RIP Joel Siegel

The film critic Joel Siegel died on Friday. Roger Ebert has a valiant tribute to him, pointing out how Siegel persevered as a critic for ten years despite being diagnosed with colon cancer and that he was a better writer than his television appearances gave him credit for. One of the last times Siegel made it into the headlines was when he walked out of a screening of Clerks II, causing the filmmaker Kevin Smith to don him “a dick with a mustache” and go into over-the-top histrionics on a radio show, cutting Siegel no slack whatsoever. Smith’s most recent entry on his blog has him urging you to see Live Free or Die Hard. But there is no mention of Siegel’s passing.

I always felt Siegel to be far more effusive about mediocre movies than he needed to be. But given the choice between a film critic who maintained his cool when a hypersensitive filmmaker tried to sandbag him on a radio show and that same hypersensitive filmmaker urging his audience to fill up Hollywood’s coffers, I’ll choose the former, if only because Siegel kept mostly silent about his personal hangups and had no personal stake in what he did other than expressing his enthusiasm.

[UPDATE: This afternoon, Smith has updated his blog, where he calls out one "George Prager," who left multiple comments on this Hollywood Elsewhere thread, and writes the following: "More than that, I don’t know what was expected of me: Joel and I had a blow-up, it went away, a year later, he died. No reason to write a blog about it, really; I tend to eulogize relatives only."]

Personally, I’m Happy Enough to Be Booked on Public Access

Chronicle of Higher Education: “But after a dozen years in the industry, the whining and whingeing of authors had worn me down: The conspiracy theories about how a publisher set out to ruin an author’s career by not sending his 15-year-old book to a small regional conference; the notion that a publisher sullied an author’s reputation by giving her a red cover; the complaint that there were not enough ads promoting the book (there were never enough ads); the indignation that we didn’t get the author reviewed in The New York Times, or booked on Oprah.” (via Bookninja)

Doug Frantz Resigns from the L.A. Times

Editor & Publisher: “Los Angeles Times Managing Editor Doug Frantz has quit the paper, the newspaper announced today. In a short Web story, the paper revealed that Frantz, a former New York Times staffer, would leave July 6 after 20 months on the job.”

L.A. Observed has the memo, which reveals that Frantz will be heading to Istanbul to do more reporting. Was this a case of Frantz trying to bring more hard journalism to the L.A. Times and being denied by top brass or Frantz simply wanting to get out of the boardroom and back into the trenches?

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Roundup

  • The Bay Area Intellect, a website that I was regrettably unfamiliar with when fog-drenched weather was a regular part of my daily life (as opposed to a Somerset Maugham-like tropical humidity), offers a report on the Katherine Taylor reading. Howard Junker, however, is surprisingly absent from this report. I do not know if last week’s controversy was ever resolved. Did Junker and Taylor submit to pistols at dawn and resolve this issue with the appropriate satisfaction? And can we believe that the Howard Junker now blogging at ZYZZYVA Speaks is the real Howard Junker? If Katherine Taylor was capable enough to devise a fictive Katherine Taylor, then I contend that it is equally possible that Taylor actuated a Howard Junker alter ego. Whether this Howard Junker surrogate has been programmed to tip well is something I leave the blogs to speculate over.
  • A Valve correspondent investigates how descriptive language leads to personal disgust. The interesting question is whether one’s personal reaction is joined at the hip to a larger groupthink response. For example, if you or I see a steaming pile of shit being whipped up on a hot plate (and as the twisted bastard concocting this example in the early morning, I could probably go a lot further in disgusting you), then we might both agree that this is disgusting. But at what point do our individual responses relate to some conformist impulse? And is there some responsibility of the author to balance a reader’s judgment of a disgusting image with that of how far one goes in describing it? Discuss with class.
  • The weather as comic strip. Another missed opportunity in perception: any real-world view of windows from another building. (via Darby Dixon)
  • Reading in a Foreign Language.
  • John Krasinski reads one of DFW’s “interviews.”
  • Jennifer Weiner: “It took a little longer than five days, but the Times’ book blog has finally belched up its completely gratuitous Gary Shteyngart reference (if his book is just now being reviewed in England, it’s new to you!).” In defense of Garner, however, regular gratuitous references to authors (which reminds me that Matthew Sharpe’s Jamestown is much funnier than its idiot detractors* give it credit for) are what litblogs are all about.
  • The Rake has some additional thoughts on the J.T. Leroy madness.
  • I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t confess that there is an unfortunate part of me that is quite curious about what the Spice Girls might effect with their reunion. Yes, dear readers, I’m coming out as a closeted Spice Girls fan. It takes some astonishing moxie to pen lyrics like “Yo, I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want / So tell me what you want, what you really really want / I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want / So tell me what you want, what you really really want / I wanna I wanna I wanna I wanna really / Really really wanna zig-zag ha!” By my count, that’s eleven uses of “really” in one stanza. Name me another song in the history of pop music that dares to immerse itself so boldly in high school vernacular.
  • Rodney Welch offers a dissenting view on The Savage Detectives. (via Dan Green)
  • An ebook reader for the iPod?
  • I’m not sure why this doesn’t surprise me exactly, but it appears that Michiko and Andrew Keen have locked lips. (via The Millions)
  • It’s sitting in my vertiginous pile of books. So I can’t quite comment on Edward P. Jones’ editorship on New Stories from the South 2007 (and I actually have a lengthy post about Southern writers and a number of recent books I’ve read that I hope to write eventually), but Maud has an excerpt from Jones’s introduction.
  • Elizabeth Hand on Rebecca Curtis.
  • J. Hoberman on the CIA and the 1954 film adaptation of Animal Farm.
  • To respond to Mr. Orthofer’s complaint about American coverage of Günter Grass (or lack thereof), I don’t think the fault can be leveled exclusively at the newspapers. I left about eight voicemails to set up an interview with Grass and had planned to hole up with thousands of pages of Grass before talking with him. (I did, after all, have no wish to waste the man’s time.) Not only did the publisher fail to return any of my calls (the least that could have been said was “No”), but the publisher never sent me a review copy of Peeling the Onion. Now granted, I don’t harbor any illusions that I’m entitled to any of this (and, indeed, never have). But I have a feeling that other media outlets may have received similar treatment. Ergo, the paucity of coverage.

* — By Susannah Meadows’ logic, we should discount Shakespeare’s comedies. After all, Measure for Measure is not funny in that ha-ha way and is therefore inured from exegesis. This is the attitude espoused by someone incapable of understanding the novel as nothing more than a bauble that amuses her. Which begs the question: if Meadows cannot comment properly on Jamestown‘s thematics or maintain a cogent and convincing argument, why then is she not working as a film critic for the New York Post?

Back in Action (Sort of)

After spending hours carefully going through my laptop hard drive through an enclosure and hacking files through a command prompt (since Windows did not want to recognize the files), I was able to retrieve 95% of my data. Which includes about five podcasts and several lengthy pieces of writing I had feared lost. I’m now on the laptop with an image of the factory default, stealing wireless from a kind neighbor.

The moral of the story, folks, is this: No matter how healthy your drive appears to be, be sure to make images of your hard drive every month. And if you have a laptop, invest in an enclosure. They’re only about $20 and they will save your ass.

I should hopefully be back in earnest tomorrow.

Cablevision Pulls the Plug

It shouldn’t be a surprise, but it seems that Cablevision, perhaps because they didn’t take too kindly to me reporting their incompetence, have cut off my broadband service without notice. I am currently working on restoring my laptop, including all of the data that I lost, so that I can steal wireless from the many networks in my neighborhood and therefore carry on blogging. But for the moment, my online access is extremely limited. So bear with me while I work out the kinks. Thank you for your patience.

Ethical Transparency

An author who I will not name sent me his book, along with a cash amount intended as a donation to this site. I’m happy to accept donations for anyone who considers this site to be of value to them. And I’m sure that this author meant well. But because this donation came with a book, I do not feel that it would be ethical for me to accept the cash. It implies that I must take a look at his book without a honest and scrupulous eye. Therefore, I will be returning the cash by mail to this author.

At an event, I was asked by a publicist to take a photo. “I’ll pay you for it,” said this publicist. Sure this would have been helpful to me, particularly since I am currently scraping by here in Brooklyn from one gig to another. But I demurred. Because to accept cash from a publicist would imply that my perspective can be irreversibly colored by the Almighty Dollar. At BookExpo, another publicist told me that he could send me audio clips of authors to me and that, together, “we might be able to construct an interview.” I am not in the business of “constructing” interviews or designing questions for preprogrammed answers. That is not journalism. That is corruption. And it is not fair to all parties.

I do not care if I am forced to live on a diet of Top Ramen or if I must pay my rent by sifting through the coins in my piggy bank. I would sooner pump gas or work retail somewhere than allow myself to be corrupted like this. Let it stand for the record that my opinion cannot be purchased. If a media outlet deems me fit enough to write an opinion piece, then this is fine. I am happy to be hired. I also see no problem with advertising, provided that the advertising is clearly separated from the content. I also do not see any problems with donations, likewise separated from any implied quid pro quo. But I would not be able to live with myself if I knew that what I was writing was tainted by money. Indeed, there would be absolutely no point to what I do.

The Big-Ass Roundup

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Dana Gioia, Poster Boy for Obsolescence

As can be expected of such predictable speeches, NEA Chairman Dana Gioia outlines the kind of death knell against cultural conversation that one would expect of an embittered elder priding himself on walking uphill to school and back (both ways, meh!) in the snow.

Without citing any specific studies and relying only on his suspicions, Gioia claims that today’s Americans “live in a culture that barely acknowledges and rarely celebrates the arts or artists.” He condemns the mass media for not placing as great an emphasis on “presenting a broad range of human achievement” and, like an old fogey in the truest French sense of the term, fails to observe the Internet as a medium that might very well rectify the wrongs currently committed by the old guard. With an egregious prejudice evincing his clear displacement from his roots, Gioia declares that “no working-class or immigrant kid would encounter the range of arts and ideas in the popular culture,” failing to consider that any kid hungry or motivated enough to go to the library or get his hands on culture will, in fact, do this, regardless of what his teachers tell him what to do. He presumes that the mass media dictates precisely how such a hypothetical kid will respond to the world around him. To exist in the Gioia universe is to live without hope, without the possibility of infectious enthusiasm for the arts passed down from old to young, or from the popular to the more cultivated. It is to live without the possibility of cultural redemption, and without any expansion or evolution of the current terms that, presumably Gioia and the NEA, now believe contemporary culture up to be. Which is to say, inexorably fixed.

I think the key to understanding Gioia’s disreputable cynicism resides in his declaration of entertainment as a corrupt force. What then is the alternative? Culture that is crammed down your throat like prescriptive castor oil? Artistic achievements that are dictated, rather than presented in an invitational manner?

He declares art “an expendable luxury.” Ah, but this assumes that those who lack the funding or the emolument to create will stop creating. This also assumes that art is based upon a marketplace, an environment which Gioia champions, rather than the burning desire of the individual to put paint upon a canvas or write words upon a paper, no matter how cruel or dismissive the artist’s naysayers are.

There is no better place to observe the old guard’s resolute hysteria than a speech from an establishment goon like Gioia. Gioia champions words like “consensus” over “community.” He is a man who would prefer to not see more artists, but “complete human beings capable of leading successful and productive lives in a free society.” But who determines what is complete? Who determines “successful and productive lives?” The marketplace? The NEA?

Gioia cannot accept the possibility that arts and culture might exist in a fantastic anarchy completely outside the marketplace, capable of having its terms overwritten by an underclass or a figure who falls outside of the establishment. He cannot accept an amateur like Heinrich Schliemann discovering the true location of Troy. Or James Joyce, that feckless upstart, self-publishing Ulysses. (Likewise, Walt Whitman.)

This is the man who purports to lead our august body for the arts. But what Gioia outlines in this preposterous speech is not an artistic world that I’m acquainted with. And if Gioia believes that the ridiculous “Praise to the Rituals That Celebrate Change” is the kind of thing that will awaken the young from their apparent Wii-immersed haze, then we’re in an altogether different sort of trouble.

When In Doubt, Cast Generalizations in the Name of Journalism

Sometimes, in the course of feature journalism, it becomes necessary to write about a problem without pondering how truly disturbing it is or considering that there may indeed be another side to the coin. Nowhere in Wall Street Journal reporter Alexandra Alter’s article does she talk with parents who, damn the marketing trends and the groupthink, name their children “Zoe Rose,” despite a porn star sharing the name. (Notable names, as even the most indolent of cultural observers knows, can disappear swifter than a sitcom star’s cachet with the American public.) Nowhere does Alter get a quote from an authority (James Surowiecki? Cass Sunstein?) pondering how the fear of naming babies might, just might, be the result of a terrifying conformism currently afflicting American culture. Nowhere, at least from what I can aver from my reading, does Alter talk with anybody other than middle-class or upper-class people, or any one who could care less whether their child is named after yesterday’s nomen mirabilis.

So is the problem of distinction really a problem? What has permitted a venerable newspaper like The Wall Street Journal to run argumentum ad populum as journalism? Why is there no doubting Thomas for this fascinating issue? Why does Alter, the allegedly objective reporter, buy so readily into her subjects’ slapdash thinking? Why is the question “What’s so wrong with naming a baby after a celebrity?” not offered credence here? Because it doesn’t support the thesis or because Alter is more parochial-minded than she thinks she is?

Broadband Update

I cannot count the number of sleazeballs, both small-time and corporate, that I’ve talked with today. But I’m pleased to report that I’ve found a broadband provider who will offer a dry loop DSL line with VOIP that will also give me a static IP. All this with minimal setup fees and without a yearly contract. The guy I spoke with was professional, friendly, and crystal-clear about technical details, answering every question I asked of him. It was a clear case of one geek talking with another — a conversation I was close to giving up one of my testicles for.

Now that things are in action, it’s enough to make me buy a top hat and dance in the streets. I don’t care how hot it is. Of course, the proof will be in the pudding.

I can tell you this much: Verizon is a bunch of liars.

I was very close to signing a yearly contract with them for a phone and high speed internet combo package. The sales rep I spoke with insisted three times that I would be getting a static IP. Skeptical of this after my experience with Optimum, in which I was told the same thing, after muddling through a series of vague Verizon pages, I found a Verizon site that claimed: “Static IP addresses are only available thru Verizon Business DSL.”

I managed to reach someone in Verizon DSL Technical Support, who waffled around the subject, until I said, “Answer the question. Is there any way that a residential DSL customer can get a static IP? Yes or no?”

“Basically no,” he said.

So essentially Verizon and Optimum are lying to you — and, in the case of Verizon, conning you into signing a yearly service contract. They are telling you they have a static IP when, in fact, they don’t, if you’re a residential customer.

I didn’t have much of a voice. So I was unable to pursue this further. But all I can say is that if you’re in Brooklyn trying to find a broadband provider with a static IP, be extremely careful to get something written down before signing on with these turkeys.

I’m only surprised that there hasn’t been a class action suit filed for those who were suckered into this nonsense. I can’t be the only one they’re lying to about static IP addresses.

When I get my voice back, I plan to conduct some experiments and upload my results to YouTube. But for those who have their larnyxes, call Verizon and Optimum. Tell them that you’re interested in residential DSL with a static IP address. See what they say.

Another Endorsement for City Jerk

As I’ve begun to settle into my delightful new neighborhood, I’ve become addicted to the PLG-based blog Across the Park. Some weeks ago, I conducted an elaborate independent canvassing campaign along Flatbush Avenue to determine the lay of the land and apply my own personal Google Maps “street view” to my temporal lobe for later processing. (I apologize if such terminology is perceived as ostentatious, but I can only report the way that my twisted little brain operates. If it’s any consolation, the sickness has caused much of the machinery in my noggin to operate at half speed.)

During the course of this prodigious walk, I espied the fantastically named City Jerk, which seemed rather fitting in light of a specific type of individual I have observed in Manhattan with troubling frequency. The establishment specializes, as one can easily aver, in jerk chicken.

Now I’m a fan of jerk, but the difficulty in stepping into any random neighborhood restaurant is that there are approximately 300 other restaurants also doing business with this Jamaican delight. I had thought that the prodigious number of taquerias in the Mission District was impressive and perhaps nonpareil in its near rhapsodical dissemination. Until I encountered Brooklyn’s bountiful jerk restaurants. The jerk restaurants may very well stop rapacious landlords from gutting the boroughs and replacing them with high rises and jacking up property values with little concern for everyday folks. (Accordingly, I must don a skirt and a pair of pom-poms and shout, “GO JERK RESTAURANTS! GO! GIVE ME A J…,” inter alia. Your tips on apposite eye liner for these ostensibly Marxist purposes are, of course, quite welcome.)

However, I have also recently discovered — almost entirely by accident — that chicken has proven strangely beneficial to the recovery of my voice. Shortly after I have eaten chicken, I have been shocked to discover some of my voice’s affable qualities returning. Now whether this has occurred because of the steam that flows from the meat as one delicately peels back the skin, causing a pleasant aroma and visible mist to drift up one’s nasal cavity, or it’s the chicken’s protein and grandma’s panacea qualities which permit it to form a dominant allele in that trusty homeopathic formula that was, according to my unreliable notes, devised by Mendel (I refer, of course, to “chicken soup”), I cannot say. I am not a medical expert. But I do observe what works.

Which is to say that chicken was very much in the cards.

Now since Across the Park gave the thumbs up to City Jerk a few weeks ago, I decided to investigate it myself. The proprietor was exceedingly kind, helping to acquaint your yokel correspondent with the provincial culinary procedures, and took great care to provide and recommend very specific amounts of rice and gravy. For a mere seven dollars, I walked out of City Jerk with a remarkably tasty congeries of delicate chicken, sauce that was very precise in its spiciness (not too overpowering but resonant enough in taste and texture to more than warrant its application), perfectly cooked plantains (soft and not overcooked), and some vegetables. We’re talking good chicken with the fixings.

I must disagree, however, with Across the Park’s view that the jerk chicken in question is better intact. Because the aforementioned proprietor was thankfully not inspired by the comfort food mentality that has proven remarkably resilient six years after September 11. Thus, she did not chop the chicken to unsuitable particulates. She clearly understood that, rather than having oblong bits of chicken breast to tear up awkwardly and mix with the various sides, it needed to be chopped ever so slightly, so as to be better disseminated across the plate and mixed up among the rice.

All this is to say that City Jerk is certainly worth your time, particularly if you’re in the latter stages of laryngitis and you find yourself in my hood. It’s located at 591 Flatbush Avenue.

Mini-Roundup

  • Is Michael Chabon the first author to credit his writing software in the acknowledgments section? I’d like to thank WordPress and Firefox for permitting me to write this sentence. I’m absolutely positive that there was no other way I could have blogged in quite the same way or quite the same circumstances, had it not been for these two stunning programs. If someone gets me drunk enough this weekend, I will be sure to tattoo that silly Firefox logo into my upper arm. After all, I pride myself on my individualism. And if you want a link to Chabon’s Google Calendar, here you go.
  • What is the Nigerian literary scene like after Abiola Irele’s infamous statement?
  • Dan Green examines the Small Beer anthology Interfictions.
  • Rebecca Mead on Obama’s poetry.
  • Is Annie Dillard done writing? (via Orthofer)

Do Not Under ANY Circumstances Order from Optimum/Cablevision

To: Doug ________
From: Edward Champion
Re: Lies, Incompetence & Rudeness

Doug:

Never in my history of dealing with telecommunications companies have I lost more man hours, borne such a burden for your company’s failure to communicate and organize action among its remarkably Kafkaesque branches, and experienced more outright incompetence.

Let us review the history: I ordered your Triple Play package last month. I was told that I would be given a static IP. It was under this specific condition that I ordered your service. When the technician arrived on May 30, he was hostile and threatened to leave when he saw that I did not have a television. The cable service was more or less a fringe benefit that I could do without. But that didn’t seem to matter to this technician. I had apparently committed an installation solecism. I then had to persuade him to install the phone and broadband service — in part, by calling Cablevision while he was here. Your technician bitched and moaned the entire time, particularly since the super wasn’t available in seconds to open up the basement.

He installed the service, but there was no static IP. There were at least four conversations with Optimum I had on the phone. Until I finally got in touch with you. You represented to me that through a work transfer order and through switching my service from residential to business, I would be able to obtain my static IP and keep my phone number. But that this would take two and a half weeks. I reluctantly set the appointment for the morning of June 25, 2007, where the cosmos would be aligned and all would be well.

I anticipated a technician to arrive this morning to make the change. The man, George, showed up at 5PM with a work order directing him to move my line from the fifth floor to the ground floor. After wasting twenty minutes with his dispatcher on his cell phone, he then left — without installing the static IP. When I objected, he told me, “Don’t look at me.” Well, who else should I look at? The Virgin Mary? The nearest Mister Softee truck? This man was a representative of your company. This technician then told me that I would have to call your sales department to arrange for another appointment.

I am currently suffering from laryngitis, but I called your sales department, only to strain my voice considerably in describing your screwup to three different people. The last one claimed that he could help me, only to tell me that it was “impossible” to move my number, to the new business account. This was not, of course, what you told me. Before I could describe everything that had been set down for the record, he then put me on hold and, since I was unable to talk on the phone any further, I hung up.

Let us review the email that you sent on June 8, 2007 — two and a half weeks ago:

Hello Mr Champion,

Just a correction for your reference. The new account number will actually be XX-XXXXXX-X not XX-XXXXXX-X

Sorry for the confusion.

Thanks,

Doug __________ previously wrote:
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
This is just to confirm your move transfer request for XX XXXXX St #XX 11225 to attempt to move the phone # XXX XXX XXXX from residential acct # XXXX-XXXXXX-X to dual Commerical acct # XX-XXXXXX-X. We are sending out this request as an accomodation to you as our customer to correct the type of cablevsion acct your serivces are on , which should allow you to order Static Ip in the future. Install will be reduced to $46.95

Thank you for your patience

* * *

Because your company has completely failed to solve this problem, and because your company has lied to me repeatedly, beginning with the false promise that I would have Internet service with a static IP (which again I have been without for almost a month and which has greatly inconvenienced me), and because your company has talked to me on the phone as if I was the one who screwed up, not YOUR company, I have no choice but to pursue other broadband options. At this point, I would not trust your company to perform basic arithmetic, let alone possess the decency to help an old lady cross the street. (Basic spelling and grammar likewise seems to have failed you.)

Since I am entitled to a 30 days money back guarantee, I wish to disconnect my service, effective June 29, 2007. I will return my equipment to your New Jersey address and be sure to postmark it for that date. I demand the immediate refund of the $100 that I initially paid you.

I assume, based on this history, that your company will likewise fail on this front. So here’s the deal, Doug. If I do not receive my refund within 30 days of June 29, 2007, I will have no choice but to pursue a small claims action. I trust that we can resolve this dispute amicably.

— Edward Champion

[6/28 UPDATE: Word apparently has made the rounds of my Cablevision horror story. This morning, I discovered that my service had been cut off without warning. This evening, a gentleman by the name of Bob Weisman, who claimed to be the head of the Brooklyn branch of Cablevision, called me, wanting to see if there was anything he could do to keep me as a customer and noting that he had "seen my writing." I talked with Mr. Weisman for about fifteen minutes, pointing out that I had already taken steps with a new provider who had communicated with me at all stages of the installation process. But I did go through the history of events with him. I don't know if this will have any effect upon the way that Cablevision treats its customers. But Weisman's gesture is a start. I'm only sorry that it took a public callout to get Cablevision to listen to its customers.]

Update on San Diego Union Tribune

Arthur Salm informs me that yesterday’s Books section was indeed the last one. The books coverage will now be “two pages inside Sunday Arts, plus daily reviews once or twice a week inside the Currents section.” Salm also indicates that a Books website will be launching on July 1.

John Freeman offers suggestions on what can be done about this. Meanwhile, Ron Hogan is more skeptical, noting, “Might I humbly suggest that preserving the legacy of serious literary criticism in American letters, if that’s what the ‘battle for the book review’ crowd is actually doing, demands a slightly different approach than the one used to ensure a second season of Jericho?”

Roundup

  • Rumors, put forth by San Diego literary agent Sandra Dijkstra, are now making the rounds that the San Diego Union-Tribune books section is dead. I have no wish to perpetuate a false rumor and I plan to make several calls tomorrow to confirm if this is indeed the case. (In the meantime, an email has been sent to Books Editor Arthur Salm to determine information.) But if this is true, this is very sad news, as Salm ran one of the more underrated book sections in the country. (Don’t believe me? Check out Salm’s footnote-laced review of Consider the Lobster.)
  • Marilyn Robinson on Annie Dillard.
  • Joseph Campana offers one of the best takes on the J.T. Leroy fraud ruling, pointing out that “[t]he problem was the exploitation of addiction and abuse narratives to feed a national hunger we assiduously excuse or deny.” I too am perturbed that such a base capitalization upon the public’s appetite to commiserate with the scarred horrors of someone ostensibly using fiction as a coping mechanism would outweigh the possibilities of infinitely more interesting author hoaxes and identity shenanigans. If anything, Laura Albert should pay for cheapening the potential of more talented authors to tinker with what is real and what is not.
  • Michael Winter is turning to Facebook to unveil his novel. There, he will find many friends who will claim passing acquaintance with him as an excuse to harangue him with hastily composed messages. Or he will find a way to get laid.
  • Pierre Jourde is in trouble. Five farmers have accused the French novelist of revealing family secrets in a “tell-all novel.” But one wonders why these farmers didn’t just keep their traps shut. After all, with the “novel” label attached, Jourde’s work is “fiction.” Was the book miscategorized in the nonfiction section? Personally, I’m hoping for more “tell-all novels,” if only because resulting conflicts along these lines may encourage more baroque French novels deconstructed by literary scholars instead of barristers.
  • Lev Grossman offers this bold lede: “Writing about rich white people is no way to make it as a novelist anymore.” On the contrary, Mr. Grossman. Never underestimate the parochial reading tendencies of those determined to read solely within their own niches. Particularly the rich white people who inhabit certain areas of New York. After all, if they view my own safe neighborhood as dangerous, then what’s to suggest that they won’t apply the same ridiculous lack of logic to their reading choices?

Katherine Taylor Disses Howard Junker!

pbr.jpgHoward Junker reports: “Chapter Nine, ‘Traveling with Mother,’ appeared in ZYZZYVA Fall 2001, in somewhat different form; in fact, it was considered her ‘first nonfiction in print.’ It was also included in our anthology AutoBioDiversity (Heyday Books, 2005). The copyright page of Rules does not acknowledge either appearance.”

Now to be fair to Taylor, the copyright page of Rules for Saying Goodbye doesn’t list any previous appearances that this material appeared in. But when you snub the only literary editor in America brave enough to imbibe Pabst Blue Ribbon, while also dishing dirt on celebrities who fail to tip, is this not something of a double standard?

Junker, however, will have the last laugh when he questions Taylor at a Cody’s reading on Tuesday, June 26.

Needless Quasi-Mandarin Acrobatics

Scott McLemee offers an excellent column in response to the Encyclopedia Brittanica brouhaha, pointing out:

But no such ambiguity colors the scenario we find in Gorman’s commentary.For the digital boosters, the problems will all repair themselves over time. For the neo-Luddite quasi-Mandarins, by contrast, the new-media matrix is a catastrophic force so devastating that its effects may well contaminate human consciousness for centuries to come.

The Laryngitis Roundup

I have lost my voice. And while the coughing still irritates (but shows definite signs of abating), this has made me feel delightfully anonymous and humble. I have become more attuned to verbal and visual cues, in part because I cannot respond to them. Socializing feels like facing an incomplete Jumble puzzle in the newspaper, and I do my best to quell these impulses to fill in the blanks. If I had my voice and if I was operating anywhere close to my full energy, I’d do it.

I am wondering if I should keep one of my Moleskines on me and draw funny pictures for people. I feel like a friendly stranger. I divagate through a world often asking me questions and receiving only smiles, woozy shuffling, and raspy whispers as answers. The people at my new neighborhood cafe have been very kind, with the friendly woman leaning in close to hear my order. She seems alarmed to see me out and about. Finding the balance between resting and working has been a challenge. I cannot commit myself to either antipodean variable. In the meantime, I drink enough daily water to rival an ungulate.

I feel compelled to step in here, even when I know I shouldn’t, for a very quick roundup:

  • Salon’s Pryia Jain conducts some reporting on what the AMS fallout means for today’s indie publishers. There are quotes from Eli Horowitz and Richard Nash.
  • There’s some great stuff over at Colleen’s, along with links to other blogs, including this interview with Eddie Campbell.
  • I have little to say about the tone-deaf Hillary Clinton Sopranos finale spoof, except to respond to the ridiculous claim that America is apparently concerned with what Hillary’s campaign song is. Really? More than Iraq? More than the issue of universal health care that Hillary waffled on? More than the lack of a safety net (e.g., welfare to work) or affordable housing? More than the disparity between the rich and the poor? At least the people who cooked up this campaign had the smarts to respond to David Chase’s onion rings symbol, suggesting that Hillary would not represent an interminable cycle of corruption extending to all in the family. But when cultural appropriation, particularly of the clumsy variety, replaces engagement on the issues, I’m troubled by the referential depths that next year’s candidates will sink to in order to woo voters. Lest we forget, homage’s original meaning involved a vassal demonstrating fealty to a lord. What of the Clintons showing some deference to the voters? Is this not what a constitutional republic is all about?
  • I hope that the clip is eventually made available online. At his new digs, Jeff VanderMeer reports that Greg Bear was interviewed on The Daily Show.
  • David Orr is under attack for allegations concerning his Dana Goodyear essay.