I Should Probably Sleep, But…

  • While we’d never expect USA Today to give us a call (we’d probably spend most of the time making fun of the infographs), we’re nevertheless delighted to see some of our favorite blogs get recognition.
  • And speaking of newspapers, we’re still wondering how the folks at the Scotsman find their fey subjects. A recent profile chronicles Francis Ellen, an author who has created a novel with music performed by the characters. The Samplist is expected to launch at the London Book Fair and a CD tie-in will feature a computer-generated, counterfeit piano piece.
  • Sarah Crompton wonders if anybody’s going to say anything bad about Ian McEwan’s latest novel, Saturday. Give it time, Sarah. Give it time. The minute Leon Wieseltier, Joe Queenan or Dale Peck get their grubby little hands on it, the reviews are almost certain to tip into the sensational. I suspect it’s a Yank thing.
  • We’d be terribly remiss if we didn’t remind folks that The Collected Stories of Carol Shields are now available, with an introduction by Margaret Atwood. In other Shields news, her daughters say that they learned a good deal about their mother working on their respective projects. (In Anne Giardini’s case, it’s a first novel.)
  • The word that appears the most in Birnbaum’s latest, an interview with Eva Hoffman: passport.

As I Drank My Morning Coffee

Eat the Rich

He’s noticed that the heft of money makes the bodies of the wealthy more dense, more boldly angled and thus threatening, even when suited, dressed, coated — and wrapped in the soundlessness of their immense, padded, and luxuriously ventilated office spaces. The rich are underpinned by ignorance, he’s noticed. They know nothing of the authentic scent of dust and dowdiness. They never knew a time when people bought winter tomatoes in little cardboard cartons, four of them lined up beneath a cellophane roof, twenty-nine cents, and how thrifty housewives — like Larry’s mother, for instance — used only half a tomato for the family salad each night, so that the box lasted eight days, just over a week. The rich — except for the self-made rich — believe they’re biting at the apple of life just because they know enough to appreciate pre-Columbian art and handpieced quilts. They’re out of touch, they’re out to lunch, they breath the dead air of their family privilege.

— Carol Shields, Larry’s Party


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.