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Showing posts from April, 2005

Lenz: A Stream of Dreamfulness

I had not heard of Archipelago Books until recently I received their editions of Lenz by Georg Buchner and Three Generations by Yom Sang-seop. Archipelago is devoted to literature in translation, a noble and valuable devotion, because so much writing from throughout the past and present still waits to be brought to the United States.

Three Generations, in a translation from the Korean by Yu Young-nan, will have to wait a while for comment from me, because it's a nearly-500-page family saga, and so I'm going to save it for this summer, when I have time to savor it. (And savor not just the words and story, because Archipelago's books are beautiful artifacts, with high-quality paper and binding, and tasteful design.)

Lenz, though, is a work I have already read in a couple of different translations, and it's short, so I was able to read the entire book in a few days. This edition is not just another translation of Buchner's remarkable and innovative short story, but i…

Spoiled Again!

After I wrote aboutThe Assassination of Richard Nixon recently, BionOc took me to task for revealing major plot points of the movie without providing a spoiler warning. Our discussion is there in the comments on the post, but I wanted to elevate it to its own post, because I think the various viewpoints are important ones to some of what I've been trying to accomplish with The Mumpsimus.

There are lot of reasons to be in favor of spoiler warnings. Particularly for reviewers of mystery novels. There are very few reasons that any rational human being would be against some form of spoiler warning. In fact, I've even used them occasionally myself, as BionOc pointed out.

But in general I dislike spoiler warnings. I have a few reasons for this odd belief, but the important one is that spoiler warnings raise plot above other elements of a narrative. I like plot, and tend even to prefer stories that contain some sort of plot to stories that don't, but it's rarely what I re…

Manifesto, Manifestas, Manifestat

Jeff VanderMeer is compiling a list of science fiction/fantasy manifestos at his discussion board. It's becoming a nice collection of weird proclamations, a one-stop resource for rants and raves.

The one that was new to me and that I was grateful to find out about (from L. Timmel Duchamp) was Jeanne Gomoll's "An Open Letter to Joanna Russ". Be sure to read it if you haven't -- it's one of those pieces that, regardless of whether you fully agree with it, deserves to be read and thought about.

(The SF world certainly isn't the only one that seems to spawn a new manifesto every week -- for some background on the artistic tendency to get all manifesto on the world, check out Manifesto: A Century of Isms. If you're a political revolutionary looking for a cheap collection of subversive material [and who isn't, really?], I know of nothing better than the Dover Thrift Edition of The Communist Manifesto and Other Revolutionary Writings -- it gives you Mar…

The Assassination of Richard Nixon

Tonight's shiny happy movie was The Assassination of Richard Nixon, starring Sean Penn, directed by Niels Mueller. Though it sounds from the title like an alternate history story, it is actually a claustrophobic character study of a man who in 1974 tried to hijack a plane and fly it into the White House. He killed a security guard and a co-pilot before being wounded by a police officer and then killing himself.

If you've seen the Stephen Sondheim/John Weidman musical Assassins, you've heard of Sam Byck, but other than that, his name has not been much remembered by history, even to the extent that John Hinckley (who tried to kill Reagan) is remembered. In Assassins, Byck doesn't have a song of his own, but he gets a couple of monologues that are some of the best non-musical writing in any play Sondheim has been involved with. (In the script, Weidman even gets to quote his collaborator in an odd and morbid way: Byck sent audio taped confessions to, among others, Leona…

Three Short Novels from Eastern Europe

Novels that hover between 100 and 200 pages get a friendly first response from me, because I'm not all that fast a reader and most days are pretty busy, so fiction that is longer than a short story but not long enough to take me a week or more to read feels like a gift.

Recently, I read three such books: Black Blossom by Boban Knezevic (published by Prime), Chinese Letter by Svetislav Basara, and Natural Novel by Georgi Gospodinov (both published by Dalkey Archive Press). Knezevic and Basara are both Serbian, Gospodinov is Bulgarian.

I should have read Black Blossom first instead of last of the three, because then I would have approached it on its own terms and not tried to fit it into some stupid stereotype of what I thought Eastern European literature should be. Both Chinese Letter and Natural Novel are playfully metafictional books, novels that are very aware that they are novels, and so when I started reading Black Blossom, which begins with Chapter 9 (working back to 8, then …

Returning

Having accomplished most of what I wanted to accomplish by hiding in an undisclosed location and ignoring a lot of email, I will now resume regular posting here. ("Didn't even notice you were gone..." somebody shouts from the back of the room.)

I actually had time to watch a couple movies while I was out. I saw Faraway, So Close!, which I'd been meaning to see for years, since it's a sequel to one of my favorite films, Wings of Desire. It's interesting enough, but it's certainly not Wings of Desire (or another Wim Wenders film that I love perhaps even more, Paris, Texas). Also saw Porco Rosso, the only Miyazaki movie available in the U.S. that I hadn't yet seen. (It just came out on DVD this year.) I hadn't been sure if I would like it, since I'd heard it's quite different and less epic than some of Miyazaki's other films, but I ended up enjoying it quite a bit.

Speaking of Miyazaki, I've just begun to read the book his latest …

Into Seclusion

I'm struggling to finish up a couple of projects and to finish reading for The Fountain Award, so I'm going to force myself not to write here at The Mumpsimus for at least the rest of the week, maybe longer. Once I get some work done, I should be able to post more regularly, rather than the on-again-off-again that it's been while I've been trying (awkwardly) to juggle everything.

The Fourth Circle at the LitBlog Co-op

I just put up my first post at the LitBlog Co-Op, about the book I would have nominated had I been on the nominating committee this quarter: The Fourth Circle by Zoran Zivkovic. We were trying to decide what sorts of things to post between now and the May 15 announcement of the book we'll be discussing for the first quarter, and somebody suggested that those of us who didn't get to nominate say a few words about books we would have, had we had the opportunity. Sounded like fun. Mark Sarvas made his non-nomination earlier in the week, and we're likely to see a few new posts each day from now on. So if you're looking for diverse recommendations of good recent fiction to read, head over to the Co-Op.

In the Palace of Repose by Holly Phillips

Though a couple months ago I did an interview with Holly Phillips, I haven't had a chance to write elsewhere about In the Palace of Repose, her first short story collection.

A few things make this book marvelous and rare. First off, it is a collection of stories that are mostly original to it -- only two appeared in magazines before the book was released. Second, it is a varied collection and yet a cohesive one, with stories that explore a variety of subjects in different modes and tones, but with enough overlap that the book seems to come from a single sensibiliity, a single vision of the multiple possibilities of life and imagination. There are stories that are fairly traditional fantasy in the way the background world is imagined (the title story, for instance); stories that are traditional horror tales in the props they use and the sense of impending doom that leaks between the lines ("One of the Hungry Ones"); stories that mix elements of fantasy, horror, and scie…

POD in the Amazon

The news that Amazon.com has bought BookSurge, a print-on-demand publisher, has caused a lot of chatter about what Amazon is up to. Are they trying to take over the world? Are they trying to make all publisher obsolete? Are UFOs involved?

I'm not going to get into the debate, because I'm not particularly informed in one way or another, but I do want to remind everyone about Sean Wallace's article about POD for Locus Online from last year, because Sean has utilized POD to bring us all sorts of marvelous things from Prime Books, where he is Grand Poobah, and Wildside, where he is an editor. (Wildside has been a real leader in using POD to bring out-of-print books, and even magazines, back into print.)

To see how POD affected a real live actual book, see the second part of Jeff VanderMeer's chronicle of the making of the great City of Saints and Madmen, a book that stretched the limits of POD technology and ended up being a triumph of design.

For a view related to the cu…

"Fictional World": Coming Soon to a TV Near You!

Nick Mamatas has the best response I've yet seen to the frightening-but-somehow-amusing idea of "America's Book Millionaire" (impossible to excerpt, so go read it in full).

It made me think that a good "reality TV" show would not be one along these lines, but rather one that took a bunch of writers of vastly different sensibilities and temperaments and stuck them in a little house together. Call it "Fictional World".

For instance, maybe they could all go live with J.D. Salinger. Wouldn't that be fun? Who would be the contestants? J.D. Salinger, of course, since he's already there. And Stephen King. And Harold Bloom. And Stanley Crouch and Dale Peck for a little lighthearted slapping. Can't have only men, though. Camille Paglia's always fun to hang out with, and I'm sure she'd get along well with all the guys in the house. Maybe add Anne Rice for a fun dynamic, Toni Morrison for a mix of popularity and intellect, and…

Dead Poetries

The echoes, implications, silences, odd turns, and discordant harmonies of the following items together seem worth at least a moment of attention, though I may just be tired:After college, many English majors stop reading contemporary poetry. Why not? They become involved in journalism or scholarship, essay writing or editing, brokerage or social work; they backslide from the undergraduate Church of Poetry. Years later, glancing belatedly at the poetic scene, they tell us that poetry is dead. They left poetry; therefore they blame poetry for leaving them. Really, they lament their own aging. Don't we all? But some of us do not blame the current poets.

--Donald Hall, "Death to the Death of Poetry"


Since the embarrassing disaster of the attempts at quashing Pound & the Beats in the 1950s, the [School of Quietude] has largely employed benign neglect toward the new poetries that have emerged since then -- viz., Joris'Celan. Like all hegemons, a major part of it…

From the Bowels of Australian Pimps

Ben Peek just sent me a note to let me know that he's got a bunch of interviews with Australian science fiction and fantasy writers, editors, etc. running this week at his LiveJournal. He's calling it "Pimp Your Shit Week", apparently in an attempt to garner attention from Australia's noted clans of coprophiliacs. He explains in his note: "Basically, for the entire week, people from the Australian scene are doing tiny interviews to pimp what work they've got out. It's a small scene, so I figured a new approach was needed to keep it alive and getting new readers, which it kind of needs." (Apparently, though Harlan Ellison has often told writers "Don't be a whore!" it's okay to be a pimp. Huh. All about power relations, I guess. Or, as Foucault once said, "Language is the first and last structure of madness, and red lightbulbs are just so passe.")

People involved in Ben's interviews so far include Anna Tambour

Argosy Anew

I just received a subscription copy of the third issue of Argosy, a creature I thought to be imaginary for a while. There are days when it's fun to be a pessimist, because you can be pleasantly surprised when good things happen, and the survival of Argosy is a good thing, indeed, because it's a truly unique publication, one of the only places on Earth where a wide variety of fictions can coexist comfortably. It's also beautifully designed and fun to flip through because of the high quality of the paper and printing.

Because of various problems with distribution, Argosy is now billing itself more as a quarterly anthology than as a magazine, which means that the ads have gone away and the price has gone up a bit (making a subscription all the more valuable). The third issue contains eight stories, an essay by William F. Nolan about the death or undeath of John Dillinger, and the first part of John Grant's novel The Dragons of Manhattan. The latter is in place of the n…

The Russian Connection

The New York Times has an article that misses a major connection between two "hyperliterary" bands: Russia and Tolstoy.

The bands are The Decemberists and Okkervil River. The title of the first echoes the Decembrist Revolt of 1825, an event that, among other things, was the original inspiration for Tolstoy's War and Peace.

The members of Okkervil River admit that their name comes not only from the river outside St. Petersburg, but also from the magnificent story of that title in On the Golden Porch by Tatyana Tolstaya, the great-grandniece of Leo Tolstoy. (I adore Tolstaya's stories -- they are strange, enigmatic, elegant, haunting. Her second collection was Sleepwalker in a Fog, and she has also published a novel, The Slynx, and a collection of nonfiction, Pushkin's Children.)

Why did the Times choose these two bands, and then not mention their Russian connection? Commie conspiracy? Conservative coincidence? You decide...

("But the members of Okkervil Rive…

It's the Ticket Prices, Stupids

I've spent most of my life involved in some sort of theatrical activity or another. Mostly community, high school, and college plays, but I was a Dramatic Writing major at NYU's Tisch School of the Arts for three years. Three good years, exciting years, but also deeply disillusioning years -- I learned that professional theatre in the U.S. is made by a small group of people for a smaller group of rich people. I decided that the American theatre had made itself irrelevant, and that its future in this country was to be as a minor form of tourist entertainment. (Thus, the investments of Disney in Times Square made sense.) I continue find the world of professional theatre more nauseating than appealing, and to find the sorts of theatre happening in small towns and high schools and colleges to be more inviting, varied, and creative than the professional forms.

One of the biggest influences on my view of what theatre is and can be has been Peter Brook, particularly his book The …

Co-opted

There's a new phenomenon in the blogosphere: The LitBlog Co-op, where a large group of people who blog about books and literary stuff will work together to create a sort of online Oprah's Book Club. Without Oprah.

The roster of contributors is impressive -- some of the most interesting and influential bloggers out there. Plus me.

I've been too busy this week to fully investigate what I've gotten myself into by agreeing to do this, but once I know, I'll let you know. Right now I just know that we're going to be voting on what book to read first, and will announce that by May 15.

I was a miserable failure as a member of the Gaddis Drinking Club, but we'll see how I do here. (As long as they don't choose a dense, allusive, brilliant 900-page novel, I should be fine. Much as I love Gaddis, there just isn't time these days for that sort of reading.)

Meanwhile, you should definitely check out The Valve, another new group blog, this one of academic blogge…

Sighted (and Cited) at Other Sites

Sonya Taaffe has been interviewed at Bookslut by Geoffrey H. Goodwin. I can make the claim to having been the first to interview Sonya, but I'm glad I'm not the last, because she is overflowing with interesting things to say. For instance:Ordinary life should not sacrifice its detail just because the man eating an avocado-and-sprouts sandwich in the kitchen happens to be a unicorn, nor should the strangeness of his presence be softened just because he likes vegetarian sandwiches and reads Rilke. (Ein jeder Engel ist schrecklich.) The otherworldly made totally mundane is just as bad as a fantasy where no one ever has dirt under their nails.Every vegetarian unicorn eating sandwiches is terrifying...

Magma Poetry offers an amusing, contentious list from Roddy Lumsden of Mistakes Poets Make, including:Ending. A. Poem. Like. This. Is. Often. Crap.The new Internet Review of Science Fiction has been posted. Just when you thought it was safe to read it (because I haven't …

Event Horizon

One of the premiere SF webzines was Event Horizon, an early publisher of stories by the likes of Kelly Link, Jeffrey Ford, and Severna Park, as well as fiction by long-established pros like Gardner Dozois and Barry Malzberg. The site also featured nonfiction by Lucius Shepard, Jack Womack, Douglas Winter, and other names you might recognize.

Thanks to a comment in the previous post from Ellen Datlow, the editor of Event Horizon, I discovered that even though the old web address no longer works, the content is still entirely available via the Wayback Machine.

I had no luck getting past the first page with the Safari browser on a Mac, but after patient assurances from Ellen that, indeed, the entire content was really there, I switched over to Firefox, and, lo and behold, there it was.

A good way to see immediately what joys are available is through the site map. For reference, here are all the archived pages.

Wow.

The Locus Portal in the Wayback Machine

I don't know about you, but I rely on the Locus links portal when wandering around the web, and I've relied on it for years now. Of course, all of Locus Online is great, and Mark Kelly does a phenomenal job keeping it updated and interesting, but the links portal is the page that gets the most consistent use from me.

I noticed today, and quite happily, that the list of weblogs on the portal nearly takes up an entire column now. It's an eclectic and ecumenical group, and impressive no matter how you slice and dice it. Within the last year, the list has seemed to grow with marvelous speed and fecundity. This made me wonder what it looked like in the good ol' days (which, in internet time, is a couple years ago).

Thanks to the ever-handy Internet Wayback Machine, we can see. On February 26, 2000, the earliest date for the portal page in the Wayback Machine, there were eight weblogs listed. I couldn't get Honeyguide to load, but all of the other original weblogs di…

Who Says Blogging is for Egotists?

EWN: What innovative idea have you employed, or do you plan on using, at your site? i.e. - author keys, guest bloggers, guest reviewers, dueling viewpoints, updates :) etc.

Matthew: I link obsessively to anything I've written that appears elsewhere on the web, and there's nobody else foolish enough to do that.Yes, that's me you see there as part of the Emerging Writers' Forum interview with various litbloggers. It's a fun group, including the masterminds behind some blogs I read avidly and some I haven't encountered before. Reading over my responses now, I see I was, by the second half, in a rather weird mood.

Here's another link: my latest Strange Horizons column, this one about the first James Tiptree, Jr. story I read. The column bloomed from some material I'd cut out of my SF Site Tiptree review.

Notes from a Writer: Matt Hughes

If you read F&SF you know Matthew Hughes as the author of the witty and popular Henghis Hapthorn stories. You might also know Matt for his novels Fools Errant, Fool Me Twice, and Black Brillion, books that seem like a mix of Jonathan Swift, P.G. Wodehouse, and Jack Vance.

What you may not know, though, is that Matt is also a crime writer, having had a crime novel published in his home country of Canada and had short fiction in a variety of places, including Alfred Hitchcock's Mystery Magazine.

I had no idea of Matt's background in crime until he mentioned it in passing. Always curious what draws a writer to one type of fiction or another, I asked Matt how he went from crime to SF, and I got the following response...



A PORTRAIT OF THE AUTHOR AS PEARL PUREHEART
by Matthew Hughes

I admire those people who can make a plan and follow it. You know the kind: they proceed from high school to university to an entry job then ever onward and upward, each succeeding notch on the resume…

A New Tone

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I've decided that the tone at this weblog is too serious and stuffy, thus making it unlikely to communicate with an audience that matters. Dan Green recently told me in an email that he's hoping to change the tone of his site, keeping his posts no longer than 100 words and using no words with more than 4.5 characters and no compound sentences, because he hopes to start a campaign against elitism and for chick lit. This caused me to re-evaluate my own purposes and goals, and so here follows the first of my new entries....


w00t w00t!!!!! hey everybuddy i got a email from a REAL LIVE WRITER TODAY and i just totally was like I LOVE YOU!!!!!!!! and i wish i could tell u who it wuz but it's totally TOP SECRET!!!!!!!!!!!!

lou anders has a INTERVIEW WITH CHINA MIEVILLE and china looks in the illo like vin diesel **sigh!!!** (i got the link from lou anders blog which is new n is just da bomb.

so have you seen all the new info at locus about chucky stross and flamewars and anthologi…

New SF Site, Emerald City, and Rain Taxi

If you're looking for lots of reviews, now is your chance: new issues of SF Site, Emerald City, and Rain Taxi's online edition are alive and kicking.

The new SF Site includes a fairly long essay I wrote about two books from Tachyon Publications -- The James Tiptree Award Anthology 1 and Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, a reissue of the excellent collection of Tiptree's stories. The latter is one of the few truly essential collections of SF short fiction.