I don’t ever want to be accused of shirking any reporting duties pertaining to my literary neighbors up north. So I’d be remiss if I didn’t point you to this year’s Writers’ Trust Award winners. Kenneth Harvey won the $15,000 fiction prize for Inside. And Dragan Todorovic nabbed the non-fiction prize for The Book of Revenge: A Blues for Yugoslavia. Todorovic was forced out of Yugoslavia because he wrote negative essays about Slobodan Milosevic. Which isn’t a hard thing to do. Aside from being a specialist in genocide, the late dictator also had no penis. You might think I’m lying about that last factoid, but I happen to know that the Uncyclopedia would never steer me wrong.
The Guardian asks, “How old is a young novelist?” That’s a very good quesiton. Granta may be in the business of celebrating the best writers under 40 or under 35. But what of debut novelists like Sam Savage? Or late start biographers like Claire Tomalin? I hereby demand that Granta create the Old Fogey Award, where thirtysomething naifs are barred from the awards ceremony and writers who have spent many years living life and collecting wisdom are rewarded for their labors. Besides, what does age matter anyway? It’s the fiction, stupid.
Ed Park captures the bibliophile’s dilemma perfectly: “the shelves were maxed out ages ago, and volumes have begun rising from the ground like apartment projects in some totalitarian state.” What Ed doesn’t tell you is that most of us spend considerable time negotiating with mysterious customer service reps about reading our books in installments instead of all of them straight away, as these books insist we must do. There is also talk about how not reading these books right away will affect our reading credit reports. It is only the most disciplined bibliophile who is able to up his limit.
Tom Lutz: “I don’t want to stir up the dying embers of the theory wars or the culture wars, but why do Prose and Bloom open their guides with attacks against these mythical creatures?” Any visit to an English department or sampling of a graduate course catalog will reveal that fitting literature into neat -isms is the current criteria. Take the courses at San Francisco State University: “The Short Story,” with a course description revealing five -isms alone in a sentence, “Literature and Ecology,” “Language in Context” (which examines how “various aspects of society influence language”), and, instead of teaching at-risk kids the joys of the text itself, we have “Reading Theories and Methods,” which is less about investigating reader response and more concerned with boring kids with theory. It’s not all like this, but these courses are hardly “mythical creatures,” unless you prefer, like Mr. Lutz, to keep your severely uninformed skull cloistered in the sand, pretending, Baudelaire-like, that these courses don’t exist and that they aren’t having an effect upon the way the next generation reads and teaches literature.
It’s good to know that nipple paint has, at long last, become “kiss-proof and water-resistant.” I was beginning to get worried about the shifty-eyed men in raincoats leaving hotel rooms with colorful streaks on their chins.