Sunday, May 31, 2009

That new William T. Vollmann book? Is actually two books. Supernova.
Gang, at least there's this: however shitty things may be right now, at least we can say we have an extremely literate president:

President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will serve as Honorary Chairs of the 2009 National Book Festival, organized and sponsored by the Library of Congress. Now in its ninth year, this popular event celebrating the joys of reading and lifelong literacy will be held on Saturday, Sept. 26, 2009, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., between 7th and 14th Streets from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (rain or shine). The event is free and open to the public.

I mean: wow, right? That actually doesn't sound like the horrible punchline of a sick joke. I could actually see going to that. Without feeling like I'd be lying to myself the entire time.
BookExpo America is happening. Which I've always felt far too marginal or even marginally marginal to ever consider signing on for, and this year, it sounds like there's less for me to miss than ever before. Which, you know, cool. I've got stuff going on. Whatevs. But, uh, maybe it sounds like what the publishing industry really needs is not less but more, maybe? You know, more excitement, more passion, more trade shows, more festivals, more, more, more? Maybe? Maybe not less? I don't know. Maybe I'll try to go next year. Maybe I'll wear a big red dog costume. Maybe so many things.
In other news, we've still got a new Thomas Pynchon novel coming out this year. We've still got a lot of books coming out by a lot of great authors this year. Like, I've lost track of them all. And then there's next year which I think looks good too, or was starting to look good the last time I looked. So much to look at. Right. Shit just got real.

But yeah, the early previews of the Pynchon novel are starting to come in. Like, with this one, right here (via):

I’ve been enjoying the new Thomas Pynchon novel, Inherent Vice. The most striking thing about is that if you had handed me the first 30 pages, I would have staked my life I was reading the opening of the new Elmore Leonard.


In some ways it’s a surprise to see Pynchon, one of the most sophisticated, high-caste and demanding of American writers, dancing naked; on the other hand it isn’t, because there’s something about the crime novel, the thriller, hardboiled noir , whatever you want to call it that literary novelists find fascinating and often irresistible.

I don't know, I know there's that need to call Pynchon sophisticated and high-caste, but I do worry that talk like that scares more people off the trail than is healthy. I mean, bananas. Funny. Right?

In other news, I seem to be doing a lot with hardboiled mystery type books lately. Which is weird. I was never particularly a fan of the style though I also never had much against it either. Just, something that never much struck me as something I needed to explicitly go looking for. But now it's like every which way I look I'm reading one or reading about one. Weird.

Like, there's an author right now whose backlist I'm reading in its entirety (or close to its entirety) in preparation for a kind of big review I plan to write for later this year. (Hint: no, it's not Pynchon, which is cool, because I don't think I could handle that, what with the making of wetness in the pants reading new Pynchon might entail.) But this author I'm reading has me all curious about mystery stuff, now, more so than I've ever been. New avenues to explore! Always, new avenues to explore.
So, that The Road trailer I mentioned recently? Turns out it might not be all bad. Or at least, it's bad, the situation is bad, but the movie might still be more like the book than the trailer might lead one to believe. Reality, whatever. One can only hope this does wind up pulling a bunch of people in who might think they're getting into a pleasant little end of the world action adventure only to be crushed under the weight of pure existentialist pooh. Who knows.

And, really, it can never be so whaaaaaaaa? as this. Bonus points for butler jazz hands, is what I'm saying.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Nor is it any part of my thesis to maintain that [the detective story] is a vital and significant form of art. There are no vital and significant forms of art; there is only art, and precious little of that. The growth of populations has in no way increased the amount; it has merely increased the adeptness with which substitutes can be produced and packaged.

- Raymond Chandler

Yeah, speaking of the producing and packaging of substitutes: uh, what, and, uhhhhhhh, what?

Monday, May 18, 2009

But really, though, come on: are you surprised that the old white dude reads a bunch of books by old white dudes? Call me back when, like, Zadie Smith is all like, "Ladies are crazy, old white dudes are where it's at." Then we'll talk about, you know, things we can talk about.
In other news, we've got a trailer now for the film adaptation of The Road by Cormac McMcarthy. Which, I mean, I don't know. It looks a lot more "boom" and "hiss" and "fzzzzzzzzzzzzt" than I remember the book being. But it's the trailer and I guess you can't have a trailer that's nothing but sad people being sad and then dying all over. So I don't know. I couldn't blame you for thinking they're ruining the book. (The book inspired one of my longest and probably least coherent but most-hit blog posts so I can't say I don't have some emotional stake in the outcome here.) On the other, it's still possible it's still going to be this very good thing in and of itself, independent of the source material, so. Who knows. (And they do the Coke can bit, which I like to imagine is the bleak unrelenting horror version of the whale from Hitchhiker's Guide in terms of things-from-books-put-into-movies, so.)
Being a six-books-to-his-name novelist, one who, at least as far as I can recall having seen, has never published a short story before in his life, Kazuo Ishiguro may tempt us to suspect that his new collection of five short stories, Nocturnes, could somehow be "minor" compared to the rest of his output--like the book is an EP dashed off before "proper" albums, like it's a lark less executed than committed before he gets back to the real work of doing a new novel. After reading the opening story, "Crooner," the only thing I can say I suspect right now is that I'm going to be incredibly sad when I get to the end of this slim volume, his slimmest since his first two novels. Sad because there won't be any more book to read. More sad because there's such emotionally wrenching power in his prose, prose that goes down as easy as water splashed with lemon. And saddest yet because, as with Michael Chabon's The Final Solution--another slender tale I've recently completed--lacing sadness through and beneath the surface of stories that might ostensibly profess to have other more immediate concerns in mind (detection and/or music) appears to be at the core of what's going on on the pages in front of me. One of the cores, at least.

Tangled thoughts. I shouldn't be discussing my reactions mid-stream, I suppose, but considering how things get away from me on here, I wanted to make sure I got at least something down in writing this month so I can lay some claim to having done something to promote National Short Story Month, about which you can read lots and lots more over at the Emerging Writers Network blog. Also, I've got this whole self-consciousness thing going on as I read Ishiguro, appropriate considering the concern with seeming lack of concern for self-consciousness that runs through so much of his work; I mean, this being the first real new Ishiguro I get to read since I picked up Never Let Me Go a couple years ago and never looked back. I guess I can't help but read myself reading the book, which is at once annoying and perfectly fine, worth and not worth considering. Whatever, I don't know, that first story kills, and the only reason I didn't spend the rest of the night reading the rest of the book is because I just know I need to savor it, and, well, yeah. Savor it.
The Wall Street Journal has the opening chapter of China Miéville's new book, The City & The City; Scotland on Sunday has a profile; I've got an urge to quit most things I do so I can handle even just keeping track of the outright bookish assault that is 2009, never even mind the existing of 2010 already looming on the horizon, which, rumor has it, will present us with new David Mitchell and new Jonathan Franzen. Jam.

(The City & The City comes out in about a week.)

Thursday, May 07, 2009

TDAOC-endorsed A. L. Kennedy is doing a bit of blogging at The Guardian and it's really quite good.

(I myself am on the verge of wrapping up my spring semester class and so I anticipate I myself might also be able to do a bit of blogging myself in the coming weeks. At least on a more consistently irregular basis. I've read and/or am reading some books that I rather liked and/or like. Which I do plan to say things about. Soon. Ish.)