In Lieu of Meaning

Sun-Soaked Roundup

  • Sarah is interviewed by Kacey Kowars. Sarah talks about the history of her blog, how she reads and selects content, her new day job, inter alia. The subject of “mean-spiritedness” is also brought up, to which I reply that what I do here isn’t nearly as vicious as 200 proof vodka. I trust most people to read between the lines.
  • So what were some of the other LBC nominees? Were they corporate sellouts? Were they part of the “literary demi-puppet” conspiracy? Au contrarire. Michael Orthofer weighs in on his selection, Christa Wolf’s In the Flesh. I hope to weigh in on my selection (which was second place!) sometime soon too, but there’s some incredible sunshine and a big trip to Nueva York to prep for.
  • The wifi cafe problem is one of the reasons why I’ve remained reluctant to use wi-fi embedded laptops (although this is likely to change to give you folks up-to-the-minute BEA reports). Cafes are social places where you unexpectedly run into friends and acquaintances or get into conversations with strangers about the books they’re reading or the cool tees they’re wearing or the guitars that they’re playing. But I’ve noticed the gloomy misanthropes who stare into their Powerbooks as if expecting some great theological pronouncement taking up tables intended for four people at my own neighborhood cafe and wonder if this is indeed part of the lingering problem Robert Putnam wrote about in his book Bowling Alone. These people, who feel the chronic need to be connected in all ways but the most tangible ones, rarely buy anything, tip or consort with the nice people behind the counter. Frankly, if killing wi-fi access during the weekends will get these deadbeats to understand that (a) a change in locale doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not a work-every-minute drone, (b) you won’t be rebuked if you don’t answer your email within an hour (at least by the people who matter), and (c) if access is the thing, perhaps broadband at home is more your cup of tea (or hazelnut latte, as the case may be).
  • Tanenhaus Brownie Watch is forthcoming. But cut some slack. It’s a three-day weekend.
  • Jacquelyn Mitchard thought that calls from Oprah were a prank and very nearly didn’t call her back for an OBC selection.< ?li>
  • They’re young! They’re hot! They’re good-looking! And damn, these puppies can write! Wouldn’t a writer make a great catch? Lisa Allardice exposes some of the realities behind pairup glamour. And, yes, J-Franz is name-checked.
  • Hemingway’s Havana estate is endangered.
  • Why does Dracula endure?
  • Diana Abu-Jaber dishes dirt on her food memoir.
  • Decency prevents me from commenting upon this Nick Laird “training” revelation. Return of the Reluctant promises a two-month moratorium on Zadie Smith and Nick Laird news, for reasons similar to Ms. Tangerine Muumuu.

Who Wants to Be a Literary Billionaire?

J.K. Rowling joins the billionaires club. Unfortunately, since writing the Harry Potter series has largely involved the act of one, there has been nobody for Rowling to downsize. So Rowling, in an effort to turn the maximum profit from her stories, has made it a habit of regularly firing and rehiring herself for 17 cents an hour, only to resell her labor for the greatest price.

The Daily News has more on the Jayson Blair tell-all: “Zuza [my girlfriend] took pictures of me prancing around the newsroom wearing a Persian head wrap that covered my face, Kermit the Frog on my shoulders and a giant fake fur coat. I did a full tour de newsroom in this ?peculiar uniform. It is hard to know what I was feeling, other than it was exhilarating to shock everyone. Perhaps I was crying out for attention.” Crying out for attention? Nah, Jayce, sounds like you were trying to recall some obscure Polynesiasn ceremony that involved Kermit the Frog. But anyone trying to invent horrible euphemisms like “tour de newsroom” needed to be stopped.

Hemingway’s favorite daiquiri bar, the Floridita, is being recreated in London. The original Floridita created a double-strength daiquiri bar for Papa. And it was not far from the original bar that Hemingway began work on For Whom the Bell Tolls. The London managers, however, have planned to throw out all soused writers from the new place. Unless, of course, they demonstrate that they can pay their tab.

The Guardian confirms that Richard and Judy are the Oprah of the UK. Literary champions are hoping to replace Richard with Punch, just to “spice things up.”

Rynn Berry is obsessed with Hitler’s diet, believing that Hilter wasn’t the vegetarian everyone claims him to be.

Brian Greene: The Bill Bryson of physics?


The Guardian has an excerpt of Carol Shield’s unfinished novel, Segue, which she was working on at the time of her death.

Terry Gross interviews Stephen King. Hearing Terry Gross describe the beginning of Gerald’s Game in such clinical intellectual terms (apparently, without irony) is pretty hilarious, as are the additional queries that jump from third-person to first-person (“Let’s get Stephen King to the kind of gore and terror and suspense that you create.”). But the second interview has King talking about his accident.

The Globe and Mail features a New Year’s-themed article on the description of drinking in literature that’s also unintentioanlly funny. Really, I couldn’t make this stuff up: “You can, with a little licence, trace an arc in 20th-century drinking literature that follows the act of drinking itself. In Hemingway’s work, the drinking was never-ending, and often celebratory when it wasn’t the weary duty of the lost generation. Hangovers were left largely undescribed, something that could be walked off in the clear air of the Pyrenees, or washed off in a fine and true Michigan trout stream.”

More fun from J.M. Coetzee in the latest NYRoB.

Speculation in the Age on 2004’s Australian heavy-hitters.

Tony Kushner gushes over Eugene O’Neill.

Biggest surprise: USA Today names both Living History and The Five People You Meet in Heaven as worst books of 2003.

Stavros has a translation of the Lost in Translation commercial scene that reveals (no surprise) remarkable caricatures.

And about 70 books on Mao were published in China this year. Perhaps because the 110th anniversary of Mao’s birth was yesterday.