The Condition

Taking up Stephany’s challenge:

In this condition: stirred by the twain into a soupçon of solicitude; by pinching pennies and damning dollars; by sending purty li’l packages for a pittance; by denying lucre and limning love; by considering clauses to clear in two months and deposits and Type A tyros; by maintaining a half-true smile and sending a courteous note when they offer declarations that seal a sunny door shut; by pounding on these doors and feeling the bruised impact of brick walls; by not giving up and planning pirouettes in one fell swoop, the dim light of a borderline fall from grace dappling upon my shoulders, the nutty Kenny Rogers sixties song in the back; by anything which upgrades current beta test into something rosy and spurting; by anything darn tootin’, notwithstanding the frigid fingers icing my warmth, fools unwielding muzzles and cashing blood in at the bank; saying no to anything that cuts down my soul, dodging rash motions of machetes, the jaws of crocodiles; saying no even when they hear yes, clearing the brine and chastity belt, keeping spry; anything warm and equal, any hinterland where no one gives a dam, allowing rivulets to burst and grand dreams to happen.

The Saddest Bachelor Meal

Tom and I have concluded that the saddest bachelor meal is this:

An open, leftover can of Spaghetti-Os, unheated and eaten out of the can with a dirty fork, eaten alone and washed down with a bottle of white Zinfiandel (or perhaps one of those boxed versions) that’s been in the fridge for at least a week.

Neither of us would ever stoop this low. But someone in this universe has probably consumed just this.

The real question is: Can anyone top this? I urge readers to offer their thoughts on this very pressing matter. Failing that, what’s the worst meal you’ve ever served yourself at home?

Must Be a UK Thang

In one of the silliest articles I’ve ever seen at the Guardian, Natasha Walter claims that sex and porn are difficult to write about. But I would suspect that this is one of those first person confessionals secretly disguised as a generalization-laden argument. For one thing, there’s nary a mention of the following words in Walter’s article: “penis,” “bukkake,” “vagina,” “ass,” “naughty bits,” “sperm” and “condom.” The article also makes the following claims:

“Pornography may not quite be part of mainstream culture, but it certainly makes its presence felt.” Hey, Natasha, stayed at a Ramada Inn lately? Beyond the grand selection of porn on the teevee, you can always count on the couple banging away in the next room. If that isn’t a sign that sex is inseparable from mainstream culture, I don’t know what is.

“But many people still feel a deep unease about the growth of pornography – about the way people within the business are exploited, and about the ways in which consumers find their imaginations colonised by a very particular and very narrow view of invulnerable sexuality.” Many people, eh? Care to name some names? Care to cite some examples? Come on, Natasha. I dare you to stand by your generalization.

“Yet most writers who take on the subject of pornography are men, and for them it is usual to adopt a pretty breezy, often humorous view of the way that pornography works.” I don’t know, Susie Bright’s pretty breezy and takes erotica seriously.

“these male writers”: You’ve only quoted Adam Thirwell! He speaks for all men and all erotica?

“But [men] shy away from communicating any moral outrage about the subject.” I don’t know. Steve Almond seems pretty outraged about human urges and what is represented beneath the sexuality.

“Perhaps that is the most important thing that we can ask of a novelist, that they should be emotionally alive as they respond to the emotionless world that is pornography.” Better to be emotionally dead when making jejune arguments about the evils of porn found in…literary novels? Huh?

Lessig Audio Chapter Sample

So here’s the deal. Lawrence Lessig writes a book. He issues a Creative Commons license and puts his book online. A few people get the legit idea that it’s okay to create audio versions of chapters. So, acting on some strange whim and without further ado:


Listen to Chapter 12. It runs 52:47. I’ve tried to keep the energy up by introducing pseudo-Scottish brogues, maintaining a fast-paced delivery, and conjecturing about how aggro Lessig might have been as he penned his chapter.


Courtney Love: “She grabs a suitcase and drags it doggedly to the center of the room. She turns to me and barks, ‘Go through my lyrics. They’re great. I’m the best writer of this generation. And if you don’t believe me, fine. But I dare you to find a bad one in there.'”

The whiff of self-delusion’s overwhelming. And there’s more. Hypodermic needles, mammary scars, the works. Hope Strauss got paid extra for writing the piece. (via Syntax)

A Man’s Man

SUGAR LAND, Tex. — This is the home of Britton Stein — oh, not this sentence, but Sugar Land itself. Stein describes George W. Bush as “a man’s man’s man’s man’s man, a manly man, manning the men manning the best man’s man,” and Al Gore (not a man’s man and not a 2004 presidential candidate) as a “ranting and raving and roving and reeming little chihuahua who needs an Elizabethan collar.”

Forty-nine years old, Stein is a man subject to interesting, yet extremely odd Post reporting. He is a husband, a father, a man, a man’s man, a man’s manly man, and a Republican. He lives in a house that was built by a man and is run by a man, and if you’re not a man or a man’s man, then you’ll get your hair cut by a woman. His three daughters aren’t embarassed by the fact that they aren’t men, even though Stein is a man. But sometimes Stein isn’t a man or a man’s man, because he blows kisses to his wife and daughter (again, members of the Stein family unit who aren’t men’s men). He loves his family, even when there aren’t enough men’s men. But if you’re a member of the Stein clan, it’s possible to be a woman who eats, drinks, talks and spits out tobacco like a man’s man, dammit. Stein’s personal hero, George W. Bush, no longer drinks or spits out tobacco. But, by golly, he runs like a man’s man and sometimes looks like a cowboy, and that’s the ultimate qualifier. Stein believes that being the President is not about your political record, but about comparing size much as Fitzgerald and Hemingway (one not-so-man’s man and one man’s man) did privately once.

Is Stein real? Only Post reporter David Finkel (a quasi man’s man) knows for sure.

Blog O’ Sphere

I don’t know what sort of power struggle is going over at the Hag’s, but it really must be seen to be believed. First off, Beck is back. And finishing up a project seems to have thrown Lizzie over the edge, to the point where she can no longer spell “falafel.” Beyond that, it’s about as coherent as an athletic piglet leaving an unauthorized orgy, and I couldn’t describe it in any reasonable terms. Go check the frenetic duo out. Also, Rake‘s been written into the will.


THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: You better work your stuff. Deadline’s quick and coming.
THE PLAYWRIGHT: I’ve got it!
THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: We’re in this together, kid, I know.
THE PLAYWRIGHT: No, no, this illiterate tendency of yours, with regards to the whole Faust thing.
THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: Careful there. Sounds as if you might be groping.
THE PLAYWRIGHT: You deny the new books under your arm?
THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: I deny them until I have read them. Then I will acknowledge that they exist.
THE PLAYWRIGHT: I’ve got it. Taking a cue…
THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: As I’ve said, careful. Timing is everything, and to grope onto my sum of experience, whether it be that fabulous lady we were talking with on Saturday night, who let us bank that side pocket shot.
THE PLAYWRIGHT: Yes, she was cute. But, no, it’s all valid.
THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: Valid at the risk of turning into some egregious self-chronicler. Some autobiographical humdrum.
THE PLAYWRIGHT: We’re doing this already. The blog, the journal, the stories that sometimes drift close to the bone, and now…
THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: CAREFUL! Jesus, just because I have these magical musty books underneath my arm doesn’t mean you should pilfer from them too. For instance, this prologue involving a manager, merryman, and poet.
THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: No. Invention. The necessary skills, bro.
THE PLAYWRIGHT: Yes, but Picasso and great artists! I’m losing pages paring it down.
THE PLAYWRIGHT: And the temptation to latch onto anything.
THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: Your aim is to keep things moving.
THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: Down the stream, and your plot will freeze should you pilfer yet again. They don’t buy these pomo tricks anymore.
THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: Is your aim to persuade me? Because you’re doing a crummy job.
THE PLAYWRIGHT: Please understand. I’m resorting to jokes involving cleansing products.
THE VOICE OF EXPERIENCE: Well, the choice is yours. Then again, good stuff doesn’t happen without a little bit of risk.

Presidential Memoir

Apparently, everybody’s been hopping about for the Bill Clinton memoir. 1.5 million copies will be printed in June. The release is timed to avoid competing with John Kerry. But I have to ask: What’s to get excited about? Here are some reasons why I probably won’t read the Clinton memoir:

A LAMEASS TITLE: My Life? Jesus, Bill, why not call it What I Did Last Summer (And A Few Things I Did During My Eight Years in the White House)?

CLINTON DOESN’T SUFFER FROM HYPERGRAPHIA: Apparently, Clinton now works “late in the evening,” leaving rep Robert Barnett to cover his ass. This suggests a rushed work, one almost immediately schlepped from the word processor to the printing press. Will we see long, clause-laden sentences that will put us to sleep or something anticlimactic like Hilary’s “shocked” moment from Living History?

THE $10 MILLION ADVANCE: If you’re getting $10 million to spill your soul, you better dish some dirt. I don’t think we’ll ever get a solid explanation for the presidential cigar. (Remember that?) Nor will Bill confess to us why he’s fond of big-haired women. Since he owes us at least that much, and won’t deliver, no quid pro quo here, Bubba.

CLINTON ON A BOOK TOUR: Orating to a handful of people in a Barnes & Noble in Peoria seems a sad step down from a man who once packed halls for a few thousand a pop.

NYTBR Meets Maxim

From Publisher’s Lunch:

Though he stepped carefully around specifics, Tannenhaus confirmed that the process of changing the review has already begun and will build to a full “relaunch” and redesign this fall. He confidently declared, “You’ll see a much different book review.”

Most potential changes were positioned as things “we are looking at,” but the roster included turning more full-page 1,400-word reviews into more 600 to 700-word reviews, pushing reviewers to do their work more quickly, finding new and regular ways of covering commercial fiction (by “taking it own its own merits and trying to find what it is that readers are responding to”) and tweaking the “in brief” reviews in a way “that we hope will spotlight them a little bit more.” Tannenhaus made it clear that he will start reviewing authors who have “consistently been on the bestseller list” but not generally gotten reviewed in the newspaper. In the reviews he would “like a little stronger opinion as well.” Plus, authors with a “legitimate grievance” about how they are reviewed should find their letters getting printed more frequently. “If an author think he hasn’t gotten a fair shake, then the letter runs and the reviewer gets the chance to respond.”

So, Mr. Tanenhaus, can we expect some sidebars on how many times Zadie Smith upsets her neighbors? And that quick-on-the-draw approach will work great with heavier novels like Cloud Atlas or The Confusion.

Lawrence Block — Bitchier Than Second Place to Prom Queen

What’s the greatest problem of our age? The stripping of civil liberties? No. The troubling situation in Iraq? No again. The unilateral atmosphere? No, no, no! No kewpie doll for you! You ain’t connected, babe. The heavy issue, which involves the writing of 1,000 word essays for the Voice, is book signing, dammit! To which one can only reply, if you don’t want to put out, don’t spread ’em!


More than one million women (or 500,000 from the more conservative media outlets) marched on Washington yesterday. But apparently it wasn’t enough to dominate the news. The Mobilization March on November 15, 1969, the largest antiwar protest in U.S. history, had a crowd estimated between 250,000 and 500,000 and it caused Nixon to announce two months later that ending the war would be “a major goal of United States policy.” Somehow, I don’t think we’ll be getting anything like that from Bush (with twice the turnout of Mobilization) in June. That’s nothing less than a goddam travesty.

[UPDATE: And a psuedo-blackout from the blogosphere too. Nothing whatsoever about the rally at Megnut, another tired potshot at Wonkette, an acknowledgment over at Oliver’s (although overshadowed by a long essay, “Can the Right Fight Terrorism?”), a photo at Atrios, and some live coverage at Kos. But it’s all pretty much reflecting the status quo. 1 million people. What does it take to be newsworthy? Or have protests lost their efficacy? Or is “feminist” a dirty word? Or does nobody want to talk about it? And, no, Scribbling Woman, you ain’t chopped liver.]

[4/29/04 UPDATE: Just talked with someone who got back from Washington. She said there was definitely a million.]

Voices from the Dead

Either The Magic 7 has spent years in development or someone really knew how to plan for a 2004 release in the early 1990s. Or there’s some digital weirdness. Or…well, you make the call. Two dead talents, John Candy and Madeline Kahn, are involved with this animated production. Candy himself has been dead for a decade. Now it’s worth noting that writer-director Roger Holzberg hasn’t helmed a film since 1995. But I’m seriously creeped out by the idea of taking voices from the past and putting them down to contemporary cinema. Is someone sitting on some John Belushi tapes? Can we expect Andy Kaufman to voice the next Disney extravaganza with unreleased Janis Joplin audition tapes set to horrid Sting sequencing? Holzberg owes us all an explanation.

Half-Assed Color Theory

Carrie A.A. Frye’s over at Maud’s this week, “primed in her tangerine muumuu.” This makes a good deal of sense to me, largely because I’ve always associated prime numbers with the color orange. Other immediate color associations which come to mind: sepia tones and oddball diner to-go cartons, goldenrod mimeographs, and the wild chartreuse decor of mid-1990s urban splendor. What happened to tie-dye camoflauge or Wired’s early chromatic schemes? When did pink and emerald green (the color that the eye perceives the strongest; hence, night vision goggles) become so dreaded? There’s a particular colored gel look in Dario Argento’s 1970s films that suggests an hyperrealized haunted house, and I haven’t seen it in a while. And a publicist has encouraged me to generate images in red and black. These days, it’s either over-the-top vibrancy or the subdued racket.

If Donna Tartt Described The Current Status

Edward Champion, the proprietor of this blog, was a remote and occupied figure. Edward, a chronic expression of being caught up in some peripheral project on his face, stared at the screen which would lead to a seemingly enigmatic but altogether obvious conclusion.

He was too busy. The sun had dappled down on his shoulders as he scribbled pages outside a cafe, the steam of the coffee drifting upwards, creeping up his nostrils, causing the gears inside his head to stir. There was no pied-a-tierre, no book advance, no expendable income. There was only discipline and endeavor, as he heard the susurrating wind chimes of a wholly unnecessary atmospheric detail half a block away.

On a Sunday morning in April, almost twelve years after that inconsequential day he had turned eighteen, Edward realized that he would not have as much time to blog. Oh, there would be other times. Just not this week. And on this morning, he realized there were other engagements, pressing engagements, engagements suggesting greater things, engagements that would get at the heart of his heart’s pitter-patter.

There would be the usual day job subterfuge, but, this week, his blog entries would be sparse and not as frequent as they had been last week, and the week before that, and even the week before the week before that. Faithful as his devotion to his readership was, there was simply too much to do.

Too Many Westlakes

In a screwup worthy of Dortmunder himself, a few days ago, I posted some erroneous news about Donald E. Westlake reading a poem over a short film entitled “A Life of Death”. Whether it had something to do with enjoying the hell out of Thieves’ Dozen or just having Dortmunder on the mind, I was wrong (as many of you kind enough to write in informed me) and I removed the item. Well, I’ve now heard from filmmaker Dawn Westlake herself. Her film has apparently won two awards and was just nominated for a third in Sydney, Australia. The guy reading the poem is Donald G. Westlake, who is Dawn’s father. And Donald G. is a cousin of Donald E. I have no idea if a cousin of Richard Stark may be involved, but as a good faith effort to correct what was a ghastly mistake on my part, for the love of decency, check out Dawn’s site.