July 2009

Author Spotlight & Reviews

More Vollmann.

Mr. Vollmann collects pistols and likes to shoot them.

'Mr. Vollmann collects pistols and likes to shoot them.'

Now this is how you start a review:

I was sitting on the train one day chipping away at William T. Vollmann’s latest slab of obsessional nonfiction when my friend Tsia, who incidentally is not an underage Thai street whore, offered to save me time with a blurby one-sentence review based entirely on the book’s cover and my synopsis of its first 50 pages. “Just write that it’s like Robert Caro’s The Power Broker,” she said, “but with the attitude of Mike Davis’s City of Quartz.” This struck me as good advice, and I was all set to take it, but as I worked my way through the book’s final 1,250 pages, I found I had to modify it, slightly, to read as follows: Imperial is like Robert Caro’s The Power Broker with the attitude of Mike Davis’s City of Quartz, if Robert Caro had been raised in an abandoned grain silo by a band of feral raccoons, and if Mike Davis were the communications director of a heavily armed libertarian survivalist cult, and if the two of them had somehow managed to stitch John McPhee’s cortex onto the brain of a Gila monster, which they then sent to the Mexican border to conduct ten years of immersive research, and also if they wrote the entire manuscript on dried banana leaves with a toucan beak dipped in hobo blood, and then the book was line-edited during a 36-hour peyote seance by the ghosts of John Steinbeck, Jack London, and Sinclair Lewis, with 200 pages of endnotes faxed over by Henry David Thoreau’s great-great-great-great grandson from a concrete bunker under a toxic pond behind a maquiladora, and if at the last minute Herman Melville threw up all over the manuscript, rendering it illegible, so it had to be re-created from memory by a community-theater actor doing his best impression of Jack Kerouac. With photographs by Dorothea Lange. (Viking has my full blessing to use that as a blurb.)

July 29th, 2009 / 7:00 pm

I’m really agiggle about all this scrambling for new models of publishing. It’s like redecorating a boat halfway underwater. The thing about a sinking boat is that things left on the boat that float will float regardless. When the boat is gone there will be a slightly more calm ocean. And then there’s all that land.

Front & Center on the NYT main page right now:  a big profile about WTV on the occasion of his new book Imperial, a 1300 page study of California’s Imperial Valley.

Mr. Vollmann’s editors urged him to cut, he said, and he resisted: “We always go round and round. They want me to cut, and I argue, so they cut my royalties, and I agree never to write a long book again.” He acknowledged that the length of “Imperial” might cost him readers but said: “I don’t care. It seems like the important thing in life is pleasing ourselves. The world doesn’t owe me a living, and if the world doesn’t want to buy my books, that’s my problem.”

Author Spotlight & Web Hype / 28 Comments
July 28th, 2009 / 10:09 pm


(from “the invisible generation” chapter of THE TICKET THAT EXPLODED):

why not give tape recorder parties every guest arrives with his recorder and tapes of what he intends to say at the party recording what other recorders say to him it is the height of rudeness not to record when addressed directly by another tape recorder and you can’t say anything directly have to record it first…you will hear one ugly voice and see one ugly spirit is  made of ugly old prerecordings   the more you run the tapes through and cut them up the less power they will have

Uncategorized / 28 Comments
July 28th, 2009 / 9:54 pm

Stephanie Johnson Reads Online at Keyhole


Just caught the last few minutes of Stephanie Johnson’s live web-reading over at Keyhole to promote her book One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others and general good-feeling web-literature emotions. Great stuff; I enjoyed it a lot. She read two pieces (one was the title piece of the collection).

Stephanie will read again tomorrow at 8pm CST and Thursday at 8pm CST. To watch live, access Keyhole‘s website or go to the UStream link. It’s pretty simple to figure out; I didn’t have any trouble.

You can also chat with Stephanie after the reading, though you may have to do it through a UStream account.

You can watch an archived version of tonight’s reading here.

Technology / 6 Comments
July 28th, 2009 / 9:38 pm

Black Warrior Review Fifth-Ever Contest


BWR is awesome and you know it.  Extra bonus, check out those judges!  Sexxxy!!! (with three xs and three !s)

Contests / Comments Off on Black Warrior Review Fifth-Ever Contest
July 28th, 2009 / 7:30 pm

POWER QUOTE: James Guida

2005_apple_blossom_parade_deer_park_river_queen_floatFrom his new book, Marbles, published by Turtle Point Press. (Second title down.)

There are sentences so triumphant we imagine we can make out the author in them, waving to us delightedly from a float within the paragraph.

A coworker found this book in our pile of galleys and reader’s copies. More of the pieces from the book here.

I’m curious about the aphorism as a form.

I recall working a temp job—test scoring, I think—where during the New Worker orientation, another contingent employee mentioned that she liked to write, and when asked what sorts of things she wrote, she said she enjoyed writing poetry, stories, and “quotes.” I assume she meant aphorisms, but you never can tell. Maybe she considered writing down things other people had said a kind of writing. Or maybe she thought she was very quotable. In fact, as I have just quoted her “quote” line, she is/was, in a way, kind of quotable.

Are there narrative possibilities in the aphorism, or just poetic ones?

Power Quote / 2 Comments
July 28th, 2009 / 7:10 pm

I like it a lot when fiction comes from life




I Like __ A Lot / 4 Comments
July 28th, 2009 / 6:50 pm

Here is how I feel today

mixed with this

and these just came in the mail from the Dalkey sale


and that tree outside my window is all pink.

Behind the Scenes / 16 Comments
July 28th, 2009 / 3:32 pm