Showing posts from April, 2007

Juniper Fest

This weekend, Meghan McCarron and I went to the Juniper Festival in Amherst, Massachusetts to see Alan DeNiro read, and to hang out with him, Gavin Grant and Kelly Link of Small Beer Press , and Holly and Theo Black . Alan read from "Home of The" from Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead , and the audience was amused and enthusiastic, as was only proper. There was even cotton candy . More readings need cotton candy. The Juniper Festival is not something I was aware of before we visited, but it's a great event, and next year if I'm in the area, I hope to attend more of the readings and panel discussions, because Amherst is fun town and the mix of writers and readers is eclectic. (And Amherst Books is a marvelous bookstore!) Lucy Corin particularly grabbed my attention with her reading from Everyday Psychokillers: A History for Girls , a novel I now hope to read very soon. (Yes, I know I say that about a lot of books. And I mean it. I'm full of hope.

Sometimes in April

I've found hardly any reviews of Sometimes in April , a film about the Rwandan genocide written and directed by Raoul Peck and released by HBO in 2005, and it was purely by luck that I stumbled upon it through Netflix . There are aesthetic problems with the movie -- clunky dialogue, wooden acting, convoluted narrative -- that make it less satisfying than Hotel Rwanda , but it's still better than much of what fills the screens of the world, and it has a number of virtues that a good and fluent film like Hotel Rwanda lacks, as well as virtues not available through a documentary. First, it's important to note that none of the flaws of Sometimes in April carry through the entire 140 minutes of the movie. Most of the major actors have at least a few moments of sensitive, subtle acting, and Idris Elba , Pamela Nomvete , Carole Karemera in particular all seemed to navigate between the moments of awkward writing and the re-enactment of horrific events with more grace than

Delany: The Movie

Through a fortuitous bit of luck, I'm going to be in Manhattan very briefly next week, but with enough time to see The Polymath, or The Life and Opinions of Samuel R. Delany, Gentleman at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday night. I learned of the film's existence on the same day I was invited to a job interview in the city, and so I'm counting this as a good sign of some sort. The film is listed as a "must-see" by Time Out New York , and The New Yorker gave it a very nice capsule review .

Back in the Saddle

First, thank you to everybody who sent kind wishes after my last post. We had a memorial service here at school, and are now moving forward. In the past two weeks, I've traveled up and down the east coast looking for work, carrying a sign reading: Will Teach for Food . The process continues (and my anxiety grows), but I'm closer to having a couple of prospects now than I was a few weeks ago. It's very strange to think that three months from now I will be living and working somewhere entirely different, somewhere that I don't yet know, but it's also exciting. I haven't quite known how to get back to writing here, because I've been so scattered psychologically and geographically recently that I have few coherent thoughts. But what's a blog for if not for incoherent thoughts, eh? And what else is a blog for if not shameless self-promotion -- thus, my first incoherent thoughts are about new books that contain my occasional bits of fiction, such as The F

Moments of Silence

Things will be quiet here for a week or so, and I'm not very good right now with answering emails, etc. We had a tragedy last night at the school where I work, and so most of my energy for the moment is going to my colleagues and students. We're getting through okay, but it's not easy, because we're a small, intimate community, and we lost a student suddenly and unpredictably, and there was nothing anybody could do. My thoughts are also with the family and friends of Jamie Bishop and all the victims at Virginia Tech -- I don't know the Bishops, but have friends who do, and it makes the awful loss there even more immediate for me. Words fail.

LBC Sez, "Read Whilst Skinny Dipping!"

It's time again for another pick from the LitBlog Co-op, and this time it's Alan DeNiro's Skinny-Dipping in the Lake of the Dead ! I kept quiet during deliberations, because Alan's a friend and I could easily be accused of favoritism, but I'm thrilled the book came out as the top pick. Even if I hated Alan, I'd still like the book. And I don't hate Alan. In fact, Alan and The Mumpsimus have a long history, as he was one of the first writers I ever interviewed here. Later, he participated in the speculative poetry symposium I put together for Strange Horizons. (Nowadays, I hear, he lives in a cardboard box in Montana, where he survives on fried boll weevils and wombat blood. Let no-one suggest that association with this weblog has deleterious effects!) During Skinny-Dipping week at the LBC, we will be discussing the book as a whole, individual stories, and other topics, and I am frantically searching for the pictures of Alan in a bikini that I have

BAF's Literary Lions

Galleycat reports that five writers have been nominated by the New York Public Library for the Young Lions Fiction Award, and I was thrilled to see that three of the writers are people whose work will be appearing in our inaugural volume of Best American Fantasy : Chris Adrian, Kevin Brockmeier, and Tony D'Souza. I'm still reading Chris Adrian's amazing novel The Children's Hospital (and likely will be for a while), I reviewed Kevin Brockmeier's The Brief History of the Dead for SF Site, and I just bought a copy of Tony D'Souza's Whiteman , which was edited by the great and glorious Tina Pohlman . In my copious free time , I hope eventually to start chronicling the awards and accomplishments of all of our BAF contributors at the blog , but for now little blips of congratulations are going to have to suffice. So congratulations to Tony, Kevin, and Chris -- and may you all win!

Mr. Waggish on Mr. Bolaño

Just after writing my little love letter to Roberto Bolaño , I noticed that Mr. Waggish has read and thought about The Savage Detectives (and confesses he is less love-struck than I, which is, it seems to me, a healthy thing). I'd meant to link to Waggish's previous consideration of By Night in Chile , but in my haste forgot to, and so now I correct that here. (It was a particularly negligent oversight, because I think it was that post that first got me interested in seeking out Bolaño's work.)

Bolaño, Mi Amor

I started reading Roberto Bolaño's work last year, beginning with his short story collection Last Evenings on Earth , and it was love at first sight. Actually, no. I think I had to read a couple of stories before I was entranced -- I remember reading the first story and wondering what all the fuss over Bolaño was about, but by the end of the second I was developing a crush, and by the end of the third I was head-over-heels. From there, it was on to Distant Star and By Night in Chile -- the last a bittersweet experience, because some bastard had written in the Dartmouth Library copy, defacing it with underlining and marginal notes, inserting their own dull presence between me and the words of mi novio. (I have since gotten a fresh copy of my own, but still, the pain lingers.) (I've not yet read Amulet , but soon, soon... ) (I've been reading the translations, though I've glanced at the Spanish-language originals. My Spanish is, unfortunately, at best functional


After hearing on the radio this morning that Kurt Vonnegut had died, I changed my plans for what I would do in classes. Instead of doing whatever I had planned, I read my students Vonnegut's story "Harrison Bergeron", not because it's my favorite, but because it's short enough to read aloud in class and because it was one of the first of his that I read. Some of my students had read one or two of Vonnegut's novels. Others had never heard of him. To everybody who passed by the open door of the room, I shouted, "Kurt Vonnegut died!" More than one person, shocked by my exclamation, stopped in to say a few words about one or another of Vonnegut's books that had meant something to them. The senior member of our English department told me stories of being in a class Vonnegut taught at the Iowa Writers' Workshop many years ago. "A helluva good guy," he said. For me, a love of Vonnegut began with Cat's Cradle , then was reignited

Interfictions Available Now!

I just noticed that Interfictions , edited by Delia Sherman and Theodora Goss, and containing my story "A Map of the Everywhere" (as well as a bunch of others that are actually worth reading), is now in stock at Amazon , Powells , Barnes & Noble , and -- for those of you outside the U.S. -- The Book Depository (free worldwide [ mostly ] shipping). I haven't had a chance to read much in the book yet, but what I have read is marvelous, and the breadth and diversity of the authors is a particular strength of the anthology. And the cover. Love the cover.

Easter Sunday PKD-in-the-Wild Sighting

Roberto Bolaño, from Distant Star : Bibiano's investigations in the United States were not, however, limited to the world of board games. I heard from a friend (though I don't know if the story is true) that Bibiano contacted a member of the Philip K. Dick Society in Glen Ellen, California, who was, for want of a better expression, a collector of literary curiosities. Apparently Bibiano entered into correspondence with this individual, who specialized in "secret messages in literature, painting, theatre, and cinema," and told him the story of Carlos Wieder. ... He had a wide range of friends: detectives, activists fighting for the rights of minority groups, feminists marooned in west coast motels, directors and producers who would never get a film off the ground and led lives as reckless and solitary as his own. The members of the Philip K. Dick Society, enthusiastic but discreet people as a rule, regarded him as a madman, but harmless and basically a good guy, a

The Davis/Lethem Letters

Ray Davis has posted his exchange of emails with Jonathan Lethem about Lethem's 1998 Voice Literary Supplement essay, "The Squandered Promise of Science Fiction" . The exchange was originally published in The New York Review of Science Fiction .

No Comfort Here

Chris Barzak has posted some interesting thoughts on writing and reading , and he ends with a meditation on "comfort fiction" or "consolatory art": That’s another thing that’s been on my mind lately: consolatory art. What these days, in the speculative fiction field at least, is being called comfort fiction (at least sometimes, I think, by some people who see consolation and comfort as one and the same thing). I think the rise of the comfort fiction brigades has done some damage in its crusade to rid the world of fantasies that lie to us about the nature of living in various ways (and not good lies, not ones that are really truly helpful to us, so I sympathize with what they’re saying about those in that way). But I do think that to a certain extent there’s been a sort of confusion made at times of two different sorts of writing that are separate things altogether, for me at least. One of these I think of as wish fulfillment stories, which are the ones that lie

Words Without Borders: Africa

The April edition of Words Without Borders has been posted, and its focus this month is on writing from Africa. It includes an excerpt from Ahmadou Kourouma 's novel about a child soldier, Allah is Not Obliged , a review of which I just turned in to Rain Taxi . I can't say it's a book I loved or even liked -- it's brutal, profane, frustrating, and I found some of Kourouma's stylistic choices (as translated by Frank Wynne) annoying -- but I also can't say I've read a novel that has kept me thinking so much in months, and so I actually recommend it highly. It will be out in the U.S. in May in an edition from Anchor Books . Words Without Borders will be hosting a discussion on April 27 at the PEN American Center in New York on the topic, "Every Day in Africa" : Americans’ exposure to Africa is mostly through press coverage focused on current events, with a bias toward the sensational and tragic. This discussion will offer a glimpse into the rich

Oh, the Humanity!

From an article headlined "Starbucks vs. Ethiopian Coffee Farmers" : ...earlier this month, Starbucks chairperson Howard Schultz, who is on the list of the world's richest people, told Fortune magazine that "Starbucks is the quintessential people-based business ... Everything we do is about humanity."

Out There

A few things from around the web... A version of the introduction by Jeff & Ann VanderMeer for Best American Fantasy I recently interviewed Nick Mamatas about his new novel, Under My Roof . Here's a piece of it: MC What is it about nuclear weaponry that appeals to Daniel, do you think? So many contemporary stories of apocalypse involve biological weapons or environmental catastrophes that the threat of nuclear destruction feels almost like a hearkening back to the Cold War. Would anthrax in the garden gnome have had the same effect? NM Pfft! The fault isn't in the atom, it's in the popular imagination. Anthrax is the WMD of wusses and wimps. People who work around livestock can contract it and keep on working. You can be vaccinated against weaponized anthrax. The Sverdlovsk disaster in 1979, when a Soviet plant accidentally released weaponized anthrax into the air, barely killed 100 people. The book would have been three pages long had there been only an

Delany Novel Includes "Scrotum"

_______ CITY, NEW HAMPSHIRE -- Just as the controversy over the presence of a particular word in an award-winning children's book seems to have died down, Barnaby Kershaw, a math teacher at _____ City High School, has called on the librarians of the world to ban Samuel Delany's novel Hogg because, he says, it includes the word "scrotum". "Children could encounter this book, read that word, and be scarred for life," Kershaw said. "It is our duty, indeed our moral responsibility as educators, to make sure that children are protected. If a child brought a copy of Hogg to you and said they didn't understand this word and wanted you to explain it, what would you say? Not everyone is ready for that sort of conversation." Mr. Delany could not be reached for comment, but the renowned scholar K. Leslie Steiner told us by email: "It could, indeed, be possible that readers of Hogg will not know what the word 'scrotum' means, and this c

Insect Souls

Douglas Hofstadter : If a mosquito has a soul, it is mostly evil. So I don’t have too many qualms about putting a mosquito out of its misery. I’m a little more respectful of ants.