Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Litblogger e-panel

First off, give some love to Dan Wickett. Dude's got a lot goin' on. I mean, him and Steve Gillis are publishing translated European fiction, looking to publish African writers, and are running a ridiculously sweet literary prize. Oh yeah, and Dan's read a couple short stories lately and that wasn't enough so now he's reading the entire world. Did I mention that he runs a short story contest? Did I mention the part where everything he does is pretty much ridiculously awesome? Did I? Okay.

So he recently found time to host his sixth Litblogger E-panel. He must be really tired or something, because he invited me out to play. But hey, it's like my imaginary uncle always told me: take advantage of the exhaustion of others. I'm way honored (though I'm sort of too scared to read the final product, for fear I'll see how inferior my answers are) to be part of the class of VI:

If you can't find something fun to look at through these links, while I work on getting my content-posting machine back in some sort of gear, then I suspect your mouse is broken.

Monday, June 25, 2007

"Everything I do/I do it for you"

I'm pretty sure my girlfriend can't wait until I finish reading Don Quixote.

I mean, not to say I've gotten into the book or anything, but, I keep meeting these random dudes on the street? Shifty looking characters? And I kick their asses. And then I send them to my girlfriend and tell them to do her bidding.

First random servant dude? Funny. Cute. Incredibly useful.

Fifteenth random servant dude? "Darby, this is starting to get old."

Plus, I think she finds my squire...disconcerting. Whatever. He's loyal. This world could do with a bit more loyalty. And it's not like he takes up much room. He sleeps just fine on the floor next to her bed.

Stabling the donkey in her living room might be asking for trouble, though. The cats are a bit put off.

Monday, June 18, 2007

I'm guessing this means I'm not really the target audience

GoodReads.com (which I learned about via Galleycat) asks:

Have you ever wanted a better way to:
  • see what your friends are reading?
  • keep track of what you've read and what you'd like to read?
  • get great book recommendations from people you know?
  • make reading fun again?

I, in turn, ask:

You mean, other than by, like,
  • looking at their bookshelves?
  • looking at my own bookshelves?
  • talking to my friends?
  • actually, you know, sitting down in my reading chair, and, like, reading books?

Of course, I can still remember, back in the halcyon days of Web build 48, the day I deleted my Friendster and Orkut accounts: it was the day I realized that no amount of social networking was every going to make me less socially awkward.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Two Things: Author Style

Two authors whose work I promise I will read, but can't right now because my reading list is already set for a while, but really I do promise I'll read their stuff someday, so you can stop telling me I need to read their stuff, because I know I need to read their stuff, and I will, once I get the chance to read their stuff, not that I'm trying to come off here like an ungrateful, recommendation-ignoring jerk, or anything, it's just, you know, I'm sort of tied up at the moment:

  1. Roberto Bolaño

  2. Miranda July

Thursday, June 14, 2007

WE'RE HAVING A FIRE!!!!!!!!(sale)

McSweeney's, due to book industry economic shenanigans, is selling stuff dirt-cheap. Matt's got the full story and some suggested purchases. I do, in fact, recommend The Facts of Winter. I liked that one a lot. Also, The People of Paper. And the Stephen Dixon bundle. And—most recently and emphatically—Dustin Long's incredibly fun Icelander.

Also, a ne wiels keyboard o me. Mine appeas obe on te frtz.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Two Things: Television Style

Two television series that I have never seen a single minute of—not counting commercials:

  1. The Sopranos

  2. Survivor

Katherine Dunn!

Katherine Dunn! For real! She's guest-blogging at the inferior 4+1. (Yes, the name confused me, too.)

Katherine Dunn wrote Geek Love, which I read last year, shortly after I read Gravity's Rainbow. I suppose you can call it the book that convinced me there would be life after Pynchon. Kick-ass life, at that. Life with gills.

You can draw your own added parallels, if you want: Geek Love came out in 1989; now, nearly two decades later, she's working her way around to publishing her next novel. She drops some hints about the new book, The Cut Man, in a comment to her first post:

Forgive me for being vague about this. I’m not religious but I’m definitely superstitious.

Cut man is set in the world of small town, small time boxing. The cut man of the title is the guy in a boxer’s corner who is skilled at stopping the bleeding if the boxer gets a cut or bloody nose during the fight. This book has all sorts of sub-plots and supporting as well as peripheral characters. It’s about—maybe—obsession and delusion (the care and feeding thereof) or maybe it’s about beauty—its nature and abuses—or maybe it’s just about eggs and what happens to them before the omelet appears. How’s that for oblique?

I'm excited. (I'm also going to read the essay she posted today, uh, sometime soon, I swear.)

Via and via (who was so on this, like, yesterday).

Friday, June 08, 2007

Door opens

Not feeling appreciated? Retire from something. Johns Hopkins Magazine has the latest profile of Stephen Dixon--the third such-type article this year, by my count.

This one kills off any hopes I had that I might have inherited some of his talent via genetic relation:

DOOR OPENS on Stephen Dixon's life on June 6, 1936, but at birth he isn't Stephen Dixon, he's Stephen Ditchik, son of Abraham Meyer Ditchik, a dentist, and Florence Leder Ditchik, a former beauty queen and Broadway chorus girl, both born and raised on New York's Lower East Side.

Interesting story.

Also fun (really, just go read the whole thing):

Sometime in 1963, Dixon turns on a television program and there's Rudd, talking about university writing programs. That there is such a thing as a university writing program is news to Dixon, but he likes what he sees, especially the scenes from Stanford University. "I thought, 'You can get paid to write? In California? This is for me!'" The application stipulates that he is to submit 30 pages of writing, but he sends a complete novel. Stanford responds by making him one of that year's four Wallace Stegner Fellows. In California, he says, he doesn't learn that much but he does have fun. He gets to know the novelists Robert Stone and Ken Kesey, and Jack Kerouac's sidekick Neal Cassady. "He was nuts."

His newest book (not counting the one he's working on now) is coming out in September.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Ride, sally, ride

I've started reading this little book called Don Quixote. (Well, it is little, compared to a certain other too-tempting summer reading selection [see item number one] that I learned about today via Callie's post on the subject of how sand somehow makes us stupid. Did I say summer reading selection? I meant post-holiday reading selection. Seriously, if you all starting saving your pennies now, and each of you chipped in like fifty cents in December...) Also, I'm tilting at windmills. It's my first group blog experience. So exciting! I just hope I don't accidentally destroy any semblance of intelligent discourse. I don't want to be that guy. I hear that looks bad on your blogger resume. (Unethical, too! [Really, nobody wants to take me to task for that one? I was so hoping.])

In my debut TaW post, I offer up yet another example of that hardcore Darby litcrit you've so come to know and love. Oh yeah. It's gonna be a long, awesome summer.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

"Keeps your mind on the page"

I feel okay about breaking cover on this, since I know for a fact that every other person on the planet has acquired a "pre-release" of the new Spoon album, Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga. So it's okay for me to go ahead and point out that the second track, "The Ghost of You Lingers," is just completely unfair. It's unfair to any other song that any other band has put out this year. Hell, it's unfair to every other song on the album it appears on, which is something, since Ga5 is a damn fine collection of songs. But "Ghost," though...it brings it. It brings the chips. It brings the dip. And it brings the soul-crushing ennui of knowing you'll never create something so meaningful, yourself. Ever. Well, unless you have kids. I guess kids can work. But "Ghost" won't ever crash your car after a heated family argument, so: one point for Spoon.

It's sad, in a strange way, that the album is getting so much pre-release hype. Spoon feels like one of those bands that everybody secretly knows is their own private house band of the mind. Spoon "belongs" to each of us a little more than most popular bands do. Am I wrong? Maybe, I don't know. I know I'm a relative late-comer to the band--the catalog prior to Kill the Moonlight is still a bit of a blur to me--but what I've got of theirs, I like, and I like it in a way you can't possibly match, because they're sort of secretly my band. Mine. They play for me, each time I plop my headphones onto my head. As much as I want you to like them, too--and as much as I think many more people are going to come out of this year liking them, as well--I don't really want to share them with you.

It's a little bit weird. I know. But still.

One thing I do know is that there's a small number of truly excellent writing discs in my collection. I can listen to most anything when I write, but there's only a couple albums that will always make me work hard every time I listen to them, start to finish. Sleater-Kinney's One Beat does that to me. I think I can credit my recent resurgence on the fiction-producing front to that album above all else in life. (The Woods as a follow-up makes for an excellent second-wind album. You know this makes sense.) Goodbye Enemy Airship the Landlord is Dead by Do Make Say Think can usually shove me off the cliff and into the zone. A couple others. And Spoon's Gimme Fiction. If they can't be my band, then that can be my disc. It's the yum.

(Really, though: steal it from me sometime, and try to listen to "Sister Jack" without feeling a little bit less discouraged. You can't. It's anti-ennui.)

Monday, June 04, 2007

"I didn't lie and I ain't sayin'/I told the whole truth/I didn't know that this game we were playin'/Even had a set of rules"

So I guess there was a panel discussion on ethics in book reviewing at this year's BookExpo America.

Exqueeze me? Book reviewing? Ethics? Discussion? What? I mean, what do you do with the other 59 minutes of the allotted hour? Was there punch or something?

See, there's not much to it. Let me break it down for you two-step style:

The TDAOC Comprehensive Guide to Ethical Book Reviewing

  1. Don't lie.

  2. Don't be an ass.

Am I right? I'm so right, right? I just guess I hope it wasn't one of those panels you had to pay to get into. Think of all the Dum-Dums you could have bought with that cash.

Or not? Am I radically oversimplifying the matter? The lines are open. Please: elucidate, illuminate.

Wuss, self-aware

Fifty pages, versus bedtime: it's a too-familiar battle for us book nerds. Me, tonight, I'm choosing sleep over the end of Galatea 2.2, though not without serious reservations. Sure, I know I'm a wuss. But at least I know that I know that I'm a wuss.

In so far as knowledge of knowing can be known.

I'm generally digging the book, though I'm not absolutely in love with it. But I figure a book is doing something right when it can make me pencil myself questions like, "If you divorce religious belief from political motives, can you really blame Creationists for giving up and blaming God?" Of course, at other times, the book makes me want to ask questions like "Who cares?" Mixed bag, in other words. Thankfully, the bulk of my marginalia asterisks denote intellectual highway on-ramps to far-flung questions closer to the former's end of the spectrum. Good things await the curious.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Figuratively speaking, at least

Random thought: where most writers use similes, Richard Powers uses metaphors. Am I right? I might be wrong. That's my sense, though, after reaching the halfway point of Galatea 2.2. It's a sense I think I could parlay into a book-length thesis, were I to find a couple spare years between the couch cushions. So, fans of thesis-free blogging, take a moment to be glad that time is not loose change. Ah. Yes.