underthedome

Cultural Name Dropping in Stephen King’s Under the Dome

For the purposes of this list, some of the more oblique cultural references have not been included, nor have references to networks (CBS or CNN), newspapers (The New York Times), institutions (King’s fictitious Shawshank State Prison is frequently referenced), brand names (Slurpees), or the Bible. I have also done my best not to reveal character names, except when absolutely explicit (Ploughshares, for example) or references in relation to plot reveals.

underthedomeAlas, Babylon: “Yep, see you that and raise you Alas, Babylon.” (155)

American Family Physician: “thumb through the latest issue of American Family Physician.” (285)

America’s Most Wanted: “I saw that on America’s Most Wanted.” (619)

Bernstein, Leonard: “He was halfway through the third daddy and still conducting like Leonard Bernstein….” (790)

Blitzer, Wolf: “Wolf Blitzer took Anderson Cooper’s place,” “she called him ‘my Wolfie,'” and various lines from Blitzer. (89) “expected either Anderson Cooper or her beloved Wolfie” (760) “Better be Wolfie from CNN, that’s all I can say.” (763) “Lookin good, Wolfie! You can eat crackers in my bed anytime you want.” (765) “Reynolds Wolf (no relation to Rose Twitchell’s Wolfie)” (801) Also p. 961.

Blunt, James: “He struck the barrier at fifteen miles an hour, while listening to James Blunt’s ‘You’re Beautiful.'” (34) (This is my personal favorite.)

Bradbury, Ray: “That’s from Ray Bradbury. You ever read Ray Bradbury?” (671)

Braver, Rita: Appears on p. 766.

Brown, Sandra: “‘Nora Roberts? Sandra Brown? Stephenie Meyer? You read this stuff? Don’t you know Harry Potter rules?'” (282)

Bush, George W.: “His hair looked as if it had last been cut while Bush II was riding high in the polls.” (187) “Big Dubya’s fuck-a-monkey show.” (340)

Car and Driver: “was deep in an issue of Car and Driver, reading a comparison of the 2012 BMW H-car and the 2011 Ford Vesper R/T.” (706)

The Cat in the Hat: “The hat was like the one the cat wore in the Dr. Seuss story.” (733)

Clark Sisters: “This town needs some Mavis Staples. Also some Clark Sisters.” (798)

Clinton, Hillary: “remembered getting drunk the night Hillary Clinton cried in New Hampshire” (893)

Como, Perry: “playing ‘Good Night, Sweet Jesus’ as interpreted by that noted soul singer Perry Como.” (315) “Perry Como had given way to something instrumental.” (316)

Cooper, Anderson: “Wolf Blitzer took Anderson Cooper’s place.” (89) “Anderson Cooper, almost life-sized, looked like he was doing his standup on Castle Rock’s Main Street.” (316) “expected either Anderson Cooper or her beloved Wolfie” (760) (He is also the CNN anchor whose reporting is halted by the military.)

Creedence Clearwater Revival: “I fucked her until she sang ‘Hail to the Chief’ and ‘Bad Moon Rising.'” (875)

Dancing with the Stars: “sometimes watching shows like The Hunted Ones (a clever sequel to Lost) and Dancing with the Stars” (694)

The Dead Milkmen: “bearing the logos of long-gone punk bands like Stalag 17 and the Dead Milkmen.” (836)

Die Hard: “Yippee-ki-yi-yay, motherfucker.” (306)

Earnhardt, Dale: “And although the autographs people noticed when they were invited into his home study were inevitably those of Tiger Woods, Dale Earnhardt, and Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee…” (445)

50 Cent: “one was a stocky young fellow wearing baggy shorts and a faded 50 Cent tee-shirt.” (328)

Ford, John: “against the smudged skyline like Indians in a John Ford Western.” (961)

G.I. Joe: “Almighty GI Joe” (501)

Girls Gone Wild: “most of em probably watching Girls Gone Wild on pay-per-view.” (432)

“Hansel and Gretel”: “Hansel and Gretel minus the happy ending.” (309)

Harry Potter: “‘Nora Roberts? Sandra Brown? Stephenie Meyer? You read this stuff? Don’t you know Harry Potter rules?'” (282) “she had settled for Harry Potter’s chum, Hermione.” (858)

Holt, Lester: “Lester Holt from NBC shot to his feet.” (766)

Howlin’ Wolf: “He had given up on the blues music that had been so important to him in his Phil Bushey stage of life — B.B. King, Koko, and Hound Dog Taylor, Muddy and Howlin’ Wolf, even the immortal Little Walter.” (320)

Iron Butterfly: “sounded suspiciously like the organ solo from ‘In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.” (316)

The Invisible Man: “Barbie’s fist, blurred impression was that he was about to be attacked by the Invisible Man.” (532)

Jett, Joan: “she looked like the middle-school version of Joan Jett; she wouldn’t know who he was talking about.” (329)

Jolie, Angelina: “Great mouth. Angelina lips.” (303) “with her head in the cover of a People magazine — Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie frolicking in the surf on some horny little island where waiters brought you drinks with little paper parasols stuck in them.” (672)

The Jordanaires: “Thurston turned it on and got nothing but Elvis Presley and the Jordanaires, trudging through ‘How Great Thou Art.'” (305)

Kennedy, Bobby: “the paisley headband Thurse had worn to the candlelight memorial service for Bobby Kennedy.” (627)

Kenne Highland & The Vatican Sex Kittens: “the memorable New Year’s Eve show in 2009 featuring the Vatican Sex Kittens.” (337)

King, B.B.: “He had given up on the blues music that had been so important to him in his Phil Bushey stage of life — B.B. King, Koko, and Hound Dog Taylor, Muddy and Howlin’ Wolf, even the immortal Little Walter.” (320)

LCD Soundsystem: “LCD Soundsystem was playing — ‘North American Scum’ — and Jack was singing along when a small voice spoke his name from behind him.” (35)

Led Zeppelin: “He was wearing filthy chinos, a Led Zeppelin tee-shirt, and old slippers with busted backs.” (187)

Lee, Bill: “And although the autographs people noticed when they were invited into his home study were inevitably those of Tiger Woods, Dale Earnhardt, and Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee…” (445)

The Little Mermaid: “so it could hold an entire town prisoner as well as broadcast The Little Mermaid to your television via Wi-Fi and in HD.” (734) “hadn’t been able to persuade Jackie with an Ariel mask” (857)

Little Walter: “He had given up on the blues music that had been so important to him in his Phil Bushey stage of life — B.B. King, Koko, and Hound Dog Taylor, Muddy and Howlin’ Wolf, even the immortal Little Walter.” (320) (There is also a character named Little Walter.)

The Lord of the Rings: “What was it Gollum had said of Bilbo Baggins?” (890)

Lost:What did the Scottish guy say on Lost? ‘Don’t mistake coincidence for fate?’ Maybe that had been it. Maybe it had. But Lost had been a long time ago. The Scottish guy could have said Don’t mistake fate for coincidence.” (285) “sometimes watching shows like The Hunted Ones (a clever sequel to Lost) and Dancing with the Stars” (694)

Lovecraft, H.P.: “the pony in this case was not terrorists, invaders from space, or Great Cthulhu” (179)

Lynyrd Skynyrd: The song “Sweet Home Alabama” factors into the plot.

Mantovani: “He could hear the swooping violins of Mantovani coming through” (780)

Masters of the Universe: “also known as King of the Geeks and Skeletor” (177)

McGruff the Crime Dog: “Big Jim listened to McGruff the Crime Dog for a while.” (512)

McKinley: “He might not know that there was a president as well as a mountain named McKinley…” (909)

McMurtry, James: Epigraph. “It was from an old James McMurtry song…” (93) “What he remembered most clearly about last summer was the James McMurtry song that seemed to be playing everywhere — ‘Talkin’ at the Texaco,’ it was called.” (242) “it was probably why the James McMurtry song had been so popular.” (543)

Mellencamp, John Cougar: “Accompanying the idea came the title of Phil’s old record albums: Nothing Matters and What If It Did.” (35)

Meyer, Stephenie: “‘Nora Roberts? Sandra Brown? Stephenie Meyer? You read this stuff? Don’t you know Harry Potter rules?'” (282)

Mighty Clouds of Joy: “He turned on the radio, got the MIghty Clouds of Joy on WCIK…” (729)

The Mist: “‘Exactly like in that movie The Mist,’ one blogger wrote.” (179)

“Moon River”: “Twitch had juggled half a dozen Indian clubs while singing ‘Moon River.'” (178)

Mr. Sardonicus:Mr. Sardonicus, a movie that had scared him as a kid.” (727)

Nightly News with Brian Williams: “Rory saw his smiling (but of course modest) face on the cover of USA Today; being interviewed on Nightly News with Brian Williams…” (208)

Night of the Living Dead: “In the Bible, people sometimes returned to life like the zombies in Night of the Living Dead.” (104)

1984: “revoked tenure, 1984, thought-police” (301)

Noriega, Manuel: “A kind of Downeast Manuel Noriega?” (613)

Oasis: “yanking her beloved Oasis poster off the wall and tearing it up.” (385)

Obama, Barack: Never named, but referenced throughout the book.

On the Beach: “‘On the Beach,’ Barbie said.” (155)

O’Reilly, Bill: “that half-bald no-spin yapper from FOX News” (762)

Penthouse Forum:Menagerie a trois, as they said in the Penthouse Forum.” (273)

People: “with her head in the cover of a People magazine — Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie frolicking in the surf on some horny little island where waiters brought you drinks with little paper parasols stuck in them.” (672)

Pitt, Brad: “with her head in the cover of a People magazine — Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie frolicking in the surf on some horny little island where waiters brought you drinks with little paper parasols stuck in them.” (672)

Plath, Sylvia: “Maybe meeting a few interesting men and discussing Sylvia Plath in bed.” (850)

Ploughshares: “and guest editor for the current issue of Ploughshares” (299) “‘I edited the current issue of Ploughshares,’ he said. His voice quivered with indignation and sorrow. ‘That is a very good literary magazine, one of the best in the country.'” (366) “I edited the current issue of Ploughshares.” (409)

Pol Pot: “It’s the progression to Pol Pot I’m worried about.” (613)

Presley, Elvis: “Thurston turned it on and got nothing but Elvis Presley and the Jordanaires, trudging through ‘How Great Thou Art.'” (305)

Reader’s Digest: “although certain offshoot sects — and The Reader’s Digest, I believe — disagree.” (563)

The Road Runner: “The noise was similar to the one Roadrunner [sic] makes before speeding away from Wile E. Coyote in a cloud of dust.” (728)

Roberts, John: “unless you counted CNN’s John Roberts” (778)

Roberts, Nora: “‘Nora Roberts? Sandra Brown? Stephenie Meyer? You read this stuff? Don’t you know Harry Potter rules?'” (282) “The words kept squirming around on the page, sometimes even changing places with each other, and Nora Roberts’s prose, ordinarily crystal clear, made absolutely no sense.” (427)

Serling, Rod: “They’d hear the Rod Serling voice-over anytime now.” (305)

Sherlock Holmes: “It’s the Sherlock Rule: When you eliminate the impossible, the answer, no matter how improbable, is what remains.” (442)

Song of the South: “Did Br’er Bear maybe die of rabies too?” (720)

SpongeBob Square Pants: “long enough to plaster three SpongeBob Band-Aids along the gash.” (356)

Stalag 17: “bearing the logos of long-gone punk bands like Stalag 17 and the Dead Milkmen.” (836)

Staples, Mavis: “This town needs some Mavis Staples. Also some Clark Sisters.” (798)

The Staple Singers: “the Staples Singers [sic], kicking holy ass with ‘Get Right Church.'” (821)

Starr, Barbara: “but it was Barbara Starr, the network’s Pentagon correspondent.” (760)

Star Trek: “‘Just like on Star Trek,’ Barbie said. ‘Beam me up, Scotty.'” (152) “If I can put it in Star Trek terms, help us make it so.” (765)

Star Wars: A file containing dirt on Big Jim is named VADER. “In a galaxy far far away, Clover.” (413) “Darth Vader mask was behind the seat” (858) “in a galaxy far, far away” (898)

The Situation Room: “Rose had a crush on Blitzer and would not allow the TV to be tuned to anything but The Situation Room on weekday afternoons….” (89)

Suarez, Ray: Appears on p. 766.

Sullivan, John L.: “his fists held up like John L. Sullivan.” (244)

Taylor, Hound Dog: “He had given up on the blues music that had been so important to him in his Phil Bushey stage of life — B.B. King, Koko, and Hound Dog Taylor, Muddy and Howlin’ Wolf, even the immortal Little Walter.” (320)

Taylor, Koko: “He had given up on the blues music that had been so important to him in his Phil Bushey stage of life — B.B. King, Koko, and Hound Dog Taylor, Muddy and Howlin’ Wolf, even the immortal Little Walter.” (320)

The Twilight Zone: “The whole world had turned sideways and slipped into a Twilight Zone episode while she was asleep.” (305)

The Upper Room: “One was a devotional, The Upper Room.” (314)

Vaughan, Brian K.: “He was addicted to computers, the graphic novels of Brian K. Vaughan, and skateboarding.” (504)

Warhammer: “I still haven’t been able to beat Warhammer.” (543)

Waters, Muddy: “He had given up on the blues music that had been so important to him in his Phil Bushey stage of life — B.B. King, Koko, and Hound Dog Taylor, Muddy and Howlin’ Wolf, even the immortal Little Walter.” (320) “He went his rounds humming ‘Big Leg Woman’ very softly under his breath.” (627)

Wayne, John: “said in a passable John Wayne drawl” (977)

When Harry Met Sally: “‘Check it out, Junes,’ Frankie DeLesseps said. ‘It’s When Horny Met Slutty.” (301)

Wile E. Coyote: “The noise was similar to the one Roadrunner [sic] makes before speeding away from Wile E. Coyote in a cloud of dust.” (728)

Winslet, Kate: “Not that I’ll ever be mistaken for Kate Winslet.” (785)

The Wiz: “Dr. Ron Haskell — The Wiz…” (198)

The Wizard of Oz: “…Dr. Ron Haskell, whom Rusty often thought of as The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.” (77)

Wolf, Reynolds: “Reynolds Wolf (no relation to Rose Twitchell’s Wolfie)” (801)

Wonder Woman: “I pray to Wonder Woman.” (500)

Woods, Tiger: “And although the autographs people noticed when they were invited into his home study were inevitably those of Tiger Woods, Dale Earnhardt, and Bill ‘Spaceman’ Lee…” (445)

Zevon, Warren: “He’s wearing an old tee-shirt of mine with a Warren Zevon quote on it—” (904)

Stephen King and “Literary” Aspirations

Salon’s John Marks recently talked with Stephen King on the occasion of The Stand‘s 30th anniversary, where King has revealed that he has written “a very long book” called Under the Dome that deals with themes similar to his 1978 opus.

The Q&A has led Splice Today‘s John Lingan to likewise reconsider King’s place. Lingan points out that King has a distinctly American “avoidance of bullshit at all costs” and that he writes “purely for the visceral thrill of storytelling.” But this assessment fails to take into account King’s undeniable literary aspirations, seen in Lisey’s Story and some of his New Yorker stories, which have detracted from his knack for writing can’t-put-down novels for the average Joe. (This tendency was, in part, why I recently stopped reading Just After Sunrise, a muddled collection of tedious short stories that had me pining for the visceral energy within Night Shift and Skeleton Crew.)

It is indeed King’s high concepts and straightforward storytelling quality — Richard Matheson’s unshakable influence — that has made him a compelling writer. But when he strays from his “country don’t mean dumb” philosophy, he’s nowhere near as enthralling. I suppose the last three volumes of The Dark Tower didn’t sit as well with me because these books were written more with the rabid fan base in mind. I’ve remained long convinced that King has a satirical novel in him — and argued this in my review of Blaze. And it’s worth noting that King’s aborted Web serial, The Plant, revealed the roots of this juicy promise. When King stops listening to what the fans want and stops striving for a “literary” territory that, by his own confession, he can’t hack, he’ll evolve naturally and organically as a novelist. Perhaps in ways that none can portend.

The Mist

While the majority of the American moviegoing public took in family fare like Enchanted, our humble party was compelled to check out Frank Darabont’s adaptation of The Mist. We figured that Darabont would once again mine Stephen King’s humanism for benign and competent cinematic fare — a la Shawshank and The Green Mile — and that all this would once again make us feel relatively sanguine about the human spirit. How wonderfully wrong we were!

What we experienced instead was an unexpectedly feral allegory of post-9/11 America set, like Dawn of the Dead, in a consumerist center (no accident perhaps that it’s one of those supermarkets with a late-1970’s aesthetic) and once again reminding us that the horror genre, by way of its speculative format, may be more capable in revealing truths about the human condition than some of the forthcoming squeaky-clean Oscar contenders. There were vicious tendrils, giant monsters that dwarfed even my imagination when I read “The Mist” years ago as a teenager, fundamentalist nuts, graphic lacerations, and one of the most brutal finales I’ve seen in a Hollywood horror film in quite some time. That such a brass-balls flick came not from the capably savage hands of Eli Roth or Guillermo del Toro, but from the warm-hearted Frank Darabont — never particularly known for his gore — was especially admirable. If the intensity wasn’t on the level of Cronenberg or Argento, The Mist put The Majestic, that naive and dreadful stab at the Capraesque, well out of my mind. As the body count continued to tally up, as good people were killed (including children!), and as King’s novella was wryly recontextualized for our terrifying modern age, I couldn’t help but wonder if the violence had been coaxed out of Darabont by executive producer Harvey Weinstein, who told Darabont that if he did not go the distance, he was a coward.

mist1.jpgWhatever the circumstances, The Mist may very well be one of the most quietly subversive movies of the year. Roger Ebert is wrong to pooh-pooh the absurd storyline. The explanation for the titular fog is as convincing as a bad pulp tale from the 1940s, but this is not why one watches this movie. Aside from his usual stock character actors (including William Sadler), Darabont has, for the most part, cast second-tier actors who are not so easily identified. There isn’t a big name actor here to distract us from Darabont’s inverted take on populism. The movie is, instead, a portrait of Americans who want to be good and kind to each other, but who remain incapable of such basic decency without material comforts. Respect for other differences, however loathsome, are the first to go when presented with a terrifying threat and when the true nature of military conquest is revealed. And consider the way in which the audience’s expectations are tampered with. Darabont, knowing full well that the audience is screaming “Get the fuck out!” at the top of their lungs (the audience I saw this with certainly did), keeps his characters lingering in ghastly scenarios about twenty seconds longer than the audience expects them to leave. This is cheap but effective suspense, but it has the added symbolic value of revealing a slow and stigmatized America incapable of reacting smartly to trauma. There is also the manner in which one of the main human antagonists is disposed of. Yes, we’re all cheering the death. (Indeed, each gunshot was cheered on by the audience, myself included.) But in doing so, I couldn’t help but feel that I was proving Darabont’s point. Watching this flick, we think that we’re civilized by way of being removed from the fantastic environment. But I felt deeply ashamed at celebrating the slaughter. However execrable the character, is this not the same savage instinct that we’re seeing portrayed on the screen? In light of the casual manner in which a television audience applauds Kiefer Sutherland willfully breaking the Geneva Convention in waterboarding a suspect, Darabont’s clear awareness of the audience here is striking.

The Mist is a major step forward for Darabont. In addition to finding his cojones, Darabont, known for his static shots, has not only shifted his cinematography to a more shaky Battle of Algiers milieu, but his camera frequently zooms in on the people, suggesting that we’re incapable of examining our own inadequacies. The enemy, it would appear, is us. Sure, it’s ultimately something of a replay of the Twilight Zone episode, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street,” but Darabont has injected some class prejudice. (I particularly liked how the attorney character was African-American and how he’s the one to call the others “hicks.”)

He’s also merged an old-fashioned sensibility with a carnal and contemporary one. Aside from his decision to go ten more intense steps beyond the novella’s finale, he is also, at times, resolutely faithful to the text, even reproducing some of King’s more ludicrous dialogue (“There’s something in the mist!”). The tentacle does indeed smash a bag of dog chow upon its first appearance. This was one of the more absurd touches in King’s novella, but in Darabont’s hands, it manages to work, in large part because Darabont has made the tentacle a large and imposing thing that will rip out your guts in seconds.

mist2.jpgI was also impressed by the attention to the mist monster ecosystem. Large and beautiful insects affix themselves to the supermarket window, attracted to the glass the way that moths flock to light, only to be snapped up ruthlessly by gargantuan winged beasts. Nothing here is quite what we expect, which is saying a good deal in light of the fact that the story is essentially a familiar one.

Perhaps I’m particularly crazy about The Mist because it doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not. Frankly, I’ve seen a lot of bullshit at the movies this year. But The Mist is an old-fashioned horror movie, eliciting convincing performances from most of the cast. But, most importantly, it’s a movie in which the acting and the atmosphere is prioritized over the effects. As Hollywood attempts to extract twelve dollars from your wallet for movies that are nothing more than style over substance, I find it amazing that it’s come to B-movies like The Mist instead of well-intentioned misfires like Rendition to get us to feel frightened and all too aware of contemporary horrors. Sincerity, it seems, has become a groundbreaking commodity in the cinema.

Stephen King: Stuck in Literary Limbo?

C. Max Magee on the Stephen King interview in the latest Paris Review (only partially available online): “What interests me, though, is how King has graduated from the bestseller list and moved into literary limbo. In the Paris Review interview, King talks about writers like John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Danielle Steel, and James Patterson. While King has some kind words for Grisham, he recognizes that he’s not really in competition with these perennial bestselling scribes any more, nor does his ego need the lavish advances that they receive. At the same time, he is reluctant to embrace the literary elite, because, I think, he believes that doing so would break his contract with his readers.”

Shining Through

Playbill: “Rocker John Mellencamp spent much of November working on The Ghost Brothers of Darkland County, a new ‘play with music’ the singer-songwriter is collaborating on with novelist Stephen King.” (via Galleycat)

Return of the Reluctant has obtained information on the first song from the play.

JACK TORRANCE & DIANE
Words and Music by John Cougar Mellencamp

Little ditty about Jack Torrance & Diane
Two American adults holing up in the Westland
Jacky’s gonna be a writing star
Diane’s a ghostly fuck in a room with a bar

Tryin’ to write a novel; all work and no play
Must kill the little boy by the end of the day
He’s got his axe and there’s Diane’s skull
There’s a ghostly bartender and he’s quite tall
Inside a giant maze
Dribble off those REDRUMS
Let me drink as I please
And Jacky say

Oh yeah death goes on
Long after the thrill of writin’ is gone
Oh yeah say death goes on
Long after the thrill of writin’ is gone, the ghosts walk on

Morning Roundup

  • Does the apple fall far from the tree? Owen King would prefer that nobody knew about the apple at all. Owen is Stephen King’s son and has a new book out called We’re All In This Together. Whatever We’re All‘s literary merits, we’re absolutely confident that nepotism and King’s connections had NOTHING WHATSOEVER to do with the book getting published. Perhaps like other sons of famous authors, Mr. King’s talent will be separate from his father’s and we’ll see him pen a small chapbook called Invasion from the World of Warcraft.
  • As widely reported in the blogosphere this morning, the Washington Post has issued a retraction for Marianne Wiggins’ review of John Irving’s Until I Find You. It seems that Wiggins was married to Salman Rushdie, who in turn is a longtime friend of Irving’s. Ron, David Montgomery and Sarah have posted their thoughts on this issue. The question here is where the line is drawn. If a reviewer has exchanged emails with an author (which appears to be the Post policy), it seems preposterous to me that this will sully one’s critical perspective. (And in fact, I’ve struck up a few unexpected and amicable email volleys with authors whose books I’ve ruthlessly panned.) If the publishing industry can swing between art and commerce swifter than a disco king, than surely the reviewer can negotiate the much simpler divide between the parquet floor of the books and the authors who dance on it. We’re adults here, not junior high school students. Apparently, the Post doesn’t seem to believe that an adult is capable of disagreeing with someone while remaining cordial in person.
  • Poet Laureate Ted Kooser gets up at 4:30 AM each morning to write his poetry and wants to bring poetry to the people.
  • Benjamin Kunkel plunges into Balzac’s Lost Illusions.
  • The Gentleman of San Francisco, one of the first works of Russian poet Ivan Alekseyevich Bunin has been translated and published. It only took ninety years to get around to it.
  • Richard Herring and Stewart Lee have returned to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival after 18 years. They are determined not to turn into Ben Elton.
  • And while there may be more memoirs right now than ever, Andrew O’Hagan says there’s reason to celebrate over this.

Morning Linkage

I’m trying my best to post lengthy entries (and reply to the email backlog), but other obligations have kept me firmly bogged. In the meantime, here’s some morning linkage:

  • David Foster Wallace gave a commencement speech at Kenyon College a few weeks ago. (via Scott Esposito, who has returned from Spain and has somehow managed to get the keys back from Dan Wickett)
  • A whole-hearted congratulations to M.A.O. for being selected one of Time‘s 50 Coolest Websites.
  • Ron Hogan has a modest proposal. Even though his idea doesn’t involve cannibalism, I did manage to cough up a few shellacs. Have you?
  • I don’t know what’s stranger: the idea of six good reads to the sound of rain or the fact that this high-concept article came from the Tuscon Citizen. Riddle me this: when did Arizona journalists become cummulus experts?
  • Tempo has announced the 50 best magazines for 2005. It’s safe to say that Beads Today and Anal Angels didn’t make the list.
  • CNN explores Maine’s literary heritage, but one has to wonder why Stephen King gets more paragraphs than Longfellow.
  • A new version of Sling Blade will be released to DVD. It’s 22 minutes longer. Remarkably, 19 of these minutes are composed of medium shots of Billy Bob Thornton saying “M’hmmm. Yup.” But there is now a three-minute monologue of Karl Childers extolling the virtues of “taters.”
  • Yes, indeedy. Michel Houellebecq is a badass. (via Maud)
  • And this compelling public access show may get me to rescind my eight year self-imposed ban on cable television. Here in San Francisco, we have a show called “Fantasy Bedtime Hour” that involves two nude women reading Stephen R. Donaldson’s 1977 novel, Lord Foul’s Bane, and other strange speculative fiction titles. I’ve always been a sucker for a nude woman reading to me in bed. I’ve also been a licker too. But then that’s probably TMI.

Afternoon Tea

  • Dean Koontz’s dog has written a book: a chapbook-sized ode to lapping toilet water.
  • An inmate has sued Stephen King for The Green Mile, claiming that there are, in fact, no magical black men inside prison.
  • It’s been reported elsewhere, but Cynthia Ozick’s book tour diary dishes fun dirt.
  • Amber Frey is set to release a memoir this week. Sample chapter titles include “Oh My God! Laci’s baby is due on my birthday!” and “You know, Scott, this murder might affect our relationship.”
  • The Rutles 2 is coming to DVD. Believe it or not, Salman Rushdie is in it.
  • A number of prominent Canadians highlight their top reads for 2004 (including Neil Peart, who champions John Barth’s The Book of Ten Nights and a Night!).
  • The Age does an admirable job trying to account for The Da Vinci Code‘s success.

Disappearing Books & Some People Just Don’t Understand

In Singapore, Starbucks cafes have initiated a used-book program to get people reading. Read a book, drop it off at a Starbucks, and get $1 off a drink. Of course, there’s one chief problem with the plan beyond this failure to encourage people to read it. (Hypothetically, you can just move a book from the National Library to one of the 17 Starbucks outlets participating.) If the book is bad and likely to put you to sleep, shouldn’t the coffee discount apply before you read the book, rather than after?

At the Three Creeks Community Library, books on the occult are the most likely titles to be stolen. More so than tomes on test preparation or sex. I leave the conspiracy theorists to figure out if the occult books are hexed or not.

Publishers looking for a quick way to pulp their overstock may wish to contact Ed Charon, who holds the Guinness world record for tearing phone books into shreds. Or not. Ed Charon, you see, was just unseated by a thirtysomething. This young upstart can tear 12 1,000-page phone books apart in 12 minutes. “There’s no age or race barriers,” Charon said. “Everybody enjoys this.”

A.S. Byatt writes on the enduring power of the fairy tale and concludes that its legacy can be found on the Web.

The Sunday New York Times reviews Wolves of the Calla and refers to Oy as “the talking dog-badger companion,” while also comparing a conversational exchange involving stew to Widow Douglas’s cooking in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Highbrow attempts to understand popular fiction don’t get any funnier than this. Or maybe they do. Also in the Times: Heinlein’s “first novel,” For Us, the Living is unearthed. No real conclusions about the quality. More of an undergraduate-style summary than anything else. But it does include the blurb-whoring revelation that “the belated publication of this early work is a major contribution to the history of the genre.” Thankfully, John Chute has also taken on the book. He notes that For Us, the Living “promulgates the kind of arguments about sex, religion, politics and economics that normally gain publication through fringe presses, not the trade publishers Heinlein submitted his manuscript to.”

The Green Man Review asks a few spec-fic names (including Charles de Lint, Gwyneth Jones and Ellen Kushner) to spill their favorite books.

And, just as Gene Wolfe’s new book, The Knight, has escaped the floodgates, the folks over at Infinity Plus have an interview up with the maestro.