Friday, December 31, 2010
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Sunday, December 26, 2010
So what do these absences in our writing signify? What does our lack of class-consciousness say about us now? Did McCarthyism initially stamp out the desire to write about class issues? Or maybe it’s because we’re a nation and a culture deeply rooted in individualism. Concern about class tends to suggest collectivism, something that has proved to be anathema to Americans raised in the cowboy mythology. We prefer our heroes singular, not plural.
Or perhaps literature has become the province, largely, of the comfortably-off. I suspect this is closer to the truth. Writers might choose to starve to devote time to their art, but they themselves seem largely to come from the middle and upper classes of American society. The same may be especially true of those working in publishing and academia, people who had to have money to pay for school or to take unpaid internships in expensive cities like New York. These folks may not be interested in—or more likely may be made uncomfortable by—class issues, since they would necessarily resist any notion of their own privilege.
Monday, December 20, 2010
We've been hit hard by many of the same factors contributing to the nationwide decline of independent bookstores, including: big box stores, Amazon, the rise of e-books, and, more recently, a severe drop in textbooks sales.
Thursday, December 02, 2010
A lot of indie bookstores went down (or are going down) because they are too elitist, too focused on handselling what they consider to be "great literature" instead of great reads. If I get on Amazon and want to buy a beach read, I don't get sneered at by some indie bookstore clerk with an eyebrow ring and a condescending attitude. Amazon makes suggestions, but no judgments. I have been in way too many indie bookstores where the staff was unwelcoming, unfriendly, ill-informed and frankly unpleasant. No wonder people prefer to buy online.
Wednesday, December 01, 2010
"If Percival Everett isn't already a household name, it's because people are more interested in politics than truth."-Madison Smartt Bell
Congratulations, Percival...you deserve this award and more!
- Suder (1983)
- Walk Me to the Distance (1985)
- Cutting Lisa (1986)
- The Weather and Women Treat Me Fair: Stories (1987)
- For Her Dark Skin (1990)
- Zulus (1990)
- The One That Got Away (1992)
- God's Country: A Novel (1994)
- Big Picture: Stories (1996)
- Watershed (1996)
- Frenzy (1997)
- Glyph: A Novel (1999)
- Erasure: A Novel (2001)
- Grand Canyon, Inc. (2001)
- American Desert: A Novel (2004)
- Damned If I Do: Stories (2004)
- A History of the African-American people (proposed) by Strom Thurmond, as told to Percival Everett and James Kincaid (with James Kincaid) (2004)
- Wounded: A Novel (2005)
- The Water Cure (2007)
- I am Not Sidney Poitier: A Novel (2009)
Friday, November 26, 2010
Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
Yesterday evening while walking around Harvard Square I happened to pass the front windows of the Harvard Book Store. I wasn't going to go in because every time I do I end up spending money I really shouldn't on yet another book (for instance, I own 4 different editions of 1984, ugh). While scanning the "New in Hardcover" display I spotted this book:
An Atlas of Remote Islands: Fifty Islands I Have Never Set Foot on and Never Will by Judith Schalansky, winner of the "Most Beautiful Book in Germany" Prize (who knew?). The title alone had me interested but it was more than that. 1) I love atlases. (Don't ask.) 2) I love islands (duh, who doesn't?) 3) I truly treasure reference books (I got nothin' on that one, I'm just a nerd). I stood outside in the rain thinking about whether or not I was going to go in a take a closer look knowing full well that my inherent weakness for book purchases could and would come into play. However, I felt I was safe because I happen to hate hardcovers (as we have documented here). I walked over to the New Hardcovers table and opened up what has to be coolest book released this year. The book is what it says it is on the cover. It is an atlas of remote islands accompanied by a small one-page piece of writing on the history/culture/mythology of the island in question. I was totally consumed right in the middle of the store. Judith Schalansky writes:
“The absurdity of reality is lost on the large land masses, but here on the islands, it is writ large. An island offers a stage: everything that happens on it is practically forced to turn into a story, into a chamber piece in the middle of nowhere, into the stuff of literature. What is unique about these tales is that fact and fiction can no longer be separated: fact is fictionalized and fiction is turned into fact....For me Atlases are the most poetic books of all, the body of the earth shown on a map.”Ok, that is a little squishy but the point is that this book-which I explicitly told myself I wasn't going to buy-was in a bag and out the door with me a mere 10 minutes after first finding out about its existence. This post really isn't supposed to be about how great the book is but it is important that you see at least one of the maps in the book to get a sense of how beguiling the Atlas is. So, here is the page for the island of Diego Garcia, located in the Indian Ocean approximately 500 miles east of the Maldives.
I can't really counter all the claims made about the Kindle by the true believers. It really is handy. It can hold ten million books and fifty million magazines (I think). It is portable and very easy to use. So convenient. Yes, yes, yes, yes, everything they say about the Kindle is true and great. I think there is even a religious movement dedicated to the Kindle. However, what the Kindle cannot do, and why I will never own one even if it allows me to hold all the books of the Library of Congress in my pocket for the cost of a penny is that it doesn't allow for discovery...for an epiphany. For the first time in a very long time I was absolutely seduced by a book I hadn't heard anything about until I happened to be walking by the store on a rainy evening. Being able to go into the Harvard Book Store and touch the book, browse its pages,as well as become engrossed in its words will never happen with a Kindle. A Kindle is a storage device. Usually when I go into bookstore I am just looking around. I don't really care if I find something or not but I am always of a mind to get something if I can. Last night, a book caught me off guard and believe me when I tell you that I wasn't in the "spending $28 on a 100 page hardcover" mood. Once I got the book in my hand, however, I just had to. Everyone I have shown the book to in the last 12-15 hours has also been completely in its thrall. So there, after all my public denunciations of the Kindle, my final rejection of it comes from an anecdote not a point by point dismantling. The Kindle will never give me an spot in time, that fleeting moment when everything else is shut out around you...it just isn't capable of that in the way that an unknown book by an unknown author about a subject I , myself, didn't know I was so interested in, on the shelf of the local bookstore I love did. Perhaps that isn't the Kindle's mission but if not, that's sad since that is ultimately the whole point of a discovering a book you didn't know you'd love - lighting the fire of an idea in your mind while wandering the streets in search of a beer.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
Thursday, October 14, 2010
But he is quick to praise those who helped “Tinkers” become a darling of the independent bookstore circuit, including Erika Goldman, the editorial director of Bellevue, whom Mr. Harding described as a “deeply empathetic reader”; Lise Solomon, a sales representative in Northern California for Consortium, the book’s distributor, who passionately advocated for the novel with booksellers; and the booksellers and critics who embraced the book early on.
Wednesday, October 13, 2010
Blowhard asshole Lee Siegel continues to thrash around in the low end of the journalistic cesspool with this utterly idiotic essay in the New York Times comparing the Beat Generation to the Tea Party movement.Read the entire steaming pile of bullshit here.
The counterculture of the late 1950s and early 1960s appears to be everywhere these days. A major exhibition of Allen Ginsberg’s photography just closed at the National Gallery in Washington. A superb book, by the historian Sean Wilentz, about Ginsberg’s dear friend and sometime influence Bob Dylan recently made the best-seller list. “Howl,” a film about Ginsberg and the Beats, opened last month. And everywhere around us, the streets and airwaves hum with attacks on government authority, celebrations of radical individualism, inflammatory rhetoric, political theatrics.Comparing the sexy, druggy, life embracing, progressive culture of the beats to the fascistic, xenophobic, racist, fearful and life-negating Tea Party is absolutely absurd. It’s like comparing fucking to a case of serious blue balls.
In other words, the spirit of Beat dissent is alive (though some might say not well) in the character of Tea Party protest. Like the Beats, the Tea Partiers are driven by that maddeningly contradictory principle, subject to countless interpretations, at the heart of all American protest movements: individual freedom. The shared DNA of American dissent might be one answer to the question of why the Tea Partiers, so extreme and even anachronistic in their opposition to any type of government, exert such an astounding appeal.
The following comment by Siegel not only posits an idiotic argument, it’s morally disgusting:
the Tea Partiers’ unnerving habit of bringing guns to town-hall meetings would have repelled the Beats. But William S. Burroughs fetishized guns, accidentally killing his wife while trying to shoot a glass off her head. Violence, implicit or explicit, comes with the “beaten” state of mind. So does theatricality, since playing roles — and manipulating symbols — is often the first resort of people who do not feel acknowledged for being who they really are.What the fuck does Burroughs’ wife’s death have to with “manipulating symbols” or some kind of identity crisis?
1) Sign up for the event by clicking the "Sign Up Now" link at the top of the site. It's right there above "National."So that's all there is to it.
2) Check your email and read the ginormous email our noveling robots send you. It will have "Love" in the subject line, and may be hiding in your Junk folder.
3) Log into your account and use the links on the My NaNoWriMo page to set your timezone, affiliate with a region, and tell us a little bit about yourself.
4) Begin procrastinating by reading through all the great advice and funny stories in the forums. Post some stories and questions of your own. Get excited. Get nervous. Try to rope someone else into doing this with you. Eat lots of chocolate and stockpile noveling rewards.
5) On November 1, begin writing your novel. Your goal is to write a 50,000-word novel by midnight, local time, on November 30th. You write on your own computer, using whatever software you prefer.
6) This is not as scary as it sounds.
7) Starting November 1, you can update your word count in that box at the top of the site, and post excerpts of your work for others to read. Watch your word-count accumulate and story take shape. Feel a little giddy.
8) Write with other NaNoWriMo participants in your area. Write by yourself. Write. Write. Write.
9) If you write 50,000 words of fiction by midnight, local time, November 30th, you can upload your novel for official verification, and be added to our hallowed Winner’s Page and receive a handsome winner’s certificate and web badge. We'll post step-by-step instructions on how to scramble and upload your novel starting in mid-November.
10) Win or lose, you rock for even trying.
That's all there is to it! Occasionally, participants write in to ask about the rules of the event. We don't have many! But because we've found that creativity is often heightened by constraints (and communities bolstered by shared goals) we have evolved a handful of rules over the years. The rules state that, to be an official NaNoWriMo winner, you must…
- Write a 50,000-word (or longer!) novel, between November 1 and November 30.
- Start from scratch. None of your own previously written prose can be included in your NaNoWriMo draft (though outlines, character sketches, and research are all fine, as are citations from other people's works).
- Write a novel. We define a novel as a lengthy work of fiction. If you consider the book you're writing a novel, we consider it a novel too!
- Be the sole author of your novel. Apart from those citations mentioned two bullet-points up.
- Write more than one word repeated 50,000 times.
- Upload your novel for word-count validation to our site between November 25 and November 30.
Well, what are you waiting for? Get on over to the National Novel Writing Month website and get going.