Apparently, Saudi Arabia has an American Idol-style poetry contest show. (!!!!.) In this clip at Jezebel, which aired on state-run TV, a competitor named Hissa Hilal recited a 15-verse poem criticizing–among other things–clerics who issue fatwas, and suicide bombers. The clip, though untranslated and unsubtitled, is worth watching. The audience applauds occasionally, and she goes on to win the round. And now she’s getting death threats, but I guess that’s just to be expected. The Abu Dhabi National has a decent-size article on her. In English, duh.
The Rumpus has a long piece on Darius Rucker’s weird second career as a country singer. Also, Funny Women #20: Holiday with Communists. Also^2, The Rumpus will be at the Highline Ballroom in NYC on 4/6, featuring Sam Lipsyte, Colson Whitehead, Michael Showalter, Alina Simone, & more. You’ll be hearing from us about this again, but consider this the early warning system.
Vanity Fair presents something they call The Bookopticon, a kind of half-brilliant half-idiotic look at “the incestuous web of the publishing world.” The “interactive field guide illustrates how 10 young authors with potential best-sellers coming out this spring and summer fit into the firmament.” The first thing the chart reveals, before you even start clicking around, is a rather generous conception of the word “young”, which I think here means “under 40.” Now, I’m sure I’ll appreciate that generosity in 10 years’ time, but right now I’m going to go call BS (except on Simon Rich and Nick McDonell, who are both 26) because even the NBCC and Granta manage to cut their “young whippersnapper” lists off at 35 (though sometimes Granta cheats–but they also don’t know what the word “novelist” means; so let’s just figure they’re doing the best they can). ANYway. The chart is worth checking out and clicking around on, though a few key pieces of information are missing. For example, it’d be interesting to know how many of these people have the same agent, or who their agents are. Second, Vanity Fair fails to state the obvious, which is to identify themselves as participant observers, whose creation and presentation of the chart will almost certainly affect the thing they’re measuring/predicting (and hey- good for these guys!). There ought to be a VF node on the chart itself, to which all ten writers are connected. For those of you playing along at home, here’s how to figure out where you fit in: Start by ignoring everything but the Big 10 Names. Give yourself two points for each person you know personally. Give yourself one point for each person who is known personally by one or more people that you know, and with whom you could reasonably expect to be put in touch by the end of the business day (assuming of course you had some business to conduct, which you probably don’t–but if you did). Give yourself half a point for each person you do not know and could not reasonably be put in touch with today, but whose name rings a bell to you. Deduct a point for each person you have never even heard of. Also, if any person who got you two points is linked to Norman Podhoretz, you lose ten points. Now spend the rest of the day trying to figure out what those points translate into. I bet you can’t. (Also, I scored a 4 1/2.)
And finally, one more piece of useful advice from our friends in Dentonville, this thorough and practical post from Lux Alptraum at the very NSFW Fleshbot explains “How to be a dirty perv in the digital age (and not get caught).” The first answer, obviously, is dress like the Saudi poet whenever you’re going on Chatroulette, but the other stuff might be good to know, too.
[NOTE: Guess which are which.]
“The Bubble and The Globe” – Joshua Clover on John Ashbery’s Planisphere as a chronicle of the financial collapse at The Nation.
Ashbery is heroically free of the world-was-better-when-my-body-was-younger piffle that mars some of his well-known contemporaries. Instead we have the sense of the poet (and us with him) being always inside time, suspended within it as within some queer medium (an entirely proprietary substance, one part limestone and two parts prosecco). There is no lyrical leap to ecstasy, to someplace beyond the capacious Ashberian land. Time itself is the worldly country, and there is no other.
Part two of Melissa Broder’s two-part series on twitter as a strange attractor in the writer’s life is now live. In Part 1 she spoke to poets, including Ron Silliman, Amy King, Tao Lin, and Reb Livingston. In Part 1.5 she spoke at some length with Brandon Scott Gorell. Now, in Part 2, she speaks to prose-writers, Kevin Sampsell, Dara Horn, Fiona Maazel, our own Blake Butler and Matthew Simmons, and yours truly.
Fiona Maazel: Twitter? What the hell is that? I, Neanderthal.
“Carded” – William Deresiewicz amply disgusted with the packaging of Nabokov’s Original of Laura at The New Republic.
The cards are perforated and, as Dmitri says in a note, “can be removed and rearranged, as the author likely did when he was writing the novel.” I’ll get back to the second half of that statement, a claim both strategic and semi-dubious (not to mention ungrammatical). The first breaks new ground in editorial chutzpah, inviting us to play a kind of Nabokov: Rock Band–the novel as theme park. One can only imagine what dear old dad–the ultimate artistic control freak, not to mention one of the all-time snobs–would have thought of the idea of letting his readers re-arrange his scraps and chapters at will.
And Boing Boing introduces us to Jake Adelstein, the American Jew who relocated to Japan and became the toughest reporter on the yakuza beat. Adelstein, author of Tokyo Vice, will be collaborating with Boing Boing over the next two months, to bring out a series of exclusive stories about the yakuza. Which we’ll have our eye on, no doubt, but in the meantime they kick things off with an interview.
Do you worry about your family?
I have a guarantee from someone up high in the Yamaguchi-gumi that they won’t touch my family. Their word is pretty solid. It’s a gentleman’s agreement that they’ll only kill me, which makes me feel better.
At The Fanzine, Jeff Johnson considers Ben Lerner’s Mean Free Path.
Dennis Cooper hosts the official online launch of Mark Gluth’s The Late Works of Margaret Kroftis. I have yet to hear anything but the best about this book.
Because we love Roger Ebert now, we are interested in his review of Valentine’s Day.
“Valentine’s Day” is being marketed as a Date Movie. I think it’s more of a First-Date Movie. If your date likes it, do not date that person again. And if you like it, there may not be a second date.
Also, did you know that Ebert wrote a book called Your Movie Sucks ?
William Deresiewicz on Tolstoy at The Nation. (I’ve become such a committed Deresiewicz reader I can now type his last name without having to check the spelling first–I check after, and I’m usually right. This goes for you, too, Moe Tkacik.)
NYTea Time: Dominique Browning is quite taken with Cathleen Schine’s The Three Weissmanns of Westport. She locates the book in the updated-Austen trend, but hastens to identify a crucial distinguishing feature: “The strange thing about the Jane brigade is that most of its practitioners have raided only her plots, apparently not quite up to the task of honoring the essence of Austen. But Schine’s homage has it all: stinging social satire, mordant wit, delicate charm, lilting language and cosseting materialistic detail.” Hey, there’s a new Peter Handke book! And Adam Haslett wrote a novel! About the financial crisis! Michiko Kakutani did not like Union Atlantic–-but that was on a Monday; Liesl Schillinger likes it quite a lot today. What else? Jon Caramanica looks at a couple of rock & roll books; Catherine Rampell on the interesting-looking academic-ish-seeming, Capitalism and the Jews by Jerry Z. Muller; Dahlia Lithwick on death row lawyer David R. Dow’s memoir, Autobiography of an Execution; and Todd Pruzan makes my weekend.