Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Cleveland, Ohio: "A great reading town"? Hey, come back, stop laughing

Dear Cleveland Plain Dealer,

You are a newspaper and I am a blogger. Therefore, you--as a newspaper--are haughty and elitist and secure in your power and your mainstream media status, while I--as a blogger--snipe sidelined snark attacks at you so blatantly and spitefully that the deconstructionist-minded bystander might see a latent self-loathing desire on my part to make angry love to you. Or at least, that's the way my "Blogging 101: Understanding the Dialectical Natures of Your Relationship to the MSM" course explained our roles to me.

I never bought into it, really. Rather than treating you like a despised-loved vacuous object of culturally-dictated desire (Paris Hilton est mort, vive le Paris Hilton! I bet you are truly awful in bed! Arrrrrgh!) I've seen you more like another cool kid at the high school dance (Oh, what? The MSM is here? Whatever. I'm gonna go spike the punch with my RSS feed.). It's really nothing personal. I've never been a newspaper guy. It's not an ideological thing or anything. It's just something, nothing.

So I hope you'll forgive me for not really noticing that you and I have some common interests. Say, for example, our mutual interest in Cleveland. Okay, you got me. Ha! I knew that one. But seriously, did you know I like books? I do. I like the books. Because what's funny here is that it never clicked for me that you also like books. Sure, over the years, I've seen blurbs in novels attributed to you. But I'll be honest, I've usually chalked it up to chance, that maybe the book was short on blurbs, or something. No offense, but you, as a publication? The bloggers, they, ehhhhh, they don't love you so much. That sort of thinking, it has a way of getting ingrained in you a bit, so when a guy like me finds your name inside big important books, it feels surprising.

I don't say that to be mean. It's just that, as we all certainly without a doubt know, all the real literary action takes place elsewhere. New York. Los Angeles. England. Places like that. Confident, self-realized type places. Places that can produce coolness without having to go through the "I'm a real boy!" self-justification song-and-dance. Places that aren't perpetually overcoming self-doubt and identity crises. Places that are not Cleveland.

I think, you and I, we might agree, that the hype of anti-hype is a dangerous thing. I'm also fairly certain that you and I would agree that, as far as our sense of regional identity goes, when it comes to our literary scene? It's time to scrap the trite motto-based nature of "Believing in Cleveland" and get down to the real work of doing belief. Because as Karen Long suggests, we've got a scene, no doubt...

Consider that Dan Chaon was a 2001 finalist in fiction for the National Book Award and Harvey Pekar has helped invent the graphic novel. Cleveland poet Thomas Sayers Ellis was just recognized by the Whiting Foundation and Cambodian memorist Loung Ung has made Shaker Heights her home. Mary Doria Russell - of "The Sparrow" fame - lives in South Euclid. And tantalizingly, the word-of-mouth about Thrity Umrigar's upcoming January novel, "The Space Between Us," is very good.

...and it's got potential to do some kick-ass good for this town...

"They need to put a Starbucks in there to attract some new people, bring them in off the street," Poh Miller said. "Isn't that a good idea? The library could be a coffee spot for some of the people who live downtown."

It is a good idea, and other writers at Loganberry offered more. Kelly Ferjutz wishes the region offered a book festival with real zest. [...]

A first-class festival could promote literacy, as the one in Milwaukee does. It could spark the local economy and enhance our connection to the written word.

...if only we could do some kick-ass good for it:

When Kristin Ohlson attended such a fair in Michigan, she sold more than 50 books in one morning. At Loganberry, not even a handful. Poor Bob Finn sold one.

No disrespect to the Poet & Writer's League of Greater Cleveland, which just completed its celebration called "Wordcrafter," but we deserve a festival with a budget. This is a great reading town.

Books have nurtured every one of us reading this page. Writers are lighting up Cleveland. They should not be so alone.

Sadly, I've not got any definite answers to any of this--hell, I don't even know what all the questions are. I can tell you this: the problems of the literary scene are, in my tentative analysis, not so distinct from the problems of the city itself. There's often--at least for myself--a certain "Huh!" reaction that always arises whenever something cool about this area is "discovered", as if everything cool about this town were some sort of hidden treasure. In reality, there is no reason to doubt that excellent writers would choose to live here. So why does it seem so surprising? And why aren't we hyping it up more?

All that said: what's to be done? We deserve to have a known scene, a cool thing, yes--but how do we go about making it happen?

Anyways, it's late and I'm tired. I guess the point I'm trying to make is that, you know, you're right. We don't suck. Yeah, I know. It feels a little bit weird saying it, I can only imagine how weird it might feel to hear it. I'll try not to take our newfound relationship too fast. Let's not be strangers, eh?


Well, okay, I will snark-snipe you on one point: Starbucks, for crying out loud? Come on! I'd prefer a good cool indie hipster coffee shop downtown, maybe something that would draw a good after-work crowd of famous people I could gawk at over my laptop. That would be way more awesome than another blasted Starbucks. Duh!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Some quick notes

  • Because They Wanted To by Mary Gaitskill: I liked it. A lot. I responded to the stories more immediately than I did to Veronica. Take that for what you will. You can probably shelve the book with the rest of the books I've read this year that I've meant to say so much more about but haven't gotten around to saying more about yet.

  • McSweeney's #16: Has its moments. The opening story, "Mudder Tongue" by Brian Evenson, was totally and completely worth the price of admission. Damn. Bookslut interviewed him earlier this year. Note to self: read that.

  • Rick Moody: Is interviewed. And it's pretty interesting.

  • Cat and Girl: Deconstruct. Where is my mind...

Friday, November 25, 2005

If Maud Newton is like "Lord of the Rings" then Thumb Drives and Oven Clocks is like "Pump Up The Volume" if Christian Slater was actually Bjork

The Bookslut blog alerts me (and you) to a new blog written by a guy who lives about two hours from me and so is therefore someone I pretty much have to be nice to because he is in the group of People Who Might Buy Me A Beer Someday Because I Was Nice To Them: Noah Cicero's Get Published or Die Tryin'. With a title like that you know he's got to have the game, and with promised weekly interviews with Tao "Reader of Depressing Books/TDAOC Favorite" Lin, the game is brought:

1. What do you think of the Maud Newton blog?

The Maud Newton blog is like the Lord of the Rings (movie) of blogs. Everyone loves the Lord of the Rings, the movie. It is good vs. evil. In the distance, the sky is red and ominous. People's faces are very serious at all times. You get the feeling that things are really deadly and important. Like people are going to die, and trolls. It is blogging with swords and Elijah Wood. Magic is real and it is used to battle evil but also to have little moments of relief and humor like when the other two hobbits who are not Elijah Wood do something stupid like run into a wall and everyone laughs. At the end, there's that really boring scene that lasts like 2 hours and I turned off the TV and went into my parent's bathroom and took a bath.

Seriously I have absolutely no idea what all of that means, but I know I like it, and that's what counts. Read the rest of the interview for more crazy-mad LOTR-reference stylings.

Other reasons to check out the blog include the fact that

This is also for people who think that people take literature too seriously. That literature should be fun. That reading is actually fun and not something one does to be cool.

and the fact that I do not want to be sent to Gulag.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Patrick "The Ghost with the Most" Swayze: Your time is now

People often stop me on the street to ask me why I want to be a famous writer. Truth be told, it's because I want to meet America. Tod Goldberg demonstrates:

Chatty: I've been down there before, back when my wife -- my ex-wife -- was publishing her Patrick Swayze fan magazine.

Me: Your wife published a Patrick Swayze fan magazine?

Chatty: Ex-wife.

Me: So she published it after you were divorced?

Chatty: Oh, no, while we were married, too.

File the whole lot of it under "funniest thing I've read in ages". (I don't know what a "slow crush" is, either, but I think I suspect I might maybe want one.)

Monday, November 21, 2005

Veronica by Mary Gaitskill

So I read Veronica by Mary Gaitskill. I liked it. But--cue the qualifications to that statement, which I feel nervous making but here goes--I had high expectations which I didn't meet with this book. But I take the blame for that. I read much of the book while exhausted. It can be a fairly challenging text--complex but not hard to follow, rich with meaning if you're alert enough to pull it out. (I was ready to write a thesis on the role of "containers" after I'd read about 15-20 pages of the book, but then fatigue kicked in and I lost the thread of my thought. Not a book to sleep through, let's say that.)

Plus, okay, I'm a boy. Maybe that was working against me. Dunno.

I know I linked this article before but now I think I actually get it and can point out that Francine Prose really nails it:

And then there are novels that speak a language entirely their own. We recognize them as novels, though we would have a hard time saying why that should be so. They may have some, or none, of the elements I've listed above, but these features seem almost extraneous or inessential. [...] When we remember these untraditional novels, we tend to forget trivial and even relatively important details of story and character. What stays with us is an atmosphere, an emotion, the memory of how it felt to read the book and of what it was like to inhabit a particular sensibility--the mind of a character or of an author--for a certain period of time. Perhaps what we recall most vividly is how a writer's language rose to meet the challenge of maintaining our interest without the conventions (suspense, and so forth) that more commonly sustain it.

Mary Gaitskill's new book, Veronica, is one of these unconventional fictions, though among its peculiar charms is the fact that it seems to think of itself as a much more ordinary sort of novel than it is.

I mean, really, that's it, right there; it's not a book you read for the story or the resolution reached through it but rather for the sort of rolling-waves-against-the-beach quality of it. You listen to the book crash against the shores of your brain, maybe. It forms a brilliant sort of white noise, I guess. I think. I'm not sure: part of my problem is that I just don't know what my "memory of how it felt to read the book" is, really. Of course that doesn't matter because you read the quote above and either ordered the book or decided it wasn't for you.

Let me put it this way: I want this book to be for you. Even if I can't well explain why.

As I think I told my girlfriend, I liked the book well enough, but I think it'll click for me better the next time I read it, later, sometime. The book, to me, feels like a message that comes from someone else. I mean someone really else. Maybe all I caught this first time was the form of the message, the strange bottle it floated up to my island's shore in. Maybe next time I'll better understand what's inside the bottle.

I think maybe I was trying a little too hard to compare this book to some other books that one might possibly fruitfully compare this book to: Jennifer Egan's Look At Me, for example; I've read somewhere on the Internets that people make that comparison, and find one author or the other lacking, in comparison. Or maybe Janice Galloway's The Trick Is To Keep Breathing, though I think maybe the connection there is a bit harder to make. (Both books I loved, by the way.) I think there's points of similarity between all three books, here and there--physical beauty as time-conquered beast, depression as an animal unto itself, sadness, whatever--but Veronica is too much its own thing. Comparisons here might make for fun coffee conversation but they aren't going to get you too far in life. (I think.)

That said: when you read it, because I feel you probably should read it at some point, the first time you hit the "nine times out of ten" image, know that Emily Dickinson rose from the dead and physically took the top of my head right off, right there. Because that was some damned dirty poetry right there.

I also suspect I'm selling myself and/or the book short, and that my opinion and feeling and attitude are much higher than I might realize.

However my brain eventually settles on the topic, I roll on ahead, or backwards in this case; I'm now working through Gaitskill's second short story collection, Because They Wanted To, which is pretty much just blatantly awesome, so far, and might--might!--serve as a better entry point into Gaitskill's writings. Maybe. Don't quote me on that. The writing is generally more straight-forward but the ideas and depth are all there. I imagine I might have more to say about this book later.

(Also check out CAAF's much more eloquent and generally better reaction to Veronica at Tingle Alley; something tells me she got the book much better than I did, none of this pissy-pants "But I was sleepy!" crap you're getting from me.)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Some reading material

Honestly I didn't read past the first of the three pages of this article, but, I did read the entirety of this William Vollmann profile, and, something tells me there's some sort of connection between those two articles, but, I'm living life too fast to puzzle it out.

Friday, November 18, 2005

"I'm seeing something that was always hidden. I'm in the middle of a mystery and it's all secret."

I have absolutely nothing interesting to post or to post about today, so instead of the usual blither, I'll point you to this week's police blotter for my home town of Lakewood, Ohio--making crime wacky since 1889!

Two men were up to no good with a mattress about 2 a.m. Friday. The men, who the complainant thought were drunk, left a mattress in his yard and then took off. Police caught up with the men, who said they were just fooling around. One of the men picked up the mattress and took it back to the rightful tree lawn.

There's at least one gem every week. Truly, I live in one of America's more surreal burbs.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

National Book Awards announced; results prove once again that you gotta smoke some crack to get ahead in this world

I'm sure everybody who's anybody will be linking to this, but The Mlllions gets credit for being the first blog I saw to point to the winners of the National Book Awards, which were announced tonight. William T. Vollmann took the award for fiction, but who really cares about that, because I started reading Mary Gaitskill's Veronica tonight (which was also up for the award), and it's good, real good, in a real weird way. It's heady and dizzying. It's a real sentence-level book; the sort where it maintains a pretty constant tone, then slips a sentence into your drink that knocks you on your ass, even if you don't realize it's happening. It's also not a book I should be reading as tired as I am, but exhausted or not I needed to dive into it tonight. So dive I have done, and shall continue to do, until I pass out, which I expect to happen in about fifteen minutes.

Oh, and yes, this all means I (finally) finished The Plot Against America, which became definitely much more gripping in the final third than it was in the first two thirds (where it was still pretty generally gripping overall). Bonus trivia: What do Roth and Vollmann have in common? Answer: performance-enhancing drug use!

I was late to the party but just in time for the wake

I didn't know about the existence of SciFiction, the online publishing arm of the SciFi channel, until Shaken & Stirred broke the news that it was going away. But when Bondgirl pointed out The ED SF Project, which is collecting written appreciations for all of the stories on the site--all 320 of them--I kinda said, "Hey, what the hell," and signed up for a story before I could think myself out of it ("But Darby," the red angel says, "what business does a Johnny-come-lately nobody like yourself have contributing to a send-off for a site that, two days ago, you didn't know existed?" "Screw you, bitch," the white angel says, "my boy here, he was reading Larry Niven collections when most kids were still seeing Spot run. If that ain't geek cred I don't know what is."). Then just now as I was preparing to prepare this post I learned that everybody and their mother is linking to the project. So now I have to force myself to write my appreciation (this weekend, I promise) before I flip out about it and curl up into a frightened ball of inaction. Yeep.

In any case, if you want to read the story I chose, it's "Non-Disclosure Agreement" by Scott Westerfeld. Basically, it rocks. It looks like there's still plenty of stories open for appreciations, so go pick one out and get to work. Deadline is December 20. Too many stories to pick from? Bondgirl chops the list down to a few of her favorites (and links to other reactions to the site's closing).

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I wanted to work "Quagroth" and "Gaitskillmania" into this post somewhere, but it just didn't happen

It's been a while since I've talked about what I've read recently, which is a crying shame, because while I can play the linky-linky game with the best of 'em, what I really get a daily jonesin' for is to tell you, dear faithful reader, what books are so totally, hardcorely awesome that you should sell your house for the dough to buy them and quit your job for the time to read them. Unfortunately to do so requires me to read books, which I've gotten lazy about and distracted from recently, no thanks to recent specific major life changes that have affected the chemical balance of my brain. Yes yes, you guessed correctly--I've become William T. Vollmann and I've started smoking crack. It's just like coffee, only more so!

You can also sort of blame Philip Roth, whose The Plot Against America, for me, alternates between being entirely soul-consumingly engrossing, and being cross-eyed medicine-takingly slow. I've gotten sort of mired in it even when I've been liking it--one of those books where I'll set it down after reading ten pages thinking, "Yeah, that's amazing," and I kind of don't want to pick it back up. It's weird. This is actually my first experience with Roth so I do wonder if it's a case of "should have started elsewhere," or if this is how I'd react to all his stuff. Or maybe it's a result of all the hype surrounding the book--hype, eh, I'd love to have some in my favor but it always seems to drag me down when it comes to reading someone else's stuff. None of this should be construed as a slam on Roth--I mean, he's Roth, and I'm some internet jerk, so it wouldn't matter anyway. My girlfriend probably put it best when she said Roth just wasn't my groove right now. I can buy that, enough to finish Plot and then come back to him again later, someday. I'm intrigued enough, I guess.

What's really dropping the dried leaves on my fire right now is the thought of reading some Mary Gaitskill. (And somewhere, a secret society of internet anti-nerds just made me public enemy number one, for that sentence alone.) Her books have started rolling into TDAOC headquarters the last few days--seems someone who shall remain nameless, who may or may not have been me, went on a drunken Amazon ordering binge sometime recently. Minus the actual drunkeness. I'm hoping to at least get through Veronica by December, but if I can sneak in some extra stuff by then as well, I won't complain. Unless I don't like her writing, then I will complain. Except probably not, because she's Mary Gaitskill, and I'm some internet jerk. Right.

Monday, November 14, 2005

And, speaking of Maureen McHugh...

...she's been busy again, lately:

If poker can be used as space-holders between TV commercials and entice us to throw away our money while sitting at a computer, can it be used as a part of a broader cultural experience?

The Internet site Last Call Poker (lastcallpoker.com) is betting that it can - and one local woman is giving the site a hand.

Created for Activision by 42 Entertainment, a company specializing in entertainment-based marketing campaigns, the site debuted Sept. 24 and runs through Saturday. Last Call Poker is part game, part online novel, part interactive community.

She read some pieces of her work for the site last week at Mac's Backs (where Kelly Link read from the title piece of her new collection, Magic for Beginners, and Dan Chaon read from an in-progress without-ending-yet story). Suffice it to say, Maureen makes the idea of "day job" sound way cooler than it actually is.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Belated thanks

So if you happen to have clicked through from MaudNewton.com, hey, hi! Gosh. If it's possible to blog-blush, Annie Reid's kind words and link have made me do so; but if you stick around I'm sure I'll be back to my usual stammering and blustering and half-baked thoughts shortly. (If you happen to be coming at this from my end of the blog spectrum--which, statistically speaking, is unlikely--be sure to head over thataway to get the link to one of the best short stories you'll read this week. Thanks go to Maureen, who told me to google for that story, some time back.)

Friday, November 11, 2005

You people like me best when I shut up, don't you? ... Don't answer that

I don't know who the last person to hit my incisive review of Salvador Plascencia's The People of Paper was on Wednesday, but, uhm, congratulations: you were the 400th person (or version of Google) to pull up what has become, according to my web stats, the single most popular thing I have ever done in my entire life. How...humbling. I'd offer you a prize, but, uh, what do you give to the web-crawling porn-bot who already has everything? I mean, aside from a nice bath. You're filthy.

"They want to dignify, analyze and terrorize you"

There's many books I would like to read right now, but can't, because right now is finite, and books are infinite. Wait. That's not right. Whatever: it's nice to see there's books that, though I might think I'd like to read them right now, I can't, because they're not actually out yet. One such book (and, I hope that admitting such doesn't make me a total sissy) would be Girly by Elizabeth Merrick. What I knew about Elizabeth Merrick before today was that she was some person, and that she's guest-blogging at Bookslut (of which--by the by!--the November issue just landed on the Internet's doorstep, chock full of the usual assortment of fun, including an interview with William T. Vollmann, who, for some reason lately, I've been absolutely itching to read a half-second after right now). Today I learned that Ms. Merrick is someone who is insanely busy--she has, I'm certain, accomplished at least two impressive things in the time it has taken you to read this paragraph, which, my convoluted style aside, isn't impressive at all. Unless you don't speak English. Then, uhm, kudos.

So there's that whole interview with her there which I've yet to actually read all of yet because the Bookslut blog excerpted one paragraph that totally sold me. (You invoke Sleater-Kinney in describing the creation of your novel? You'll sell me, too.) And while frustrating that I can't immediately exchange the money I currently don't have for the book I can't currently hold in my hands right now, because said book doesn't come out until December, it's probably for the best, what with my current reading-list goals and all being pronouncedly ambitious. Yikes.

Oh, and a quick note about the "sissy" link back there: I think the Return of the Reluctant post is on to something huge. If I knew where to start, I'd have about a billion things to say in response. It's all more of the wave of feminist discussion that's currently taking place around the net. (Is it more there lately, or am I just unusually tuned into it?) Worth reading and thinking about, in any case.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Kilgore? Nah

I'm a sucker for a good "anonymous insider" blog, and Brown Trout, the blog of a writer teaching at an MFA program, seems to bring the funny (if you're of a certain mindset, at least); whether or not it's "true" be damned. (Found via a comment at the Reading Experience to a post that politely reminds us that, yes, writing without reading makes you look like an asshole.)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

I'll get to that around when I get to the other 22 books of Stephen Dixon's I haven't read

There's a game I've played, now and then, where when I've been in the bookstore, I've checked the shelves to find out whose books my own theoretical books would be shelved between. It's a really silly stupid game, one that's generally depressed me with the fact that I'll have to compete with a long-dead English serial-novelist for shelf space someday. On the up side, it did, one dull summer evening, lead to one of my favorite literary discoveries, a guy who deserves more shelf space than he typically does. Stephen Dixon, who had a fat little volume called Frog right where I dreamed of seeing my own last name. Coincidence? I didn't buy the book that day--it looked imposing, almost threatening, and slightly cold, in its brown-paper looking cover, like a real literary brick, the kind that might hurt more than it helps, plus I was just out of college and hence still inanely poor. I wouldn't actually read Frog until some years had passed, in which time I'd stumbled into another book of his, Interstate, one of those special books which have totally blown my brain away, and which book I'm convinced should be read by anybody who can read English. Frog, in a different way, would have much the same effect on me, when I finally tackled it, earlier this year. To a point: even if I never read another word of Dixon's, I'd still place him up high on the list of authors who I'd like to shake hands with, to say thanks.

Of course, I have every intention of reading more of his stuff--I just picked up a short story collection of his recently called Sleep which, with me but one story into it, I've been wanting to tear through. So then, today I'm reminded by the Emerging Writers Network blog that Stephen Dixon has every intention of continuing to put out books that I will continue to not have nearly enough time to read. He's got a new book out called Phone Rings, published by Melville House publishing. There's some press clips up on the Melville House site, along with a very brief interview with Dixon. Awesome to see he's continuing to chug out new fresh stuff, after 45 (!?) years of writing.

Blogs, not just for not selling stuff anymore

A link from Writes Like She Talks tells us that people are "50 percent more likely to be influenced by word-of-mouth recommendations from their peers than by radio/TV ads". I'm only surprised the figure is so low, actually. As I said in my comment to Jill's post, I'd love to see industry-specific figures. Namely, I'd be almost willing to bet that when it comes to books, and maybe to a lesser extent CDs/music, that figure skyrockets. Jill's anecdotal evidence that women "sell" stuff (namely, kids' stuff) more than men do seems to jive with my own largely anecdotal sense that more women are reading/talking about books than men. Not sure what any of this means, but it's interesting stuff.


Orhan Pamuk wins another prize and Steve Erickson's lit mag starts accepting my submissions. I mean, public submissions

Orhan Pamuk, whose book Snow I really do still think you should read even though I'm nowhere near being any closer to actually writing that response I was working on, has recently won "one of France's top foreign literature prizes". Come on America--show Pamuk some love. (Via Bookslut.)

In other news: The Elegant Variation tips us off to the launch of the next issue of Black Clock, the lit mag that Steve Erickson edits, who, long time readers of my blog will know, basically drove me to prefer running you over with my car than to hear you say you weren't interested in reading Our Ecstatic Days. So to learn that Black Clock will be accepting public submissions starting next year--well, let's just say that I'm plenty excited at the prospect of getting some piece of my own writing rejected by one of my literary gods. (I think it's one of those things you have to be there to understand.)

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Election night coverage

As of 11:33 PM, Cleveland.com is saying the Cleveland mayoral race (which yours truly had no say in) is "too close to call," which I find amazing and yet completely not amazing at the same time. I think Sam Fullwood III (click here for a snippet posted to BFD) kinda summed up my thoughts on the topic.

Issue one is comfortably coming out "yes", which, okay, good enough. Yay jobs. Then issues 2-5 (all the election reform stuff that would be planted in the constitution) are being smacked down, hard. Have to admit, I'm surprised those last four are so decisive. Even the absentee ballot bit--that might surprise me the most; I mean, what, we don't want to make it easy to vote? Weird. I guess--and may there be no fatwa against me if I'm totally wrong on this--what all of this means is that, if Ohio's going to go liberal (or, praise Zombie Joseph Beuys, at least start acting like a real swing state), our Democrats are going to have to get their asses in gear and get some real work done, because the system ain't changing for them. Which...ehhhhhhhhh, well...hrm.

If you've come here looking for a more detailed political analysis than that, well, sorry to disappoint, but I'd be way over my head. Check Democracy Guy or Brewed Fresh Daily (or elsewhere on the NEO blogroll) to see if anybody else has posted any thoughts.


Update: Faggoty-Ass Faggot points out some sweet election news.


Update: I guess it's safe to call it for Frank Jackson, 52925 to 43900. That's what, less than 25 percent turnout? Maybe 20 percent? Just imagine if we could have actually gotten the other 300,000-400,000 other Clevelanders to actually write in "Mr. You Both Suck" for mayor. Now, there's a statement that would mean something. Maybe there's hope yet for the pomegranite.


Update: Ayup, Campbell concedes and Jackson takes home the bacon. See ya'll again in four years, right?

Monday, November 07, 2005

Search query report - Typo of the week

Have I mentioned I'm addicted to the search query terms that land people on this site? Here's my latest favorite:

"charon you remind me of me"

I assume that's a typo for "Chaon", as in, "Dan Chaon, author of the awesome novel You Remind Me Of Me", but, what if it isn't? What if you're the guy who thinks, "Yo, river boat dude of the dead, you remind me of me, and I want to find out what that means about me on the Internet"? Cuz that's really weird. Or maybe, it was someone who was actually looking for an in-depth comparison of Dan Chaon, author of the fantastic novel You Remind Me Of Me, and Charon, river boat dude of the dead?

I think we know where this is going, because I'm nothing if not eager to please:

An in-depth comparison between Charon and Dan Chaon

Charon: For a coin, will boat your dead ass across the river Acheron.
Dan Chaon: For some coin, will sell you a copy of his excellent novel You Remind Me of Me tomorrow night at Mac's Backs in Coventry!

... Wow, that was awful. Awesome, I mean. I mean...just show up tomorrow. All three authors will be way cooler than me and I don't talk much in person so you won't have to be offended by any of my tom-foolery. I promise.

Graphic novels? Shmraphic shmnovels, I say!

So, the crazy cats at Bookslut have been talking about this comic book lately. Sorry, I mean, graphic novel. Sorry, I mean, funny picture show book. Sorry, I mean, ...whatever. Whatever, coincidentally, being my basic stance on the graphic novel question--there are those out there who have already issued a fatwa against me making light of the subject, while there are others who are waiting out back to high-five me, but really, I just don't care one way or the other what anyone says about what we're supposed to think about graphic novels. I understand the fascination they hold for some folk and I understand why others don't get them and from where I stand it's pretty clear the two are never going to meet, so why graphic novels are these things that need to be defended or attacked, I just don't understand. It's like, remember when we were all children, and we went grocery shopping with our parents, and our parents would beat the living shit out of other kids' parents in the aisle with the aerosol cheez in it, due to the differing factions of belief in the power and validity of spray-can cheese as truth and reality? See, that wasn't necessary. And we all grew past that stage, and the last thing I think we need is to see the typical structure of the debate surrounding the graphic novel (which usually takes the form of some mainstream media person saying "Whoa hey graphic novels are for grown-ups" and some blogger- or other-type going like "Yeah, duh, fool") turning into riots at dawn, gestapo police kicking down bedroom doors to plant comics in the hands of our youth who will be held at gunpoint and forced to read them under cover of comforters and flashlights at midnight, all that jazz. Please, let us not relive the great spray-cheese wars; for the sake of the children.

That said, I've dabbled in reading the form a little, but it's not typical for me to think that the graphic novel is something I need to incorporate into my weekly reading habits. Except for this book that--ah, yes, and here's where we bust it out funkydelicfresh Coldplay-gangsta style and take it back to the start, beyotch--the Bookslut bloggers have been chatting up lately, Black Hole by Charles Burns. (I count three references to the book on the Bookslut blog front page right now; your mileage may vary.) Sort of the way Veronica by Mary Gaitskill got somewhat lodged in my subconscious without making firm headway into my conscious mind through sheer repetition, until I stumbled across a Francine Prose essay which smacked some sense into me (click here and check the third bullet point up from the bottom for my take, or just skip past all my crap and go straight to the Slate piece itself), so too has the Bookslut blog's near-daily mentioning of the Burns book got it sort of into my brain, setting me up just right until I basically stumbled into this Salon piece which took the idea of the book and made it downright intriguing for me. So spray-cheez or not, I might have to check it out.

And yes, by the way, for those keeping score at home: I did just write up several hundred words on two books I have not read and an entire genre I am self-admittedly vaguely non-interested in. But it was worth it, because you got to read the best Coldplay reference you will read all week. Truth!

Tuesday, November 8th, Mac's Backs in Coventry: Kelly Link, Maureen McHugh, Dan Chaon

Psychotic levels of literary awesomeness descend upon and arise from Cleveland, Ohio this coming Tuesday at 7pm at Mac's Backs in Coventry, as Kelly Link (Stranger Things Happen, Magic for Beginners), Maureen McHugh (Mothers & Other Monsters), and Dan Chaon (You Remind Me Of Me) all drop by to read, sign stuff, and from what I know, be generally extremely entertaining.

From the Mac's Backs e-mail:

Tuesday, November 8th at 7 p.m.

Kelly Link continues to cement her reputation as one of the most inventive short fiction authors writing today. Her new collection, Magic For Beginners has been critically acclaimed for its imagination and verve. One of her stories is included in Best American Short Stories 2005 edited by Michael Chabon. Kelly will read with Maureen McHugh, whose collection Mothers and Other Monsters was a BookSense choice in August and Dan Chaon, author of You Remind Me of Me.

Mac's Backs ~ Books on Coventry
1820 Coventry Road
Cleveland Heights, Ohio 44118

Gaitskill, Murakami, Orringer, and Delaney, Attorneys at Law

This article, a profile of Mary Gaitskill, which I got from someone last night and read straight through, but which now it seems requires money to be read, which is really lame, further soldifies my desire to pick up Veronica and read it, post-haste, but not so post-haste that I stop reading The Plot Against America by Philip Roth, which I have finally begun reading just today, and am already sort of disturbed by, which must mean it is good.

This article, a sort of profile of Haruki Murakami, might encourage you to go out and pick up one of his books and begin reading it post-haste. The secret to writing books? Being in good physical shape. Explains a lot about my bloated, greasy-meat-loving text.

This interview with Julie Orringer, which I have not read entirely yet, which I stumbled across quite randomly earlier this week, might encourage you to go out and read How to Breath Underwater, which is an excellent collection of excellent short stories.

This blog post about Samuel R. Delaney will probably not at all encourage you to go read Dhalgren--though you should, anyway--but it might encourage you to go have lots and lots of sex. Lots of sex. Lots, and lots, of sex. Maybe.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

BLEARGH! The "Openings of blog posts I've currently neither the energy nor inclination to write in full" edition

It's tough, and a little bit weird, being a 27 year old guy with more gray spaces in his hair than exist in the entire contemporary political landscape.

I'm sure there's a reason I found a copy of Dressbarn's 2005 holiday catalogue addressed to me by name in my mailbox today; I'm also sure it was probably a mistake for me to have left the catalogue, address-side up, on top of the apartment building's mailboxes, for the entire evening.

Just because I'm doing NaNoWriMo again doesn't make me a pointless hack, right? Look, I even signed up a whole day late, doesn't that make me extra hard-core? Foo. Someday, I'll get an agent, too, and then my agent will totally beat up your agent. Yeah.

Gosh, Chick Lit seems to be quite the steamy topic this week! It's an interesting debate. It's not a debate that's really going much of anywhere. Personally, I'm just completely fucking ashamed of how few female writers I've read this year. Of course it's really more sad that that's a number that has to be counted and gawked at in this day and age; the very idea that there is a power/non-power element of the male/female "binary opposition" that has yet to have been debated out of existence is stupid. The rest, the debates this week, whatever, I think, is all just surface noise. (Says the guy who got a Dressbarn catalogue in the mail today.)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Internet: Making it easier to get The Internet since 1924

So last week I mentioned the mp3-blog music aggregator Indieum. Shortly after (about fourteen years ago in Internet time), fellow Metric fan Anthony Volodkin wrote in to mention the "little" site he's been working on: The Hype Machine.

Hipsters, that sound you just heard was your iPod crapping its shiny casing.

I just shot my witticism wad with that line, since I'm more braindead than usual tonight, and I've still only barely played with either site, so I'll try to keep the rest of this brief and somewhat sane: THM looks like the Google of mp3-blogs to Indieum's, uh, much smaller Google. So I think their maybe going after different audiences here. Indieum's surveys a handful of what I believe are the "top" mp3-blogs to give you a good skimming off the top. Because you don't have time to check everything out. THM, on the other hand, gathers links to MP3s from a fairly large number of blogs, so when you--ahem--"tune in"--as it were--you're going to get everything there is. Because you will make time to check everything out.

That said, THM seems to have a few more things in mind for its audience. Namely, it lets you check listings for individual mp3-blogs, letting you pick and choose which bits of noise you want to cull out. Plus--and this might be killer--THM pushes podcasting ability. As in you can pick an mp3-blog's listing on the site--or, the entire site, because you live and breathe the cutting edge--and pull out a podcast feed which you can drop into iTunes and, voila, your iPod is magically filled for you with delicious new tunes. I imagine many mp3-blogs have their own podcast abilities, but there's something nice about having something like that centralized for the sake of convenience, if you're of the multiple-blog persuasion, at least. (I've already got the Salon Audiofile feed subscribed and downloaded, which is kind of a dreamy situation.) As is right now it looks like it would take some finagling to get the podcasted song files to act as part of a playlist on the iPod--which I'm sure there's ways to do, and I'd find them, if I weren't lazy, and ready for bed.

So in conclusion you're either already playing with The Hype Machine because you're in love with it, or you're still reading this because you're hoping I can make it clear why this is cool. If I weren't so tired I'd take a better stab at it than this: it's like what radio should be, except, it doesn't suck real bad. (I think.) [Edit: While I had read the site's tag line before I wrote this concluding paragraph, yeah, I didn't intentionally copy one for the other. Quite accidental, honest. Yeah, I'm tired.] [Edit again: Maybe I hadn't read the site's tag line before I wrote this concluding paragraph. Because, see, it's a rotating tag-line. As in, you get different tag-lines whenever you hit the site. So, right. Please disregard here whatever needs to be disregarded.]