Well, At Least They Weren’t Urged to Buy Pet Medications Or Click On a Fabricated PayPal Link

New York Times: “The RadioShack Corporation, the electronics retailer, has followed through on plans to cut about 400 jobs, but it has been put on the defensive because of its decision to notify laid-off employees by e-mail….’The work force reduction notification is currently in progress,’ the notice stated. ‘Unfortunately your position is one that has been eliminated.’”

Cold bastards.

Taking the Fun Out of Fundraiser

An unfortunate event occurred at an n+1 fundraiser. The gang managed to raise $3,000, only to wake up the next morning with the loot gone. Editor Keith Gessen noted, “We’ve been much drunker than this, but the party was so nice that we were lulled into a false sense of security.” Unfortunately, there are no leads on who ran off with the cash. But hopefully, the gang will host another party, with a sober cashmaster, as well as a keymaster. (via Bookninja)

Maps

When I was five, there was a gigantic map of Santa Clara County that hung on my bedroom wall. I can’t recall the precise circumstances in which it was placed there – whether I begged or did any number of puerile things to ensure its placement, I cannot say. What I can tell you is that I had a keen interest in the magical clover-leaf intersections, downtown San Jose’s rectilinear makeup (I particularly enjoyed the way West Santa Clara Street turned into the Alameda[1]), and the patterns which shuttled traffic[2] along such an expansive area.

I learned that my parents belonged to AAA (something called auto insurance) and that AAA offered a service to its members: you could order as many free maps as you like and AAA would send these to you by mail. Using this careful subterfuge, I actually telephoned AAA and told the helpful customer representative that my mother was sick and needed maps for an upcoming trip. It was a fib, not one I was fond of making. But to not know the world beyond Santa Clara County was an impossibility.[3] I gave the representative my mother’s AAA card number and, to my amazement, the representative listened. Sure enough, there was a package in the mail a mere four days later.

map.gifThere were maps of Santa Cruz, of Monterey, of Bakersfield, of Modesto – damn near every map that was available was sent to me. The maps, in their own way, were as comforting as chicken soup.[4] Comforting in the sense that they contained bright colors and semiotics which delighted my mind’s eye. It had never occurred to any of the adults that there was something joyfully monastic about all this. It did give me comfort against the violence and upheaval that I heard beyond my bedroom door. But the knowledge of the streets that I carried inside my head got many of the adults out of lost situations in a pinch. I knew the lay of the land, but not the land itself.

The semiotics in particular allowed a portal into another world, which was, at the risk of invoking Derrida or Baudelaire, the world in some sense. For there wasn’t any particular way that this bird’s eye view could be parsed so precisely from a helicopter or a jet. The lines were clean, allowing one to view how people traveled without the clutter of houses. The intersections offered neat notation along the lines of -] [- [5] for the roads, which reflected an aesthetic minimalism that I found more pleasurable than the actual intersections themselves.

So it was no surprise that I experienced a great giddy delight upon discovering the postmodernists and their descendants.[6] They too were concerned with structure and order and creating elaborate systems that reflected the world, but that didn’t approximate it. While the systems themselves may not have been perfect or the ultimate answer, they did nevertheless contain a comfortable place to settle, a world to retreat into when I needed to escape the real world or, more accurately, find a way to recontextualize the real world through another system. It is impossible to state the emotional reaction I have had to such systems, but it was considerable.

Oddly enough, while Google Maps and their ilk are handy, they still cannot equal the joy of an unfolded map. A map sets down the record of the streets at the time that it is published. Thus, it is not the final arbiter of what’s in the real world and there are still great things to discover about it. Google Maps too has this tendency to add little markers of what’s out there. And that’s no fun. I prefer wandering along a street I haven’t known and discovering unexpected things along the way.

Is it healthy for a person to cling to an exact though somewhat abstract view of the world like a port in the storm?[7] My enemies would quibble with this, but I know that it’s healthy for me. My mind works best when hindered by a strange structural occlusion and this often prevents my thoughts and feelings from being understood. Perhaps this is why now, inspired by Danielewski, I cling to this odd format. There is a map here, but you may not understand the territory it charts.

[1] There was a bus route that traversed the entire stretch.

[2] It is important to note that the traffic scuttled in my head.

[3] Even though I learned to read at a very early age, it didn’t occur to me that one could learn about The World Outside.

[4] Dim memories of homemade chicken soup dapple through my parietal lobe, but is such a metaphor necessary? We’ve clearly established Edward Champion’s idiotic nature and many have suggested, quite rightly, that he has no right to poke his nose into certain matters. He is at best a quixotic buffoon. Can one truly imagine how he functions, thinks, and formulates? Or is such a consideration

[5] Not unlike the form I have chosen for these footnotes.

[6] See most recently, the Statement.

[7] Please note that I am not asking for sympathy here. I am merely setting this all down for the record.

Statement

It goes without saying that when an online punkass posts an extravagant claim about a major writer[1], he must be prepared to, in the parlance of 1999, back up his shit, yo.[2] Well, I am here to tell you that I have discovered a man who can write David Foster Wallace under the table, if indeed a comparative summation between writing and drinking can be consummated. A writer who, in fact, can fit quite neatly into Tom LeClair’s prodigious fiction category.

I speak of Mark Z.[3] Danielewski. I am taking about House of Leaves, a novel that is beautiful and playful in scope as it is beautiful and playful in substance. One becomes gleefully lost and bewildered in this book. Lost in the gorgeous labyrinth of footnotes and design (house and style). Bewildered by the ongoing mystery, the series of films and the titular house’s expansive territory.

danielewski.jpgIt is true that Danielewski has ripped off Infinite Jest’s zest for technical arcana, with its attention to mathematics, videotape formats, and taxonomies. But what is particularly funny – indeed an outright conceit — is that while Infinite Jest largely concerns itself with its titular film in its endnotes, Danielewski brings his film (or rather films) to the forefront. Just over the 100 page mark, Infinite Jest is still figuring itself, but House of Leaves is smack dab in the underbrush of a gorgeous flowchart of footnotes: extended across pages in boxes, upside down, in various fonts. One is led on a remarkable adventure. What is the house?[4] And does Danilewski really know what’s going on?[5]

The cross-reference here is laid out so magically that I now see precisely why Wallace needed to write “Host.” Looking at House of Leaves, it’s damn clear that Danilewski was stabbing away at the ambitious footnote design well before Wallace. And if elaborate points of reference along these lines aren’t enough for you, there’s appendices and even an index.[6] This is good for people who have a perfervid history with Maps.

More importantly, while House of Leaves is a stunning academic satire in which Danielewski uses language to tell us that there are some things in life that simply should not be explained by intellectuals (a trait shared by Infinite Jest), Danielewski has more streetcred than Wallace in the form of Johnny Truant, a rough-and-tumble Angeleno who latches onto words and phrases within the text to expound upon his debauchery and a man who unapologetically confesses that he is a monoglot trying to round up academics to translate passages (often sleeping with them).

Amazingly, despite Truant’s recurrent interruptions, Danielewski’s sense of timing works. Just when you’re finding out about various excavations into the house, Truant interrupts. And you wonder if you can continue to pay attention to both Truant and Zampano[7]. Can these two contrapuntal narrators tango with the best of them? Are they the Hope and Crosby of the page? Or perhaps the Keaton and Arbuckle? Or peanut butter and jelly? Well, yes.

I apologize for the general effusive nature and my inability to pinpoint specific examples of this book’s greatness. But I am perhaps too intoxicated right now to think coherently or even concretely.

So we’ll leave it at this for the time being: Joe Bob says check it out.

[1] See “Is DFW Washed Up?”

[2] Pardon these quaint gropes for streetcred. Pardon further the egregious switch from third person to first person that will soon follow. I have abandoned first person plural for the most part, and yet there is part of me which pines for that royal and pretentious phrasing, even though I am clearly beneath it and even though it makes me sound as if I am speaking for some mysterious board of directors.

[3] What does the Z stand for? Will somebody tell me? I am too indolent to Google right now.

[4] And why does The World Outside figure so briefly into it all?

[5] First answer: you get a strong sense. Second answer: Oh, frighteningly so.

[6] Now I know where Ander Monson pilfered the idea from. No wonder he mentioned Danielewski during the Segundo podcast.

[7] Again, laziness prevents me from finding the precise diacritical mark employs upon the O. It was not readily apparent in Microsoft Word when I used Insert/Symbol -– the way a smartass linguistic nut does when he insists on spelling everything O so precisely.

So Long and Thanks for Everything But the Fish?

New York Times: “Far from being slow learners, manatees, it turns out, are as adept at experimental tasks as dolphins, though they are slower-moving and, having no taste for fish, more difficult to motivate. They have a highly developed sense of touch, mediated by thick hairs called vibrissae that adorn not just the face, as in other mammals, but the entire body, according to the researchers’ recent work. And where earlier scientists saw in the manatee’s brain the evidence of deficient intelligence, Dr. Reep sees evolution’s shaping of an animal perfectly adapted to its environment.”

Ad Hominem Fiesta!

Heya kids. It’s time to tear Edward Champion a new one! If you have any choice words that you’d like to offer me, I will happily display them on the sidebar for all to see! Feel free to tell me how lame-brained and mentally challenged I am and I’ll proudly add you to the list of luminaries on the sidebar. Go for it, folks. Knock yourself out!

Roundup

  • Arab Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz has died. He was 94. Laila promises to have more.
  • Levi Asher serves up five comic books you may not have heard about. Unless, of course, you have heard about them — in which case, I’m sure Levi would like you to hear about them again. The hope here is that somewhere along the line, a person who least expects it hears you hearing about them. Unless, of course, you have no ears — in which case, I’ll provide the cornball humor.
  • Jan Underwood wrote a novel in 72 hours, among many other participants in the International 3-Day Novel Contest, which makes NaNoWriMo look like a leisurely walk on the beach. Of course, if someone gets me hooked on Benzedrine, locks me in an attic and throws away the key, I guarantee that I’ll write an incoherent mess with lots of gratuitous sex scenes with a talking gopher named Orville in two days and call it a novel too.
  • Frank Kermode wants the study of English literature to be tough again. And by tough, I think you know what Kermode means. Starving grad students simply aren’t enough. Kermode has proposed throwing them into a arena with the “Gamesters of Triskelion” music playing while they cite obscure bits of poetry. If they get one line of Milton wrong, then we cut off their finger. If they get two lines of Milton wrong, then we cut off their sibling’s finger. And if they cling to “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love” (such an obvious choice!), then we throw them into the incinerator. Kermode’s views may not be particularly popular with the academic crowd right now, but he insists that there is no better way to form young minds. And if a few grad students have to die, it’s the sad cost of proper education.
  • Helen Brown observes that many authors have a tendency to return to the same characters and reveals that Michel Faber is returning to Crimson Petal territory with a slim volume called The Apple. (via the Literary Saloon)
  • Dave Munger asks “Who uses the phone book anymore?” I have to agree. Everybody knows the escort services are listed in the back pages of an alt-weekly.

Milwaukee — A Drunken Port In a Storm

Milwaukee has been named “America’s Drunken City” — by no less an eminence than Forbes. San Francisco isn’t on the list. Neither is Los Angeles nor New York. Which suggests that, outside of Boston, Providencem and Pitt, the antipodean ends of the nation simply don’t have what it takes to get soused. Or the Forbes money men (or the employees of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) were too busy with their mergers and acquisitions to hit the pubs.

The announcement caused the Milwaukee Visitors and Convention Bureau to issue the following statement: “We’ve gone from Brew City to new city.” Well, that may be happening, but until they take the “Mil” out of Milwaukee, I’m unconvinced.

(via Dave White)

Harlan Ellison Responds

At the Harlan Ellison message board, Ellison has posted the following (which he gives permission to disseminate):

Would you believe that, having left the Hugo ceremonies immediately after my part in it, while it was still in progress … and having left the hall entirely … yet having been around later that night for Kieth Kato’s traditional chili party … and having taken off next morning for return home … and not having the internet facility to open “journalfen” (or whatever it is), I was unaware of any problem proceeding from my intendedly-childlike grabbing of Connie Willis’s left breast, as she was exhorting me to behave.

Nonetheless, despite my only becoming aware of this brouhaha right this moment (12 noon LA time, Tuesday the 29th), three days after the digital spasm that seems to be in uproar …YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY RIGHT!!!

iT IS UNCONSCIONABLE FOR A MAN TO GRAB A WOMAN’S BREAST WITHOUT HER EXPLICIT PERMISSION. To do otherwise is to go ‘way over the line in terms of invasion of someone’s personal space. It is crude behavior at best, and actionable behavior at worst. When George W> Bush massaged the back of the neck of that female foreign dignitary, we were all justly appalled. For me to grab Connie’s breast is in excusable, indefensible, gauche, and properly offensive to any observers or those who heard of it later.

I agree wholeheartedly.

I’ve called Connie. Haven’t heard back from her yet. Maybe I never will.

So. What now, folks? It’s not as if I haven’t been a politically incorrect creature in the past. But apparently, Lynne, my 72 years of indefensible, gauche (yet for the most part classy), horrifying, jaw-dropping, sophomoric, sometimes imbecile behavior hasn’t–till now–reached your level of outrage.

I’m glad, at last, to have transcended your expectations. I stand naked and defenseless before your absolutely correct chiding.

With genuine thanks for the post, and celestial affection, I remain, puckishly,

Yr. pal, Harlan

P.S. You have my permission to repost this reply anywhere you choose, on journalfen, at SFWA, on every blog in the universe, and even as graffiti on the Great Wall of China.

* * *

There are several things wrong with this.

1. The notion that grabbing Willis’s breast was “childlike” and thus excusable. From all reports (and unfortunately, what we have now is mostly circumstantial), Willis in no way asked Ellison to grab her breast, nor chided him to do so.

2. If what Ellison did was somehow “right” (to his eye) in this context, why not expatiate at length about it? This is particularly uncharacteristic for Ellison, as he’s known to keep obsessive records about damn near everything to prove that he’s right.

3. The utter hypocrisy in Ellison failing to state how exactly he obtained Willis’s explicit permission while on stage (if he did indeed so), while similarly complaining about how other men are not entitled to do so.

4. The wholesale inability to say “I’m sorry” or “I apologize.”

5. The sanctimonious notion that he can get away with this and that this is the product of “a politically incorrect creature” rather than a boorish pig.

Do you think that Ellison had Nixon’s Checkers speech in mind? After all, Nixon likewise found his hand caught in the cookie jar, likewise shifted the terms of the argument away from personal culpability, and likewise couldn’t find it within him to say “I’m sorry” or “I apologize.”

UPDATE: Video and screenshot.

The Discomfort Zone

There’s a good deal of commotion over Michiko Kaukutani’s review of Jonathan Franzen’s The Discomfort Zone. Has Michiko gone too far? Having read most of the contents of this disgraceful essay collection, I don’t think so at all. Where Franzen’s previous essay collection, How to Be Alone, presented Franzen’s interests in a thoughtful and benign (if whiny) tone (the postal system, an almost nostalgic concern for mechanics, etc.), The Discomfort Zone presents Franzen as a middle-aged enfant terrible, a spineless yuppie who hasn’t grown up and who clings to narcissistic self-absorption as if it were oxygen.

franzen190.jpgReading this collection and having this misfortune to experience some of these essays for the second time (many of these were published in The New Yorker; the Peanuts one is by far the worst), I felt the need to beat Franzen repeatedly with a thick newspaper or at least rob the bastard of his riches. This collection is the best he can do? Five years of putzing around with the coffers filled and what does Franzen give us? Not a novel, but a medley of hyper-neurotic essays that are embarassing as hell to read.

Does the world need another book from an upper middle-class Caucasian whiner? I think not. Particularly when his main beefs are being asked to give to the Katrina refugees. David Remnick, for whatever reason, has been responsible for bankrolling Jonathan Franzen’s writing as therapy. I’m thinking that Remnick is doing this because he’s hoping for more essays of the How to Be Alone variety. But what nobody expected was Franzen transforming into a smug upper-class twit, not unlike those bowler-hatted morons in the famous Monty Python skit. The fact that Frazen is, for the most part, humorless and fond of framing uninteresting generalizations in ponderous language makes The Discomfort Zone one of the worst books of the year. To wit, here’s a small sample from the aforementioned Peanuts essay:

To the countercultural mind, a begoggled beagle piloting a doghouse and getting shot down by the Red Baron was akin to Yossarian paddling a dinghy to Sweden. The strip’s square panels were the only square thing about it. Wouldn’t the country be better off listening to Linus Van Pelt than Robert McNamara? This was the era of flower children, not flower adults. But the strip appealed to older Americans as well. It was unfailingly inoffensive (Snoopy never lifted a leg) and was set in a safe, attractive suburb where the kids, except for Pigpen, whose image Ron McKernan of the Grateful Dead pointedly embraced, were clean and well spoken and conservatively dressed.

Observe the uncontained (and unpursued) comparison to Catch-22 here. Or the sad effort to spin “square” into a second standard definition. Or Franzen’s desperate obsession with dichotomies (establishment or hippie) and inability to plunge further into the subject? Or the wordy clause extended to Pigpen. Or the prim modifiers conjoined in the final sentence.

Even casting aside Franzen’s shameless solipsism, this is bad and needlessly wordy writing. And a legion of editors needs to be strung up for allowing this copy to escape unfixed to the printed page.

Of course, if you like keeping company with smug twits, then Franzen’s your man. Franzen has become a highbrow Chuck Klosterman. He’s that insufferable prick right before you at the salad bar, who feels the need not only to complain about the offerings, but who holds up the line.

For those fond of taking in the great oxygen of life and avoiding those who believe the entire world is about them, Jonathan Lethem’s The Disappointment Artist (another slim collection of New Yorker pesonal essays) is a far more compelling and thoughtful alternative.

A Clockwork Temperament

The Paris Review‘s DNA of Literature is now up to the 1970s. There appears to be no set schedule for when the good folks over there will make the interviews from 1980 on available, but in the meantime, there is this interview with Anthony Burgess.

I will confess that 2006, reading-wise, has been the Year of Burgess for me. He’s the author I’ve read the most of. I cannot stop reading his books as I find them in used bookstores (most are out-of-print), even though his novel batting average was about as consistent as my bowling average. I find myself extremely receptive to his voice, his linguistic tricks (he’s rendered vernacular near perfectly in A Right to an Answer) and wordplay (Burgess doesn’t refrain from bad puns, which I like), while bemoaning the way in which he sometimes screws up his narratives (see Tremor of Intent). But I can certainly relate to this answer:

BURGESS: The practice of being on time with commissioned work is an aspect of politeness. I don’t like being late for appointments; I don’t like craving indulgence from editors in the matter of missed deadlines. Good journalistic manners tend to lead to a kind of self-discipline in creative work. It’s important that a novel be approached with some urgency. Spend too long on it, or have great gaps between writing sessions, and the unity of the work tends to be lost. This is one of the troubles with Ulysses. The ending is different from the beginning. Technique changes halfway through. Joyce spent too long on the book.

Unfortunately, this interview was conducted a few years before Burgess would begin writing his masterpiece, Earthly Powers. That novel is the most mammoth and ambitious work that Burgess ever wrote. It’s jam-packed with references to religion, language, sexuality, Hollywood, and transcontinental relations, and I’m still working through it months after I started it. I’m determined to savor the prose’s immense concentration of detail and, because of this, I often unfurl the book when I know that I’m not going to be disturbed by anyone for several hours. There are not many books which cause me to do this.

But I’ve also wondered if Burgess’s attitude to the “urgency of the novel” changed at some point in the seven years that followed this Paris Review interview, or if he felt that Earthly Powers might be his last shot at producing a magnum opus.

I’ve been hoping to obtain Andrew Biswell’s The Real Life of Anthony Burgess to see if I can get an answer to this and many other questions, but sadly that book, along with most of Burgess’s novels, is unavailable in the States.

But it does beg an interesting question, which you folks can argue about in the comments: To what extent does a novelist have an obligation to remain urgent? Do you find yourself receptive to an urgent voice? (I suspect this is also something about Burgess that grabs me.) I can certainly think of several writers who might get more done if they put themselves onto Burgess’s strict 1,000 word a day diet (myself included). But what do you folks think is the balance between care and celerity?

[UPDATE: Pete Anderson responds on his blog.]

Stephen Thompson: Racist Reviewer?

GalleyCat reports on this Stephen Thompson review of Vikram Chandra’s Sacred Games. The opening paragraph reads:

There are certain books that are so similar to one another they almost beg to be grouped together. This is largely true of Indian novels. Look closely at the ones published in the past, say, 25 years, and you’ll see that they’re virtually identical, in theme if not in style and content.

Aside from the racist assertion here that Indian novels are “identical,” Thompson also suggests that Midnight’s Children and A Fine Balance are “indivisible.” This, despite the fact that the former contains a protagonist with a highly sensitive nose and the latter does not, the former chronicles Indian history from 1910 to 1976, while the latter takes place during The Emergency between 1975 and 1977. There are infinite differences in language, characters, and plotting. But don’t tell Thompson this. So long as those brown-skinned people are banging out those novels, there isn’t a single distinction in his eyes.

This isn’t the first time that Thompson’s pen has applied troubling generalizations to ethnic literature. While reviewing Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun, a book concerning itself with Nigeria, Thompson decried “the destructive effect of colonialism on Africa and its peoples” as “conventional” and “clichéd,” as if simply dwelling upon this cataclysmic shift of cultures was somehow devoid of complexities. (Maud noted this earlier this month.)

Harlan Ellison: The Norman Mailer of Speculative Fiction

[Photo removed at the request of Keith Stokes. Offending image available here.]

[UPDATE: Keith Stokes continues to play a game of cultural revisionism, regularly changing the filenames of his photographs to prevent people from seeing what happened for themselves. The photo, as of Tuesday, can be found on this page.]

Unpardonable.

This is not just a matter of “Harlan being Harlan,” as Ellison’s defenders will likely phrase it. This is not a matter of being politically correct. These are the actions of a boorish pig. It is unacceptable for anyone to get away with this. And the almost total silence of the science fiction community on this is appalling.

It’s one thing to goof around at a party — when the people know the other people involved and a little bit of this kind of nonsense sometimes occurs.

But when a woman goes up on stage and cannot be respected as a writer, particularly a writer who’s as great as Connie Willis, when she must be groped and demeaned as a sex object in front of an audience, then the time has come to re-evaluate the merits of the organization that hosts the awards ceremony, as well as the has-been “legends” who go up to claim and present awards.

Likely, speculative fiction writers will remain silent about Ellison’s groping. After all, Harlan Ellison will go after them or make phone calls or engage in sociopathic behavior or essentially intimidate anyone who disagrees with him. His loyal cadre of sycophants, who accept his every word and action without question, will stand back in awe as the man that they have inflated beyond belief continues to walk mighty and unquestionable steps.

If the SFWA has any balls, they will demand a censure. If Connie Willis has any dignity, she will demand a public apology. If Harlan Ellison has any honor, he will atone for his despicable conduct rather than revel in it.

If Harlan paralyzed a writer for life, would it be a case of Harlan “just being Harlan?” How does one writer stand so above the pale?

MORE REACTIONS:

Goblin Mercantiel Exchange: “The difference, then, is quite stark: it’s between dead-enders and people who actually have some kind of connection to the 21st century world at large–you know? The 21st century? Where shit like this shouldn’t happen?”

Gavin Grant: “What’s up with these dirty old men? They’re taking all the fun out of being in the genre and not inspiring anyone with anything but horror and the urge to vomit and throw out their books.”

Catherine Morrison: “So Harlan Ellison. What to do with him? The even more sad part of all this is that I don’t think people will particularly remember this in a year or two except as part of Ellison’s general assiness. Because groping a woman without permission doesn’t get you shunned in this world.”

Laurie Mann: “Connie is a much better role model for writers than Harlan Ellison.”

Lis Riba: “What does a woman have to do to get a little respect in this industry?”

And as of Monday night, there has been nothing about the groping from Neil Gaiman, John Scalzi, Bonig Boing, Rick Kleffel, and of course Harlan himself.

UPDATE: From Come Love Sleep on Gaiman: “(he basically says, he’s not gonna touch this situation with a ten-foot barge-pole, and other woman have been accusing him of being “complicit by [my] silence” in Harlan’s “public attempt to rape Connie Willis”, which is pretty stupid. Under those circumstances I’d find it pretty hard not to be really pissed off.)”

Meanwhile, Lis Riba suggests that “we can channel this energy into something positive,” while Ian McDonald notes that he found the grope “entertaining.”

UPDATE 2: Greg Frost talked with Connie Willis. (via Gwenda)

UPDATE 3: As reported by C. Billings in the thread, Harlan is now claiming that he did not grope, grab or fondle Connie Willis: “Would you, and the ten thousand maggots who have blown this up into a cause celebre, be even the least bit abashed to know that I apologized WAY BEYOND what the “crime” required, on the off chance that I HAD offended?” (The full response is in the thread.) Further, on the Harlan Ellison message board, messages criticizing the grope are being removed and IP addresses are being banned.

UPDATE 4: The thread has turned into what Ron has correctly styled “a shit-flinging contest” (and I am just as guilty). I have disabled comments. I suggest full contact jujitsu at your local gym as a surrogate.

UPDATE 5: Video and screenshot.

Harlan Ellison at WorldCon

Rick Kleffel has Harlan Ellison’s one-man WorldCon panel on tape. Kleffel assures that it will offend everyone, but it seems rather tame and a bit sad and solipsistic to this listener’s ears. If desperate screaming into the mike is the height of hilarity, then I’m sure you’ll dig it. But the pathetic nature of Mr. Saturday Night comes to mind.

[UPDATE: Gwenda notes that Ellison groped Connie Willis without her permission at the Hugos. More here. A class act, Harlan, if this is true.]

The Bat Segundo Show #60: Robert Birnbaum

segundo60.jpg

Author: Robert Birnbaum

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Detached but amused by the pair-up.

Subjects Discussed: The value of conducting interviews at a cemetery, Ed Champion’s arrest, the current state of the literary world, literary feuds, Richard Ford and Colson Whitehead, Stanley Crouch, Nicholson Baker, Leon Wieseltier, Anthony Burgess, US vs. UK journalism, Cynthia Ozick, the literary blogosphere, Birnbaum’s participation at the Oscar blog, West Coast vs. East Coast weather, reading and page limits, the “importance” of the New York Times Book Review, Gilbert Sorrentino, Sam Tanenhaus, Thomas McGuane‘s Nothing But Blue Skies book tour cancellation, Laura Miller, an attempt to stop the interview by a Mt. Auburn employee, examining a Mt. Auburn Cemetery leaflet of rules, John Updike, Joan Didion, comparisons with the publishing and the music industry, the NYTBR contemporary fiction coverage, list-making, classic vs. contemporary literature, Paul Collins, small presses vs. large presses, the onslaught of galleys, BEA, Birnbaum as editor, party pictures, celebrity culture, visionary magazines, Henry Luce, artistry vs. Photoshop, California fruit labels, the advertising world, who Birnbaum will talk with, Nicole Richie, authors having emotional breakdowns, the current state of literary journalism, and staying humble.

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The Bat Segundo Show #59: Jeff VanderMeer

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Author: Jeff VanderMeer

Condition of Mr. Segundo: Coming to terms with troubling generalizations.

Subjects Discussed: Mushrooms as inspiration, writing “Dradin in Love” while suffering from mono, Steve Erickson, the writer as sadistic god, on being perceived as “difficult,” genre as revitilization device, the New Weird, China Miéville, the value of taxonomies, the use of parentheses for voice, reinventing the Ambergris mythology, scholarly discourse in fiction, underground scholars, Gormenghast, Nabokov, cities, Beirut, Albumeth Boulevard’s inspirations, ephemera, balancing experimentalism and absurdism, objections to playful prose, the Dan Green dust-up, Shriek: the movie, The Church, the Shriek parties, balancing the day job and the writing life, and the importance of physical exercise for writers.

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