Dwight Garner and Sam Tanenhaus, the two spineless editors who insult the intelligence of their audience every Sunday at the New York Times Book Review, seem to think that Jay McInerney is somehow a big name. Which is a bit like believing that Robert Palmer is not only still alive, but remains a major fixture on the pop music circuit. Perhaps this strange assignment represents the duo’s dormant adolescent longing to raise spoons to noses and make up for the lost time in which they failed to live. Whatever their motivations, they have enlisted this third-rate oenophile to offer his thoughts about Andre Dubus III’s latest novel. They are under the mistaken impression that McInerney — a smug man so ass-backwards in acumen that he threw in more than two grand to support Giuliani for President — actually has penetrating insight. Alas, McInerney seems less concerned with offering a reasonable assessment, pro or con, of The Garden of Last Days and more fixated upon the novel’s concern for flesh. But any man who writes the sort of laughable sex scenes that Louis Menand rightly ridiculed (“Strange pleas, cries like those of a wounded creature, sounded within her and possibly escaped her lips.”) has no business quibbling with another novelist’s portrayal of carnality. If you’re looking for a sterling example that demonstrates why newspapers are losing readers, look no further than the wizened wizards, no doubt suffering both erectile and phantasmagorical dysfunction, behind the curtain.
Thankfully, the Washington Post has shown more class. They’ve sent a correspondent to visit Detroit and concluded that it’s all “gritty and romantic.” But there’s no mention of the decayed Michigan Central Station, which leads me to believe that Ms. McCarthy didn’t venture very far. So I’m not sure if Ms. McCarthy truly investigated the real Motortown, much less the seamier side of life. There is perhaps more space devoted to the Frenchmen who discovered the place, as well as its Motown origins. But as mainstream articles go, Ms. McCarthy’s piece represents a slightly unexpected philanthropic nod to Detroit realtors. Let us hope that the next journalistic excursion represents more of the truth. (via The Tomorrow Museum)
Like Stephen Mitchelmore, I too was astonished to see James Wood begin his Atmospheric Disturbances with a reference to Georg Büchner’s “Lenz.” But it’s the kind of unexpected association that does make Wood a critic that one cannot easily discount. Particularly when Wood has also name-checked Dostoevsky, Knut Hamsun, and Thomas Bernhard.
Richard Nash points to several video streams of author readings from Bookcourt, including Toby Barlow and Samantha Hunt. To my knowledge, this is the first independent bookstore that has done this. But I hope all bookstores do this, if only so that we can see just how much boilerplate material authors carry on tour.
Slushpile raises several important questions concerning a new Vince Neil book, but fails to consider why this has-been singer would be given more than $500,000 to “write” a book after the harrowing account known as The Dirt, which opened with the following lacrimal-sensitive sentences, “Her name was Bullwinkle. We called her that because she had a face like a moose. But Tommy, even though he could get any girl he wanted on the Sunset Strip, would not break up with her.” Yes, it’s true that Motley Crue grossed an unfathomable $39.9 million in 2005 concerts (although Neil Diamond grossed $7 million more; the capitalist world is just too cruel). But just how many of these concertgoers, who might have spent their hard-earned money on pleasurable skank weed but opted instead for another silly performance of “Dr. Feelgood,” are pining for a redux? Your faithful correspondent does not possess a Bookscan account, but he beseeches all prospective buyers to truly consider just what they might be wasting their hard-earned dollars upon.
Has erotica jumped the shark? I don’t believe that anal sex and ménage à trois were ever particularly shocking to me, but then I lived in San Francisco for thirteen years. Nevertheless, Ellora’s Cave publisher Raelene Gorlinsky seems to believe that these two sexual practices have become vanilla, that readers have become acclimated to these forms of titillation, and that the human body can “only do so many things.” While the hunt is now on for more crazed positions and more taboos to be punctured, I find myself more concerned with Ms. Gorlinsky’s dire pronouncements about the body’s apparent limitations. If I am averring these premonitions correctly, this means that I will never have sex again. But since this is perfectly timed with the decline of the American empire (and its Roman comparisons), there is some small solace in knowing that we’ll begin seeing more eunuchs to serve the pleasures of the upper class. (via Smart Bitches)
And I think it’s safe to say that The Atlantic is almost certainly making us stupid. Given contributions from Nicholas Carr, Lori Gottlieb, and B.R. Myers, this is a magazine that has, in the year of our load, 2008, suggested that being sodomized is a more bearable substitute than these insipid articles. I used to be a subscriber. But no more. Scott has more on this.