Reluctant Habits

BEA 2009: Yiddish Yoga

Posted by in BEA

Until Friday, it had not occurred to me to subdivide yoga into cultural and lingusitical categories. Enter Lisa Grunberger, author of Yiddish Yoga, who documented “an act of translation” that involved yoga and her grandmother Ruthie.

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BEA 2009: A Few Positive Words

Posted by in BEA

It has been suggested by more than a few parties that my BookExpo coverage betrays a sourpuss disposition. It has also been insinuated that I was predisposed to find negativity within this three-ring exposition. Not at all. Here are some positive observations: The fine folks at Firebrand managed to set up a booth at BEA that proved to be a popular destination point for any number of quirky literary types. The many perspectives that will emerge from the fairly open press credentials policy will certainly assist Reed Exhibitions (and others)…read more

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BEA 2009: Book Reviews 2010 Panel Report

Posted by in BEA

Panel: Book Reviews 2010: What Will They Look Like? Participants: John Reed, The Brooklyn Rail (Moderator); Ben Greenman, The New Yorker; Otis Chandler, Goodreads; Bethanne Patrick, The Book Studio; David Nudo, Shelfari; Peter Krause, Tactic Co. I certainly went to this morning’s NBCC-sponsored panel with an open mind. Alas, with stiff moderator John Reed reading word-for-word off of his list of questions and the question of whether book reviews were even worth saving largely ignored, this was, as you might expect, business as usual, with Ben Greenman and Otis Chandler…read more

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BEA 2009: Bethanne Patrick

Posted by in BEA

I talked with Bethanne Patrick, host of The Book Studio, in an effort to determine the proper way to say “Whee!” in relation to books. There is some discussion here about the NPR contretemps (specifically, their phony use of “Whee!”) and there is a good deal of suggestive talk.

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BEA 2009: Clifford the Big Red Dog

Posted by in BEA

During the course of my BEA journalism, I encountered the large and appealing figure of Clifford the Big Red Dog. Since I was feeling that this year’s BookExpo America simply wasn’t cutting it, I attempted to put forth some questions to him and get his thoughts on the subject. The above video reveals his answers.

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BEA 2009: James Ellroy

Posted by in BEA, Ellroy, James, Facebook

Back in April, it was revealed that the galley for James Ellroy’s Blood’s a Rover contained a note asking all of Ellroy’s readers to become his Facebook friends. Well, since Ellroy happened to be at BookExpo America, I decided to ask him about what the nature of this “Facebook friend” relationship entailed. Ellroy promptly placed his arm around my shoulder and gave me his explanation. I think it’s safe to say that Ellroy’s idea of “Facebook friend” is much different from Jonathan Franzen’s.

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BookExpo: The Myth of “Big Ideas”

Posted by in BEA

There’s a desperate atmosphere evident even in the panels. And I’m not just talking about the execution, but the conception. One such panel that I walked out on, featuring the likes of Chris Anderson and Lev Grossman, was devoted to whether or not publishers still hold the keys to the castle. It was a sad and lifeless discussion that felt as pathetic as the hired dancers attempting to drum up some attention in the vestibule for some book that most people will forget about by tomorrow morning. (Indeed, it might…read more

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BookExpo America: Initial Report

Posted by in BEA

The two words that come to mind are “junior size.” With Macmillan off the floor altogether and even HarperCollins seeing reduced foot traffic, one wanders BookExpo’s floors in search of innovation, only to find one’s self subsumed in a heap of remainders. Perhaps BookExpo needs a reboot. The panel discussion is chintzy. The conversations are desperate. And everybody asks around for the remaining parties containing an open bar. The most profound floor interview I have conducted so far was one with Clifford the Big Red Dog. He did not answer…read more

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BEA Reports Coming

Posted by in BEA

You will not see me anywhere near BookExpo America today, nor will there be any reports, writeups, transcripts, audio clips, damaging photographs, evidence for an elaborate blackmail scheme, or any other ancillary materials of anything that is occurring at Javits (or elsewhere) between now and tomorrow. I am presently juggling a considerable number of professional balls and I have slept very little and I have imbibed a hell of a lot of coffee. I have somehow managed to reply to email. It is my understanding that I will be permitted…read more

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The Bat Segundo Show: Kathleen Collins

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Cooking, Food, Television

Kathleen Collins appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #290. Kathleen Collins is most recently the author of Watching What We Eat. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Contending with traumatic cooking show associations. Author: Kathleen Collins Subjects Discussed: TK EXCERPT FROM SHOW: Correspondent: I should probably start this conversation off by confessing something to you. I think that Rachael Ray is a bit on the crazy side. She’s not someone who really makes me comfortable. I’m actually quite frightened by her. You know, I don’t find her down-to-earth at all. And I…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Javier Calvo and Mara Faye Lethem

Posted by in Bat Segundo

Javier Calvo and Mara Faye Lethem both appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #289. Javier Calvo is the author of Wonderful World. Mara Faye Lethem is the translator. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Considering the unseen cantaloupe. Guests: Javier Calvo and Mara Faye Lethem Subjects Discussed: TK EXCERPT FROM SHOW: Correspondent: I must ask then, Mara Faye, if you had read any other books to get the idiom right in English for this. Because both your translation of this book [Wonderful World] and your translation of Pandora in the Congo strike…read more

Werner Herzog Sells Out; Betrays an Abel Ferrara Masterpiece

Posted by in ferrara-abel, Film

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Review: Drag Me to Hell (2009)

Posted by in Film

It cannot be an accident that one of Drag Me to Hell‘s central images involves loan officer Christine Brown eating a whole tub of ice cream without apology. And let’s be honest here. We’ve all been in that spot at some point. Christine, however, is lactose intolerant and she has a weight problem buried in her past. She does not care. She spoons down the ice cream anyway. It’s the ice cream that matters now. And while I don’t know how many uptight critics will declare this film some giant…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Arthur Phillips

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Journalism

Arthur Phillips appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #288. Arthur Phillips is most recently the author of The Song is You. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Reconsidering the playlists and those who play him. Author: Arthur Phillips Subjects Discussed: Characters who are enslaved to culture, partisan positions in relation to hoarding facts, being in denial about larger arguments within novels, Nabokov’s Lectures on Literature, aesthetic concerns, muses and playing against reader expectations, the myth of an author’s personal connection, listening to headphones, ghosts and Jeopardy experiences gone awry, personal experience and…read more

The Bat Segundo Show: Sarah Waters II

Posted by in Bat Segundo, Waters, Sarah

Sarah Waters appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #287. To listen to our previous interview with Sarah Waters, check out The Bat Segundo Show #37. Sarah Waters is most recently the author of The Little Stranger. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Creeping into the dark shadows of fabricated identities. Author: Sarah Waters Subjects Discussed: Research involving poltergeists, country doctors, and other topics, lingering interests from The Night Watch, Susan Hill’s The Woman in Black, similar story elements across multiple novels, the limited elements of a haunted house story, dashed out four…read more

New Review: Chuck Palahniuk

Posted by in palahniuk-chuck, Reviews

Chuck Palahniuk is regularly dismissed by the snobs. Despite his sales, you will not see a New York Review of Books or a Bookforum essay on the man anytime soon. The atmosphere is too retrousse. Here is an author who seems to be uncritically admired by his fans and just as unilaterally (and unfairly) condemned by the literary elite. But people do read the man and the man is not without talent. It is a foolish person indeed who does not submerge himself with some frequency into the common lake…read more

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Great Fiction Not Written by White People

Posted by in Uncategorized

As Darby Dixon III has suggested, with the exception of Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Dick Meyer’s list of great books written after 1900 has all the literary sensibilities of a grand wizard. To counter Meyer’s vanilla extract sensibilities, here’s a very hastily assembled list of great American fiction written after 1900 not written by white people. This is by no means an authoritative list. It pretty much came together in one mad mnemonic rush. I have also limited the list to one book per author. But all of these books have…read more

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BEA Blogger Signing

Posted by in BEA

Since today is apparently self-promotion day, I should point out that I have been signed up for a blogger signing at BEA. On Sunday, May 31, at 1:00 PM, at BookExpo America, I will be at Booth #4077 with bloggers Carey Anderson and Sarah Weinman to sign things. I am not sure what things will need to be signed, but I draw the line at credit card receipts to fund your child’s private education. If you don’t have anything for me to sign, I can sing to you. And if…read more

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In Which I Am Interviewed by Colin Marshall

Posted by in Uncategorized

Colin Marshall, who runs the excellent KCSB program, The Marketplace of Ideas, was very kind to interview me recently. And he’s apparently accused me of being a pioneer. I wish to assure everyone that the “pioneer” label has less to do with anything I’ve ever done and more to do with a few trips for chicken through a notable fast-food restaurant chain. Nevertheless, I’m learned that the program aired today and that it will be made available through the show’s website. I was fired up on a lot of coffee…read more

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An Open Letter to Dave Eggers

Posted by in Eggers, Dave

Dear Dave: Seriously, man, do not fuck with people’s emotions. I’m with you for lifting up people’s spirits. I’ve done quite a bit of that myself in ways you can possibly never know and which I prefer not to disclose. True intrinsic kindness involves not telling and not advertising. (This is not necessarily an imputation from me. This is how many people perceive you, as I’m sure you know. You want to be a force for good? Well, it sure as hell doesn’t help that you’ve never once opened yourself…read more

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New Review

Posted by in Reviews

In today’s Barnes and Noble Review, you can find my piece on Nancy Kress’s Steal Across the Sky. The first sentence — what some folks in the know call the lede — reads as follows: The latest volume from the prolific, award-winning science fiction author Nancy Kress bombards the reader with big ideas aplenty — but only a genre-addled birdbrain would pigeonhole Kress as yet another concept-slinging roughneck kicking around speculative turf. To find out just what that turf entails, read the rest of the review. Needless to say, I…read more

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The Bat Segundo Show: Michelle Goldberg

Posted by in Bat Segundo

Michelle Goldberg appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #286. Michelle Goldberg is most recently the author of The Means of Reproduction. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Wondering if there’s any fate in what we make. Author: Michelle Goldberg Subjects Discussed: [TK] EXCERPT FROM SHOW: Correspondent: You use the words — the modifier “seemingly liberated’ — to describe this educated Indian woman who goes and, of her own volition, says, “I want to have boys. I don’t want to have girls.” Let’s actually take this into consideration, along with the case of…read more

Kindle Bloggers Become Amazon’s Bitches

Posted by in Amazon, Blogging, Kindle

This blog will not be distributed through Kindle. I cannot possibly give away so many of my rights for a mere 30% of the cut. To put this into perspective, even the Scribd General Terms of Use limits what you give up to “solely in order to publish and promote such User Content in connection with services offered or to be offered by Scribd.” Not so with Amazon. Here’s the relevant section of the Digital Publication Distribution Agreement: 7. Rights Granted. You grant to us, throughout the term of this…read more

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Review: Terminator Salvation (2009)

Posted by in Film

As resistance leaders go, John Connor is about as imposing as an out-of-shape hipster easily thrown out of the back door by an indolent bouncer. Christian Bale seems to think that growling all of John Connor’s lines in his Batman voice will somehow persuade audiences that he’s the savior of humanity. Alas, it only reminds us how badly The Dark Knight has aged just in the past eleven months. “If you’re listening to this,” he barks into a radio, “you are the Resistance.” Well, maybe we will be if more…read more

Is Katie Roiphe Necessary?

Posted by in Facebook, mothers, parenting, roiphe-katie

Sixteen years ago — just a year before Kurt Cobain blew his brains out — Katie Roiphe wrote a book called The Morning After, in which she failed to grasp the basic moral concept that women who are date raped are indeed victims. Two years ago, when I interviewed this decidedly surly specimen, Roiphe still believed this. She had not altered her position one smidgen, and she seemed quite proud of this. It was as if she had gone to Princeton not to earn a Ph.D., but to pick up…read more

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I Was Simply Told the Lines

Posted by in dowd-maureen, Plagiarism

She may be smart, but she doesn’t seem to know much about men. But in real life, journalists are feeling the chill. The stylish grandmother acted like a stammering child caught red-handed, refusing to admit any fault and pointing the finger at a convenient scapegoat. But now I want a full accounting. I want to know every awful act committed in the name of self-defense and patriotism. Have you thought about using even fewer than 140 characters? In a droll nod to shifting technology, there’s a British red telephone booth…read more

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Review: The Brandon Book Crisis

Posted by in tao lin

Brandon Scott Gorrell and Tao Lin’s The Brandon Book Crisis contains a considerable amount of white space, thereby reflecting the aesthetic of an Outlook email printout. One suspects that the people in publishing deal with such printouts on a regular basis, even as they tell each other not to print out emails. There is, after all, an environment to save. Do people print out emails anymore? One is tempted to quote Lacan here. Or perhaps another French Situationist. Some writer who might prevent depression. The real is too depressing. Even…read more

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Lens Flare: The Secret Ingredient Behind Any Reboot

Posted by in Star Trek

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Plans For My Literary Ego

Posted by in BEA

I’ve been getting a number of emails about BEA. And by “number,” let’s just say that it’s not a big number. In fact, the number is so small that I have been spending hours trying to rebuild my dwindling ego and pretend that the number is actually greater than it really is. Keith Gessen probably gets more emails on the subject of BEA than I do. And he’s in Russia right now. And goddammit, that makes me so mad. Why should Keith Gessen get more emails than I do? I…read more

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The Bat Segundo Show: Nelson George

Posted by in Bat Segundo

Nelson George appeared on The Bat Segundo Show #285. Nelson George is most recently the author of City Kid. Condition of Mr. Segundo: Drowning in the inevitable tide of gentrification. Author: Nelson George Subjects Discussed: George’s thoughts on Fort Greene, gentrification, black artists and real estate, the inevitable nature of change, finding a balance between the personal and the artistic, artistic arrogance, on not being the person at the party who wanted to do something, living a fatherless life, mentoring Chris Rock and other artists, jealousy, helping other people, the…read more