In lieu of actual content:

  • Robert Birnbaum, who is kicking some serious ass on the nonfiction interview front these days, talks with William Wright.
  • I’ve been on an Anthony Burgess kick of late*, and I highly recommend Earthly Powers, an erudite, brash, gleefully satiric and wildly ambitious novel. There are fantastic dips into cultural minutiae, a complex portrait of gay life that was, at the time Burgess wrote the novel, ahead of its time but no less interesting today. There are extremely playful assaults on organized religion and the pomposity of the literary world, and a story arc that dares to cover no less than an 81 year period, with the characters frequently colliding into major historical events. (The protagonist, one Kenneth Toomey, loses his virginity the day that James Joyce begins writing Ulysses.) When I finish reading the book, I will offer my full thoughts under a 75 Books entry (long delayed, I know). In the meantime, you can read John Leonard’s review from the June 30, 1981 NYTBR, back in the days when the NYTBR actually practiced criticism instead of the ethically dubious reviews it publishes today.
  • Mr. Orthofer points to this strange piece of news. The Big Read, a hysterical plan contrived not long ago by the NEA, is “getting a lot bigger.” In other words, the NEA seems to be taking the tentpole blockbuster approach. There will now be grants awarded to 100 communities who select a novel and encourage people to read it. Aside from the strange inability to qualify these results (I suppose all those “One Book, One City” programs are now overdue for payola), does this mean the LBC is due for some government-sponsored cash? I beseech Mr. Kipen for answers on this front. Who came up with this half-baked idea and can it be certifiably demonstrated by anyone that throwing cash around actually gets people to read? With current programs, there is, I feel, a conformist approach. I’m not sure if dictating what people should read, as opposed to allowing them an encouraging environment to discover books on their own, is the best way to get people reading.
  • The Guardian offers a podcast between Stephen Fry and Christopher Hitchens debating blasphemy. (Things get particularly interesting around the 37 minute mark, when Fry and Hitchens discuss freedom of speech’s concomitant relationship to blasphemy.)
  • The ULA disrupts an Allen Ginsberg reading, proving that Ginsberg is still capable of attracting lunatics. Which I actually think is a good thing. (via the Elegant Variation)
  • Gideon Lewis-Kraus offers a contrarian positive review of Apex Hides the Hurt. (via Maud)
  • Google Book Seach has set up a blog. (via the Millions)
  • RIP Herbert Burkholz.
  • Pinky’s Paperhaus observes that today is Pynchon’s 69th birthday. While I appreciate Ms. Kellogg’s cornball humor, the deviant part of me is more tempted to arrange my Pynchon books in a 69 position in honor of the man. Photograph to follow tonight.
  • Michelle Richmond offers a report of last night’s Peter Orner reading and last night’s Progressive Reading Series.
  • Jack Shafer attempts to determine the motivations of plagiarists. Meanwhile, the Biederbecke Affair uncovers meta-plagiarism. (First link via Word Munger)
  • The Ice Cube Scholarship. (via Black Market Kidneys)
  • Oh, shut up. If Al Gore really wanted to be back in the White House, then he would have presented a more rigorous legal challenge back in 2000. Now, more than ever, I sincerely hope that the 2008 Democratic candidate doesn’t have plans to open a wafflehouse at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
  • Sebastian Junger gets lynch-mobbed big-time at a reading. (via Laila)
  • The case against barring women from combat.
  • At the Litblog Co-Op, Gina Frangello offers a lengthy post about how women’s sexuality has been toned down in literature.
  • Good fucking God. Why?

* — Actually, I’ve been on an Anthony Burgess kick for a few years, although this has involved collecting his copious back catalog — no small task, I assure you, given how prolific he was and how out-of-print he is today. But I am only just getting around to reading these acquisitions.

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  1. RE: why? If there’s one show I thought would never to make it to DVD, it would have to be FOL. Granted, it was a big part of my formative years, but really, does Blaire’s wisdom need to be revisited? (or was it claire?) I loved Joe though. Like me, she was the odd woman out at a snobby all-girl school.

    I’m thrilled to see Gina’s book getting so much attention. Thanks for the LBC link.

  2. I will confess that it was my sister who forced me to watch “The Facts of Life”– simply because the damn show was on right before something else. Jo was about the only character I could tolerate, in large part because I had a bit of a prepubescent crush on Nancy McKeon. (I am certain that I was not the only boy who developed a McKeon crush under these extenuating circumstances. But this has been a hitherto unreported phenomenon that many heterosexual males are TERRIFIED to reveal, lest it desecrate their manhood. So fess up, loyal readers!)

    When they prettied her up and made her sensitive (I think that was about the time they opened up that ridiculous bakery; my memory deliberately represses the specifics), I knew that the watered down riotgrrl who drove the motorcycle (presumably, the motorcycle was as far as NBC would go with the “rebellion” angle) was gone. And my crush disappeared instantly.

    Incidentally, there’s a funny story about “The Facts of Life” in Annabelle Gurwitch’s anthology, FIRED, should anyone wish to check it out.

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