Roundup

  • Like, oh my God! What the hell is going on? Chuck Palahniuk is writing books and I like totally can’t understand him! I mean, like, why is this Palahniuk guy writing about porn? Don’t you like automatically get VD if you have sex with more than one person at a time? Is there a position other than missionary? In Evanston, you get arrested if you even think of downloading porn. Or so my good mama told me. And she was always right! But thankfully I can take my decency to the NYTBR, a respectable publication terrified of printing the word “bulls__t.” God bless America! (via Syntax of Things)
  • John Updike lectures: what’s so American about American art? But the real curious thing about this speech is whether Updike dared to read out his footnotes in front of a crowd.
  • Publishers are often demanding their top-sellers to pump out a book a year, and the article has a quote from hack novelist Robert B. Parker that is truer than he realizes. (via Sarah)
  • There are some days in which you want to kick a spoiled fanboy in the teeth for his unwillingness to try out anything that even remotely strays from the beloved canon. And then there are other days when you just laugh your ass off over how petty they are.
  • The International Society for Humor Studies is the place where those who have not laughed in over a decade arrive when their services as human beings are no longer required. The rest of us go to an IHOP and cry when the blueberry syrup runs out. (via Bryan Appleyard)
  • Michael McClure on why we still need the spirit of the sixties. (via Booksurfer)
  • Amazon UK and Hachette Livre UK are duking it out over who gets the greater spoils. Amazon’s response? “As a company we do not comment on our relationships with publishers.” As concerned citizens, we do not comment on our relationships with avaricious asshats. (via Booksquare)
  • Colleen Mondor has quite rightfully taken an advertising blog tour concept to task. I had similar thoughts in 2005 when Kevin Smokler did something similar with his Virtual Book Tours. (Smokler, it should be pointed out, has abandoned this idea for this sounder idea that benefits everybody.)
  • The Internet is killing off porn theaters in Bogotá.
  • And if you need an audio alternative to yet another dismal and soporific installment of the Slate Audio Book Club — where you can hear Troy Patterson, who sounds as if he’s smoked a good deal of skank weed, flex his purported but nonexistent acumen with a CliffsNotes summary of Anna Karenina (I managed to get to the 4:22 mark before Alt-F4ing) (and fuck me, this is a longass sentence with too many asides) — this CBC podcast has Canadians getting into a tizzy (one getting a stomach ache!) over Nicholson Baker’s Human Smoke.
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16 Comments

  1. Ellmann is no blue-stockinged prude. When she’s griping about _Snuff_, she’s doing it for the right reason. The crime is artistic bankruptcy, not smuttiness.

  2. i don’t think lucy ellmann is ‘bothered’ by the porn parts, i’ve read a few of her books and she writes explicitly about sex and feces and uses a lot of bad words, etc.

  3. To the extent that Ed’s ridiculing her rhetorical style, I think he’s right. On the other hand, I headed a panel at the ISHS three years ago, met a lot of hot young interdisciplinary scholars, and was interviewed on local tv about it. The keynote speaker, appearing on a couple of panels and doing an hour of standup, was Chicago-based Muslim comic Azhar Usman, “The Joking Jihadi.”

  4. Yeah, “Snuff” is a locker room joke padded out to novel length. Definitely written for the crowd who still believe the Cleveland Steamer is a real sex act. It’s also the SECOND literary novella about gang-bang porn, the first (and far better) being Courtney Eldridge’s “The Former World Record Holder Settles Down” from one of those early booklets-in-a-box issues of McSweeney’s, 6 or 7 years ago.

  5. Snuff may be an awful novel, but that doesn’t excuse Lucy Ellmann from writing an awful review.

    She starts by indicting four other authors as well as Palahniuk for allowing America’s “literary culture to implode.” What’s the purpose of criticizing four authors who are not under review and are never mentioned again in the piece?

    At no point does Ellmann offer an extended passage from Paluhniuk’s novel. She writes, “The people in this novel don’t merely speak in clichés, their every action is clichéd,” but she never offers a single example of this clichéd speech.

    What Ellmann is successful at is generalizing and whining. She seems jealous of the success of Paluhniuk and the other four authors she chastised. It’s a weak review, with no insight and no ideas that haven’t been circulated before.

  6. “And if you need an audio alternative to yet another dismal and soporific installment of the Slate Audio Book Club … of Anna Karenina”

    I, like Stephen Metcalf and Katie Roiphe, love Anna Karenina, so I didn’t find it as soporific as you seem to. In fact, I dind’t find it soporofic at all. I thought the discussion was engaging; I was surprised at some of the insights; and it made me excited to get home this evening to pick the book back up for anothe read. Again, though: I went in to it loving the novel, so I’m by no means impartial.

    I’m also wondering when the last time was you yourself smoked “a good deal of skank weed,” or if your ad hominem attack on Patterson is based solely on that one afterschool special about drugs you saw. Twenty-something years ago. After too many Kool-Aids. Because Patterson is not what stoned people sound like. Patterson is what a person sounds like with adenoidal troubles. Things are funnier when they’re true.

  7. Having smoked pot on occasion, and had stoned conversations with those who insist on the cheap shit, I based my observation on empirical evidence. And I’m fucking Nancy Reagan up the ass every Tuesday in a DC hotel suite.

  8. “And I’m fucking Nancy Reagan up the ass every Tuesday in a DC hotel suite.” — See, that’s funny because it’s clearly true.

  9. I’m starting to wonder if Chuck Palahniuk even writes his books, or, if like Danielle Steele, Jackie Collins, and Stephen King, he farms the work out to others, has a Koons-style artistic sweatshop located somewhere deep in the bowels of the Pearl Distric. I have tried to read every Palahniuk Book. I was in my early 20’s when Fight Club came out and I read it in one sitting and found it to be every entertaining. It seems that Chuck is suffering from the law of diminishing returns, his style having run him into a very rocky shoreline. Snuff is a bad novel. Uninspired, unfunny (those porn titles remind me of something a bored 15 year old boy would make up during detention), and without one wit of understanding about how the porn biz works. But as bad as Snuff is, the previous novel, Rant, is fucking unreadable. So maybe Chuck is starting to dig himself out of the whole he’s in, a hole he dug himself, as it seems he is more interested in being a guru, a literary motivational speaker (in persona only, not in content). Either way, I think Ellman’s review was fair in it’s sense of indignation, and it is of a piece with her own fiction, which I find supremely strange. But it won’t make a dent. Chuck has a HUGE fane base of young men who are going to continue to read him until the end of their time. In that sense, I think Chuck is comparable, from a sensational standpoint, to Vonnegut, although Chuck is missing the most important qualities that made Vonnegut Vonnegut, namely, humanity, and a sense of humor. But please, people, stop referring to Chuck as a “cult” writer. David Markson is a cult writer. Lorrie Moore is a cult writer. Burroughs was a cult writer. Chuck Palahniuk is rich and famous.

  10. Palahniuk is more on a par with Irvine Welsh, I think, who at some point realized he didn’t have to write another GOOD book about sex and drugs and aimless youth, he could instead spend 15 minutes coming up with a halfway amusing premise and make the same amount of cash.

    I would bet that the reason there’s almost no quotes from “Snuff” in the Ellmann review was that none of them made it past the Grey Lady’s naughty word filter. I mean, the recurring passage she mentions, but never directly quotes, is about smearing shit on one’s balls. And the main character’s first appearance is a description of her vagina as “a missile crater greased with vaseline”. What extended passage would you suggest? The one where dildoes of increasing size fall out of cassie’s shorts while she goes jogging? In The Paper Of Record?

    (same thing happens to Nancy Reagan all the time, BTW)

    oh and: Chuck Palahniuk’s fan club refer to themselves as “The Cult”. They have their own websites and stuff. So they’ve even co-opted the very concept of being a cult writer.

  11. I wasn’t the one reviewing Snuff, so it’s not up to me to choose quotations Ellmann should have cited.

    (I haven’t read Snuff nor anything by Paluhniuk, so I’m not a fan of his trying to defend his work.)

    If the material in Snuff was too controversial to quote even a single sentence, then the Times shouldn’t have bothered to publish a review. If Ellmann had reviewed any other book in the same fashion, the review would still be awful.

  12. It’s not controversial. It’s juvenile. He’s obsessed with what’s grotesque about human bodies, and he doesn’t express this obsession in a way that’s profound or enlightening. Blood on the tampons, smelly socks, runny noses. It’s tiresome.

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