There’s Room Yet for Those Pesky Amateurs

New York Times: ” It is a difficult idea for research and development departments to accept, but one of his studies found that 82 percent of new capabilities for scientific instruments like electron microscopes were developed by users. Citizen product design is still unsung, but it has already become a force in software, especially gaming software. ‘Counter-Strike,’ a player-created ‘mod’ (for modification to the original game) of ‘Half-Life,’ became as popular as the original game. Apache, the popular open-source Web server software, or the Firefox Internet browser, with its thousands of add-ons and plug-ins, also depend on users to develop innovations. Large companies like I.B.M. are increasingly turning to open-source techniques in their own software development”

Henry Miller Still Raising a Needless Ruckus

One would think that more than four decades after it was declared “not obscene” by the Supreme Court, Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer would be on more or less solid ground in our enlightened 21st century. Not so. A 17-year-old Dallas student checked out the book out from the Hulsey Public Library, told her parents that she felt it was “inappropriate,” and has caused Miller’s name to be removed from a Terrell High School list of “approved authors.” It is unknown whether the student or the student’s parents actually read the book, but it’s worth noting that the city’s library director had “received no prior complaints about the novel.” You know, most reasonable people simply don’t read authors they aren’t interested in and let those who are interested in studying them do so without rancor. Henry Miller meant a good deal to me when I read him as a teenager. I’d hate to have had this reading experience uprooted by someone who found him “inappropriate.” (via Bookshelves of Doom)

Ben Schott: Absconding With Personal Experience?

All that apparent vetting and editing at the NYTBR wasn’t enough to stop L’Affaire Schott from sullying Tanenhaus’s pristine gates with redolent taints. The story is this: Ben Schott wrote an essay called “Confessions of a Book Abuser.” Readers, alarmed by the essay’s resemblance to a similar essay called “Never Do That to a Book” (contained within Anne Fadiman’s collection, Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader) wrote in, troubled by Schott rather conveniently having an encounter with an Italian chambermaid in 1989, when Schott was fifteen — not unlike Fadiman’s own encounter with an Italian chambermaid in 1964.

benschott.jpgOf course, it’s very possible that Schott did have this experience. It’s very possible that an Italian chambermaid did take a fifteen year old’s hand and returned his copy of Evelyn Waugh’s Vile Bodies. Of course, since Schott failed to mention his parents (did he really rent “a hotel room on the shores of Lake Como” and stay there without parental supervision?), suggesting that he returned to his hotel room of his own accord, as if a self-made man, I’m disinclined to believe Schott — unless he offers unimpeachable evidence that reveals this existential serendipity. After all, Fadiman’s original essay revealed similar childhood details, as well as a specific hotel name. Schott may be a dutiful compiler of facts for his almanacs, but he appears remiss in revealing some of the specifics that would exculpate him from plagiarism charges. (Well, that’s not entirely true. Schott’s all too happy to boast about reading Evelyn Waugh as a teenager.)

Editor & Publisher has more on the glaring similarities between Schott and Fadiman’s respective essays.

You know, we litbloggers may be “sub-literary,” but there’s one advantage to online writing that you won’t find in print. If any of us were to pull this kind of potential theft, we’d get called on it by our commenters. Perhaps the NYTBR might wish to initiate comments upon all of their articles to keep their content honest. It might even help make the editors “aware of Fadiman’s essay.” And who knows? Maybe a communicative conduit along these lines might even alleviate some of the continuing print vs. online fracas. It’s clear from this incident that Tanenhaus’s drawbridge is starting to look a bit rickety.

[UPDATE: Bill Peschel reminds me (and I should have referenced this in the post) that the similarities were observed the day after Schott’s article appeared in a Bookninja thread. Return of the Reluctant regrets the oversight, but we will go one more than the Times in wishing Mr. Murray a speedy recovery from his illness.]


  • Forget NaNoWriMo. Try writing a book in 72 hours.
  • Does rare-book dealer Glenn Horowitz look angry with the photographer or comparatively comfortable with his white walls and parquet floors? And what did these photographs tell you about Glenn Horowitz that you couldn’t glean from Rachel Donadio’s article? We’ll be discussing all these questions and more at “Gray Lady Profile Pieces: The Troubling Disparity Between Text and Images” at the Oliver North High School auditorium. The fun starts tonight at 9:00 PM. Be sure to be on time, since the panel will be right after an AA meeting. Unless you also have a drinking problem and you can kill two birds with one stone!
  • A hearty congratulations to The Millions, for four years of dutiful literary service.
  • And while we’re celebrating birthdays, happy 50th birthday to the Helvetica font! Yes, UK publishers and undergraduates often overuse you. But as sans-serif fonts go, you’re okay in my book. (via Ron Silliman)
  • In fact, I’m in a celebratory mood right now. So I’d be remiss if I didn’t also celebrate Leonard Nimoy’s birthday. Forget Shatner. Nimoy was the true actor on the original Star Trek series. Here’s to a few more years of amazing voiceover, kinky photography, and odd music videos.
  • It is also the birthday of Richard Dawkins and Erica Jong, both of whom have appeared on The Bat Segundo Show. This was entirely by accident, but inexplicable and quite possibly beneficial patterns often emerge through serendipitous byways. I’m hoping that Our Young, Roving Correspondent will do his best to interview more people who celebrate life on March 26. If you are an author or you know of an author who was born on March 26, please email me and I will be sure to get you on the show in the next few months.
  • The McSweeney’s reissue of J. Storer Clouston’s The Lunatic at Large features an introduction by Jonathan Ames! You know the drill: crossorads, devil, personal obligation, life-changing potato salad recipe, inter alia. (via Paul Collins)
  • The six freakiest children’s TV rock bands.
  • If this isn’t a reason to ride a bicycle, I don’t know what is. I think that this is a beautiful moment of German cinema, and I thank the Internet for bringing it to my attention.
  • Dan Green quibbles with George Packer.
  • RIP Tanya Reinhart.
  • Yes, Mr. Dixon* I too want to give John Barth a huge hug. If I had been at AWP, I would have given John Barth a huge hug. He may have been weary of this. He may have thought me insane or a fanboy to be avoided at all costs. But in Barth’s case, the hug is necessary. I encourage you to read John Barth (particularly, The Sot-Weed Factor), so that you too can feel compelled to give John Barth a huge hug. I think more writers can really use huge hugs. If you know an author who hasn’t been hugged, please hug them. Or promise to hug them. Or if the writer is shy about hugs, hug someone else in the author’s presence and tell the writer, “You see, I would apply this affection to you, but I understand your position about hugs. And I have no wish to invade your personal boundaries. So perhaps you can live vicariously through this third party, who is also deserving of a hug for his own achievements.”
  • Erin O’Brien has written about John Sheppard.
  • Matthew Tiffany has an excerpt from Murakami’s After Dark.
  • I am still recovering from a pleasant weekend. So I direct you to Sarah’s for additional links, while I attempt to grapple with the concept of Monday. It could prove to be my undoing, but I’ll not make any Jim Davis-style jokes about it. No, sir.

* — Me sorry. I was half-asleep, I assure you.

More Love for Jack Butler

In the event that my Jack Butler streetcred is waning, I should note that, by some miracle, I have obtained the hardcover edition of Jack Butler’s Living in Little Rock with Miss Little Rock, for the princely sum of $1.00.

I’m now about 200 pages in and I’m hoping to attempt a summation of this mammoth book once I finish it. As first lines go, as Professor Fury observed two years ago, it’s hard to beat, “Howdy, I’m the Holy Ghost. Talk about your omniscient narrators.” So far, this book hasn’t gripped me in quite the same way that Jujitsu for Christ did, but it has a playful prose style that suggests a more ravenous Pynchon*, almost thirty pages of boxed-in thoughts reminiscent of Gilbert Sorrentino’s introspective shenanigans, a good degree of editorial cartoons and newspaper clippings embedded within the text, and an ambitious sweep that reminds me very much of Anthony Burgess’s Earthly Powers. Evolutionary theory, sex, economics, and gin martinis are just some of the topics tackled in this book.

In other words, this is a book that sneaks up on you. Butler is that rare author who commands you to understand why the hell he thinks along certain lines.

Now about this character named the Holy Ghost: He will sometimes address the circumstances directly, only to shift to close omniscient narration, and by close, we’re talking nearly every detail, down to the minute, that plagues lawyer Charles Morrison as he’s sitting in a bar after a fight with his wife contemplating everything from the exact shade of fury he’s calibrating to Tecate’s metallic taste. And then Lafayette, a former football star, takes over in first-person, as does a character named the “Hog,” who calls the Holy Ghost out on his gimmicks.

“How serious you expect us to take this?” says the Hog, “I mean, come on, you’re just the author messing around, trying to pull some kind of metafictional stunt.”

I had mistakenly thought that Jack Butler was simply a more politically incorrect and scatological Charles Portis. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

This crazy book came out in 1993. It is now sadly out-of-print, which is a great shame. Butler appears to have given this book everything he had. That such an ambitious book appears to have been dismissed a mere fourteen years (and nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, no less!) after its first appearance is a strong sign that either it takes a particularly off-kilter reader to groove on Butler or some literary folks, confusing “red state” with worthlessness, simply weren’t ready for a fictive exegesis on Arkansas.

* For example:

“She would forget to eat, until, in a matter of moments, she crossed into red-line hunger, her shoulders drooping, her face drawn, her eyes panicky. Then she thought she could carve raw slabs from the sides of cattle, then she carved great radiant chunks of crusty and buttered bread, jackstraw heaps of steamed vegetables, gravies ladled profusely over giant conglomerations of agglutinated starch, caldrons of thick and bubbling soup, the battered and fried hindquarters of amphibitans, fowl, mammals; then she imagined stacked triangular sections of stratified chocolate dolloped with heavy and beaten cream, or amputated segments of lambent cherry pie, scoops of ice cream sizzling to nothing atop them.”

It isn’t any author who will concoct the phrase “amputated segments of lambent cherry pie,” much less reveal hunger for its more unpleasant qualities.

Books vs. Television

From Scarlett Thomas’s excellent novel, Popco:

“I read a lot. I helped my grandfather with his various projects. I learnt how to compile crosswords….”

He shakes his head. “So basically you really were the most boring teenager in the world.”

He’s joking but I suddenly feel angry.

“So at age fourteen your spare time would have been filled with what? Saving the world? Talking to aliens? Being a spy?”

He doesn’t seem to know if I am joking or not. “I don’t know. When I was fourteen I think I just watched loads of cool stuff on TV.”

“Oh right. TV.” Now I really am cross. I can’t help it.

“What? What’s wrong with TV?”

“TV fools you that you’ve had a life you haven’t had. Don’t you know that? At least I had a life, even if it was, as you say, boring.”

“God, settle down, Alice.”

“No. I hate it. All that retro stuff that’s around at the moment. Remember when we all watched that thing on TV in the seventies and it was so ironic? I don’t even know what any of it’s called because we didn’t have a TV. It all just seems to be this stupid nostalgia for something that never existed in the first place. Just shapes on a screen. You were the one talking about everything just being pictures the other day. You must know what I mean.”

“I do. But I don’t agree.” He sips his tea calmly.

“What? You think all that stuff has some sort of point?”

“Yes, I do. I think that there is no difference between a narrative on TV and a narrative in a book. They are both told in pictures, really, it’s just that the little pictures on the page — the letters — spell out words, and the pictures on the screen are visual references. But you can’t tell me that sitting down and reading something is intrinsically better than watching the same story acted on a screen. That’s just snobbery.”

“No it isn’t. When did you last see a fifteen-hour-long TV drama that had no adverts and wasn’t written so a child could understand it?”

“What? I don’t…”

“On a TV drama you could cast yourself? Choose your own locations? Edit your own script? That’s what happens when you read a book. You have to actually connect with it. You don’t just sit there passively…”

“You are such a snob, Butler!”

“I”m not. Anyway, for the record, I never said that books were always better than anything on a screen. All I know is that on the whole I prefer books, but I have to say that I’d rather watch a classic film than read a trashy novel. And I love some videogames, of course. But that’s just my choice. I don’t care what anyone else does…”

Teo Kridech, My Hero

San Francisco Chronicle: “The posts ‘nearly killed my business,’ said Kridech, a native of France who has worked in the food industry for 25 years and spent $150,000 revamping the Senses space. ‘Everyone has become a food critic. They think they’re real big shots. They probably can’t even make scrambled eggs.'”

I am one of the few cultivated San Franciscans who can, in fact, make scrambled eggs. So I take no offense to Teo Kridech’s charges. In fact, I agree whole-heartedly with them. It’s about time that someone identified those vermin now sitting in restaurants because they are incapable of cooking a basic breakfast. It’s about time that rebels like Mr. Kridech raked these bastard diners across the coals. I believe in a society in which those who cannot make scrambled eggs are massacred by unscrupulous men in Nazi uniforms and epaulettes. I will begin shooting these so-called “food bloggers” in the head, should Mr. Kridech request my services. These uncultured vultures think that can simply place something in a microwave and call it dinner. They think that they can go to a restaurant and describe its problems to people on the Web! Well, what good are these interlopers with good men like Teo Kirdech determining our cultural norms?

So I salute Teo Kirdech’s unapologetic and somewhat strange embrace of Manichean vales. Since I can make scrambled eggs, perhaps I might be styled a “big shot” and even, quite possibly, a “food critic.” (Many years ago, I was asked to write restaurant reviews. Whether these scribblings count as “food criticism” proper, I cannot say. I was a younger man then and I often described how I was feeling in these reviews, which was probably my career as a “food critic” was a brief one. Nevertheless, I shall send copies of these on to Mr. Kirdech, where he can then offer me his opinion about whether these scribblings constitute criticism. Or perhaps I can simply cook scrambled eggs in front of Mr. Kirdech and earn his trust.)

To settle this matter once and for all, I plan to check out Mr. Kridech’s restaurant at some random point during the next three weeks, investigating these claims of “cheap porcelain plates” and the “little butter dish from Ikea.” If this plateware is causing an inordinate amount of stress among San Francisco eaters, and if Mr. Kridech is indeed stiffing his customers, it will be duly reported here. And I will have to abandon the clear homicidal plan implied by Mr. Kridech.

The ball, as they say, is in Mr. Kridech’s court. And he should be a little frightened. For while other food bloggers have been hard on Mr. Kridech, who I hope will be my friend no matter what I think of his restaurant, I am a harder man to be reckoned with. I can make scrambled eggs.

Optional Cost: Installation in a Museum

Amazon: “I have sampled 9’s over the world (I am a professional 9 user) and this 9 is a decent bargain for the price. In my opinion the Emtek Solid Brass 9 is the most superior of 9’s, at the breathtaking price of $5.90. However, the Ace Hardware 9, valued at a quarter of a million dollars comes in close second. Although the price is slightly less than the Emtek model it’s features are almost the same. The only difference is that this 9 comes with inferior screws when compared to the Emtek model. If the quality of the screws is not necessarily important to you, then this unit may be for you – otherwise spend the extra money and purchase the $5.90 Emtek model.”

Brushing Up on Airbrush

If you can get excited over a heavily airbrushed and art directed “nude” photographs of a cute-in-a-girl-next-door-way actress from The Office, when the actress in question is merely standing behind encumbrances, then I salute you. I can’t. It is not because I don’t have imagination or I object to the encumbrances. On the contrary, it is because the photographs leave nothing to the imagination. I look at these photos and see not one element of imperfection. I like the wrinkles on Ms. Fischer’s forehead, which have become more prominent in the third season of The Office. I don’t know if this is simply because Ms. Fischer is aging or because The Office is shot on HDTV. Perhaps it is because I am attracted to flaws.

Many years ago, only a few months after I had obtained a driver’s license, I worked behind the register at a burger joint. I got into trouble because I thought a girl who came in had a “cute nose.” My co-workers had observations comparable to the following equations:

girl = a01 + a02z + a03z2 + a04z3

girl = f (x, z)

However, they expressed these thoughts less mathematically, using phrases like “I’d like to nail her” and “What a piece of ass.” Even more strangely, they never revealed the precise vertices they had observed. They kept these to themselves. And they certainly had no intention of plotting these points on paper.

Anyway, when they heard that I had thought the girl had a “cute nose,” using my alternative mathematical criteria*, precisely because the nose was a tad overhooked by my co-workers’ estimation and because, well, they kind of wanted me to get laid so that I’d be a bit more relaxed, they then told this girl what I had said. And the girl came back through the drive-thru. And I felt ashamed. And I ran to the walk-in locker and stayed there freezing until she went away.

But I eventually learned to accept these strange impulses and began to see how women in magazines and films clearly didn’t reflect the lovely and flawed world I saw in front of me. Even the porn I downloaded in my twenties became more amateurish in nature. The Tommy Lee-Pam Anderson video wasn’t really all that interesting, and I had seen it in its entirety. I never thought much of breast implants.

So here we have Jenna Fischer, a comparatively “normal”-looking woman, whose normalcy is hidden behind endless Photoshop layers and who probably has features comparable to this girl’s “cute nose.” I don’t find this alluring at all. I find it extremely sad.

* — And I should point out that it’s disingenuous to portray all this through equations, for there are also feelings here that cause certain variables to be wildly exaggerated or underestimated. So this is an inaccurate science.

Three Color Blind Mice: See How They See

Scientific American: “According to Gerald Jacobs, a psychologist at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the research that allowed these mice to see in full color was an attempt ‘to replicate what must have been the first stage in the evolution of primate color vision.’ The ability to see the world as humans do, he says, ‘requires an additional sensor—or photopigment—and the nervous system being able to compare the signals.'”

Roundup, Part Three (You Like Me Coffee! You REALLY REALLY LIKE ME Coffee! Version)

  • Lev Grossman has made an astonishing discovery! Check this shit out, yo! People are actually using the Web to create comics! And they’ve been doing since the late 1990s! I mean, who knew? Next thing you know, people will be using the Web to keep track of literary news. Of course, I maintain high hope for this medium. You folks are thinking small-time with text and images. But what if someone actually started posting audio and video onto this Internet thing? (via Heidi McDonald)
  • Speaking of comics, here’s a list of this year’s Reuben nominees.
  • Marlon Brando’s estate is suing over a chair. They had planned to sue over a sofa and an armoire, but they figured that they’d start with basic seating units and work their way up.
  • NBC Universal and FOX are planning to start a rival to YouTube. The new portal, called FuckYouTube, will force users to fill out a ten-page questionnaire revealing their income, sexual preference, and purchasing habits to these benevolent corporate overlords, who promise that they will do nothing whatsoever with this personal information. Then, and only then, will users be able to watch episodes of 24 and The Office without fear of litigious attorneys. Of course, there will be a thirty-second commercial for every minute of video. And it’s probably much easier to TiVo these shows without these requirements. But this is the Internet, dammit, and you are all guilty until proven guilty.
  • Sam Lipsyte didn’t finish Against the Day, but that didn’t stop him from picking it over Alentejo Blue!
  • Scott Esposito gets to the bottom of Cees Nooteboom! (And, yes, Mr. Esposito is also worthy of an exclamation mark! As is this parenthetical aside!)
  • Great jumping George! Airplane reading!
  • You know, if you’re sort of halfway into the BDSM thing and you’re too scared to go all the way, perhaps these chain link scarves are for you.
  • Sarah Hopkins has a cracker of a story. And, by cracker, we’re not talking some saltine that will crumble into your hands or those little fish crackers you pour into your chowder. We’re talking a veritable Aussie expression.
  • Peter David betrayed Charlie Anders! This is terrible! Call the police!

Roundup, Part Two

  • PW reports that booksellers are “hot for Gore.” It’s quite a phenomenon, really, Gore’s post-2000 election life. At every book signing, booksellers are throwing their bras and panties at Al Gore’s feet (but only when Tipper isn’t around). Al Gore has been asked to sign breasts and pierce pudenda. And the general feeling in the air is that Al Gore is the former presidential candidate to schtupp, if at all possible. Al Gore is the Neil Diamond of the book world. And remember, folks, you heard it from PW first. It’s up in the air whether or not costermongers and accountants will follow suit or, indeed, take off their respective uniforms.
  • Dan Wickett has the skinny on the Ann Arbor Book Festival Writers’ Conference.
  • The creation of a bookstore window display. (via Levi)
  • Interesting submission stats from Miss Snark. I remember reading an interview long ago (we’re talking pre-Internet) with Richard Ford in which he spent an entire day perfecting his query letter for A Piece of My Heart. Some things really never change. (via The Publishing Spot)
  • Tangerine Houdini!
  • Part three to come. It’s one of those days.

Roundup, Part One

And Print People Think Bloggers Have Conflicts of Interest

martinez.gifIt’s a mess at the Los Angeles Times right now. A plan to have Hollywood producer Brian Grazer guest-edit the Sunday Current section has gone awry — in part because editor Andres Martinez was having an affair with Grazer’s publicist, Kelly Mullens. Martinez has since resigned in protest through a post on the LAT Opinion blog because the Grazer-edited section, an ill-conceived and desperate idea if ever there was one, had been canceled. Nikki Finke has more. That such a plan was seriously considered, with L.A. Times publisher David Hiller apparently in the know about the Martinez-Mullens affair, is an astonishing conflict of interest. Oh well, at least Martinez had bitter words to say about the planned merger of the Opinion section and the LATBR. Even so, whatever Martinez’s talents or convictions, this is embarrassing for all parties.

I Saw This Coming

Editor and Publisher: “The mystery creator of the Orwellian YouTube ad against Hillary Rodham Clinton is a Democratic operative who worked for a digital consulting firm with ties to rival Sen. Barack Obama. Philip de Vellis, a strategist with Blue State Digital, acknowledged in an interview with The Associated Press that he was the creator of the video, which portrayed Clinton as a Big Brother figure and urged support for Obama’s presidential campaign.”

Harry Potter 7: It’s Not Easy Being Green

For those interested, the new Harry Potter book will be 784 pages. The first print run is set at a mind-boggling 12 million. The paper used will contain “a minimum of 30 percent post-consumer waste fiber.” While this eco-friendly output is good, as Chelsea Green’s Margo Baldwin observed last year, many small publishers have been putting out books with a higher PCW fiber count. And I can’t help but wonder whether any of these 12 million copies will be remaindered. And if they do not sell, will they be pulped? And is this mass pulping really beneficial for the environment?

In Which I Join the Fold

Since I’ve amassed a tidy arsenal of reviews over the past six months, and, since my litblogging colleagues Mark Sarvas, Lizzie Skurnick, Sarah Weinman, Michael Orthofer, and Jessa Crispin were members, I figured that the time had come to join the National Book Critics Circle and participate in the ongoing critical conversation.

I’m honored to report that I’m now an NBCC member.

There were several reasons why I joined. For one, we’re in the middle of an interesting convergence point, a confused nexus of print and online media in which both parties sometimes wave scolding fingers at each other instead of communicating or meshing with the “other” side. It seemed only natural to join the organizational body that was attempting to put current literary criticism into perspective — particularly as some perspectives are misunderstood, some genres and books are needlessly dismissed, and the future of literary criticism remains somewhat inchoate as layoffs and buyout offers assault working journalists and the remaining column inches devoted to book reviews.

While it is true that I have taken the NBCC to task from time to time (and I certainly don’t exculpate myself from some of the aforementioned finger-waving), I figured that understanding the NBCC from a member’s perspective might permit me to form a more informed opinion and understand where many of its members were coming from.

We’ll see how this all works. In the meantime, I’d like to thank Jane Ciabattari, Rebecca Skloot, and John Freeman for having me on board.

Waldenbooks Stores Replaced by “Concept Stores”

It’s been a long time since I’ve set foot into a Waldenbooks store, but Bloomberg reports that Waldenbooks is shutting half of its stores, selling the majority of its international division after an unexpected loss. Waldenbooks is owned by Borders Group Inc. and CEO George Jones has said that Borders’ new focus will be giving its larger bookstores an overhaul and revamping its website. The ever-reliable Jim Milliot has more: Borders will be developing a new “concept store” this year, with the first one set to open early next year. There’s no word on whether these “concept stores” will be the capitalist equivalent of a 1970s progressive rock album, but Jones did remark, “We have too much inventory in our stores.” Whether “too much inventory” translates into not enough blockbusters and fewer independent titles is a mystery, but it recalls a particular Anne Sexton poem that doesn’t exactly leave readers performing happy pirouettes on an expansive lawn.


  • Ian McEwan may be taking a page out of Margaret Atwood’s playbook. McEwan has decided to forego touring for On Chesil Beach, replacing his bookstore appearances with a 23 minute film. But here’s the question: do people really want to go to a bookstore to see a film of an author? Particularly if they can download the film off the Internet? I agree that the current idea of an author reading is flawed and that some authors simply lack the pizazz to work a room. But if bookstores want to keep on thriving and have their customers return, there’s no substitute for live author appearances, where readers can ask questions and authors can personally inscribe their books, as odious as the task might be for the author. (via Bookdwarf)
  • I agree with Bill Peschel. Lynne Scanlon is really missing the point about the Vagina Monologues debacle. Besides, what were these girls supposed to do? Tell the principal that they would, in fact, say the word “vagina” and then have the show canceled?
  • It’s a sad world indeed when The Secret Life of Bees replaces The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.
  • Maud Newton chooses between Kate Atkinson and Richard Ford. All I have to say is: Ouch.
  • Forget the Tournament of Books. How about the Tournament of Reading Reports? Who will be the first to report of John Banville’s Los Angeles appearance? Mark Sarvas or Callie Miller? There’s no rooster here to be had, but certainly there’s a booster.
  • The Independent‘s Susi Feay investigates Muriel Gray’s recent claim that today’s female writers lack imagination.
  • The CliffsNotes dilemma spelled out in comic strip allegory. Years ago, I had something close to this happen to me, although I was the one to walk out. (via The Millions)
  • The Raw Shark Texts author Steven Hall muses on the number 31.
  • Terry McMillan has filed a $40 million lawsuit against her former husband, “now a hair stylist in a Danville salon.” Who knew that hair stylists had publicists?
  • Fugitive novelist Cesare Battisti has been arrested in Italy.
  • New York Magazine interviews LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy.
  • I didn’t realize this, but Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio has been revived, with Liev Schreiber taking on Bogosian’s role.
  • Salman Rushdie: “not afraid to laugh.” Well, good for him. I didn’t realize there were authors out there who were cowering in fear from humor and I’m glad Rushdie has sought the appropriate therapy to learn how to laugh again. (via Orthofer)
  • Russell Crowe is making his directorial debut with a surf film. The story involves a bunch of needlessly angry surfers who scream at hotel clerks and beat the shit out of any detractors, when they aren’t busy throwing telephones into the ocean.
  • I find it amazing that there is only one gay and lesbian-based bookstore in the whole UK. But authors are now rallying to save it.
  • It appears that the folks at Gawker have now seen fit to emerge from their collective anonymity and sign their posts. Whether this is a testament to future accountability or an effort by Denton to keep track of his writing slaves extended family is anyone’s guess.

[UPDATE: Mark and Callie‘s respective accounts of the Los Angeles Banville reading are now up. Mark wins out for timeliness, beating Callie’s post by a mere eleven minutes. But eleven minutes! That’s what I call a close race. I certainly hope that Mark and Callie meet at some point. I can dutifully attest that Mark Sarvas does not bite people, although there are unconfirmed reports of Mark noshing on gourmet roadkill.]

[UPDATE 2: And it turns out that John Fox was at the Banville reading too! None of these three have met each other. This is criminal! All this makes me want to fly down to Los Angeles, get these three together in the same room, and not allow anyone to leave until at least twenty minutes of friendly conversation has gone down!]