Roundup

  • In the past few weeks (and, particularly, the last seven days), I have read many thousands of pages. This is probably more work than one should do for a piece of this type, but I am one of those guys who likes to perform due diligence. It’s too important not to. And really, I’m very honored to have this gig. So there you go. I’m getting close to the finish line. So if things aren’t entirely up to speed here during the next few days, bear with me.
  • Bob Thompson, like any good reactionary who loves to keep a warm gun under his pillow, is confused by any book that doesn’t just feature turgid text. And Scott McCloud is right. Guys like Thompson will die. And the sad thing is that Thompson, a man who is no less prejudicial than a Jim Crow type who hopes that the dark-skinned people will be kept separately from the light-skinned people, will never know the joy of a story told in words and pictures. Of course, when the last old fogey kicks the bucket, there will no longer be a need for these bloated articles written by narrow-minded bigots.
  • Speaking of the comics industry, there is a longass interview with Paul Levitz over at ICV2. (via ComicMix)
  • Eric Rosenfield thinks Nick Harkaway’s The Gone Away World is “representative of a new kind of fiction gradually emerging, a fiction which knows no boundaries.”
  • Joanne McNeil on women’s fashion.
  • The new Metallica single confirms that this band remains corporate, dated, emotionless, ridiculously safe, and unlistenable. This track, which features arpeggios that sound like rejects from the “Nothing Else Matters” sessions and a guitar solo phoned in by Dave Mustaine, is about as far removed from the heights of Master of Puppets and And Justice for All as you can get. The key tipoff that things are askew is James Hetfield’s failure to growl or offer his trademark “yeuhah” at any point during this track. Yeah, I know the guy’s 45 and all. But if Trent Reznor can still channel his angst at 43 (and even reframe it in middle age), there’s simply no excuse for such a lazy performance here. Oh well. Let’s hope that AC/DC’s forthcoming album, Black Ice, offers more. Failing Angus Young and company, there’s always a few contemporary glam metal offerings.
  • Can you guess where I’m from? I was tired, but I scored quite well, even on the city level. I blame this on my troubling tendency to practice dialects and accents in the bedroom. Listen for the pitch and phonemes! (via Maud)
  • I neglected to report on Twatgate, but if you hadn’t heard the news, Random House, based solely on the complaint of three parents, decided that the word “twat” was just going too far in a YA book. The book in question was not authored by some casual pornographer, but Jacqueline Wilson. Part of me believes this to be a brilliant marketing effort to get Wilson’s novel in the headlines and thereby sell more novels. After all, what ten-year-old hasn’t heard the word “twat” by now? Nevertheless, between this and Random House’s previous contractual clause, which attempts to dictate the way that authors must behave, I’m wondering why the publishing conglomerate has so many bugs up its ass with its YA titles. If they keep up this level of needless kowtowing and autocracy, then surely YA authors will began their exodus to other publishers who aren’t exactly this anal retentive.
  • Paul Auster is interviewed by the Sunday Times. Rather amazingly (and egregiously), the New York Times has yet to review the book or profile the man. (But to give the NYTBR some credit, I was shocked to see a serious consideration of a B.S. Johnson novel this Sunday.) The Los Angeles Times has reviewed Auster’s new book, but alas it’s been assigned to Jane Smiley, who once again fails to understand the book she’s reviewing. Smiley doesn’t comprehend that Man in the Dark isn’t so much about the big climactic secret (she seems to have confused Auster’s book with some Grisham-like potboiler or perhaps a pat M. Night Shyamalan film), as it is about the way that narratives often occlude the truth before us. Smiley is too obtuse a reader to spot the connections between Brill and Brick — the shared high-school sweetheart, the concern for magic, both of which came up in my recent conversation with Auster. Of course, Brill’s confession to Katya is going to “have the flavor of a synopsis.” The man’s a book critic for crying out loud! How could Smiley miss this? To add insult to injury, Smiley also fails to cite a single passage from the text to support any of her observations. This is lazy book reviewing, Pulitzer Prize or no. Smiley really should stick to writing dull essays about horses. Between this review and her Jennifer Weiner hit piece, it has become quite evident that Jane Smiley is incapable of appreciating any book that isn’t some take-no-chances, realist offering that offends and challenges nobody. And her review really bogs down what is otherwise a pretty good books section. Fortunately, Smiley’s terrible essay is compensated by Tod Goldberg’s amusing feature on tie-ins.
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4 Comments

  1. I liked the Washington Post article and thought Thompson came across as open-minded about his subject at least. Comics needs to *earn* the respect of prose devotees, and I think that most readers of the Thompson article will come away with the impression that we’re part of the way there — which is true.

    And the “die” comment, was at least partially a joke. 🙂

  2. Smiley lost me a number of years ago when she published a Harper’s essay arguing, with absolutely no tongue inside her cheek, that Uncle Tom’s Cabin was a superior book to Huckleberry Finn. The conclusion I came to then was that her name, Smiley, was highly ironic given her humorless, sourpuss view of literature. I think you’ve hit on another problem with her criticism: she doesn’t like books that don’t take risks. Looking back, I see now that Twain having Jim speak in Negro dialect was much MUCH too experimental for her.

  3. The word “twat” must be protected Especially when said aloud. “Twat, twat, twat.” There’s a little backflip to the word or something. Save the Twat! Cunning Linguists of the world, unite!

    Gosh, the parents must of seen the word, looked it up and then were were slain in the spirit. Or maybe not. But really who give’s a rat’s twat about the word?

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