Sun-Soaked Roundup

  • Sarah is interviewed by Kacey Kowars. Sarah talks about the history of her blog, how she reads and selects content, her new day job, inter alia. The subject of “mean-spiritedness” is also brought up, to which I reply that what I do here isn’t nearly as vicious as 200 proof vodka. I trust most people to read between the lines.
  • So what were some of the other LBC nominees? Were they corporate sellouts? Were they part of the “literary demi-puppet” conspiracy? Au contrarire. Michael Orthofer weighs in on his selection, Christa Wolf’s In the Flesh. I hope to weigh in on my selection (which was second place!) sometime soon too, but there’s some incredible sunshine and a big trip to Nueva York to prep for.
  • The wifi cafe problem is one of the reasons why I’ve remained reluctant to use wi-fi embedded laptops (although this is likely to change to give you folks up-to-the-minute BEA reports). Cafes are social places where you unexpectedly run into friends and acquaintances or get into conversations with strangers about the books they’re reading or the cool tees they’re wearing or the guitars that they’re playing. But I’ve noticed the gloomy misanthropes who stare into their Powerbooks as if expecting some great theological pronouncement taking up tables intended for four people at my own neighborhood cafe and wonder if this is indeed part of the lingering problem Robert Putnam wrote about in his book Bowling Alone. These people, who feel the chronic need to be connected in all ways but the most tangible ones, rarely buy anything, tip or consort with the nice people behind the counter. Frankly, if killing wi-fi access during the weekends will get these deadbeats to understand that (a) a change in locale doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re not a work-every-minute drone, (b) you won’t be rebuked if you don’t answer your email within an hour (at least by the people who matter), and (c) if access is the thing, perhaps broadband at home is more your cup of tea (or hazelnut latte, as the case may be).
  • Tanenhaus Brownie Watch is forthcoming. But cut some slack. It’s a three-day weekend.
  • Jacquelyn Mitchard thought that calls from Oprah were a prank and very nearly didn’t call her back for an OBC selection.< ?li>
  • They’re young! They’re hot! They’re good-looking! And damn, these puppies can write! Wouldn’t a writer make a great catch? Lisa Allardice exposes some of the realities behind pairup glamour. And, yes, J-Franz is name-checked.
  • Hemingway’s Havana estate is endangered.
  • Why does Dracula endure?
  • Diana Abu-Jaber dishes dirt on her food memoir.
  • Decency prevents me from commenting upon this Nick Laird “training” revelation. Return of the Reluctant promises a two-month moratorium on Zadie Smith and Nick Laird news, for reasons similar to Ms. Tangerine Muumuu.
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  1. Wifi & cafes. Folks hogging tables with little or no purhcases pre-date wifi & laptops. Over the years, the number of people that I’ve seen spread out over a large table with the sunday paper for hours on end nursing a small $1 cup of coffee weren’t insignificant.

    Of course part of this is the decline of public spaces in urban life. Libraries are increasingly closed of limited in their hours on weekends and closed or closed early weekdays. There are less and less public seating in the outdoors (when the weather allows for it.) Fewer parks with more limited hours, etc.

    The coffee shop has become a de facto gathering place/work space that bars used to be for the hyper-caffeinated, under boozed generation.

    Amusingly enough there was a Chinese restaurant near where I used to live that offered free wireless, while neither of the two coffee shops did. The shops were full of customers, while the restaurant wasn’t. Shame, it was a good restaurant.

  2. It’s difficult to generalize about all of us deadbeats on wi-fi at the cafes. When corporate Amurika first puked me out and I was alone trying to make a living, cafes were my “office” and it was far better than sitting alone at home, which if I recall, was what “Bowling Alone” was about (that people stayed home and watched cable instead of going to church or bowling and therefore social structures and information flow were breaking down and therefore, so too democratic society).

    I spent the afternoon with a friend and client today in a wi-fi enabled cafe, chatting and working on a really exciting project. I met this guy in a cafe too because of our computers.

    In fact, I’ve met several acquaintances working in cafes and the only time I’ve ever met someone over a book in a cafe was because I was reading something by a famous Bosnian and this guy happened to be from there (and was shocked to see one of us reading one of them) – most people reading (and actually I’ve never seen anyone with a guitar in a cafe that wasn’t paid to be there) aren’t any more social than those on a computer.

    As with most things, it’s all what you make it. Still, I agree with shutting off the wifi on the weekends, but that has less to do with saving the world from misanthropes than keeping space open.

    Bud (see you in NYC!)

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