Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Hate mail, bloodshed, and whack-funk exoskeletons, this week on Lost. Er, I mean, here. On my blog

Gay cowboys? Cowboy presidents? Oh, silly America! You know you ain't got nothin' on...

BULLET! *devil horns*

POINT! *power chord*

ROCK! *explosions*

  • Tod Goldberg hates you. Er. No. I mean: Tod Goldberg hates mysteries, and you hate Tod Goldberg. At least, if your name is Mike Dorsey. Or if he's ever called you a fucktard.

  • You got two links that lead you to this list here of the 100 best opening lines of novels. Ready...set...DEBATE! (The "two" link, by the way, leads to another list-in-development, which you should contribute to, though this week, your suggestion can't be possibly as wicked-awesome [hint, hint, for the astute, dedicated TDAOC reader!] as my own.)

  • Want.

  • It's gonna be a full-on rumble at the The Morning News 2006 Tournament of Books. Can you dig it? I can. Last year's winner, Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, was awesome; this year, I just want to see some hits. A Jonathan Safran Foer/Nicole Krauss spouse-fight! Kazuo Ishiguro bitch-smacking Ian McEwan! Mary Gaitskill's Veronica being in like four places at once, Zadie Smith using a little Beauty to stun her opponents, Garner coming out of like nowhere and The Historian totally eating the turnbuckle! OH YEAH!

  • No I mean seriously, want. In the future, all music will be created by animatronic-looking British women robot people. It's going to be awesome.

  • Dan Green has lots of things to say about Stephen Dixon which I feel too dumb to even begin to agree or disagree with. Except for the line, "His relative lack of popularity among even readers of serious literary fiction is both surprising and understandable", which I'm pretty much totally in agreement with, though his explanation for that isn't what I'd have said, maybe. What I'll say is this: Stephen Dixon's books hit me in the gut in a way no other books do. And his prose style, which seems really out there, when you read it for the first time, it's funny, but you start to see it other places. David Foster Wallace, for example; moments here and there, you see Dixon's style melded in there, and you understand it better, in a way, for having known some Stephen Dixon along the way. Plus, you know. Dude's my cousin. And us Dixons, we represent. (Well, extremely distant, unrelated cousin, anyway.)

Monday, January 30, 2006

I also hear they want me to learn how to friggin' cook already, but I don't want to push it too much for one day

If there's anything I've learned in my time on this over-caffeinated wet ball of a planet, it's that your cardinal rule of blogging is also your cardinal rule of life: Give the Ladies What the Ladies Want. And right now, what the ladies want is a hot interview with poet/novelist/S4N Books co-founder Tim Miller and a sneak preview of his current epic poem and work-in-progress, To the House of the Sun. Paul M. Jessup's got the hook-up:

I read about a contemporary writer, a guy who won a Pulitzer a few years ago, who said he was actually worried that novels had to compete with television and paint ball. I read another thing where a professor said Eliot's Waste Land was only an "artifact of language." I don't understand either stance. Other people can treat books the same as hamburgers or reality TV, and other people can dissect literature and try to make a science out of it, people can treat these things as something to study rather than experience, but I would hope the writers could continue to see the soul in what they're doing. It's really a sacred and holy thing.

Head this-a-way for more-a-that.

No, I mean, seriously: wicked-awesome

The opening chapter of All This Heavenly Glory by Elizabeth Crane is one of the finest sentences I've read in the last five years. That opening chapter/sentence is ten pages long. It's seriously wicked-awesome.

And then the couple chapters after that are pretty sweet, too.

The book is up for discussion at the Litblog Co-op this week. The book will also be in my hands every free minute I have the next few days until I finish reading it. It's one of those books I've been sort of loosely meaning to read for a while now, and now that I'm into it, I'm wondering what took me so long. Because, seriously.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The only comment about the James Frey ordeal that matters

This just in! My sources tell me that The Smoking Gun is set to investigate Dave Eggers and his best-selling memoir A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, which faces allegations that--as one industry insider put it--"Toph didn't really talk like that". More on this story as it develops...

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

It would seem we've achieved the state of having "got nothin"

Well, it's not so much that I've got nothin' as that...well, yeah. It's so much that I've got nothin'. Really. Nothin'. I'm looking through my links and it's all just David Foster Wallace crap, which you're better off just skimming through yourself at my del.icio.us DavidFosterWallace tag, rather than having me just post links to stuff and be like, "Hey, here's some more David Foster Wallace crap, as if you really want to follow me any farther down that dark road".

Beyond that, though, the old concentration circuits are shot right now. Like here it is, once again well past the time I meant to go to bed, and I'm all like, "Hey, maybe I'll rearrange my furniture", except thankfully I get distracted by something else before I start--and subsequently stop mid-stride--anything time-consuming that's likely to leave my apartment more awkwardly disorganized than it already is. I actually put down a book tonight, and I don't think I'm picking it back up, and I feel bad about it because it's really quite a decent book, it's just...every two pages I'm off looking for coins to sort into piles, because for some reason that will just seem more interesting at the time. That or like, something else. None of which "other things" actually happen because I wind up instead clicking around on Flickr which I think I've decided is basically the Platonic ideal form of timesuck; it's like Orkut and Myspace and Friendster and whatever else you kids use, but it's got pretty pictures and for some reason I've decided it's my new life's goal, this week, to become friends with everybody on it. I'm sure I'll forget about that goal soon enough though. I mean earlier tonight I was working on a short story and then the next thing I knew I was Swiffering the damned kitchen floor. There was no transition. It's like my life has become a Fiery Furnaces song or something. Which is weird since I've actually been doing most of this tonight to the sounds of Godspeed You Black Emperor for the last like four hours so you can understand maybe the kind of apocalyptic scatter-brained mind-stance I've been standing in, if you know the band, at least.

Anyway I'm mostly hoping this is a temporary condition, a passing phase, and that pretty soon I'll be back to talking about things that interest me without paying any attention to the fact that, like, the world's on the Internet, now. I mean I saw that AT&T Blogging billboard recently and I nearly drove off the road under the sheer weight of the absurdity of it. If I could go back in time and tell 13 year old me that, like, there would be obscenely large corporations trying to profit off the stuff I was at the time doing with my Commodore 64--namely, communicating with other human beings--I would have...well I would have been really fucking creeped out, because, you know, Future Me? Dude gained weight. And grew his hair out. Future Me is weird, says 13 year old me.

Uhm. Oh, speaking of Commodore 64s, if you were a fan, then this will blow your brain out. Maybe that's where all my problems came from? Maybe I made the joke one too many times and it was bound to actually happen--that eventually my brain would literally get blown out. Weeeeird.

And on that we'll close with a dimly related question. George Nemeth at BrewedFreshDaily wonders what the theme song of your blog would be. Me, I'm totally stumped as to what the theme for TDAOC would be. For a bit today I was thinking it would be "Whatever Happened to Soy Bomb" off the Eels' latest album, but then I realized, no, that's got nothing to do with the blog, that's got everything to do with the fact that I've spent at least an hour a day for the last seven weeks humming the song in my head. Yeah. I've got a bitchin' mental-remix of it and Prefuse 73's "Choking You" going on, that, ah, if only I could plug my brain in to the USB port and let it see the light of day. Ah. Yes.

So let's hear it. What's my theme song? What's your theme song? And, if you've got any ways to, like, fix a brain, let me know about that, too. Do they make Concentration Duct Tape?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Women and girls go walking through the sky

It would seem that the Internet's ability to "share photos" has come a long way since, uh, 2003.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Some self-referential naval-gazing. Or just updates and comments re: previous posts. The glass half empty/full/drinking itself

So then!

Earlier, I mentioned some movies that are coming out this year. BondGirl kindly pointed this way, and a commenter over that way mentioned that the guy behind Donnie Darko also has a new movie scheduled for this year. Southland Tales. The tagline is listed on IMDB as "Warning: you are entering a domain of chaos." which is nice and all, but check out this cast: Seann William Scott? Sarah Michelle Gellar? Mandy Moore? The Rock!?! Justin fucking Timberlake? Seriously, what the hell? None of that makes any sense at all.

It's going to be awesome.

And then, well, uhm. I don't even know what to make of this:

Writer–director Paul Thomas Anderson is in advanced talks to produce and direct There Will Be Blood, starring Daniel Day-Lewis as a turn-of-the-century Texas oil prospector in the early days of the oil business. The sprawling period piece, which Anderson has spent several years writing, is loosely adapted from Upton Sinclair’s 1927 novel Oil!

Budgeted at more than $25 million, Blood will be jointly financed and distributed by Paramount’s specialty films division and Miramax Films, according to Paramount specialty division president John Lesher. "It's an ambitious film and a compelling, relevant story about family, greed, religion and oil," Lesher said. "Paul is an incredible talent, exactly the kind of filmmaker the new division wants to be in business with."

Yeah, I know. What the hell. At least I think this one won't be out until not 2006, because what with the Lynch and the Aronofsky and the Donnie Darko guy, yeah. Sorry. The mindsploding plate is full.

Okay, back to books: the Mary Gaitskill interview I recently mentioned is up on the mobile-intarweb-podcast-net you kids are all AJAXed up about and is now also on my computer, waiting for me to completely forget to ever listen to it, though I mean to. Which is awesome.

And then, also, recently, I referred to some newspaper guy as being not too bright. Erin O'Brien (whose blog is consistently entertaining and who will be talking the writing business this weekend at a local library, for those of you who are in the area, interested in the writing business, and who are physically capable of waking up during daylight hours on Saturdays) kindly fact-checked my statement, and the facts are highly amusing, I say.

And when I said that "four more books are on the way this week" at the LBC, did you think I was lying? Did you think I was crazy? Cuz, I wasn't, and I ain't. Shockingly, I've actually heard of three of the titles, which either means they're slacking off, or I'm spending way too much time on the Web anymore. The fact that I've read none of the selected titles pretty much negates all of the above, though, and just makes me want to get to work and get to reading. Oh, literature. Why can't I quit you?

I'm sorry. That was uncalled for.

Okay anyway. Next to last: I finished Oblivion tonight, which means I might stop writing like a bargain-basement DFW 15th generation photocopy sometime in the next few months. I was thinking of immediately re-reading Infinite Jest right now, but I've already broken one of you, and I'm going to say that's a good month's work right there and call it a night. That and I mentally and physically couldn't handle that right now. I have more to say (which I may or may not ever get around to saying, as the case here usually is) but for now I'll just hint that, a), DFW is sometimes really awfully heartbreakingly good and it hurts hurts hurts, and b), that I'm almost certain DFW is a Stephen Dixon fan, at least enough to have picked up and deployed the occasional verbal-linguistic tic; you'd know if you saw it, I think, unless I'm wrong, then, you wouldn't see it at all.

And finally, so long as we're on the hot topic of me, no, that's not a trick of the light in my profile pic. Rather, that gray hair is authentic and real and verifiable by science. Genetics are a funny thing.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Speaking of DFW...

...Edward Champion was there. And, I'm, well, here. Which isn't there. Which is sad. But c'est la vie.

("The Soul is Not a Smithy," which is in Oblivion, by the way, I should just say, jesus. Seriously. It's easy to forget with the text games and the crazy prose and the stunts and the big ideas and what have you that when DFW gets it up in his mind to make it his beeswax to affect you, the reader, emotionally, he really does, and he does so in a way that somehow cuts through, both through the text and through you, almost painfully; at least he does when you're me, I guess. Your mileage may vary. But I hope it doesn't, cuz, god. Chills. Great story.)

(Also the other night I broke through the fourth wall. But you know how that usually entails text looking at the reader or realizing its own status as the text, that when we refer to the fourth wall we mean some "action" taken by the text? No. It was me who broke through the wall; the text received me, even though I'm not sure it was aware of it at the time. But I'm not sure if that's the kind of story you can tell on the Internet without causing people to shift their weight nervously from foot to foot while looking for an excuse to go elsewhere, somewhere away from you. God only knows. It was in a dream, but still.)

Monday, January 16, 2006

But please, feel free to fact check me on this

Bob Hoover is a douchebag:

Ah, the blogosphere, where hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of writers, some of them qualified, scribble their observations, opinions and information, some of it phony, daily.

I've been poking around this virtual neighborhood for some time, confining my gazing to those of literary interest or "lit-blogs." And since there are so many of them, a glance or two is all the time I can devote to reading them.


Unlike the established media, there are doubts about blogs' accountability, dependability and durability.

Also, outside of their mothers, it's hard to figure out whom these bloggers are targeting.


My blog, however, would be run through the Post-Gazette editing grinder intended to force out rumor, mistakes, innuendo, obscenity, gossip and speculation -- the very stuff that blogs are made of -- and keep the truth and correct grammar.

...seriously plutonium-grade WTF? When did Dick Feagler start writing for a Pittsburgh paper?

(Via Conversational Reading.)

200-odd pages? That's like one subnote of one of DFW's footnotes

(Not that re certain blogpost-title figures I'm, uhm, recently re-obsessed w/r/t, mind you.)

It's January 16. Do you know where your Lit Blog Co-Op Winter Read This! selection is? But wait, hold up--in a move that's sure to spark endless controversy, those wacky bastards, they...ah, fuck. No, I think we're pretty much all in universal agreement here at TDAOC Inc. World Headquarters LLC Esq. that the decision to bump the discussion about the book back a few weeks is a net-gain good move. Though I'm sure we'll need to see it in action to reassure the stakeholders, and none of this should be construed as me having you let me stop you from complaining; after all, us book nerds, we loves us some rowdy, hooooooo ha!

If the big winner don't float your boat, four more books are on the way this week. So, eyes open, feet on the ground, credit card at the ready, and get to gettin', kids.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

David Lynch. He wears sweaters!

LynchNet has some stills, I guess, from the upcoming (this year? maybe? hopefully?) new David Lynch film, INLAND EMPIRE, which I guess is supposed to be capitalized, all of it, that way. It's hard to tell what you're looking at--there's no real context, though I'll say that image with the title in it sort of really freaks me out for reasons I can't even begin to identify--but these images do serve as a sort of proof of the fact that yes, David Lynch is indeed making a new movie, and that there is actual work done on it, and so we might get to see it, possibly even soon, possibly. The movie, if you know nothing about it, is--according the Lynch himself--"about a woman in trouble", I think, from what I remember when I did some research about it. Which, y'know, isn't saying much. But saying a Lynch movie is about a certain subject, really, is sort of like saying that getting smashed in the face with an axe is about pain. Your garden-variety "about"s go right out the window when you're talking about something that, uhm, you have to just experience.

So with a Darren Aronofsky sci-fi (?) epic (?) (The Fountain) due for release this year (?), and a new David Lynch film on the way, this year is set to be the biggest year for hipster artistic fervor ever. I am, you could say, excited. If David Foster Wallace were to this year release Infinte Jest 2: Smackin' Some Racket, I would pretty much completely lose my shit.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Some Mary Gaitskill links

Mary Gaitskill (whose Veronica I sort of abstractly liked and whose Because They Wanted To I sort of pretty much loved) continues to make the rounds. The Elegant Variation points at a Bookworm radio interview with Gaitskill; the "listen" link just breaks on my computer, and I've added the podcast to iTunes but the interview doesn't seem to have been added to the feed yet. There's some other interesting looking interviews from that show, which I'll probably download and then never actually listen to. (Podcasting has, you could say, not made a dent in the daily routine of my life. Even if the thought of a robotic, automatic Thumb Drives and Oven Clocks text-to-speech podcast has a sort of twisted, maniacal appeal to it. Fitter. Happier. More productive. A pig. In a cage. Making a very obvious joke.)

Uhmmm, asides aside, for the textual purists, there's a text interview at Failbetter with Gaitskill up now. Link via, uhm, someone.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

One year? Feels like only eleven months

So, today, January 12, marks the one-year anniversary of the existence of this blog.

Yeah, I don't know. I was going to do a big review or a best-of or just make some kind of big old brouhaha out of the whole thing but, eh, no. It's late and I'm tired. I was also going to do a big contest with presents and prizes and goodies and stuff, boxes of books and cakes and the like, but then I remembered I have virtually no industry insider connections and that I'm too lazy to develop such connections in order to get free stuff to give away, and so for me to give you stuff, I'd have to actually go buy it myself, with my own dollars, and...yeah, no offense, but, no. I got bills this little Internet hobby of mine ain't payin', let's just say.

So, I'm sorry I can't promise you free stuff, or at least the chance of free stuff, and due to the irrational (or quite rational, one would hate to think) fear of the low quality of one's blog's archives (there's got to be a word for that fear because I'm sure it's not unique to me--if no such term exists I'm now coining it as "fearchives" [as in "Thinking about my old blog posts, I got a mad case of the fearchives and stopped blogging for three weeks"], a term I expect to be the main reason for my fame once I'm dead and buried) I've not got the stomach to dig up enough old material to generate a best-of post (and I'd hate to bore you with a retrospective anyway), but what I'll say is this: this blog's been, for me, an interesting experience, and that I hope maybe you've found something interesting here along the way yourself, and that I'm looking forward to more interesting (both in terms of quantity and quality) experiences in the coming months. Or days or years. Who's counting, right?

Which all essentially cynicism-free heart-warming rambling really basically boils down to: thanks for reading. That's pretty cool of you. Maybe someday I'll get to buy you at least a beer or a Coke or something.

And, uh, hey, okay, yeah, now that you mention it, I have been reading David Foster Wallace again recently...why do you ask?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Yeah, football. Right, right, sure

Ok--so you need to read more books written by women; but what to read? You're a modern, discerning, but partially clueless hipster, and the other boys on the football squad will totally kick your ass if they catch you "accidentally" reading chick-lit. Not to mention that you've recently grown re-addicted to Spoon's Gimme Fiction: "bringing about the apocalypse/is not considered/considered cool". Who to turn to for help? How to be lead through the dense halls of all that's being published right now while doing your part to push back the end of all things?

Enter the Grace Book Club, dedicated to recommending "three books a month by amazing women writers, and in our own little way help fend off the literary apocalypse, book by book by book". With a bonus book this month. The club's run by Elizabeth Merrick, whose novel Girly I still want to get my hands on--and, well, my eyes near, I guess being more important--once I dig my way out of a certain previously-mentioned coffee table literary disaster site. Oy.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Actually, no, I'd probably just lay around in bed all day, eating really fabulous, ridiculously expensive lo mein with Julianne Moore

In an alternate universe, I have lots of money. Lots of money. Enough money to afford my own private plane, so I can fly around the world, buying toys like this, whatever the cost. Were buying the host families and their homes necessary, I'd do so. I would have all the time in the world to tinker. I would have an entire private studio filled with such obscure toys, where I would spend long days creating epic post-synth-rock instrumental antiprog masterpieces, the real nasty stuff you're first repelled by but soon need, like a heart. Auraldrugs; your butt shakes, your mind explodes.

But instead I'm in this universe and I'm just telling you what I would do, but could I. C'est la shite.

(Link via.)

In binary, I've already read 10 books this year, and that's before the book in translation bonus. I rule

So after I finished Ulysses I went and re-read Jeff Noon's 2002 novel Falling Out Of Cars. I dig Jeff Noon a lot. Vurt is like prose-coke; one line is never enough. Falling Out Of Cars saw him taking his verbal pyrotechnics down a notch to highlight the darkness that's sort of lurked around the corners and edges of his work to date (that I've read). It's probably his most mature book, and it's really a shame (I think) that he's since then decided to get into screenplays instead of focusing on novels, but hey, whatcha gonna do, eh?

FOOC isn't available on these western shores but I'd say you're better off starting with Vurt anyway. If you dig that then you can do Pollen (which is good but not Vurt-tastic) and Nymphomation (which was very nearly Vurt-tastic, actually). But skip Automated Alice--it was a nice idea, nice concept I guess, but it seemed sort of ephemeral compared to his other stuff. Also I've never felt the urge to track down Cobralingus--remixing text is sort of a nice mental game to play after a couple pints but from what I saw the one time I flipped through the book in the bookstore, it wasn't something I wanted to really spend time reading. And I've only had vague desire to catch Needle in the Groove, which sounded sort of like Cobralingus with a plot. Eh.


So after my Jeff Noon kick I finished off 2005 by jumping into the stack my girlfriend gave me for Christmas with Heavy Water and Other Stories by Martin Amis. I'd never read Martin Amis before and I don't know what I thought he did before I read him but now I know at least one thing he does, which is funny, which he does very well. "Career Move" was one of those "wow, I look like an idiot because I keep laughing out loud in the coffee shop" stories, and "The Janitor on Mars" is good funny sci-fi. There's a few less than memorable stories in there, but generally, hey, I know a bit of Martin Amis now, and I like what I now, and I'll be (eventually) raiding my girlfriend's bookshelves to borrow her copy of Money. I mean, assuming she's cool with that.


(My girlfriend, I feel the need to interject here, is sort of freakishly well-read, and makes me feel inferior. Just wanted to get that out there.)


I kicked off 2006 with a loaner from my girlfriend, a book she'd handed to me sometime earlier in 2005. She'd caught me looking at her bookshelves--which when there's bookshelves in a room I sometimes I just do, I just look at them, regardless of the fact that I have no intention of actually taking books from the shelves, I think it's something about all the bars of color and hypnosis or something, I dunno--and, figuring I was looking for something to read, she went to some other shelves and pulled down Peace Under Heaven, a 1930s era Korean novel by Ch'Ae Man-Sik. (Book in translation--score one extra book point for me! Ka-ching!) It was good; I liked it. I won't pretend to know enough about Korean culture (of the 1930s or not) to be able to speak as anything like an authority about it, but I'll say that the book is lighter than one might suspect a book written in 1930s Korea to be, probably due in no small part to a very readable, fluid translation, while also probably being more informative about the time and place from when it came than I suspect I realized it was when I was reading it (as was suggested by the couple sentences of the introduction that I read after I finished reading the book).

The novel's described as being a satire, or at least as being satirical, but whether due to the fact that we live in an age when The Onion defines what "satire" is--and don't get me wrong, The Onion's hella funny at times, and is now and then dead-to-rights on, but whoever it was who said we live in a golden age for satire was smoking a little bronze-aged crack, if you know what I mean, which if you do, congratulations, now you explain it to me for me--or due to a general lack of knowledge about the culture, I'm sure plenty of the humor was lost on me, though I'm not a complete dunce and I guess I have at least half-formed non-verbal theories about the whole thing. But then, plenty of humor definitely is easy to pick up...I mean, when the main character refers to every other male in the book as a "bastard whose balls he'd have cut off," well, I mean, come on. Comedy goldmine right there. So, you know, funny ha ha, but then you've got the novel's more sinister aspects--females don't seem to exist in a PC world, let's say--and the book muddies matters up a great deal, at least from a modernized western standpoint. I guess I could say in conclusion that the book both enlightened and confused, which, well, I'm cool with.


And finally! My second book for 2006 is sort of a new tradition, I guess, which may or may not last past this year; around this time last year I read a Douglas Coupland novel, Hey Nostradamus!, and now here it's a year later and I've just finished (another Christmas gift from my girlfriend, who, in case you're not keeping score, has been sort of the theme-giver of these last three books) Miss Wyoming.

I'm going to go ahead and put this out there: Douglas Coupland doesn't get enough play. If you're like me, you once read Microserfs and were tickled by it and then later you found out Coupland was the guy behind the term "generation x" and then you lost his phone number and changed your own phone number and next thing you know years have passed and you forgot all about him. It was one of those fluke things that I saw Nostradamus in the bookstore one day in 2004 and I stood there in the aisle and read the entire opening section (which when usually in a bookstore I'm lucky if I even finish the opening sentence of a book before I'm putting it back on the shelf) before I figured I should just buy it, already, because my feet hurt and I wanted to go sit down.

A year and two books later and I'll tell ya, Coupland's a good writer. He's interested in some stuff, to varying levels of blatantness: the overbearing parent, how to disappear completely, quietly playing with the structure of the novel to reach strange dramatic effects. He gives good quick read (you know that means something coming from me--if it seems like I read fast, I don't; it's more like I just read for long stretches of time, often to the exclusion of life) that doesn't lack thematic or narrative depth. If you're interested in things like that, which I kind of feel icky for having just typed out, but whatever. Let's put it this way: there's mental meat on the textual skeleton, neither overpowering nor undercutting what's essentially good, off-beat story-telling.

Miss Wyoming is one of those "it all makes sense by the end" books, I guess you could call that little sub-genre; what's remarkable about it is that you (by which I mean me, as I by no means mean to suggest you are as dullardish as I) don't realize it's going to be one of those sorts of books until you're almost there. The book offers surprises; it's not perfect, but it does have one of the finest closing sentences I've read in a while. In short: a most satisfying read.


And that's where I'm at. Somewhere in there I did read the opening essay--the one about porn--out of the new David Foster Wallace book of essays. (I'll tell you, reading about porn--and I mean, porn, what-for--in a coffee shop near your Catholic alma-mater in a highly Jewish, family-friendly neighborhood? Sort of confuses your brain.) So that'll probably be the next book I look to finish. Then after that, I'm not sure. The To Be Read stacks, which were under control for a while there, they kind of, ah, grew limbs and began throwing the lamps at the walls. There needs to be some pruning going on up in this joint.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Looking for a short story?

Max at The Millions can suggest a few.

(And yes, speaking of short stories, I still need to finish my Sci Fiction appreciation. See, there were the holidays, and then I got ill this week, and, and...and...and, I'm lame. Real lame. But I haven't forgotten! I swear!)

Bullet Point Rock: The headcold-muffled return

Here's some things.

  • Via BFD comes the absurd Starbucks story of the day.

  • Those crazy UK folk and their new year's reading resolutions. Seems I'm not the only one with Dickens in mind. Where did that come from, anyway?

  • SlushPile comments on an article at CNN.com about the possible next round of competitors for the title of "the next DaVinci Code".

  • Good quotes about experiencing art at Chekhov's Mistress.

  • And finally, the Literary Saloon points us toward an article on Orhan Pamuk. Interesting stuff:
    At first, Pamuk was quiet when he found his books to be the object of controversy. Then a provincial governor ordered the burning of "Snow" last summer. What stains Turkey's history, Pamuk argued in his commentary, is the impossibility to speak freely.

    "I believe that in today's Turkey the prohibition against discussing the Ottoman Armenians [is] a prohibition against freedom of expression, and that the two matters [are] inextricably linked," he wrote.

    Historical truth is elusive and the best substitute is probably a constant competition of ideas. As long as scholars engage in research and Ottoman records remain accessible, it should be no recipe for media circuses or fatwas. And yet, timed as it is with heated debates about Turkey's EU candidacy, the Pamuk trial is one more in a long list of political scandals.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

TDAOC MNS FTG Watch Y2K6: Alert Status Red: Stop the man before he twists again

Oh no.

I did not think it would come to this, but to this it has come: the implementation of emergency alert protocol TDAOC MNS FTG Watch Y2K6, in which we, like pedestrians drawn to watch the imminent and repeated crashing of fast cars into busses full of nuns, are drawn to watch M. Night Shyamalan (henceforth known as "MNS") aim his movies like full-throttle death-bullet VW Bugs directly at the exposed crotch of our dear American culture. Or something. My brain is quaking with rage and fear as I type these words, and my figurative language creation functions are on overload.

You see, here's the thing. In my previous post, I made an off-hand analogical comment regarding the levels of dismay we would all experience were MNS to release a new movie this year. As if to say that the release of a new MNS movie would make us all more stupid by a factor of six. It was meant in jest and humor, my brain telling me that there was no way MNS would release a new piece of dreck this year, the stench and stink of his most recent effort The Village still virtually clinging to our very pores, as it were.

But it turns out, the joke is on me. H. E. Eigler at Phantom Keyboard alerted me, almost immediately, to the IMDB entry for MNS's latest effort, titled Lady in the Water, due for release...on July 21.

My gasp of shock was only slightly muffled by the exclamation of hope that it had not yet come to pass and might not yet come to pass if I were to leap immediately to the Internet to start a petition beseeching the film studio to keep the damned movie to themselves and never unleash it upon the all too suspecting public, but then I realized that path could eventually require me to secure legal representation, and that just isn't happening because the ad dollars this blog reaps are barely enough to cover my weekly hooker-and-cocaine habit, and if you think I'm giving that habit up to save the world, you have obviously underestimated my commitment to depravity.

Now, see, the obvious problem with MNS is the way his movies fetishize the WHOA TWIST! ending. I mean, I'm slow, if not altogether stupid, and even I get it: hey, the world isn't all it appears to be. Or something like that. Whatever the point is, it's mundane and dumb and it gets laughably boring when it's pounded into your head every other summer.

But what really irks me is that the guy's got potential to not suck. He's got technical film-making chops, as it were. Signs was pretty breathtaking until I thought about it and my brain jumped out of my head to drown itself in my oversized Coke. You know I'm all for good mindless entertainment, but don't leave me feeling insulted if my brain accidentally turns on. There was some camera work and such in The Village that was thrilling. That one long shot of the girl walking across the field, the camera dipping down to the ground and pointing up at her and the sky, the sound going out until we reached the destination? The single take nature of the shot? The mad awesome bomb was dropped. Too bad it wasn't dropped into a good movie.

But then, why that's all nice preamble, the real problem is that I feel compelled to see his movies even though I know they'll make me angry. Let's not kid ourselves: MNS isn't a film-maker, but a vacuum technician. He creates not movies but machines, their sole purpose being to suck money out of my wallet.

Now I'm afraid that MNS has finally made a choice: when it comes time to decide between setting aside the bag of tricks to start making solid, visually thrilling, twist-free films, or to fly off the fucking deep end into the terminal territory of the bat-shit insane, the answer will be the number two of Lady in the Water.

Want to know why?

Of course you do.

Let's take a look at the "plot" blurb for this upcoming movie, as reported by IMDB:

Apartment building superintendent Cleveland Heep (Giamatti) rescues what he thinks is a young woman from the pool he maintains. When he discovers that she is actually a character from a bedtime story who is trying to make the journey back to her home, he works with his tenants to protect his new friend from the creatures that are determined to keep her in our world.

By "Giamatti," they mean, of course, Paul Giamatti, who played Harvey Pekar in the movie American Splendor; Pekar (for those of you who aren't from Cleveland and are therefore free of the inclination to applaud a little bit every time Cleveland is mentioned in any national context whatsoever) being a Cleveland hero, of sorts.


So what he have here, is, the actor in a movie about a character from a story becoming "real" is playing a character named after the home city of the guy that actor portrayed in what may be his most well-known role.


You can't see it, right now? But I'm totally slamming my face into the fourth wall.


I think we know where this is going.


Mostly irrelevant full disclosure: one time, after I saw American Splendor, I sat in a west side hipster coffee shop listening to Toby Radloff play Scrabble, which was undoubtedly the single most surreal experience ever. Then a couple weeks after that my girlfriend and I were at the theater to see, I think it was Lost in Translation, and Toby walked into the theater and sat in the seat directly behind mine, making that the undoubtedly second most surreal experience ever.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

And if you see the movie without reading the book? You just nullified the next book you read. Hey, it ain't all hilarity & hijinks around here, pal

So last year (the one that just ended) I signed on to the 50 Book Challenge. I eventually stopped keeping track of the books I was reading because I started feeling like a pretentious cluck about it, what with listing everything on my blog's sidebar. Heaven knows, the last thing a blogger wants to come off as is like they're all like "Hey hey hey look at me!" (...) Erm...so I don't know the exact number of books I read in 2005. I know I crossed the 50 book line. I don't believe I hit 60. Of course, some of the books I read were long. Real long. And hard. And named Ulysses. So, I guess you can pardon me for still declaring myself ridiculously awesome.

Now I'm thinking I'll probably resurrect the list and update it as best I can, then get the final number before storing the list somewhere on this site, because I've stopped feeling pretentious about it. Instead I just feel really geeky about it, which is obviously completely okay, if not witheringly charming and deftly attractive on my part. But more importantly, I missed being able to execute my full book-completion ritual: adding the book's title and some random related links to the list on my blog, slapping the book down on the growing finished books pile, bellowing and thumping my fists against my chest and scaring everyone in my apartment building before carrying Naomi Watts to the airy, scenic top of my To Be Read pile to make out for a couple hours before falling back down to my inevitable yet sad death, grabbing my next book out of the stack on my way down to cushion the fall. Without adding the book to the list on the blog, swatting at airplanes just wasn't as much fun.

Naomi Watts, however, remained ridiculously awesome. Every single time.

Anyways, it's 2006 now and that means a new challenge, and Edward Champion is out to pump us up. Or to make us all look bad. I'm not sure. 75 books instead of 50? Well, sure, now, I guess that's possible. As I mention in the comments over there, I think some alternate math will help. Let me update and add to those numbers here:

  • Bleak House, I'll say, now that I can see it weighing down the shelf across the room, is totally worth, like, four books, maybe five if back injury is sustained while carrying that brick. Seriously, was that guy paid by the word or something?

  • Don Quixote remains worth two books. Mostly because I don't own it so I haven't picked it up in a while. I reserve the right to make it worth more books later, when I do buy it, and I yank my shoulder out of its socket in the process.

  • The William T. Vollmann's oeuvre in one month idea was a stupid idea and should be disregarded. Seriously, is that guy paid by the word or something? Do you realize the guy has written more books than you have hours in the day? Hint: many.

  • Reading a work in translation? That counts as two, because really, you're reading two books, the book as book and the book as translation.

  • I think re-reading a book that you read once long ago should also count twice; the old read carrying through in the form of the new read.

  • Literary genre books? Those uppity ghettoized books that dare to use genre conventions toward literary ends? Yup: you can count one book per genre. (I think that makes Dhalgren worth about eight.)

  • If you've ever read Infinite Jest, you can double your total at the end of the year. Cuz, of, like, footnotes, or something. (Doubling takes place after the multiple-read factor is taken into account. So, like, this is the perfect time to read Infinite Jest for the tenth time, because that one read? Totally counts for twenty. We're having a fire!!!!!! sale.)

  • People who leave multiple comments on my blog will be automatically placed into a raffle; at the end of the year, one lucky commenter will be awarded ten free bonus reads!

  • If you read Jeff Noon's three vurt books (Vurt, Pollen, and Nymphomation), and Jeff Noon's Falling Out of Cars, you automatically win. Because I say so.

  • Bought the book in hardcover? Bought yourself an extra book point, you awsome person you!

I reserve the right to make up more crappy rules along the way. Like, David Foster Wallace announcing the forthcoming publication of a new novel isn't actually worth anything to your books read total, but you should do a shot of fine vodka (or two shots of the other type of liquor of your choice), as part of the drinking game I just made up, which only has one rule so far, but which I think is the best drinking game rule ever.

Oh and to make things interesting: if M. Night Shyamalan releases a movie this year? Everyone gets docked six books. Because, you know what? Fuck that guy.