You no doubt read Greg Gerke’s deeply critical post about Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. Curtis White has now posted his own much more positive impressions of the film. I’ve tried convincing the two of them to go at it like me and Chris Higgs—I even introduced them during AWP—but they’re being too polite. Chime in in the comments section, demanding blood!
(My own thoughts on Tree are here. I have nothing to say about Anonymous.)
Every Friday at Big Other, I’m posting links to feature-length films that are up at YouTube. And I’m doing it for you!
1. Xiu Xiu has a new album out (Always); the video for the lead single, “Hi,” is pretty great:
2. It is not, however, as great as the video for Pissed Jeans’s “False Jesii Part 2,” which I only recently discovered:
4. Stephin Merritt, may I suggest the formal constraint for your next album?
NO END RHYMES.
At The Rumpus, Kathleen Alcott wrote a beautiful essay about the importance of her name, the writer who is using the name Kate Alcott as a pseudonym, and much more. Also at The Rumpus, an essay by Catherine Chung whose Forgotten Country will be released in March.
Quick Fiction is ceasing operations and they will surely be missed. Don’t fret, though. They are having a closeout sale.
Dinty Moore responds to the Lifespan of a Fact situation.
As an aside, the Oscars were tragically bad weren’t they? The boringness of the ceremony has left me completely unsettled today. Also, Billy Crystal in blackface. Here’s something on what it’s like to have your book turned into a movie.
Does Jonathan Franzen have a “female problem“? I’m not sure but he best back up off my girl Edith. We KNOW how I feel about Edith. More on this soon but in the interim, Victoria Patterson at the Los Angeles Review of Books, has written a brief essay, “Not Pretty,” in response to Franzen’s New Yorker essay. This kind of reminds me of a post I saw on Bulk Culture a couple weeks where Barry Graham (I think) said looks don’t really matter in terms of online publishing success.
An illustrated guide to Mad Men Bed Hopping.
Cathy Day is doing a survey about the place of the novel in MFA programs. Both students and faculty are encouraged to participate. You can do so here.
There’s been some conversation across different magazines and websites about fact checking, truth, and creative nonfiction. The New Yorker chimes in.
Michael Chabon co-wrote the screenplay for John Carter. This article looks at money and writing and Chabon and such. Ayelet Waldman responded on Twitter and that was awesome.
Here’s a little something on the history of monsters.
Publishing via Facebook….
I don’t like pennies.
Jonathan Franzen doesn’t like e-books. I read Freedom on my Kindle. If he wants to defend printed matter, he should maybe not write a book that weighs a million pounds (KIDDING). Also, Franzen’s least favorite things (via The Millions). Franzen is angry in a placid, intellectual way.
Is anyone reading Caitlin Flanagan’s Girl Land? Fascinating, yes?
Barnes & Noble is taking a stand against Amazon’s encroachment on the publishing industry.
Speaking of people making Amazon-related decisions, Goodreads is transitioning to new data sources.
Also, Amazon’s earnings fell. Rough week for them, but like Drago in Rocky 4, they’ll muscle through until a Rocky rises out of the Siberian chill to put up a good fight.
At Largehearted Boy (celebrating its tenth anniversary), Hanne Blank shares her book notes from her recently released Straight: The Surprisingly Short History of Heterosexuality, which got a great review in The New York Times. There’s also an interesting interview with Blank at Salon.
John Scalzi is contributing the proceeds of his e-book sales from his titles at Subterranean Press to Planned Parenthood for the next week.
Here’s an interesting piece on how records are made, literally.
Erica Dreifus offers a list of places where you can submit your flash nonfiction.
Colossal, an art and design blog, always has really unique art to look at.
The book cover of a product is its image. Also its comments section and its Facebook page. All but deleted.
There are the tired images of materiel pleasures we no longer desire.
They are like older actresses, or Twentieth Century genre fiction gone out of fashion. They are Tom Clancy and Leon Uris.
My favorite thing I read on the internet last year was Martin Seay’s epic essay on Ke$ha, the Beastie Boys, and Beyoncé:
Although “TiK ToK” contains stupidity—in much the same way that a Twinkie contains high fructose corn syrup—it is anything but a stupid song. Unlike three decades’ worth of kegstanding fratboys, Sebert misses the point of “Fight for Your Right” deliberately: she interprets the Beasties’ (limited and unsuccessful) attempts at irony and connotive suggestion as amounting to no more than inefficiency, and as such she excises them. [...]
It’s erudite, funny, and very, very correct.
Blake, this is for you. (Play it LOUD!)
I wrote some posts at Big Other about overlooked Smiths songs:
- Part 1: “The Smiths”
- Part 2: “Meat Is Murder”
- Part 3: “Strangeways, Here We Come”
- Part 4: “Hatful of Hollow”
- Part 5: miscellaneous uncollected songs
- Part 6: a chart explaining where you can find every Smiths song
Over at The Rumpus, Elissa Bassist offers great advice on how to write like a funny woman.
The National Book Critics Circle has announced the finalists for their 2011 book awards.
Edith Wharton turns 150 on Tuesday and she still looks great. The New York Times gives her a nod as they talk about heiresses and social climbers and such.
Anil Dash discusses the web as a medium for protest.
On her blog, Anna Leigh Clark shared an image of the most amazing writing group that included Toni Morrison, Alice Walker, Ntozake Shange, June Jordan, Lori Sharpe, and Audrey Edwards, among others. I want to know absolutely everything about this group now.
Margaret Atwood revisits The Handmaid’s Tale, which has remained in print since 1985.
Cory Doctorow’s essay about a vocabulary for speaking about the future is really interesting.
Are you watching Downton Abbey? Team Mary, right? And Edith; she is the worst. Over at The Millions, an essay about the literary pedigree of the show. Also, Shit the Dowager Countess Says and Downton Abbeyonce. You’re welcome.
Jennifer Weiner looked at the gender breakdown for reviews in the Times for 2011.
In The Atlantic, Caitlin Flanagan wrote a… curious essay about Joan Didion that included the assertion that to really love Didion, you have to be a woman. Like I said, curious.
We’ll get started with the Literary Magazine Club of discussion of Versal on January 9th. Details, here, if you’re playing along. If you want to write something about Versal, and I hope you do, please get in touch with me at roxane at htmlgiant.com. There’s a lot to talk about. For starters, what do you think about the cover?
Over at the Paris Review blog which is always entertaining, Jason Diamond writes about, among other things, “books as objects of design in clothing stores.”
The Millions has a useful list of books we can look forward to in 2012.
James Franco* sold his novel to Amazon. It’s a scandal! Or something! I mean, he’s what? Congratulations? I don’t know! It’s going to be called Actors Anonymous, and yeah…. I, there are no words. Actually, there are words. I am going to make a plot prediction. Young, “handsome” and intelligent actor named Fames Danco takes Hollywood by storm, makes quirky choices, struggles to remain authentic amidst the hypocrisy of Hollywood. After taking a starring role in a big budget movie, say, Mission Impossible 14, he joins a support group, tongue in cheek, to cope with being torn between fame and being true to himself. In the end, he finds a happy compromise by making great independent film choices that lead to many critical accolades and magazine covers. When he wins his Oscar, he thanks the Academy and the nameless members of Actors Anonymous. He also finds love. I will take bets on the accuracy of my prediction.
At Full Stop, Maud Newton takes on the situation in American writing as part of an ongoing series. As always, she is savvy and insightful.
The Rumpus is starting a print publication, where four times a month, or so, they will send you a letter. I’m excited for this. I may be writing a letter. I love getting postal mail. You should consider subscribing.
A League of Their Own is a classic sports film.
Michiko Kakatuni, Twitter, fake account, this is the future.
This movie poster really exists.
Small towns are losing their post offices and it is a real shame.
*Is anyone else disturbed by the Franco storyline on GH right now?
PressBooks, a new way to make an ePub and print-ready PDF of a manuscript, is open to the public. I haven’t used the service yet but it seems interesting, particular when so many small presses are trying to find affordable, uncomplicated ways to create e-books.
At The Millions, Edan Lepucki explains her reasons for not self-publishing. Both the essay and the comments are interesting.
This may be the best corporate apology ever.
I really enjoyed this interview with Dagoberto Gilb on the Zyzzyva blog (via Chris Arnold).
John Branch’s three-part series on the life and death of hockey player Derek Boogard is some of the finest long form journalism I’ve read in a while. Boogard’s story is at once infuriating, intriguing, and ultimately, heartbreaking. I learned that there are “enforcers” in hockey which makes the sport seem infinitely more menacing.
On the Paris Review blog, Avi Steinberg writes about the art of air travel crises.
A leaked memo from Hachette explains why publishers are still relevant.
Because it’s that time again. My personal list of favorite books from 2011, or some books I found to be particularly significant, insightful, brilliant, masterful, enjoyable, notable. In no particular order.
Compression & Purity – by Will Alexander (City Lights, 2011)
Another one from prolific surrealist poet Will Alexander.
“I am never given due as to sum or proportion / I am seen as the source of something leprous / as no longer the motive of who I was thought I was shaped to be.”
(enjoy the meme music after the jump)
A few weeks ago, Glen Duncan reviewed Colson Whitehead’s Zone One and he certainly got a vocal reaction, not necessarily because it was a less than glowing review but because of how he wrote the review, the strange and insulting analogies he made and so on. In his review he, among other things, attempts to predict what those ultimate arbiters of literary taste–Amazon.com reviewers–might have to say. As he discusses the literary nature of the novel, Duncan writes, “ We get, in short, an attempt to take the psychology of the premise seriously, to see if it makes a relevant shape.” He also revisits this idea of porn starts, throughout. Ooh! He said porn star in a literary review! Edgy! Today, he wrote a defense (???) of his review. He responded to the criticism of his criticism with more criticism! Meta! The follow up can be summarized thusly: You are all haters who didn’t understand what I wrote.
The Dzanc Sessions, coordinated by Anna Leigh Clark, look pretty interesting. Session One classes begin the week of October 16. Each class spans eight or ten weeks. The content of the class is the same regardless of the time span; it is merely accelerated in the eight-week version. Eight-week Session One classes run through the week of December 4. Ten-week classes run through the week of December 18. Session Two will begin the first week of January 2012 with another eclectic line-up of workshop opportunities. The price for workshops is $325 Cost includes a three-month membership to the Dzanc Books eBook Club. (Or, if you do not have an e-reader, you can select a free copy of any print title from Dzanc Books.) The bulk of your registration fee supports the non-profit work of Dzanc Books. A portion of it supports the work of your instructor and the administration of the Dzanc Sessions.
Anna also has a great roundup of literary things here.
Don’t forget that the new Literary Magazine Club discussion begins on November 1. You can find details on ordering the magazine we’ll be reading, Beecher’s here.
Emily Books. What do you guys think of the concept? I’ve talked about how we’re inundated by books these days and it’s hard to know what to read. I’ve also talked about Vouched Books, where Chris Newgent personally vouches for the books he sells and is both able and willing to talk about any title he caries (from a limited, curated selection). That intimacy makes it easy to get on board with taking a chance on writers we’re not familiar with and I’ve enjoyed learning about books I wouldn’t ordinarily come across at his table. Emily Books seems to do something similar. They feature one title a month, selling only e-books. There’s also a book club… if you live in NYC. A bookstore that only sells one book at any given time is intriguing. This has kind of been done before but I’m interested in future selections and seeing if other people adopt similar approaches to bookselling.
Does Timothy McSweeney have a white savior complex? I found this essay really thought provoking and it introduces interesting questions about cultural representation and the consequences of getting “it” wrong or right (via Jackson Nieuwland).
The Occupy Wall Street library has a blog worth checking out (via Bookslut).
Writer’s Relief is having a contest to support literary magazines.
The new TV season is kind of disappointing, right? I haven’t seen anything yet that I must watch.
The last two books I enjoyed: Blueprints for Building Better Girls by Elissa Schappell (not perfect but very immersive and more complex than I initially realized) and Reality Bites Back by Jennifer Pozner (very incisive). Don’t read that latter book unless you want your enjoyment of reality television to be ruined forever (I kid, mostly).
There is an encyclopedia of science fiction. I wonder what an encyclopedia of literary fiction would look like. Divorce: In literary parlance, the dissolution of a marriage as a narrative catalyst to explain character motivations such as drinking, promiscuity, bitterness, and tear-stained arguments. See also: the children.
Death x 3: Frances Bay, Curtis White on lit’s (lack of) future, & “Why Originality Isn’t All That Important”
2. My mentor Curtis White wrote something pretty pessimistic at Lapham’s Quarterly about the future of literature.
3. I wrote something a little more optimistic about why originality isn’t all that important.
2. Huffington Post is getting into the e-book business.
3. Chris Newgent asks poets to rise up.
4. You should read Vanessa Veselka’s Zazen. It’s a fierce book. I didn’t realize this when I bought it but you can read the entire book online, for free. You should also buy it though.
5. The Awl has a really interesting essay on cookbooks as literature.
6. Kenyon Review is offering fellowships that pay $32,500 to writers with an MFA or PhD looking for some time to write and grow as a teacher.
At the Los Angeles Review of Books, Emily Green writes about how her work was plagiarized.
Anna Clark wrote a lovely essay about writing, necessity, heat, performing the role of writer and more.
That essay was inspired by this week’s Dear Sugar which is also well worth the read. That column is always worth reading.
White Readers Meet Black Authors has a list of fall releases including Percival Everett.
Maud Newton offers a really interesting take on how DFW has stylistically influenced the way we argue on the Internet, and not for the better.
Fuckscapes by Sean Kilpatrick is available for pre-order from Blue Square Press.
My favorite new Tumblr is Fashion It So which takes a close look at the beautiful fashions of Star Trek: TNG.
I haven’t posted in like a really long time so I’m just going to bite on something that’s already been done but anyway here are all the books I’ve read so far in 2k11 with notes on each and yeah this is basically just my goodreads account aggregated
01/03/11 – The Birdwish - Anna Joy Springer
The story here is interesting, ostensibly borrowing from the genre of YA, casting a pigeon who can speak to a young girl and who is a detective in the lead role. The opening is intense, lovely, and the drawings fit the aesthetic it seems, but honestly aren’t my “cup of tea” so to speak. This are dissolved at the end but it’s kind of quietly explosive in a way that’s nice
01/03/11 – The Book of Frank - CA Conrad
Everyone on the internet is right, this is perfect. It’s incredible, it seems so easy while it does amazing things. To be read again and again.
01/04/11 – Robert Morris & Angst - Nena Tsouti-Schillinger
I’m not sure I quite managed to pay attention to some underlying thesis running inside of this book tying Morris’s work to the ideas of angst, but I did enjoy it (it being the book) as an overview of Morris’s career, and a more in-depth look at it than anything I’d read on Morris before.
01/05/11 – Frowns Need Friends Too - Sam Pink
So, while reading this I enjoyed the non-sequitors, the desolation present in the humor, the sort of throwing together of disparate concepts into events. After reading this, I had a weird consideration: I had been reading the entire book with the “I” being Sam Pink himself, I was considering that based on a sort of position I assume regarding a particular brand of contemporary indie-lit that I feel like Pink fits in with. But, I thought, what if reading the “I” as Sam Pink was actually dumb, and that the “I” was an entirely fictional character, and Pink’s book was crafting a catalog of said character’s thoughts, and that this was, perhaps, this invented characters journal. There’s an utter cohesion about it that makes me think the latter idea is far more exciting, but I guess, ultimately, it wouldn’t change the text itself, huh.
01/17/11 – A Drifting Life - Yoshihiro Tatsumi
I had been hesitant to read this, mostly only because it’s really fucking long, but it turns out that the art is great & the story, despite being, basically, banal biography, is actually really engaging (like, to the point where I ended up reading the entire book in only two sittings). Tatsumi’s narrative covers a realm of manga that I have to admit to being neither that aware of nor that interested in, but what was here was fascinating.
90 more books or something after the cut