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Showing posts from October, 2006

ManBug Week Begins

Things are likely to be slow here this week, as I will be the ringleader of ManBug Week at the LitBlog Co-op. There should be lots of provocative discussion of literature, sex, and entomology...

Kenya

And now for some big news, or at least something that counts as big news around here: I'm going to a writing workshop/conference in Kenya from December 14-28. It's run by the Summer Literary Seminars program, about which I've heard good things from a friend who went to their St. Petersburg program. I entered the fiction contest, and though I wasn't one of the top 3 finalists (alas), I did manage to do well enough to get a significant reduction in tuition, and so it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass up.

I've an interest in African literary culture and have been trying for a few years to remedy my considerable ignorance of both African literature and history; this program seems like a good way to continue that exploration.

With luck, I'll be able to do a bit of blogging from Kenya, but I won't know until I get there what time and resources will allow. Between now and then I hope to write a bit about some African fiction, and I'm sure that after…

Elsewheres

A Curious Singularity: A group blog about short stories. (via Out of the Woods Now)
Mark Thwaite's "Brief Thoughts on To the Lighthouse".
A description of "Writing the Unthinkable", a workshop with Lynda Barry. (via Gwenda Bond)
A comparison of William Gass and E.L. Doctorow by Garth Risk Hallberg.
William Gibson's typewriter.
Classic Film Preview on Fritz Lang.
Chris Barzak on M. Rickert and on failures of imagination.
Invented Usage on postmodernism and jargon.
25 Years of Weird Al: "Somehow, at an age when Weird Al's early pop muses have died or retired or been charged with pedophilia, he still has something to tell us about youth culture."
Hauntology.
Lauren Cerand on bloggers and publicists.
A plea for science fiction that "opens up the world rather than closing it down".
A conversation about "the best science book ever written".
Paul McAuley:There’s no one right way to write a novel. There’s no one correct style, or tense, or subj…

The Limits of Rhetorical Negativity

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Today's happy thought comes to us via Ben Marcus, writing about Thomas Bernhard in the November Harper's:Bernhard's language strained the limits of rhetorical negativity: if his prose were any more anguished, it would simply transmit as moaning and wailing. Building interest in the grief experienced by people who look at the world and find it unbearable was a dark art of Bernhard's, and his characters do not resist the long walk to death's door but run to it and claw at the surface, begging for entry. After all, says Strauch, the agonized painter in Bernhard's first novel, Frost, "there is an obligation towards the depth of one's own inner abyss," even if meeting that obligation destroys you.Note that in addition to Frost being released in the U.S. for the first time, Bernhard's Gargoyles and The Loser have also been re-released in paperback.

Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation; vol. 1: The Pox Party by M.T. Anderson

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My experiment in reading YA novels did not begin particularly well. I got 60 pages into A Drowned Maiden's Hair and found myself resenting the book because it was such a slog to get through, and any time I feel this way, I know that a combination of the book's qualities and my mood are leading toward nothing good for either of us, and so I stopped. It may be a perfectly good book for kids, but it was definitely not a perfectly good book for me.

I then looked at The Black Tattoo, but it didn't really catch my attention, so I didn't read far, and instead moved on to other books. I may return to it, I may not.

Then Meghan McCarron borrowed the advanced copy of Octavian Nothing that I've had since Kelly Link and Gwenda Bond insisted I pick it up at BEA, and she insisted I would enjoy it.

Meghan was right. The book fully titled The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing, Traitor to the Nation; vol. 1: The Pox Party is among the best books I've read in the last few…

People Collection

Because there is very little I would not do at the request of Clare Dudman, I shall continue the following meme-questionnaire-thing, which she tagged me for...

This seems to have originated here and requires the responder to list 5 personal qualities not generally known to readers of the blog it's being posted on. The idea, apparently, is to collect things that would be interesting attributes to draw on for characters in fiction.

Here's a required paragraph:PLEASE LEAVE THE FOLLOWING IN ALL ‘PEOPLE COLLECTION’ POSTS

Remember that it isn’t always the sensational stuff that writers are looking for, it can just as easily be something that you take for granted like having raised twins or knowing how to grow beetroot. Mind you, if you know how to fly a helicopter or have worked as a film extra, do feel free to let the rest of us know about it :-)We are all, apparently, interesting in our particularities.

Since I don't tend to put too much personal stuff up here, this should be fai…

Manbug

Things are a-hoppin' at the LBC, with Jeff Bryant proclaiming his passion for the book he nominated for this term, Sideshow by Sidney Thompson and me singing the praises of my nominee, Manbug by George K. Ilsley. Of course, Sam Savage's Firmin was the book that got the most votes, and it's a fun book well worth your attention, but don't neglect the other two, either.

(And no, even though Jeff, Ed, and I are known in certain circles as The Boyz of the LBC, we did not agree beforehand only to choose books with one-word titles written by men.)

Lit'ry Magazines

My favorite benefit so far of being series editor for the upcoming Best American Fantasy is getting to read things I wouldn't otherwise know about or have ready access to, including a wide variety of magazines generally considered part of the literary mainstream. Inspired by thesetwo posts from other bloggers, I thought I'd highlight a few that I have been looking through recently -- not an exhaustive list by any means, but rather a little sampling.

Agni is a magazine I used to subscribe to, but because I try to scatter my subscriptions, I let it go, and now I regret it. I haven't read a recent issue, but I have enjoyed some of the web-only content they've posted, and I expect the journal itself is as varied and high-quality as I always found it to be. I know I'll spend a day at the library catching up with this year's batch of fiction, in case there's something appropriate for BAF, and I look forward to it.

Gargoyle is a genuine find, a journal I hadn'…

Reds

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Thursday will mark the 86th anniversary of John Reed's death, and today Paramount released Warren Beatty's romantic epic about Reed, Reds, for the first time on DVD in honor of the film's 25th anniversary.

I will not pretend that Reds is a Great Film, much as it wants to be, nor will I proclaim it a brilliant work of political popular art. But I love watching it, because part of what it does is what the best romantic epics do -- it presents us with a world that seems like a wonderful place to live and characters who are tremendously passionate, idealistic, and much larger than any life I, at least, know. It makes art and politics seem like things worth living for. It is, in many ways, then, a movie designed to appeal to adolescents. I adored it when I was 16. After watching Reds then I went out and found books about Reed, about Emma Goldman, about Eugene O'Neill (whose birthday, by the way, was yesterday), about socialism and Bolshevism and all the wonderful and te…

Things

There are things in the world. Some of them include:Firmin, the Fall 2006 LitBlog Co-op Read This! choice. Much more to come in the next few weeks about Firmin and the other two nominees.

I got my contributor's copies of One-Story today. That means they should be heading out to subscribers this week...

Electric Velocipede #11 is now ready for pre-order. This issue includes my collaboration with Jeff Ford, "Quitting Dreams", as well as some things you might actually enjoy reading.

Theodora Goss has posted the TOC to Interfictions, the anthology of "interstitial" stories being published by Small Beer Press, edited by Dora and Delia Sherman. It's an interesting mix of authors, and particularly nice to see some translated fiction there.

It's Fall Fund Drive time at Strange Horizons. At SH the staff are all volunteers, but the writers get paid. Go give them money so no more editors get arrested for armed robbery of NPR stations.

The Lack of Conclusion

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From "Kierkegaard and the Novel" by Gabriel Josipovici, in The Singer on the Shore: Essays 1991-2004:As Kierkegaard puts it: all we ever have in life are gossip and rumours; our world is the world of the newspaper and the barber-shop, it is not the world of Jesus and his Apostles. A person seduced by our culture's admiration for art into becoming a writer embarks on a more dangerous enterprise than he or she may realise. If they embark on a work of fiction they imply that they have escaped the world of rumour, that instead of living horizontally, as it were, they live vertically, in touch with some transcendental source of authority. And we who read them do so because we feel that this must indeed be the case. But the closer they get to the end the clearer it becomes that there is no vertical connection. And should they try to bring their work to a close the contradiction between what it implies and the truth of the matter will become quite obvious. The only way fo…

Soundtracking

One of my favorite things to do when directing a play is to put together the soundtrack, and sometimes when writing I will try to manipulate how I write by what music I select for the background (or don't select -- silence has its own effect).

Thus, I was immediately interested in the new "soundtrack to your life" meme that Gwenda Bond and Elizabeth Bear did. For fun, I put iTunes on shuffle and looked at what the songs would correspond to. I didn't intend originally to write about it here, but the songs that came up created a strange sort of narrative, with some spooky syncronicity, and I immediately began trying to think of a story to build from most of them. I'll probably try to write the story, so am recording here the initial impulse...

IF YOUR LIFE WAS A MOVIE, WHAT WOULD THE SOUNDTRACK BE?
So, here's how it works:
1. Open your library (iTunes, Winamp, Media Player, iPod, etc)
2. Put it on shuffle
3. Press play
4. For every question, type the song that'…

Rain Taxi Online

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The latest issue of Rain Taxi Online has been posted, and it includes my review of the anthology Transgender Rights, a book anyone interested in matters of gender and sexuality is likely to find interesting and provocative.

The issue is full of good things, including an interview with Raymond Federman and some wonderful letters between poets.

I was particularly taken by the letter from John Yau, a poet whose work fascinates me. The whole letter -- the whole exchange with Anselm Berrigan, really -- is worth reading, but this especially stuck in my head:I don't think I began writing poetry out of a desire to talk to someone, to send (one could say) a love poem to either a specific or general you, but out of the recognition that there was no one to talk to.

"Created He Them" by Alice Eleanor Jones

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I've begun reading (more or less randomly) around in Justine Larbalestier's anthology of stories and criticism, Daughters of Earth: Feminist Science Fiction in the Twentieth Century. It's a rich and rewarding book, particularly for anyone interested in literary history and gender studies, because the format of having each story followed by an in-depth essay about the story's era, author, and perspective allows a more vivid view than would a book that was either primarily an anthology of fiction or primarily an anthology of criticism.

Of the stories that I have read so far and was previously unfamiliar with, Alice Eleanor Jones's "Created He Them" is the one that has remained in my mind. Lisa Yaszek's essay on "1950s SF, the Offbeat Romance Story, and the Case of Alice Eleanor Jones" provides fascinating background on Jones, a writer who mostly wrote stories for the "slicks" such as Ladies Home Journal and Redbook, but who also had…

All the Links that Are My Life

A Conversation with Katherine Min

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Katherine Min's first novel, Secondhand World is being released by Knopf in the U.S. today. I cannot pretend to lack bias about this book -- I've known Katherine and her family for ten years now, we spend time together whenever we can, and the day she sold Secondhand World to Knopf I bounced around with joy and happiness for hours. It is a lovely book, beautifully written, sensitive and disturbing.

Katherine's short stories have been published in many of the major literary magazines in the U.S., and her story "Courting a Monk" won a Pushcart Prize and was reprinted in The Pushcart Book of Short Stories. Secondhand World has been chosen as the October pick of the Redbook Book Club, and Katherine is about to begin a book tour that will take her to various cities throughout the U.S. If you're immediately curious to hear her read and discuss her work, you can listen to a recent interview at New Hampshire Public Radio.

We could have done this interview when we we…

The Second Annual Mumpsimus "Cup of Coffee for a Genius" Award

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Last year I inaugurated the Mumpsimus "Cup of Coffee for a Genius" Award, bestowing it upon the great and glorious Rudi Dornemann. It is time now, once again, to send a hand-made mug and $5 to a writer of exceptional talent who has not received nearly enough attention.

Before announcing this year's winner, let's review the guidelines and process:

The Award
Winners of the award are chosen by a top-secret selection committee composed entirely of myself. The committee utilizes a specific set of vague criteria to determine a recipient. The recipient mustbe an exceptionally creative individual, preferably a writer, preferably one whose work I've read
show significant promise for interesting future work, preferably writingThe award provides a qualified individual selected by the committee with the following prize:One $5 bill and
A coffee mug made by Rick Elkin of Rising Moon Studios, a member of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen (who these days mostly makes jewelry, bu…