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Showing posts from May, 2006

A Certainty

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Here I am inclined to fight windmills, because I cannot yet say the thing I really want to say.

--Ludwig Wittgenstein
On Certainty
(via Laird Hunt)

Yannick Murphy at the LBC

Yannick Murphy week is coming to an end over at the LitBlog Co-op. I adored Murphy's novel Here They Come, and wrote twoposts about it. There's a bunch of other stuff there, too, including lots of discussion of the book, of writing, and of bending spoons.

If you want a sample of some of Murphy's writing, you could do worse than to read her story "Walls".

Regendered

Before it won a special Tiptree Award and was noted by judge Matt Ruff, I hadn't encountered Regender, which rearranges the gender identifying words on websites. It can be a bit addicting...

For instance, while it's amusing to regender things like Google News and Arts & Letters Daily, the challenge is to get more and more creative: A regendered Playboy interview with Camille Paglia -- now that's fun! Even more illuminating is a regendered homepage for NARTH, the National Association for the Research & Therapy of Homosexuality, a group determined to cure gays of their degeneracy. Note the subtly revealing effect of regendering a NARTH paper like "Adolescent Homosexuality".

Regendering one's own site can be fun, too, although I was slightly disconcerted to see myself become renamed Mary Cheney. (Just yesterday I said to someone, "I should become a lesbian," but I didn't mean that one!)

Otherwhats & Elsethings

Gilbert Sorrentino (1929-2006)

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The new names filled him with a profound anxiety; he felt that if he could understand the reasons why the objects evoked names -- or, as he had begun to think of them, captions -- which refused to denote, explain, or illuminate them, which, in fact, disintegrated in them, he might then be able to understand the fearsome emptiness of his childhood as well as the subtly disfigured adult life to which it had so relentlessly led. But he could never understand, and his attempts led him to more convoluted experiences, as on the night when a couple of aspirins became pubic hair. One morning, staring at the closed lids of his eyes, he conceived of himself as absolutely nothing, and a great silence, which turned to death, enveloped him.

--Under the Shadow


It is only by persistence that the imagination is freed in order that it may create anything; the Splendide-Hotel, for example. This hotel was invented by Arthur Rimbaud who later went to live there. I have it on good authority that there a…

Last Notes from BEA

I suspect people who weren't there find hearing about BookExpo America to be the blogging equivalent of looking through somebody's thousand vacation snapshots, or listening to someone relate how exciting some cocktail party somewhere was, so I'll let this be the final notes from BEA. I didn't meet any big celebrities, didn't go to many panels, didn't take notes about anything other than that it would be fun to get a bunch of people to write stories beginning with the word "renowned" (a la, I'm told, The DaVinci Code). But, for those of you inexplicably addicted to BEA posts, here are some, as we say, thangs:Thursday I got to hang out with my best friend from NYU years, whom I hadn't seen since her wedding back in November. We went to see Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill at Arena Stage and got to sit in the cabaret seats right in front of the stage, which was fun. Some lovely singing of songs I love, though the acting seemed stiff. …

BEA: The Loot

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I made it back safe and sound from BookExpo America, despite gigantic lines at the airport and baggage overloaded with books. I didn't end up taking many photos, and am having technical issues with the camera I borrowed, but I do hope soon to be able at least to post a picture of Jeremy Lassen in his zoot suit.

For now, I'll just note some of the books I brought home:I picked up some Night Shade books I didn't have -- Bold as Love by Gwyneth Jones, Trujillo by Lucius Shepard, Maul by Tricia Sullivan, and London Revenant by Conrad Williams. (I already had a galley of one of the hottest books Night Shade offered at BEA, Ray Manzarek's Snake Moon, about which we kept saying to people, "Yes, that's Ray Manzarek of The Doors." One of the other popular books, Imaro by Charles Saunders, I thought I already had, but got home to discover I don't. Ahhh well, it's not like I don't have more than enough to read already...)

I don't know much about yo…

BEA Friday

Well, it turns out that there is no free wi-fi access in the exhibition hall of BookExpo America, so I wasn't able to do any liveblogging of the event, which is probably for the best, because it's so gigantic and overwhelming that it's unlikely I would say anything other than, "Wow. Lots of people. Millions of books. Wow. Lots. Huh. Wow."

I'm here with Jeremy Lassen of Nightshade Books, helping him convince passersby that trading their contact info for a free copy of a Nightshade book is a good deal. This has not been difficult, because the current crop of Nightshade books are beautifully designed and produced, making them quite attractive even in the sea of books that is BEA.

We've been up since 6.30am and attended both the LitBlog Co-Op party and the Small Beer Press etc. party tonight, so I am utterly and completely exhausted, but I did want to note here that I've met a bunch of my fellow bloggers for the first time -- Gwenda Bond, Mark Sarvas

Here Comes the Flood

Thanks to the folks who've asked if I have drowned in the record-breaking flooding that's going on all around northern New England right now. There are supposedly more than 600 roads closed in New Hampshire, some dams are failing, and all the towns around me have very flooded areas. My own particular postage-stamp of land is about 30 feet above the nearest river, so I should be fine. Here's an article about the evacuation of one of the towns that borders where I live.

And yes, it's still raining.

BEA + LBC = Party!

If you're in Washington, D.C. on Friday night, regardless of whether you're there for BookExpo America, stop by the LitBlog Co-op party from 6-8pm at The Big Hunt, 1345 Connecticut Avenue NW.

I'm also hoping to at least show up briefly at the Public Space/Small Beer Press/Melville House/Bomb Magazine party that night from 6.30-9pm in The Gold Room of The Eighteenth Street Lounge, 1212 18th Street NW.

Things are likely to be quiet around here until Friday, when (providing there's a wireless connection), I'll be providing reports from the Nightshade Books table at BEA.

Twilight of the Endings

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From a review by Jonathan Dee in the June Harper's of Deborah Eisenberg's new story collection, Twilight of the Superheroes:"Sometimes, when I write a story," Eisenberg once said, "what I want the story to do is to convey a very specific and usually very peculiar feeling. And the narrative is the conveyance. That is, in some cases, I'm not terribly interested in the narrative itself; I've simply chosen that particular narrative because of what I think it can do." The notion of narrative not as something to be worked out on its own terms but as a "conveyance" of a particular feeling is a technique that could prove disastrously precious in the hands of a lesser writer, and it goes a long way toward explaining one of the most idiosyncratic aspects of her work: the fact that her endings tend not to end much of anything at all. They seem simultaneously well honed and arbitrary. "Some Other, Better Otto" ends, quite hauntingly, on…

Sane Sex Living

A friend just gave me a 1922 edition of Sane Sex Life and Sane Sex Living by H.W. Long. At first, he thought it said, "Same Sex Life and Same Sex Living", so he thought I needed it and picked it up at a junk shop, but then got it home and realized his misreading. Nonetheless, he was certain I could put it to good use, at least for research of some sort.

One interesting thing about the book is that it was published by Eugenics Publishing Company, Inc. in New York, a company I have not been able to find any information about, but which seems to have published quite a variety of books up through at least the 1940s, though a quick Google search didn't turn up the full texts of any other than the one I already have. (Though there are some interesting items in Project Gutenberg's file of books with the same Library of Congress category.)

I'm currently working on a paper about sexology and popular culture in the 1920s and 1950s, so could go on and on about this entire …

F&SF

Gordon van Gelder is offering a free copy of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction to any bloggers willing to write about it. I already subscribe, but, like Jeff Ford and Jonathan Strahan and others, I like the magazine and have been reading it for a long time. It's certainly my favorite of the digest-sized genre magazines, and the interior design is tasteful enough that I don't find it painful to read the stories housed within. Gordon strives to present a range of fiction, from the weirdly new to the traditionally familiar.

Here's my offer: I have a box with 23 issues of F&SF that, for one reason or another, I have multiple copies of. These range from the February 1961 issue with Brian Aldiss's "Hothouse" in it to the April 1965 with Isaac Asimov's "Eyes do More than See" to the November 1987 issue with James Tiptree, Jr.'s "In Midst of Life" (and the announcement of Tiptree's death), Ursula LeGuin's "B…

Elsewheres

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The new issue of Strange Horizons has been posted, and includes a new story by Gavin J. Grant, a poem by Sherree Renee Thomas, some reviews, and perhaps the strangest (or most pretentious) column I've yet written.

James Patrick Kelly's Hugo-nominated novella Burn is now available as a free download in all sorts of different electronic formats. Thoreau would not be amused.

Business Week on small press publishing.

Linguistics and science fiction in The Embedding by Ian Watson.

"Permeable Membrane" by Adrienne Rich.

The reckless art of book blurbing.

A conversation with D.J. Waldie, who wrote a marvelous book I read a few years ago about suburbs, Holy Land.

Manholes of Japan.

An interview with George Saunders (whose writing seems to be becoming a rather stale and predictable parody of itself, but his interviews remain interesting).

Sonya Taaffe compares James Bond and Gor.

"And what have we here? A boy, or a girl?" (The discussion in the comments is particularly intere…

The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh

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And I have sometimes wondered if it wouldn't make better sense to teach budding playwrights, instead of the usual Dramatic Technique, two rules grounded in human nature: if you wish to attract the audience's attention, be violent; if you wish to hold it, be violent again. It is true that bad plays are founded on such principles, but it is not true that good plays are written by defying them.

--Eric Bentley, The Life of the Drama (1964)The Irish playwright Martin McDonagh has sometimes been compared to Quentin Tarantino, but the comparison seems superficial to me, because though McDonagh's writing can be brutal and grand guignol, sometimes in the same jokey or fatalistic way as Tarantino, McDonagh's dramatic sense is different -- less an echo of low-budget movies than a continuation of a line of violence going back to Euripedes and Seneca (perhaps the exemplar of this style is Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus, where a certain glee accompanies the gore).

McDonagh'…

Collaborating with a Ford

Over at the LBC's Jeffrey Ford Week, a ritual fellating praising of Jeff Ford has all and sundry turning up. I thought about posting some tales about Jeff over there -- the story of how I once took him to a vegan restaurant and tried to convert him to Calvinist fruitarianism, for instance -- but decided that I'd rather just leave some notes here. Because I know the real Jeffrey Ford...

[insert shimmering dreamy fog here]

This is a story about a story Jeff and I wrote together and have sold to John Klima at Electric Velocipede. This story became proof that though Jeff is the multiple-award-winning-author-of-blah-blah-blah, if he writes something with me, it will still get rejected by everybody. Even Klima didn't want to take it, until Jeff challenged him to a mudwrestling duel unless he published it.

And so we begin to see glimmers of The Real Ford. I, though, had seen these glimmers earlier.

Here's how the collaboration came about... Once upon a time, Jeff decide…

BEA

It's final: I'm going to be at BookExpo America (May 19-21) in Washington, D.C., sitting at the Nightshade Books table with that indomitable enemy of the state Jeremy Lassen.

So if you, too, will be at BEA, stop by the Nightshade table and say hi. If you're not going to be there, I'll do my best to report lots of gossip and trade secrets so at the next cocktail party you go to, you can at least pretend you were there.

On SF by Thomas M. Disch

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I spent a few hours tonight reading through On SF, a grab-bag collection of reviews and essays by Thomas M. Disch that I picked up at a library a couple weeks ago but hadn't yet had a chance to look at.

Anyone familiar with Disch's previous study of science fiction, The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of, is unlikely to be surprised by such pronouncements as "science fiction is a branch of children's literature", but it does require a certain amount of masochism on the part of anyone who has spent a lot of time reading SF to read Disch's critical writing with pleasure, because unless you enjoy seeing someone beat up myths and idols you may not have even realized you felt protective toward, this book is likely to make you grit your teeth and howl at least once every five pages or so.

On SF seems to me to be a better book than I remember The Dreams Our Stuff is Made Of being (I don't have a copy at hand), because Disch's strengths are more those of an epigrammat…

Out There

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Things that are not here, but out there:The latest issue of SF Site has been posted and includes my review of The Brief History of the Dead by Kevin Brockmeier.

Jed Hartman explains infodumps and saves humanity.

An interview with Jose Saramago. (via The Literary Saloon)

Heinrich von Kleist: "On the Puppet Theatre".

Franz Kafka on "Kleist's youthful letters".

John Scalzi: "10 Things Teenage Writers Should Know About Writing".

Unbridled Books is offering an $8 online subscription to a new novel by Marc Estrin, author of Insect Dreams: The Half Life of Gregor Samsa and The Education of Arnold Hitler. (For $15.95 you get the serialization plus a signed copy of the finished book.)

Jonathan Strahan on Peter S. Beagle's new story, "Salt Wine". (Note: I'll have an interview with Beagle in the issue of Fantasy Magazine the story appears in.)

Nathan Ballingrud: "A Brief Visit to New Orleans".

"The Saigon of Marguerite Duras". (vi…

Bowes: The Millionth Writer

I seem to be in a congratulatory mood these days, perhaps because there are so many things to congratulate people about. I'm particularly happy today to offer congratulations to Rick Bowes, whose beautiful and deeply moving story "There's a Hole in the City" has won the storySouth 2006 Million Writers Award for Fiction.