So which of you will be the first to publish their Pinterest as a book?
NY Post says the anonymous author of the new political novel O is probably Mark Salter, the former aide to John McCain. NYT looks at the evidence. Maybe he should've tried harder to be anonymous: Kakutani hates the book, calling it "a thoroughly lackadaisical performance: trite, implausible and decidedly unfunny."
In 1945, Nabokov floated a theory about the evolution of butterflies that was not taken seriously at the time. But, he's just been proven correct.
Speaking of long sentences, how long would a sentence (or book) have to be to protect you from a bullet? Apparently longer than Freedom. (And even longer than The Instructions, believe it or not.) So, if you're in a bad neighborhood, leave the Kindle at home and maybe bring along Musil's two-volume The Man Without Qualities.
Writer and editor Ed Park, who is himself the author of a 16,000 word sentence, assembles (with the help of his readers) a list of other very long sentences, many of which are novel-length. Some whoppers there, sure, but it's a bit of wanking, isn't it?
Biblioklept's Best Book Covers of 2010. Suitable for the List of Lists. See also this years' Penguin/RED project, which used snippets from the books' texts as design elements for the covers. T-shirts, please!
Soft Skull is doing a series of books called Deep Focus, which is similar to the awesome 33 1/3 series, except about films instead of albums. Jonathan Lethem is writing about John Carpenter's They Live and Christopher Sorrentino is writing on Death Wish.
William Gibson has been using his blog recently for an extended Q&A. Yesterday's question was: "Do you think any influence from "The Wire" has leaked into your (this) writing? Would you necessarily [be] aware of it, if it had?". [via] -NA
Things you will learn in two recently published memoirs about Norman Mailer by his widow and former research assistant: he would eat teriyaki oatmeal and once insisted that cheating on his wife was research for his novel about the CIA. - JM
Sam Anderson goes behind the scenes of the theaterical adaptation of Samuel R. Delany's Dhalgren playing this week at The Kitchen (via.) Director Jay Scheib says, "It took me roughly a year to read Dhalgren for the first time. I would read the same ten pages over and over and over again. You get the feeling that the story has been going on like a fugue for millennia. The second time you read it, its thrilling. The third time, it makes you high. After that its like reading philosophy." -JM
David Foster Wallace's papers are all going to the University of Texas, including some "juvenilia" like 200 books from his own library, poems, and college/graduate papers. Why Pomona didn't get these is sort of head-scratching, but UT is building up quite the collection. In case you wanted to hear what Chuck Klosterman thinks about this:
"He definitely is the writer I've ripped off the most," said Klosterman, author of "Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs," on Monday. "Wallace showed me that you could present ideas that were insightful and complex, but the presentation could still be as entertaining as any sort of writing whose sole purpose was to entertain. Considering how dense his work could be, it was almost never confusing."
Unlike say, having a quote from Chuck Klosterman in your article that has nothing to do with the subject matter of where DFW's materials are ending up. --DG
Penguin Classics and AIDS-awareness marketeers (RED) have teamed up to re-issue 8 classics with some striking new designs. Each cover features a quotation from the book as the key design element. --ADM
NYT's Motoko Rich breaks down the costs and profits associated with creating and distributing eBooks vs. regular books.
If I'm reading it right, for each hardcover sold, publishers are left with revenue of $4.05 before overhead. For an eBook, they end up with "$4.56 to $5.54, before paying overhead costs or writing off unearned advances." Hence their reluctance to continue with the $9.99 pricing so favored by Amazon.
Related: Did you see that author Douglas Preston got into all kinds of trouble with his fans for suggesting they had a "sense of entitlement" for wanting cheap eBooks? He eventually apologized and reframed his comments after an outcry. --adm
Zach Galifianakis interviews John Wray, author of the excellent Lowboy, now out in paperback. If you haven't read it yet, I bet this clip won't discourage you, unless you hate Brooklyn and/or laughter. [Here's John Wray's "The Making of Zach Galifianakis" in the Times magazine last year, and here's a Q&A with Wray by yours truly.] --FD
Haven't gotten around to reading The Guardian's collection of great authors' "Ten Rules for Writing Fiction" yet? Here are two good best-of lists: NYMag // Flavorwire. The second one even has the quotes Photoshopped onto their respective writers' photographs, ready for some insta-Tumbling, as well as some excerpts so you can judge the authors' words against their own advice. --FD
P.S. I swear, Scott, this is shaping up to be the greatest novel ever written. Or at least the greatest novel I've ever written, anyhow.
That's Philip K. Dick. Which novel do you think he was talking about? The answer.
He was impervious to my flirtations until I grabbed his crotch and showed him my tramp stamp.
-- The Fucking Word of the Day, your new favorite site for the next five minutes.
The only problem with a sarcasm punctuation mark is that it would be only used sarcastically.
7 Books We Lost to History That Would Have Changed the World. This is interesting because it makes you wonder how things would have been different if the Library of Alexandria had survived. Also, I wonder why no one has jumped on this Gospel of Eve thing.
Here's that new Historical Thesaurus of the Oxford English Dictionary ($364.68) that you many have seen lauded in the New York Times Magazine. Check out the video "How to Call Someone Stupid In Old English Using The Historical Thesaurus of the OED":
I've often wondered why NYTBR doesn't do more contemplative, thematic essays like this: The Naked and the Conflicted. It's about how "the Great Male Novelists of the last century" portray sex.
There are now 35 books in my Amazon list "My year as..." which collects all the books in which people do one thing for a year. THIS. TREND. WILL. NOT. DIE.
We interrupt the yearly listmaking to bring you io9's 20 Best Science Fiction Books Of The Decade.
I maybe get a Kindle just so I can see how all these Choose Your Adventure titles for the Kindle work on it.
At a party recently I was talking to Michael Malice, who co-founded Overheard in New York, about the history of the blog-to-book trend. We were trying to recall the first instance of a blog becoming a book, but couldn't think of it. Coincidentally, Urlesque has published a timeline (and story) of the meme, which credits Tucker Max as the founding occurrence (30 days before Overheard). This somehow seems wrong.
Whoasky. Charles Bukowski, William Burroughs, and the Computer. Bukowski used a computer; Burroughs did not! Not only that, but this story credits Bukowski's creative explosion in 1991 to the Macintosh IIsi. [via]
It's the first great novel about the Internet; it's one of the best books of any kind I've ever read about identity on any level. It is brilliant and it is essential; it should be required reading not only for anyone who uses the Internet, but for anyone who cares about contemporary American fiction.
The first time I met a writer was the first time it occurred to me that one could be a writer.
I was a college sophomore who, through a random set of instances, walked into a very large auditorium containing a very small audience. Jim Carroll was on a dark stage reading from a collection of stories, Praying Mantis, that he had just put out. His crackling, stuttery, affected voice filled the room as he said, "This is 'Tiny Tortures' (mp3)." I actually counted the number of people in the audience: eight.
Carroll had survived modest success in the '70s as a rock singer. "Catholic Boy," which sounded a little like The Clash meets the Stones, and "People Who Died" (mp3) were small hits in 1980. But after that he lived in relative obscurity for over a decade, until Leonardo DiCaprio came along to play him in The Basketball Diaries.
When I walked into that dark room, Carroll was reading something called "A Day at the Races" (mp3). I grew up in a town about the size of your apartment building, so this was the first time that I ever heard someone read their own work. And I was mesmerized.
I happened to know the student council person who booked him at this random midwest college, so I asked her if I could take Carroll out for the night. Frightened by his stories of heroin abuse, she was relieved that I would entertain him. So at a bar called Whitey's on a cold winter night in North Dakota, Jim Carroll drank with me. He told me a hundred stories about people and places I had never heard of. And he frequently snuck in the bathroom to do I-don't-know-what.
I had never met someone like Jim Carroll, but his writing eventually led me to people like William Burroughs and Patti Smith. I never talked to him again after that night, but every time I walked down St. Mark's -- 10, 15, nearly 20 years later -- I thought of him. It was one of those incalculably small events that probably changed me forever.
Update: NYT obit.
I told Robin the other day that I'm jealous of all his ideas lately. There was that Kindle short story collection, preceded by the New Liberal Arts book. Then he ingeniously decided to use Kickstarter to fund a book, and now he's using Google Adwords to name a character. So much smartness so fast!
From the author of Book of Ages, a list of interesting ages in cultural history. Includes such items as "AGE 3: Sigmund Freud sees his mother naked, 1859" and "AGE 15: Susan Sontag buys her first copy of Partisan Review at a newsstand on Hollywood Boulevard, 1948."
Naked Lunch turned 50 last week. Update: Day of the Locust turned 70. I just reread it, because I remember not being amazed by it the first time. And second time through, I'm still unsure why it's so revered.
Nick's new book, Twitter Wit: Brilliance in 140 Characters or Less, went on sale today. I'm sure some will think it's frivolous, and in some context maybe it is, but it's also a spectacular illustration of how the internet bustles with brief and spontaneous moments of creativity. And contrary to how the supposed controversy was perceived, I'm super happy that someone made this book, because I probably never would have. And the bonus: someone finally cut Nick a check so that he could move to NYC. Welcome to the idiocy.
Dumenco inteviews Wasik, devises 7 Truths About Viral Culture. "5. The Attention Economy is (mostly) a sorry excuse for a (predictable, rational) economy."
The reviews for Inherent Vice are rolling in: NY Mag | Slate | Entertainment Weekly | Financial Times | Guardian | Boston Globe | Time | LA Times | New Yorker | The Stranger. As usual, the New York Times remains the last to drop their canonical opinion. Update: And there's Michiko.
A DeLillo character reviews a David Foster Wallace book in a literary journal. (It's the same character who's in that most-photographed barn passage.) [via]
This will likely be good: Will Shortz, the NY Times crossword puzzle editor, is answering questions this week. Update:
For my major in enigmatology at Indiana University, I took courses on "Word Puzzles of the 20th Century," "Construction of Crossword Puzzles," "Popular Mathematical Puzzles," "Logic Puzzles," "The Psychology of Puzzles," "Crossword Magazines," and related subjects. Not surprisingly Indiana had no existing courses on puzzles, so I made them all up myself. In each case I'd find a professor willing to work with me one on one on the topic I proposed. For my course on crossword construction, for example, every two or three weeks I'd take a new puzzle I'd created to my professor's office and sit at his side while he solved and critiqued it. This was my first experience creating professional quality crosswords. For my course on the psychology of puzzles, I studied how the brain works as well as why people feel driven to solve puzzles. My thesis was on "The History of American Word Puzzles Before 1860," in which I traced original American puzzles back to 1647 -- almost the beginning of printing history in the colonies.
Vanity Fair: James Walcott cries that no one will see him reading Anna Karenina on the subway, or something like that.
[Books] help brand our identities. At the rate technology is progressing, however, we may eventually be traipsing around culturally nude in an urban rain forest, androids seamlessly integrated with our devices.Argh! It's not that this form of nostalgia is unworthy of some passing historical fascination, because I'm sure digitization actually does represent a drastic change in how we perceive cultural objects. Rather, the obvious annoyance in this sentimental prose is its complete lack of awareness of just how silly the fetishized cultural object was in the first place. Shouldn't we be suspicious of anyone who thinks that showing off your CD collection was ever really the point? Update: Continued on Snarkmarket...
Klosterman's new book has a cover and release date: Eating the Dinosaur. The format will be similar to Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs.
I don't know if I've ever seen anyone so excited with a book as when I ran into Caroline last night toting around an advance copy of Accidental Billionaires. Her review.
I've been thinking a lot about a comment that Rick Webb made in my post last week about unpaid writing gigs. "Just accept it's like photography, and that you'll never make a living off of it." I have a instinctual desire to say, "No, writing is different." But I'm unable to come up with any intelligible way in which it is. Will writing just democratize itself into ubiquity, leaving only a scant few people who can call themselves writers by profession? And would that be a bad thing?
Who thinks Chris Anderson is wrong about the future of free? None other than that other guy whose books you buy at the airport, Malcolm Gladwell!
Fast Company's 4,400-word story on The Kindle is actually worth it, because it wanders into scenarios about how publishing might play out.
I was expecting Bill Wasik's And Then There's This to be the most-discussed book of the summer, but so far there's only this Vulture Reading Room, with your favorite viralogists like Anil Dash, David Rees, and Virginia Heffernan.
As JJ Abrams recently pointed out in Wired, it's easy to forget that J. D. Salinger is still alive. The nonagenarian (that's 90!) popped up in the news last week when he filed a lawsuit against some moron writing a "follow-up" book called 60 Years Later: Coming Through the Rye ("moron" because he's doing it; I suspect it might actually be legal). Anyway, Rosenbaum at Slate runs through the conspiracy theories about just what the hell J.D. has been up to all these years. He hasn't published a story since 1965, in The New Yorker.
Finally, something decent on Yahoo Answers: Is it OK to run an illegal library from my locker at school? [via]
The Secret Of Google's Book Scanning Machine Revealed. "Turns out, Google created some seriously nifty infrared camera technology that detects the three-dimensional shape and angle of book pages when the book is placed in the scanner."
Wait, I was actually going to pitch teaching this class at NYU! Except this part is broken: "Is Amazon's wireless reading device the Segway of handheld gadgets? Should it be smaller, come with headphones, and play MP3s instead of display book text? Students will discuss." Kindle already plays MP3s, silly.
In addition to that Talk of the Town piece, Brett Easton Ellis is also this week's A/V Club interview. He disses his own movie: "Less Than Zero is obviously bad, and we don't need to talk about why that didn't work. And American Psycho -- that is, I think, an impossible book to adapt. But whatever, it was the greatest hits from the book, more or less. Mary did a very good job of keeping that movie together, as did Christian Bale, and I think Roger did a terrific job. And with The Informers, I think there is really an outstanding movie floating out there somewhere, and I hope one day people might be able to see it. I am not comparing The Informers to The Godfather on any level, but there's that famous story where Paramount asked Coppola to cut like an hour out of the movie, because they didn't want to release a three-hour movie. And Coppola did, and showed it to the executive, and it was terrible. It moved very slowly at two hours. And then when he put the other hour back in, it moved very quickly. And that's all I want to say about The Informers."
From Jenna's NYT story about blog books: "But the latest frenzy is over books that take the lazy, Tom Sawyer approach to authorship. The creators come up with a goofy or witty idea, put it up on a simple platform like Twitter and Tumblr, and wait for contributors to provide all of the content. The authors put their energy into publicizing the sites and compiling the best material."
Here's a relatively new something in lit land: Wag's Revue. It's an online literary magazine (a portmanteau of "web" and "mag," it says). The format sucks (scanned pages, no printing), but the interviews with Dave Eggers and n+1's Mark Greif are good. And there's also On Douchebags. [via]
I missed this one: there's a controversy about Britney Spears' song "If U Seek Amy" because it actually sounds like she's saying "F.U.C.K. me" when she sings it. (Slate explore similar uses, which apparently go back to Joyce!) See also: a peculiar NYT op-ed rant, Pun for the Ages. So... pro-pun or anti-pun?
I'm sorry to say this, but the first thing I thought upon reading that Sylvia Plath's son killed himself was "I hope he didn't have any kids."
Quick announcement: I've been working with Jim Miller and Tom Shales, the authors of the legendary oral history of Saturday Night Live, Live From New York, on a new project: the website for The Untitled ESPN Book. Similar to the SNL book, this will tell the inside story of ESPN, from launch to present. They've got a Tumblr, which will feature regular updates on the book's progress. (Press release with more info inside.)
Not that I like to admit it, but I was kinda sorta maybe rooting for Denby in some vaguely subconscious way. As with Gessen, there is a subtle point to be made here, but perhaps it's too nuanced to ever really find its voice. Or at least this clearly seems the case from his blundering appearance on Charlie Rose last night. He sounded so completely out of touch that I somehow ended up sympathizing with Maureen Dowd by the end of it.
Wikipedia: List of fictional diseases, List of fictional medicines and drugs, List of fictional toxins, List of fictional super metals, List of fictional computers, List of fictional currencies, List of fictional newspapers.... fuck it, list of list of everything fictional.
Snarkmarket proposes: a book introducing the new liberal arts. It proposes we live in an age where there should be a new liberal arts curriculum: "Is design a liberal art now? How about photography? Food? Personal branding?"
Among Nassim Nicholas Taleb's 10 life tips: "2) Go to parties." Unfortunately, there's also: "7) Avoid losers." Always with the contradictions!
Are anti-heroes taking over literature? Why Do Young Male Writers Love Icky, Tough Guy Deadbeats? "It does seem like every other literary novel that comes out these days has at its center some variation on the classic antihero -- a character whose flaws are worn plainly if not proudly, and who inspires in readers scorn and affection in equal amounts. One strain in particular -- characterized by a self-loathing impulse to confession, a kinetic demeanor and a claim to authenticity expressed through vitriolic social critique -- has emerged as a dominant model." It's a decent argument, and if you spread the idea across culture, you'll see the archetype played out on the internet too.
NYTBR: See the Web Site, Buy the Book. "But do book sites really help sell books? As in so much of publishing, no one quite knows."
n+1 has released an online-only book review: n1br. Included: luminous Molly reviewing Playboy: The Complete Centerfolds. "The first thing that strike the casual reader is the anatomical variety among bunnies. Nipples, for one thing. Some are as big as cupcakes, others are the size of a penny. They are occasionally erect and come in a range of colors as varied as drugstore lipsticks. Pubic hair is another delight to behold, appearing first in 1971 and thriving until 1997. Gauzy coronas of pubic hair, technicolor dreampubes of every shade. You forget how assertive a healthy growth of hair can look. It comes as a pleasant shock in the midst of a creamy-smooth expanse."
Continuing my admitted over-interest in the reactions to Denby's Snark, here's a Flavorwire interview with him, where he takes up the Sternbergh review: "He says snark is an appropriate response to a corrupt and dishonorable world in which lies have been passed out to us in the past eight years in particular. I wouldn't quarrel with his description of the world. But the idea that snark is the appropriate response to that is just inane. The appropriate response to it is criticism, analysis and best of all, satire." Update: everyone in the fray here.
"Why would anyone pay a dime to read professionals' advice on breaking into an amateur medium that rewards people who make up their own rules?" Good question.
If you missed it, Adam Sternbergh reviewed David Denby's new book, Snark, in NY Mag. "Denby's book invites -- even begs masochistically to receive -- a snarky response, but he won't get one here. I enjoy snark. I practice snark. And I hope herein to defend snark."
Relationships Between 10 Classic Authors. "Fitzgerald was notoriously insecure about himself in almost every aspect, and when his wife once insulted the size of his manhood, Fitz actually dropped trou and asked Hemingway if everything looked normal to him. Hemingway assured his friend that things appeared to be up to par." Whoa, Lock and I had the exact same competition last night.
Q&A with Joanne about sexy sci-fi. "I would love to see more hybrid sci-fi 'chick lit' -- and penned by women! -- like Bridget Jones's Diary only set 500 years in the future. What will we be wearing then? The Stepford Wives, although it was written by a man, is a good example. Philip K Dick wrote about a post-apocalyptic society with lives so wretched, the adults spend their days living out their memories using Barbie-inspired dolls and accessories. It shows how in desperate times we still seek out glamour and fantasy."
The book blog The Millions is doing their annual Year in Reading list where they ask people to write about their favorite book of the year. My submission attempts to go to bat for Hot Chicks With Douchebags (seriously! read it!) but eventually meanders its way to Live From New York.
To the list of the Top 10 Most Annoying Phrases, I'd like to add "The fact of the matter is...." Obama, I'm looking at you.
Since I'll never actually take the time to write down all my thoughts about the complex entity that is Malcolm Gladwell, being quoted about some of them will have to suffice. Quoting myself: "I think he should be filed under self-help. Read his work closely and there's something about it that is supposed to make you, the reader, feel better about yourself. You may seem insignificant -- but you're actually an influencer! You might make rash decisions -- but this is good!" (For the record, I think Gladwell is a magnificent stylist, but also find his rhetoric occasionally problematic.)
I sure wasn't expecting to see Derrida invoked in the financial crisis debacle in this week's New Yorker!
For anyone who studied literature in college in the past few decades, there is a weird familiarity about the current crisis: value, in the realm of finance capital, evokes the elusive nature of meaning in deconstructionism. According to Jacques Derrida, the doyen of the school, meaning can never be precisely located; instead, it is always "deferred," moved elsewhere, located in other meanings, which refer and defer to other meanings -- a snake permanently and necessarily eating its own tail. This process is fluid and constant, but at moments the perpetual process of deferral stalls and collapses in on itself. Derrida called this moment an "aporia," from a Greek term meaning "impasse." There is something both amusing and appalling about seeing his theories acted out in the world markets to such cataclysmic effect.
The Hot-or-Not of books: JudgeBy.com, where you judge a book by its cover and then see what its Amazon rating is.
Lolita is 50 years old, and people still debate whether it is lust or love. Anecdote I had never heard: "Adolf Eichmann, in Jerusalem for his trial, returned Lolita to a guard who had presented it to him, denouncing it as 'very unwholesome'."
There are a hundred Klosterman interviews out there right now, but Steve's is the best. I'm going to grab this quote, even though only five people will know these North Dakota towns, including the one I grew up in: "[Owl] is sort of a synthesis of the cities that we talked about the most -- towns like Napoleon, Langdon, Munich, Thompson, Cando, Larimore, cities like that." Update: an unexpected rave from This Recording.
From an email from my friend Steve:
My story on John Berryman is out this month, the U of M professor/poet who jumped off the Washington Bridge in '72. All the indie bands are writing songs about him these days (Okkervil River, Hold Steady, Nick Cave). I spent a lot of time with his third wife Kate, who lives in Prospect Park in the same fucking house they bought together with Dream Song money back in '68. Coincidentally, this writer out east, Janet Groth, wrote a story on John that was published this month in The New England Review. She actually knew the man, took classes from him, was proposed to by him, etc. Loved her account -- she talks about partying with Berryman and Robert Giroux. Anyway, we both titled our pieces, "Homage to Mister Berryman." (Cheap play on the title of his famous long poem, "Homage to Mistress Bradstreet.")
A.O. Scott on D.F.W. in N.Y.T. "Again and again, he returned to a basic, perhaps the basic, philosophical question facing anyone with a blank screen and a story to tell. What am I going to say? How am I going to say it?"
The Atlantic looks at Stuff White People Like as high-minded sociology, which is exactly what a... nevermind.
Mary Sue, sometimes shortened simply to Sue, is a pejorative term used to describe a fictional character who plays a major role in the plot and is particularly characterized by overly idealized and clichéd mannerisms, lacking noteworthy flaws, and primarily functioning as wish-fulfillment fantasies for their authors.
Rumor that's hard to believe, but the world is an infinite jest: DFW was working on a film adaption of his 1000+ page masterpiece. UPDATE: Adam reminds me via email: "Curtis Armstrong ('Booger' in the Nerds movies and 'Charles' in Better Off Dead) sold his adapted screenplay of Infinite Jest to HBO in the '90s." And Marco says in the comments: "I read a draft of the script by Keith Bunin several years ago."
Emily notes the comments on LAT's story about DFW's death. It reminds me of the peculiar mainstream media impulse -- the "leave your remembrances in our forum" impulse. After a decade of seeing this (and even sometimes encouraging it), I shouldn't be surprised -- except to note that the idea hasn't really evolved in that time.
David Foster Wallace (1962-2008). Some links: Jay McInerney reviews Infinite Jest (1996), DFW on Charlie Rose (1997), NYT Mag profile (1996), DFW profiles David Lynch in Premiere (1996), DFW on John Updike in the New York Observer (1997), first chapter of A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again (1997), interviewed by Gus Van Sant in Dazed & Confused (1998), "Girlfriend Stops Reading David Foster Wallace Breakup Letter At Page 20" in The Onion (2003), "Consider the Lobster" in Gourmet (2004), Where to go after Infinite Jest? in n+1 (2005), Kenyon Commencement Address (2005), profile of John Ziegler in The Atlantic (2005), Profile of Roger Federer in Play (2006), interview with John Krasinksi about Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (2008), Michiko Kakutani remembers (2008).
Since first hearing about electronic books in the early '90s, I've always thought the place to break through with an actual digital book reader would be with text books. Lugged around the 50-pound organic chemistry book? Yep. Been annoyed with the highlighting of the previous owners? Yep. Wished you could markup a book with searchable notes? Yep. Amazon has confirmed they are working on a version of the Kindle for students.
The only McInerney novel that I haven't read is moving up the sales charts because of the Edwards scandal. Anyone else notice that McInerney has been silent about this? I bet he's working on a story for someone -- my guess is NY Mag
io9: 20 Things That Should Be Their Own Genres (But Aren't). "10) My clone plagiarized my memoir!"
Noticing that sales are up, some people are saying that the Kindle might actually end up being a big deal after all. Up next: The Segway.
Q&A w/ Slavoj Zizek. Q: What does love feel like? A: Like a great misfortune, a monstrous parasite, a permanent state of emergency that ruins all small pleasures. Q: Have you ever said 'I love you' and not meant it? A: All the time. When I really love someone, I can only show it by making aggressive and bad-taste remarks. Q: Tell us a secret. A: Communism will win.
"Andy Warhol for Familiar Quotations"
by Peter Oresick
Andy Warhol said, Always leave them wanting less.
Being born, Warhol said, is like being kidnapped.
Everyone will be famous, Andy said, for 15 minutes.
I thought everyone was just kidding, said Andy.
Being born, Andy Warhol said, is like being kidnapped.
Think rich, said Warhol, look poor.
I thought everyone was just kidding, said Andy.
Dying, Andy said, is the most embarrassing thing.
Think rich, said Andy Warhol, look poor.
I am a deeply superficial man, said Warhol.
Dying, Andy said, is the most embarrassing thing.
Andy said, I'd like my tombstone to be blank.
I am a deeply superficial man, said Andy Warhol.
Fashions fade, Warhol said, but style is eternal.
Andy said, I'd like my tombstone to be blank.
Isn't life, said Andy, a series of images that repeat?
Fashions fade, Andy Warhol said, but style is eternal.
Everyone will be famous, Warhol said, for 15 minutes.
Isn't life, said Andy, a series of images that repeat?
Andy said, Always leave them wanting less.
Isn't life, said Andy, a series of images that repeat?
Isn't life, said Andy, a series of images that repeat?
Always leave them wanting less, Andy said.
— "Andy Warhol for Familiar Quotations" by Peter Oresick from Warhol-O-Rama
New book: Reading the OED, about a guy who spends a year reading that big-ass dictionary. I've added it to My Year As..., my (probably not definitive but still long) list of books about people doing something for one year. Nicholson Baker reviews it in NYTBR.
Zoinks. Ballantine is turning Garfield Minus Garfield into a book. Jim Davis even approved of it. See also: what happens if you translate Garfield from English to Chinese to English using Google Translate. Perhaps this will be a book too!
The Observer: Leon Neyfakh reviews David Carr's memoir, saying the book "turns the traditional memoir on its head, assuming as it does that its author knows nothing about his own life and must research it as though it were someone else's."
Radar: On Douchebags. Origin: Henry Miller? Huh. Also: "The 'douche' part is feminine, and the 'bag' part is masculine. Someone who is 'douchey' has taken on the feminizing aspects of the taste culture -- hair gel, spray-on tan -- but the 'bag' part implies a masculine creepiness, a 'perv' factor that is about posturing and sticking tongues toward or into unwanted locations."
Irony alert: 3,500-word NYT story on how kids don't read anymore because of the internet. "Clearly, reading in print and on the Internet are different. On paper, text has a predetermined beginning, middle and end, where readers focus for a sustained period on one author's vision. On the Internet, readers skate through cyberspace at will and, in effect, compose their own beginnings, middles and ends."
NYTBR's lead review this week is for Atmospheric Disturbances, a novel that begins "Last December a woman entered my apartment who looked exactly like my wife." It gets a rave, but I was intrigued that the reviewer (an acquaintance) didn't mention the disorder that serves as the inspiration, Capgras Delusion, which I've been obsessed with lately, and am a little disappointed to discover has now been fictionalized by someone else before I could get to it.
People seem to use the thesaurus to turn their lame vocabulary into multi-syllabic nonsense. But then there's Thsrs, a thesaurus for when you want a shorter word. It's useful in character-limiting environments like Twitter.
The Amazon page for Chuck's new novel, Downtown Owl, now has a description. Release: mid-September.
Keith Gessen has a Tumblr? The 10 of you who know him, know this; the rest of who don't, don't care; this post was worthless. (Oh, but I finally read All The Sad Young Literary Men, so if you wanna debate it in the comments...)
Salon: Who killed the literary critic? It meanders through several reasons why criticism is dying (economic, cultural, technological, academic), ultimately becoming a satisfying read because much of it is wrong and you'll know it.
Easiest way to get me talking bullshit: start a conversation about the economics of book publishing. This isn't the place to give my speech about the demise of the industry (YOU ARE ALL GOING TO DIE), but it's worth pointing to this random Forbes essay, How Amazon Could Change Publishing. I disagree with the conclusion -- I don't think Amazon is going to knock out the book publisher any more than iTunes knocked out the record label. But it does lay out some of the broken economics. (Short version of my rant: the internet age will catch up with book publishing, not in a technological sense, as this essay suggests, but in a philosophical sense. Publishing will be forced to adopt a more egalitarian meritocracy. Too many books lose money; authors aren't accurately rewarded on sales; this model can't continue.)
Nicky thinks the problem with contemporary fiction is the pile of pop culture references. He calls this The Diablo Cody Effect. He's sorta right and sorta wrong.
Random 12-year-old thing I accidentally found: David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Franzen, and Mark Leyner on Charlie Rose, from 1996.
Two recommended books that come out later this week: Jessica Hagy's Indexed (a collection of notecard graphics from her site) and Clay Shirky's Here Comes Everybody (which will be the book that gives Web 2.0 the articulation it needs).
Even though it won't be in bookstores for seven months, Chuck's new book, Downtown Owl (cover), is now available for pre-order on Amazon. His first novel, it is set in North Dakota in 1983, a time and place I know quite well!
In case you missed it: Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure.
NYTBR on why it takes so long to publish a book. (Answer: forget the lawyers; kill the marketers.)
You saw the NYT story last weekend about the success of cellphone novels in Japan, but The Millions revisits it with a translation and some context that illustrates how the format is uniquely Japanese.
Download from Facebook the ten most popular books at every college, and then cross-reference that with the average SAT score for students attending those colleges. The results are Books That Make You Dumb. Finally a brilliant use of Facebook! [via]
Toward the bottom of this eBay thread about recent book deals, it says the Demetri Martin has sold his first book which he pitched as "the Godel, Escher, Bach of humor books." (Because of that damn book, I actually turned in papers in college that were written in platonic dialog form. Seriously!)
Favorite founding father? Glad you asked! Doy, of course it's that rascal polymath Bennie Franklin! Poor Richard's Almanac gets taken up in the New Yorker.
"Cassie Wright, porn priestess, intends to cap her legendary career by breaking the world record for serial fornication. On camera. With six hundred men. Snuff unfolds from the perspectives of Mr. 72, Mr. 137, and Mr. 600, who await their turn on camera in a very crowded green room." -- New Palahniuk novel, due in May. [via]
So Steve Jobs thinks the Kindle is doomed, but not necessarily because it's a bad product -- but because "people don't read anymore." Now, c'mon, that's pretty dumb.
Seeing Borges portrayed in the Times (via the book Borges 2.0: From Text to Virtual Worlds -- gimme!) as an oracular visionary who predicted the internet is one thing... but, whoa, it's a completely different game to see him show up in Vanity Fair as an answer in Karl Rove's Proust Questionnaire to the "favorite writers?" query.
In 1989, a book called Future Stuff predicted consumer productions that "should be in your supermarket, hardware store, pharmacy, department store, or otherwise available by the year 2000." They were pretty bad predictions.
Huh, there's a Kathy Acker biopic? Hey, college kids: does anyone still read Acker? I mean, you can't even buy her books at Kim's Video anymore!
So at the Gladwell lecture the other night (attended with Robin and Andrew), it was pretty easy to determine the topic of his Next Big Book: genius. Or rather, learning. Or education. Or nature vs. nurture. Or some combination of those. Anyway, here's a clip from the exchange.
The 9 Most Badass Bible Verses. Ezekiel 23:19-20: "Yet she became more and more promiscuous as she recalled the days of her youth, when she was a prostitute in Egypt. There she lusted after her lovers, whose genitals were like those of donkeys and whose emission was like that of horses." And that's only #7!
This week's NYT Mag interview: Umberto Eco. On Da Vinci Code: "I was obliged to read it because everybody was asking me about it. My answer is that Dan Brown is one of the characters in my novel, Foucault's Pendulum."
Big fat Newsweek story on Jeff Bezos' new digital book project, which sorta seems like it could have been written in 1997.
OMG, first Ze, and now.... Malcolm Gladwell is back too! (Absence blamed on writing a new book? Pft, yeah, me too, dude.)
I've been telling anyone who will listen to read Yochai Benkler's The Wealth of Networks, so I'm glad the new guy at Kottke.org interviewed him. (Btw, since a few people have asked, the new guy at Kottke.org is Joel Turnipseed, the author of Baghdad Express and a resident of Minneapolis -- but no, I've never met him.)
A New Yorker article on the digitization of books, which I could have sworn has been covered a few times in the magazine, but is still full of good context.
This week's NYTBR is a special issue about music books, including a review of The Rest Is Noise, Alex Ross' analysis of 20th century classical music (Kottke interviewed him last week). Also of note is Reading Room, a new blog subtitled "conversations about great books," which comes in addition to the other book blog, Paper Cuts. And finally, Joe Queenan has an excellent little rant about, of all things, Henry Petroski's The Toothpick. Key quote: "Petroski has mistakenly assumed that merely because he could assemble a huge amount of information about the rise and fall of the toothpick industry, such data was worth compiling in a 443-page book."
Kottke and Buzzfeed and everyone else have been all over this gay Dumbledore thing, but I'm with Chuck on this one: ignorance may be death, but I don't care this time around.
Penguin is creating a contest with Amazon.com called the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award in which people submit their novel manuscripts for review and the community (that's us) votes on which should get published. [via]
Today is the last day to file for a refund for buying James Frey's "memoir," A Million Little Pieces.
I've noticed that Cory Doctorow has been selling his short fiction to magazines that might not otherwise run fiction. Early this year, "When Sysadmins Ruled the Earth" appeared in The Rake and now "Scroogled" is in Radar. With the market for fiction in magazines in jeopardy, maybe there's something in the way that Doctorow writes that makes short fiction suddenly more relevant to media types.
This is pretty cool: Google Book Search Library. Add books to your library to create a personalized search source that you can then annotate, review, and share it. Other new features: embed book snippets and meme pools.
I don't know why, but this seems like something you should know: the fourth edition of the D&D Manual is coming out in May 2008. (And if you've never read it, The Believer's year-old story on the history of D&D is a must-find.)
You'll find this hard to believe, but I've actually been holding back on William Gibson (and, for that matter, M.I.A.) links. But his interview in Onion A/V is just too good.
Proving that it can be almost as useful as Wikipedia, Time magazine has a short little guide to the books of Haruki Murakami.
William Gibson reading from his new novel Spook Country inside Second Life. Um, not exactly packed.
Fake Steve Jobs' book is on Amazon: Options: The Secret Life of Steve Jobs, a Parody. October 8 release date.
William Gibson has posted a lengthy video in which he talks about his new book, Spook Country, which hits stores early next month. Also interesting: Amazon has the original proposal for the novel, which sounds nothing like how the novel actually turned out. [via]
Strange that NYTBR brought out Michiko to review Cult of the Amateur. Also strange that she doesn't really even review the book, and just recites Keen's argument.
Browsing the bookstore last weekend, I saw a copy of this Gothic and Lolita book -- and it totally freaked me out, even more than Phaidon's other similar releases Fruits and Fresh Fruits. For a sample, check out the slideshow on Radar. Update: Wikipedia entry for "Gothic Lolita" (thx Gavin).
It looks like Douglas Wolk's new book Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean is making an impression. Salon has an excerpt and the Star-Tribune has a review.
I haven't read Nassim Taleb's new book Black Swan yet, but today Jim pointed me to the Wikipedia entry for Ludic fallacy, which is "the misuse of games to model real-life situations." Taleb was on The Colbert Report a few weeks ago, and his book is getting some buzz lately.
The movie production company that optioned faux-author JT Leroy's movie rights is suing. As Vulture says: "Liberal-arts grads of the world, this trial has it all! Fake novelists, indie moviemakers, Terry Gross, deep issues, pitiful stakes (that Sarah option deal? $15,000 a year)!"
Somewhat strangely, the New York Times Op-Ed page has decided it needs to chime in on Philip K. Dick as a genius sage, too. See also: Wired interviews Lethem on the Library of America series.
Over the weekend, I finished the new Murakami novel, which somehow manages to be both tremendously cinematic and wildly unfilmable at the same time. (One of the main characters is actually a camera, which is a proxy for us, the audience. This causes parts of the plot to be told in first-person plural -- "point of view" is a prevailing phrase.) A few reviews: L.A. Times | San Fran Chron | Wash Post.
This book looks interesting: Where's My Jetpack?: A Guide to the Amazing Science Fiction Future that Never Arrived.
In addition to nine released film adaptations, there are currently five additional Philip K. Dick stories being optioned for movies: Valis, Flow My Tears the Policeman Said, Radio Free Albemuth, Adjustment Team, and Time Out of Joint. [via]
Let the Web 2.0 backlash begin! An upcoming book found cruising around Amazon: The Cult of the Amateur. Subtitle: "How today's Internet is killing our culture." Ouch! [See also: Secrets of Online Persuasion.]
I've been intending to write about The New Republic's dissection of the factuality of David Sedaris' non-fiction essays, but Daniel Radosh beat me to it (after Jack Shafer beat him to it). In general, I'm fascinated by this sliding scale of acceptable and unacceptable deceit we've seemingly agreed upon as a culture.
Holy crap! A gigantic gallery of Philip K. Dick book covers. (Too bad it's such horrible UI.)
Waldenbooks -- one of those stores you're always surprised to see still exists -- is closing half its stores.
Bracketology is the most recent addition to the growing list of books that use a graphic schema to organize the world. (More? I just got David Byrne's Arboretum, for instance.) The subtitle says it all: The Final Four of Everything. Bracketed concepts include memorable lines in speeches, jock films, and mondegreens, or misheard lyrics. [via]
An amazing collection of J.G. Ballard book covers, plus a long interview with the curator of the collection. I want framed versions of several of these.
Lately I've been thinking about how writers enjoy making declarations like "We live in an age in which..." or "New Yorkers are the kinds of people who..." or "Paris Hilton is representative of our time because...." Statements like these are addictive in their simplicity, creating the appearance of aphoristic profundity. And I'm more ridiculously guilty of this form of generalization than anyone. (I recently looked back at the columns I wrote in my college newspaper. Nearly every screed declares how we live in a new era of [whatever].) And that's why I really enjoyed Chuck's Esquire column this month about stereotypes.
Mildly interesting: in the online version of the NYT story on what an author appearance on the Daily Show or the Colbert Report does for book sales, they have embedded video clips from ComedyCentral.com.
Am I the last to know that Stephen King has a son named Joe Hill who just wrote a novel named after a Nirvana album (Heart-Shaped Box, which was positively reviewed in NYTBR) that is apparently about a man who bought a haunted suit over the internet?
A long list of book-oriented web 2.0 sites. Interesting that I've never heard of these, and also interesting that I have no interest to sign up for any of them. Not sure why that is...
When I moved to Seattle, I revisited the 12-year-ago publication of Microserfs, Douglas Coupland's take on software culture. Published right around the same time was Nicholas Negroponte's Being Digital, which The Laboratorium revisits to reveal some amazing predictions and blunders. [via]
Man, my friend Keith's review of Rob Sheffield's Love is a Mix Tape is wonderful. Just one snippet: "As with Pavement's Steven Malkmus, Sheffield's quick quips have long been mistaken by dumb people for straight-up glibness. Make no mistake -- those people are our enemies. They would have us deny that there was a time sincerity and irony were not mutually exclusive options, before the gaping chasm between snark and emo swallowed up any ambiguity of emotion. That time was the '90s, a decade whose flimsy promises were always already broken. We could only afford to approach our future with such irreverence, after all, because our dreams were so pathetically limited."
In the realm of possible products that Google could mashup, books and maps isn't exactly one of that immediately comes to mind -- until they did it.
You want random? I've got random: every book Art Garfunkel has read in the past 30 years. [via]
For nerds and nerd-lovers: brand new book, Dreaming In Code, follows an open-source programming project in order to understand just why it's so hard to write software. Also, sometimes programmer and former McSweeney's online editor Kevin Shay has a new novel: The End As I Know It: A Novel of Millennial Anxiety, which looks sorta Couplandesque.
In NYTBR, Itzkoff reviews the new Michael Crichton book, Next, which "completes the author's metamorphosis from steely-eyed augur of the not-too-distant future to unabashed demagogue." Last month, it was revealed that Crichton turned one of his real-world critics into a fictional character who just happens to be a child rapist. Which is, well, despicable, but also pretty fucking funny.
For anyone reading the new Pynchon, my friend Kevin is blogging the book at Ten-to-One Against The Day.
George Lois (the guy who practically invented the magazine cover at Esquire, including this famous one) has a new book out called Ali Rap, which is a "biography" consisting entirely of quotes from Muhammad Ali. There's also a DVD. [via]
Forbes has a large collection of stories on the book industry in the internet age. It include Cory Doctorow on giving his books away, a piece on the networked book, and some requisite Dave Eggers fan boy material.
The other day at the office, I noticed someone carrying a copy of The Lonely Planet Guide to Micronations, the idea of which completely infatuated me. It's basically a guidebook to teeny-tiny nations with self-declared sovereignty, oftentimes established in someone's backyard. The Empire of Atlantium, The Principality of Sealand, and The Republic of Molossia are such example. NPR has an interview and BLDG BLOG has another. (One of the authors of the book, Simon Sellars, is interviewed in the latter. He also runs one of my favorite blogs, Ballardian, which is its own micronation of sorts).
Penguin is publishing six books without cover art, with the notion that you'll draw your own cover, which can be added to an online gallery. The books: Marcus Aurelius' Meditations, Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Crime and Punishment, Brothers Grimm's Magic Tales, Virginia Woolf's The Waves, Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, and Jane Austen's Emma.
Michiko! Thomas Pynchon's new novel, Against the Day, reads like the sort of imitation of a Thomas Pynchon novel that a dogged but ungainly fan of this author's might have written on quaaludes. It is a humongous, bloated jigsaw puzzle of a story, pretentious without being provocative, elliptical without being illuminating, complicated without being rewardingly complex.
NYT Mag looks at the process of choosing words for the new OED. My favorite addition is wonky, but no mention is made on whether a word I swear I invented will make it: arm candy.
In NYTBR, Steven Johnson has a little ditty on keywords, mashing together Raymond Williams and Google: "Own Your Own Words."
Slate has a great review of The Perfect Thing, Steven Levy's new book about the iPod. "Here's the rub: After reading Levy's book, I'm not convinced that the iPod has changed anything at all. Levy, a senior editor at Newsweek, is a prime example of the boomers who think the iPod is revolutionary. But really, they're grateful, because it's made them feel cool again." I totally agree with this.
Damn, there are too many interesting books lately. Designing Pornotopia (subtitle: "Travels in Visual Culture") looks like it's worth checking out.
Pretty great Chuck interview. "The single unifying characteristic in everything I write about is that I'm always more interested in the audience than the actual artifice."
Slate's roundtable on the state of the novel in the digital world, featuring Walter Kirn and Gary Shteyngart: The Novel, 2.0. Example of the goodness: "I read somewhere once that in the 1960s fiction writers were troubled by the notion that life was becoming stranger and more sensational than made-up stories could ever hope to be. Our new problem -- more profound, I think -- is that life no longer resembles a story. Events intersect but don't progress. People interact but don't make contact. Settings shift but don't necessarily change."
Another update on Thomas Pynchon's relatives: His son is on Facebook. Includes pics of what appears to be daddy.
I fucking hate the thesis that hippies are the progenitors of internet culture, even if it's a little true.
Radar has an interview with the funniest man alive right now, John Hodgman. I didn't realize that he edited the "True Life Tales" section of the NYT Mag.
L.A. Times: Profile of Mark Z. Danielewski. "Some people are going to really hate this book."
The Guardian: First interview with James Frey since he became invisible. Again, he's somehow a victim, additcted to something new, this time lying.
David Byrne describes his strange new book (published by McSweeney's) as "Faux science, automatic writing, self-analysis, satire and maybe even a serious attempt at finding connections where none were thought to exist."
Gladwell returns to his blog to talk about The Long Tail and bloggers. There's a strange tone in this blogger vs. msm stuff lately.
Even before reading Chris Anderson's new book, The Long Tail, you and I -- we, the people on the internet -- are of two minds about it. Part of us has been waiting with zeal, with a virtual palpitating heart, for a new "big idea" book to debate for the rest of the year -- and also, a treatise that will elucidate for our workplace parents (i.e., bosses) why small is the new big, why this niche economy is different than anything ever before, and why this wisdom-of-the-crowds gibberish actually has some evidential support. The other part of us -- the part that has waited so long for this seemingly-eternal-work-in-progress, which, by now, we've already heard our boss, and our boss' boss, and our boss' boss' secretary, repeat the title of so many times (usually, as an inaccurate reference) that we want to retreat to Second Life for the rest of the summer -- yes, this part of us has already deduced this blogged book will be repetitive and cloying and, well, long in the mouth.
Ah, the fragmented public.
For those of you who haven't been gripped by every nuance of the internet economy over the past few years, perhaps some rewinding is in order. Stating the thesis of The Long Tail requires merely a few words: the mass market economy is turning into a niche economy. That's it? Yep, that's it. I suspect those of us who fall in the middle of Gen X will smirk at this proposition. Since approximately the day I left high school, I've been told I'm part of a new micro-marketing culture, that the difference between me and my parents is choice, that fame will be doled out to my friends in tidy 15 minute portions. I've been walking and breathing niche for so long, it's probably time somebody stopped and asked: is all this true?
One thing is true: just the introduction of The Long Tail will zap you with enough aphorisms to instantly transform you into the hottest internet bon vivant at the next Valleywag-crashed party. Simply toss out these maxims over Web 2.0 martinis: "Scarcity requires hits." "The mass market is turning into a market of niches." "The era of one-size-fits-all is ending, and in its place is something new, a market of multitudes." "If the twentieth-century entertainment industry was about hits, the twenty-first century will be equally about niches." Are you writing these down?
But you realize an odd thing about 50 pages into this book: you're not bored. You suspect you should be bored by either the pop economics or the glib utopianism or perhaps, alas, the hash tables. But, somehow, you enjoy the stories that illustrate the overall economic theories. And, most of all, the data points are simply delicious. You want to memorize them for the next time you argue with your friends about topics that feel true but which you don't actually know are true. Did you know...
+ A quarter of Amazon's book sales come from outside its top 100,000 titles.
+ 74 percent of tv households in 1954 watched I Love Lucy; CSI now, 15 percent.
+ Toll-free calling was invented in 1967 by AT&T. By 1992, 40 percent of all long-distance calls on its network were toll-free.
+ Online shopping accounts for 5 percent of American retail spending. It's increasing 25% per year.
+ In the 1960s, the Chevy Impala sedan accounted for 13 percent of the U.S. car market.
+ Yahoo's music video viewership lands somewhere between MTV and VH1 in audience share.
+ 724,000 Americans report eBay as their primary or secondary source of income.
+ 20% of the population lives 8+ miles from a bookstore.
And so on.
You might think that Anderson's purpose in using the bevy of data would be to whip up some evidence to push the overall narrative, but the data actually becomes the story. Anderson (who, we somehow haven't mentioned yet, is the editor of Wired) nicely weaves it all together in a way that makes you realize that he's one of the few people who actually gets the holy triumvirate: culture, media, and economics.
The question that nagged me -- and perhaps it will you, too -- is whether all this fragmentation of culture is actually good for us. It would have been wise to close the book on this topic, but Anderson gets to it a couple chapters before the end (he reserves the final pages for an annoying "how to make a long tail company" list, probably to justify placement in B&N's business section). I'm someone who has previously ranted about the infuriating bullshit of Republic.com, which purported that personalized technologies (i.e., those that expose the long tail) would hurt the spread of information. Nonetheless, I've become worried recently about the loss of salient and persistent talking points even within my little clique of media-savvy culturati. Lately, I've been hearing conversation-enders like this with more frequency: "No, I didn't hear that [too-obscure-for-Pitchfork] record" or "No, I didn't see that [famous-to-hundreds Web 2.0] website" or "No, I haven't rented that [Japanese anime import] DVD." Without getting mealy-mouthed, Anderson scrubs away my apprehension, revealing a world in which you and me -- we, the people on the internet -- are "not so much fragmenting as we are re-forming along different dimensions."
I feel defragged now.
Rex, who is currently working on a book very tentatively titled "Everything You Know Is the Wisdom of the Long Tail Tipping Point," was nominated for a Wired Rave Award in 2004 but has never met Chris Anderson, even though he totally stalked him at the awards party.