August 2009

Two from the Faster Times–NOWNOWNOWNOWNOW


“Seeing Through Masks: What Jonathan Franzen Gets Wrong about Writing the Other” by Darin Strauss.

Using the novelists’ secret formula — one part research, three parts empathy — I hope I’ve made my Darlene a credible veteran of the Black experience. But you never know; I’ve been faulted for even trying. (My 2000 book Chang & Eng was about the famous “Siamese Twins,” and some reviewers questioned my right even to attempt a novel about Asians.)

Also, FT’s main books guy–as well as regular Giant commenter–Lincoln Michel presents a compilation of literary humor from The Onion. Look for such classics as “Did I Say That, or Did John Updike?”; “Man Reading Pynchon on Bus Takes Pains to Make Cover Visible”; and my personal favorite–so good I can’t stop myself from linking it directly, even though that fucks Lincoln over, so please do not click the following link but instead go and read Lincoln’s post–“Lovecraftian School Board Member Wants Madness Added to Curriculum.”

Double also, how did we miss that two weeks ago Lincoln posted about the re-emergence of a lost George Saunders story?(!?!?!) Holy smokes. We’ll be keeping a closer eye on these guys, from here on out.

Web Hype / 2 Comments
August 27th, 2009 / 9:46 am

The Guardian’s book blog calls us “Generation Zzz”

Notes on Tom Stoppard’s Travesties

As Ryan pointed out recently, the school year is now officially underway. In recognition, I thought I’d share with you my first set of notes.

As some of you know, I always take notes while I’m reading and when I’m finished with a text I like to sit down and free-write my initial ideas. I’ve shared my notes with Blake (after reading Ever), with Shane (after reading Light Boxes), and a few other people.  They are by no means conclusive or fancy or anything.  They just sort of serve to help me puzzle things out, and in this case help prepare me for class discussion.

Anyway, one of my first assignments (in my “Theorizing Modernism” class) was to read Tom Stoppard’s play Travesties

In case you’re unfamiliar with it, here’s a crib from the back cover:

Travesties was born out of Stoppard’s noting that in 1917 three of the twentiieth centruy’s most crucial revolutionararies – James Joyce, the Dadaist founder Tristan Tzara, and V.I. Lenin – were all living in Zurich.

From there hilarity ensues.

If you’re interested, you can see my notes after the break…


Uncategorized / 6 Comments
August 26th, 2009 / 10:27 pm

Steve Albini Bucks You (Me?) Up About Your (My?) Life Choices


I traded books with the hot girl who works at the coffee shop across from my house. She’s got my Collected Jack Spicer and I’ve got her copy of the pictured-above: We Owe You Nothing: Punk Planet, the Collected Interviews. (Though not the “complete” interviews. This book came out from Akashic in 2001.) So far my favorite thing in it is this interview that Steve Albini gave to Luis Illades of Pansy Division. The whole thing’s worth reading, but here’s a power quote for you (me? us?).

At this point, being a musician as well as an engineer and a producer, it seems as though you’re pretty satisfied with where you’re at and what you’ve done. Are there goals you still have that you want to meet?

[…] The way I operate now–and this is what’s bred contentment in me–is that I know how I’m going to behave. I know how I’m going to interact with other people and weigh the importance of the things in my life and the things I have to do for other people. I don’t know the results; they’re going to be a surprise. That’s true of almost everything in my life. I know how I’m going to live. I don’t know what my life will entail.

Power Quote / 11 Comments
August 26th, 2009 / 3:50 pm

Quentin Tarantino’s Shitty Taste

Weakass list of the famed ex-movie rental clerk director’s top 20 favorite films since ’92 (via Bright Stupid Confetti). Unbreakable? Speed? Really? Knew he was kinda dumb, but good lord.

BTW, who’s seen Inglorious Basterds? Thoughts?

Anybody else want to post a better top 20 since ’92?

Web Hype / 82 Comments
August 26th, 2009 / 11:07 am

what are some criteria you use to evaluate a piece of writing?  or is there a way to avoid doing this altogether that i can’t figure out?  is it specific to each piece of writing or are there some things you feel apply across works?

An excellent and ever-expanding archive of interviews about favorite books and etc., with a wide variety of mostly small press writers at Ravi Mangla’s Recommended Reading, including Mary Miller, Scott Garson, Amelia Gray, Kevin Wilson, Joanna Scott, several HTMLGiant peeps, and countless others.

“Such things have been revealed to me that what I have written seems but straw.”

Just got the galleys of my story collection, Everything Here is the Best Thing Ever, in the mail today!(!!!!) It’s massively exciting, and you can see pictures of them here. Meanwhile, all art everywhere–past, present and forthcoming–is instantly defeated by this thing’s being-in-the-world:


(As always, bonus points for anyone who can source the title quote without Googling.)

Random / 32 Comments
August 25th, 2009 / 5:04 pm

PH MADORE asked me to post this for him:


if you pledge to write ten (or more) articles over ten (or more) weeks at, i’ll have a free copy of LITTLE WHITE POETRY JOURNAL sent to you. you have to be one of the first five people to pledge.

if you write a decently legit blog/tumblr/whatever post describing how you wish you had a copy in your hands and how much you enjoyed the free online archives, and you are one of the first three people to do this, i will send you a free copy.

there is way more information about little white poetry journal seven at you can also e-mail jac jemc and ask her about it, she edited it after all. i’m just the chump clearing the way for it to happen.

submissions for the eighth issue can be sent to, i guess.

Rate Your Writers’ Teaching Ability

ratemyprofessorsWell my semester has just begun, which means I’m getting emails from students trying to add my class. Many of these students and others probably check out RateMyProfessors as they try to make decisions regarding in what section they’ll enroll.

We all know how RateMyProfessors works: students anonymously rate their university instructors on a five point scale, and then type up a few sentences of comments, which can often be unintentionally hilarious. Also, anonymous raters assign chili peppers to their instructors to denote ‘hotness,’ so there’s that weird physical evaluation too.

What we might not know is that some of the very authors we’ve read, such as Evenson, Lutz, and so on, appear on RateMyProfessors, having taught at one point or another in their ‘literary career.’ I’ve gathered a handful here (as many as I could think to look for) and inserted some smarmy comments; if you know of others to link to, do so in the thread and I’ll try to add them to the post.

(Is it ‘okay’ to post these? Am I breaking some code of conduct here? I have no idea. Apologies in advance.)

What I do know is I love to gossip.

Read and click through the excerpts/list after the break.


Author News / 43 Comments
August 25th, 2009 / 2:23 pm