s it!’” (via D)

And All This Time I Was Thinking That Export Processing Zones Were the Chief Culprit

IHT: “Some 6,500 languages are spoken in the world today. And according to the 2000 census, you can hear at least 92 of them on the streets of New York. You can probably hear more; the census lumps some of them together simply as ‘other.’ But by the end of the century, linguists predict, half of the world’s languages will be dead, victims of globalization. English is the major culprit, slowly extinguishing the other tongues that lie in its path.”

Another Whitehead Report

Over at The Happy Booker, another Colson appearance has been registered.

As for our own thoughts on Apex Hides the Hurt, we will say that it’s not as bad as some reviewers have made the book out to be. But it’s clearly no John Henry Days or The Intuitionist. Our own complex thoughts re: Apex will be fleshed out just as soon as (a) we have actual synapses to use and (b) we finally get around to logging all the books we’ve read as part of our 75 Books pledge.

[UPDATE: Near Proud Papa Rake points out that Whitehead has a blog, which includes the widely reported Empire State Building essay making the reading rounds.]

We Know When Our Asses Are Kicked

Life (and other things) has been treating us quite well, which is to say that we’re too occupied with this glorious thing called living and probably too exhausted or preoccupied to blog in any thorough capacity. On Sunday, we were quite shocked to sleep until 1 PM, which we hadn’t done in some time. All this sleep, mind you, sans any (and here’s the key adjective) sustained debauchery. Then again, we suppose there are only so many nights that one can operate on three hours of sleep. Nevertheless, it felt good and we were confused by the strange sensation of being awake.

We had started work on the next podcast before realizing that we were going to be extremely anal about a few things (not the way you’re thinking) and that, as such, we could not release it as quickly as we had hoped. The audio files would require a considerable amount of tweaking (to satisfy our compulsions, mind you!) and, accordingly, many gigabytes of space that we didn’t have. (Damn you, broadcast quality!) So we had to install yet another drive. The people at Central Computers are beginning to recognize us almost as frequently as the folks who work in the pro audio section at Guitar Center.

We’re using this stupid first person plural voice. Again. Dammit.

We have two more author interviews this week and then we are released from our duties for a week and a half. We will also be fighting, as ridiculous as it sounds, the littering charge. We’re in desperate need of some kind of vacation, which is thankfully coming. We’re thinking that about all we can manage before our trip down south for Coachella is a podcast or two and possibly a few literary roundups. In any event, if we’re laconic around here or we just plain suck in the next week, you now have the underlying variables.

We have failed to live up to any superhuman status. We therefore declare Dan Wickett the reigning grand master of tireless literary coverage. We know when our asses are kicked.

Lamarck Would Be Ashamed, But the Matter Must Be Settled

Over at Michelle’s, some interesting questions have been raised: Is sex better than writing? Is writing better than masturbation? And, seeing as how writing and masturbation serve practically the same purpose, why is one valued over the other?

This is a grand philosophical question. The beginnings of an elaborate taxonomy finally putting variants of sex in line with variants of writing! The ultimate crossover, or existential mash-up! If one must style a list, I would argue that the order of things goes something like this:

1. Sex
2. Writing
3. Masturbation
4. Reading
5. Blogging

What are your thoughts, dear readers?

Chime in at Michelle’s or here, whatever your pleasure.

Roundup

Severe sleep deficit which permits me to see beyond time, crazed schedule. So another roundup:

  • Another day, another array of crazed parents declaring that the Harry Potter books are evil and trying to ban them. I really don’t get this paralogical thinking. A book doesn’t cause someone to do anything; a person makes a decision on his own. And if the kid in question was practicing witchcraft for two years and the parent failed to notice the lodestones, the incense or the Wiccan catalogs in her daughter’s bedroom, then isn’t it the parent’s fault for failing to keep a scrupulous eye?
  • Snoop Dogg has written a novel. The working title is Q&G(Quatrain & Gangsta): The Masterpiece.
  • At the LBC, Ms. Tangerine Muumuu unveils my personal favorite of the five: Yannick Murphy’s Here They Come.
  • Dan Green on Beckett: “Beckett insists that we accept these situations for what they are and focus our attention on the working-out of such ‘impoverishment’ in purely dramatic terms. Still, every reader/every viewer is going to experience this drama and its finally ungovernable ramifications in different ways and to different effect. Trying to restrict the reader’s experience by the fiat of authorial intent is, if nothing else, really just a hopeless task.”
  • Scott McKenzie on why people hate self-published authors.
  • Mark Ames, who can also be heard on The Bat Segundo Show #17, is now blogging for the Guardian. (via Richard Nash)
  • Even National Inquirer reporters are writing novels.
  • Anthony Lane: “There is one overriding reason to see ‘I Am a Sex Addict,’ and it has nothing to do with sex.”
  • Manly reading: a small-time success?
  • Blackwell, a bookstore chain, has come up with a list of 50 Books That Shaped the World. I must concur that Jonathan Livingston Seagull did indeed change the world, its film adaptation being something of a cash bonanza for Mr. Neil Diamond. Diamond was allowed to unleash further music onto the world and the world has simply never been the same since. Indeed, one might conclude that it is still recovering.
  • Amazon 2.0. (via Booksquare)
  • It looks like Chomsky’s cognitive theory has been confirmed in part by scientists.
  • How Computers Cause Bad Writing.

Millenia Black: Racism at NAL Signet?

Millenia Black writes that the publisher of her second book, The Great Betrayal, is demanding that she change her characters from Caucasian to African-American before they publish the book. The publisher isn’t named, but according to my sources, it’s New American Library Trade Books. We only have Black’s word to go on. But if this is true, then this is abominable on several levels.

Since nobody thought to look into this, I called NAL Signet to see if I could hear its side of the story or what it had to say in response to Black’s charges.

I got in touch with the NAL publicity department first and was then led to another publicist, who suggested I contact the main switchboard. I then got in touch with a woman who worked in “editorial,” but who did not identify herself. I asked her if she could tell me who the editor for The Great Betrayal was because I was trying to verify some information about the title. When she did not, I then told her about Black’s story. She immediately replied, “I don’t know anything. It’s not my book.” Before I can say anything in response, she transferred me to publicity.

I then spoke with a publicist named Lisa, one of the two I had spoken with before. She didn’t have any information on who was handling the book. I then told her what the charges were and, in an effort to get somewhere, I said, “Well, if you’re publicity, then you’re going to have to offer some kind of official response to this. Because I’m sure you’re going to have many people calling you about this.” Lisa told me that she had asked around and said that Black’s allegations were “not true” took down my name and number and wouldn’t reveal the editor’s name to me. But the editor, a woman, would be calling me back.

If I don’t hear back from NAL tomorrow, I will call again. And I’ll call the next day. And the day after that. And I will continue to call until I get an answer from NAL on this. If anyone has any leads or if there’s anyone inside NAL who would like to respond anonymously about this, then you can email me at ed AT edrants.com and I will treat your emails with the strictest confidentiality.

(The lead on this story came from Lee Goldberg.)

[UPDATE: I have also sent emails to Claire Zion, editorial director of NAL Signet, and Tina Brown with some questions. I will keep readers apprised of any information I uncover.]

[UPDATE 2: An anonymous tipster suggests that Millenia Black plans to file a lawsuit for damages. But the story is suspect, because this tipster reports that Black has retained an attorney named Susan Clark, who is not even listed in the New York State Attorney Directory. So I remain dubious.]

[UPDATE 3: Last month, The Palm Beach Post reported that Millenia Black cancelled an appearance at Pyramid Books in Boynton Beach because the bookstore asked if she was black. I plan to call the bookstore to hear its take on this. The question is this: is Black making up charges to gain notoriety or is there truth to her statements? Or is the truth somewhere in between?]

[5/31/06 UPDATE: I spoke with Millenia Black this morning and I have several calls into many parties pertaining to this matter. There is a forthcoming podcast in the works devoted exclusively to this issue, but here’s what I can tell you now:

The Great Betrayal, the novel in question, is being released by NAL Trade on December 5, 2006. The novel will feature the characters as Caucasian, rather than the suggested change to African-American.

Black claims that recent legal maneuvers spawned the book’s release as is. She told me that, outside of the change in race, she had no problems with any of the editor’s changes. (I also finally got through to the editor today and hope to hear her side of the story.)

The Great Betrayal was accepted in outline form with the characters as white. Black then wrote the novel based on this outline. It was just after Black had finished the manuscript when the character race change was requested by her editor.

Communications on this matter between Black and the editor came through her agent. The editor broached the race change question with the agent; the agent then relayed this to Black. Black said no and there began an email volley between Black and the editor. Curiously, the matter was never taken up by phone directly between Black and the editor.

There is a lot more I’m following up on here and I will present the results as they come in.]

Good Thing It Didn’t Get in the Way of His Critical Faculties or Anything

The Biderbecke Affair points to an NYT review, which resembles not so much criticism, but an epidemic of rabies:

And before we go any further, I feel a strong need to confess something: My name is Ben, and I am a Juliaholic….Like a down-home Garbo, she is an Everywoman who looks like nobody else. And while I blush to admit it, she is one of the few celebrities who occasionally show up (to my great annoyance) in cameo roles in my dreams.

Contrarian for Contrarian’s Sake

Paul Constant, writing in The Stranger, serves up a contrarian review of Black Swan Green: “Black Swan Green could prove to be Mitchell’s most acclaimed novel yet, although it’s clearly his worst. There is almost nothing exceptional left to be written about children. It’s all been said before….”

Really? So I guess anyone writing about kids should just throw in the towel then. Because children, just like adults, have no complexity whatsoever. Children are mere amoebas, easily programmable and readable by the adult units, often skirting the edge of the ocean floor.

Constant complains that one of Jason’s sentiments about the Falkland Islands “rings false,” but never explains exactly why. He complains that cultural references get “name-checked,” as if Mitchell has written an encyclopedia book instead of a novel. But if one is writing about an adolescent in the early 1980s, does not a reference to one of the hottest video games of that era (Space Invaders) make sense?

I’m all for contrarian criticism. Even though I’m a Mitchell fan, I actually think Black Swan Green has been just a tad overpraised myself. But if unsubstantiated bile like this is the order of the day, how then can an array of variegated opinions be established?

Moleskine + Corporate Takeover = Bad Augury?

Having become a Moleskine junkie last year against my better judgment, I’m a bit sad to hear that the company that makes those delicious books has put itself up for sale. Mario Beruzzi, who relaunched Moleskine in 1998, says that he’s overextended. The concern I have is whether a larger company will be able to produce the notebooks with the same quality and thoroughness that Moleskine currently puts into their product line. I certainly hope Beruzzi and company are being as meticulous with a buyer as they are with their notebooks. To get a clear-cut answer on this issue, I plan to track down the Moleskine people at BookExpo and ask them some hard questions about this. In the meantime, perhaps it’s time to load up on notebooks while they remain dependable and durable. (via Moleskinerie)

[UPDATE: Moleskinerie has received an official statement from Modo & Modo on this issue.]