Michael Schaub

Portland novelist Katherine Dunn (Geek Love) fights off a would-be purse-snatcher. She is a boxer. And I am in love. That is all.

So everyone knows about writer’s block. But have you ever been scared to write? Have you ever been scared to read? Like, terrified, for no discernible reason.  How long did it last? Was there a solution for you? What was it?

Any Wonder We Tried Gin


“Wystan Hugh Auden took the martini seriously,” wrote Rosie Schaap for the Poetry Foundation a few weeks ago. Yeah! That’s an Auden I can get behind! The kind who would write, “We must drink a lot of gin or die,” and then later change it to “We must drink a lot of gin and die,” before finally settling on, “This guy right here…this guy’s…YOU DON’T KNOW ME, YOU DON’T EVEN”

Anyway, Schaap’s search for the Auden martini set me to thinkin’: what other poets have had trademark martinis? I found the answer in What Other Poets Have Had Trademark Martinis?: A Book Which Answers The Question That We Asked in the Main Part of the Title, Before The Colon (FSG, 1987). This book totally exists, so fact-checking me on it would be a pitiable waste of your time. Below are just a small sample of the more intriguing entries, though if you have any others, you should post them. I mean, why wouldn’t you trust poets to give you alcohol-related recommendations? That would be like not trusting poets to give you divorce lawyer-related recommendations! Crazy!


Random / 19 Comments
October 14th, 2009 / 6:38 pm

For all you Chicago HTMLreaders, Brian Evenson will be reading tonight (with Tod Goldberg and David Taylor) at the Bookslut Reading Series, at 7:30 at the Hopleaf. Evenson! Beer! Beer! Evenson!

A Very Brief History of the Nobel Prize in Literature

King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, who gives out the Nobel Prizes. He's kind of handsome, right? Got that "silver fox" thing going on.

King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden, who gives out the Nobel Prizes. He's kind of handsome, right? Got that "silver fox" thing going on.

When the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature is announced next month, he or she will join a club more exclusive than just about any other in the world. You know those clubs at Ivy League schools, with names like “The Scone and Pudding Society,” where it’s a bunch of white guys who dress in costumes and make up silly songs and photograph each other naked? And how, you know, the members are, against all odds, actually proud of being in it? Instead of feeling kind of dirty and ashamed? Even more exclusive than that.

One thing’s for sure: Of all the 105 women and men who have won this prestigious award, none of them will ever be forgotten. Except for most of them. After the jump, we take a look at some of the past winners, and how they changed…the very world itself. Except for the ones who didn’t. Which, like I said, is a lot of them.


Random & Web Hype / 50 Comments
September 30th, 2009 / 1:37 pm

The 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature: Let’s Bet Cash Money on This

This award will go to someone you have never heard of, or a duck.

This award will go to someone you have never heard of, or a duck.

Next month, the winner of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature will be announced, and literary types have already started speculating, and even betting, on who might be this year’s winner. This is pointless, because the winner is going to be, in all likelihood, an anarcho-syndicalist playwright or pamphleteer from Moldova or something like that. It might be a duck, as long as it’s a duck that likes Gramsci but not America or television. It probably will not be anyone you have ever heard of. But you might pretend you have after he or she wins, if you, like me, are kind of a dick. The winner will definitely be alive, per Nobel rules, at the time of the nomination, though. Sorry, Updike!

One thing is for sure: the announcement will catapult the winner to worldwide reality show-level fame, and magazines will speculate about his or her sexual orientation, and nobody will be able to stop talking about the latest Nobelist for years to come. Remember when that happened with Dario Fo? And Elfriede Jelinek? Huh? Huh? Anyway, we discuss the bookmakers’ odds for what might, sadly, be the most exciting contest of the year…after the fucking jump!


Random & Web Hype / 112 Comments
September 29th, 2009 / 3:35 pm

Uh…Power Quote?: Richard Buckner


“I have a degree in creative writing — but trying to get a job with that, well, you might as well be a felon.”

-Richard Buckner, in an interview with the Chicago Tribune

Hey, it’s dark humor time! I’m posting this partly because it’s funny, and partly because Richard Buckner is fucking awesome and you should go buy, or download or whatever it is you kids do these days,  Devotion + Doubt, an album which I have taken the liberty of subtitling “How Michael Schaub Survived College Station, Texas, 1997-1998.” I mean really.

Power Quote / 34 Comments
September 22nd, 2009 / 4:23 pm

Mark Feeney starts off this piece on Thomas Pynchon and music with this sentence: “Music hasn’t really mattered much in American fiction.” Is that even remotely true? I suspect it’s not, but you guys are all smart well-read rock stars. Is Feeney right? Do I just wish music mattered more in American fiction? Will anyone come to the debut show of my band, The Very Special Episodes? Even though my band doesn’t technically exist?

Is Dan Chaon a god? Yes. Yes, he is. This interview proves it. As does his insanely great taste in music. (Seriously, read Await Your Reply, yo.)

The Frying Of Latke 49


This is pretty great. A writer for The Simpsons gets “conversational revenge” on a Pynchon-obsessed post-doc student who does the whole “Actually, I don’t even own a television” thing at a party. (You know the guy. This guy.)

Oddly, it was television that got me into Pynchon in the first place. Remember that miniseries V from the ’80s? It was totally awesome, and was based on Pynchon’s novel of the same name, which…OK, hold on. I’m being told that’s not true. All right. Well, that makes sense. My literary life is a lie. Great.


Web Hype / 6 Comments
September 11th, 2009 / 3:19 pm

“When she stepped off the elevator, my only hope for salvation was that Lorrie Moore had been drunk, or that there was something I didn’t know about her, like perhaps that she was deaf.”

15 Rich-Ass Authors I’ve Suddenly Decided To Like

I really enjoyed reading Blake Butler’s list of “15 Towering Literary Figures,” and Christopher Higgs’ list of “15 Significant Contemporary Women Writers.” Both were great, and I disagreed vehemently with those who criticized Blake for not putting more non-Americans on his list, because we all know that Americans are the only people who are any good at anything. Sorry, foreign losers! I also disagreed with whoever called Christopher a self-hating sellout to the gynocracy, whatever that means. Actually, I guess I said that. To myself. Just now.

Anyway, there was one glaring problem with both lists: Very few of the writers mentioned are super fucking rich. So I decided to make a list of 15 authors who I am going to pretend to like from now on, in the hopes they will send me money. I mean, Brian Evenson is a good writer, but is Brian Evenson going to keep you in expensive hookers and 40-year-old Laphroaig? No, Brian Evenson is not. So have fun drinking store-brand sodas with Jorie Graham and Diane Williams, guys! I’ll be in Ibiza, pronouncing “Ibiza” pretentiously, with my 15 new best friends:

Dan Brown


John Grisham



Web Hype / 103 Comments
September 9th, 2009 / 3:55 pm

Power Quote: W. S. Merwin

W. S. Merwin

W. S. Merwin

“I had hardly begun to read

I asked how can you ever be sure

that what you write is really

any good at all and he said you can’t

you can’t you can never be sure

you die without knowing

whether anything you wrote was any good

if you have to be sure don’t write”

-From “Berryman”

Power Quote / 12 Comments
September 5th, 2009 / 1:33 pm

Nemo Me Impune Lacessit

The Last King Of Scotland

The Last King Of Scotland

The Guardian says that Scottish literature has been split in two by comments made by James Kelman, who over the weekend attacked “writers of detective fiction or books about some upper middle-class young magician or some crap.” My first reaction to this was “Man, it is apparently super fucking easy to split Scottish literature in two,” but upon further reflection that seems petty. American literature gets split in two pretty much every other week, and usually Oprah Winfrey has something to do with it.

I should refrain from discussing what this whole contretemps might do to Scotland’s collective national psyche, at least until I can fake a better Scottish accent. But it got me thinking about the old “literary fiction” versus “genre fiction” debate, which leads me to this question: Does this debate make you want to (a) shoot yourself in the head, or (b) stab yourself in the face? If someone brings this topic up, do you usually (a) cry, or (b) vomit blood? Either way, it sounds like Scotland is kind of fucked, which is a shame, because I like that “Belle and Sebastian” band. (By the way: Hi! My name is Michael.)

Random / 44 Comments
September 1st, 2009 / 10:00 pm