Showing posts from September, 2006

"The Art of Comedy"

My odd and illustrated story "The Art of Comedy" has now been posted at Web Conjunctions . (This is the story from which I read at BookPeople in Austin in March during the AWP Conference.)

In Which I Blather

One Story has now posted an excerpt from my upcoming story with them and an interview , which I mention in case any of you are curious or really really really bored.

"Descending" by Thomas M. Disch

I haven't read as much of the short fiction of Thomas M. Disch as I should. I have read a couple of his novels and a lot of his poetry, and have admired and enjoyed much of it. Yet I've only read parts of 334 , a collection of linked stories some people consider his masterpiece, and at most two or three other stories. Now that I have read "Descending" , one of his earliest published stories, I am amazed that I haven't paid more attention to Disch before. It is good, perhaps, to discover writers with large bodies of wonderful work that is unfamiliar to you, because it means there are tremendous riches to be encountered, but there is also a certain sadness, even an anger: How could I have been so stupid as not to appreciate this work until now? James Schoffstall has written perceptively about this story already, and so I don't feel compelled to revisit its themes and subject matter, because why add to what has already been done so well? What I'd like to

Quote for the Day

"Before I worked here, I used to sometimes wonder to myself, 'Why doesn't Matt update his blog more often?'" -- Meghan McCarron , in the midst of an averagely busy day at the school where we work


Joshua Corey on Terrence Malick's Days of Heaven . Charles Bernstein: "Bob Dylan and the Adolescent Sublime" . Alex Ross on Bob Dylan's new album . James Marcus on Bob Dylan , with quotes from Jonathan Lethem's interview with Dylan for Rolling Stone . Nick Mamatas's response to this MemeTherapy question is my favorite response to anything I've read there. The Life of the Dead . Alan DeNiro: "On Writing a Novel Inefficiently" and "World-Building in a Post-Geographic Age" . Diagram reviews Alan DeNiro . How to increase your chances of getting into The Best American Poetry The Penultimate Emerald City . LeGuin reviews Atwood . Dzanc Books . Greil Marcus on David Lynch . Rick Bowes . Should we say something about every story? Should we lead a double life? On Symbolism . Cocteau's Beauty & the Beast . Breathless . Bud Parr: "On Amateur Book Reviewing" . Scott Esposito: "Style Over Substance" . Language Log: &

A Conversation with Rodger Turner

Rodger Turner is the editor of SF Site , one of the most prominent online sources for reviews and information about the world of science fiction and fantasy. In the past, SF Site has been nominated for a Hugo and a World Fantasy Award, and is this year once again nominated for a World Fantasy Award. I've been writing off and on for SF Site for a few years now, and it has been a great pleasure to work with Rodger and the rest of the SF Site staff. For a while now, I've wanted to know more about the site, its origins and operations, and so I asked Rodger if he would be willing to talk about it all, and he was. How did SF Site begin? What were you hoping for the site? In 1996, John O'Neill put together a proposal for a science fiction and fantasy (both in print and media formats) web site that he presented to me and others. All of us met and kicked around a number of ideas on how the proposal could be brought to fruition. We worked on a number of choices and, after some a

"Let's have light blue fog"

Trolleys passed Simeonov's window, once upon a time clanging their bells and swinging the hanging loops that resembled stirrups -- Simeonov kept thinking that the horses were hidden up in the ceiling, like portraits of trolley ancestors taken up to the attic; but the bells grew still, and now all he heard was the rattle, clickety-clack and squeals on the turns, and at last the red-sided cars with wooden benches died, and the new cars were rounded, noiseless, hissing at stops, and you could sit, plopping down on the soft seat that gasped and gave up the ghost beneath you, and ride off into the blue yonder to the last stop, beckoning with its name: Okkervil River . But Simeonov had never gone there. It was the end of the world and there was nothing there for him, but that wasn't it, really: without seeing or knowing that distant, almost non-Leningrad river, he could imagine it in any way he chose: a murky greenish flow, for instance, with a slow green sun murkily floating in it

The Exquisite by Laird Hunt

For a few days now, I've been wondering how to write about Laird Hunt's new novel, The Exquisite . It's a marvelous book in many ways, and I enjoyed reading it, but I did not read it carefully -- I consumed it in chunks of spare time, which were sometimes fleeting, and so my reading happened at times when I was hurried or tired, sometimes when I should have been doing other things, sometimes when I was distracted. The situation of the reader can affect how a book is read profoundly, and most of the time when I write about what I've read I try to stay aware of my own situation and how that situation affected my response to the text. Sometimes, as in this case, the situation was as central to what I got from the book as anything the words themselves offered. First off, then, I should say that The Exquisite is a book that held my attention at a time when many other things were vying for it. Because my attention could never be solely on the book, much of what the word

Today's Song

I needed something different to listen to, and so picked up the Johnny Depp/Gore Verbinski/Hal Wilmer-produced anthology Rogue's Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs, and Chanteys , which is often odd in interesting ways. (I just wish it included Tom Waits, since his latest albums have been put out by the same label, Anti . But since his 3-CD Orphans is coming out in November, I ain't complainin' too mightily...) One of the least odd and most affecting songs on the album is Richard Thompson's version of "Mingulay Boat Song" (MP3) , which I have found myself listening to repeatedly today.

Out of the Everywhere

Faust in Prague Richard Schickel on Orson Welles: Delusions of Genius Charles Baxter on The Third Policeman : The Funniest, and Scariest, Book Ever Written. Paul Kincaid reviews Tamar Yellin Nobel winner Wislawa Szymborska offers writing advice , including: "'Why' is the most important word in this planet’s language, and probably in that of other galaxies as well." K. Silem Mohammad: Notes on (Dis)quietude and the "Post-Avant" The brothers Thoreau and A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers Lorrie Moore on Eudora Welty Jack Spicer and Richard Brautigan Rethinking the Fall of Easter Island September 11 at the Movies M. John Harrison on J.G. Ballard's Kingdom Come Slipstream does not exist. Justine Larbalestier: How to Write a Novel Glen Hirshberg: On Being Read Tom Waits Analysis

Michael Palmer Wins Wallace Stevens

Write this. We have burned all their villages Write this. We have burned all the villages and the people in them Write this. We have adopted their customs and their manner of dress Write this. A word may be shaped like a bed, a basket of tears or an X --Michael Palmer, from "Sun" As proof that major awards can still offer an occasional pleasant surprise, the Wallace Stevens Award , with a $100,000 prize, is this year going to Michael Palmer . I met Palmer at Bread Loaf in the summer of 2000. I'd never heard of him before that. Early in the conference, we ended up sitting beside each other during a reading, and I had no idea he was one of the faculty members, because he seemed like a relatively ordinary human being, certainly not a poet, maybe somebody from town who had come to visit. We got to talking, and he asked what I was there for, and I said fiction, and he said, "That's the stuff that goes all the way over to the right margin, isn't it?" I ch

Delany in The Minnesota Review

The website of The Minnesota Review has posted a new interview with Samuel R. Delany by Josh Lukin, who has also written a new essay about Delany . Minnesota Review is a journal that is quite hospitable to critical theory, so the topics and vocabulary are frequently abstruse, but it's a valuable conversation. I was interested to see that Delany engages with a few ideas from the Theory's Empire symposium that The Valve conducted last year, which leads him to one of the more concise and lucid summations I can remember reading of the difficulties of communication: The words strike your ear, where, within your brain, the discourses that you inhabit guide them to the meanings you have associated with them. These meanings are thus called up in your brain. But my meanings never go directly into your brain and yours never go directly into mine. Communication, on that level, is simply an illusion, fostered by cultural and discursive similarities and congruences. Within the discour

A Prolegomenon to the Reading of Some Books Labeled YA

Sometime in the coming months, I hope to read four new novels that are, as far as I can tell, being marketed as Young Adult Literature. This is purely for my own pleasure and edification, because YA is a realm a lot of people have been praising as full of interesting interests, and at the very least I always need some good books to recommend to students who say they don't like reading. (My recommendation of War and Peace has not been well received.) There has been a lot of talk about YA and genres and ghettos and such at The Elegant Variation , and this made me remember my pledge to read some YA this year. Unfortunately, I've pledged to read all sorts of things this year, and have also just returned to work full-time after a year's sabbatical, and have a masters thesis that needs some major progress to happen to it soon, soon, soon, and-- But, I am persistent and try to do what I say I'll do, and I really do want to read these books, because I think it will be fun,