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Showing posts from June, 2007

Good Advice

From "The DIY Guide to Becoming a (Real) Cyborg" at Free Geekery:
While you may suffer through horrible nightmares about machines that take over the world, progress in using technology to help others is far more pronounced. But, don't let this news lull you into thinking that you can battle a cyborg without technological help — or even without laughter. After all, how many cyborgs would dare touch you when you signal a left and right turn with your ears at the same time while wearing fuzzy dice, a pair of Powerizers, and a cape?via BookForum

The Shibboleth of "The Literary Establishment"

I thought about waiting a week or so until I have time to write a considered and thoughtful and well-sourced and nuanced and all that post, but I've just spent the last hour yelling at all of the various moving boxes filling my apartment (about which, more here), and instead of continuing to scream at the boxes, I will try to get all the annoyance out of my system by writing it up here.

The cause of the annoyance is an article in the latest New York Review of Science Fiction, which arrived in the mail today. First, before I really start a-ranting, I should say I am quite fond of NYRSF and recommend that everyone on Earth should subscribe to it. It presents an admirably broad collection of voices every month, and the discussions it engenders and hosts are often valuable and fascinating. In fact, if I ever get to the point of moving my ideas beyond blind ranting, I might write them up as an essay in response to the one I'm about to yell about, and submit it there. For now, th…

Calling All Science Fiction Oulipians!

John Holbo at The Valve has taken a look at Hugo Award category definitions and said:
...science fiction lacks anyone with an Oulipo-streak. Imagine a collection of short stories each 7,499 words. By definition, they would not be novelettes; but what if they were paced like novelettes? What if two of them were interconnected—same characters, different times—would they now be a 14,998-word novelette? Would three be a 22,497-word novella? Six a 44,994-word novel?We here at Mumpsimus Central are fans of many different sorts of streaks, including any Oulipian ones, and I'm sure we're not alone. Perhaps some of you out there will take John's statement as a fun challenge...

Cordwood

Michael Cunningham on his first novel, Golden States:
I was working in a bar and I suddenly had this vivid image of myself at sixty, still in the bar, still talking about the novel I was going to write someday. So I said to myself, “Sit down now and finish something. It doesn’t matter what. Just start it at the beginning, write through the middle and reach the end and then stop.” And that was that book. It came out very quickly. And it’s true. It does contain some of the people I seem to have continued to write about. Boys looking for something, women looking for a way out. I never felt good about that book, because I wrote it too fast. Because I knew it wasn’t the best book I could write. I’ve always felt that literature and reading have so many enemies—and writers are the very least of the enemies of writing and reading. But I do sometimes find myself looking through the books in a bookstore and galleys people have sent me, thinking, you could have done better than this. You did not …

The Young Writer

Because I'm in the midst of moving, I have been going through piles of things, and some of those things are things I'd forgotten I had. As I was throwing away lots of magazines and papers I'd kept for no apparent reason, I discovered, at the bottom of it all, a box of manuscripts. Mostly things printed on a dot-matrix printer, though some were handwritten. Hundreds of pages of, mostly, stories and poems, though there were a few letters, essays, and even parts of a novel. All written when I was between the ages of ten and sixteen.

At first, it was a nostalgia trip. I remembered a few of the stories and poems, remembered where I had been when I wrote them and what I was thinking. But for the most part, I had forgotten them. And for good reason. Once the nostalgia wore off, terror set in -- terror that anyone might ever read these things. They are talented, yes, and even precocious and impressive, but despite all that they are utterly and completely awful. Yes, I was…

In which I Join the KGB

I will be joining the line-up for the Interfictions reading at KGB Bar in Manhattan on Wednesday, June 20, at 7pm.

Don't let this deter you from attending -- the other readers are all geniuses, and I promise not to read for more than a few hours, so you'll still have time to hear them.

Soft Skull Sale

I didn't realize when I wrote my previous post about the McSweeney's sale that Soft Skull Press is also having a "Keep-the-lights-on-at-Soft-Skull-sale". 40% off until June 30. That means you can get...
Jamestown by Matthew Sharpe for $15
African Psycho by Alain Mabankou for $8.37Oh Pure and Radiant Heart by Lydia Millet -- hardcover -- for $15The Pornographer's Poem by Michael Turner for $8.97American Genius, A Comedy by Lynne Tillman for $9.00
Issue 96 of Transition magazine for $7.77H2O by Mark Swartz for $8.37That's a tiny sample, and only from the fiction -- there are many, many more titles in all sorts of different categories.

McSweeney's Sale

The AMS bankruptcy had a tremendous effect on the publishing world, and it left many small publishers with perilous, unanticipated financial losses. McSweeney's now reports:
We lost about $130,000—actual earnings that were simply erased. Due to the intricacies of the settlement, the real hurt didn't hit right away, but it's hitting now. Like most small publishers, our business is basically a break-even proposition in the best of times, so there's really no way to absorb a loss that big.To try to make up for the loss, this week they are holding a sale and auction, which means you can get great stuff at reduced prices, and some rare and unique items are also available. If I may suggest a few things...

At the auction:
An original Tony Millionare drawing of Nosferatu and a woman with an AR-15/M-16 rifle
An original drawing by David ByrneOriginal proofs of McSweeney's 13 signed by Chris Ware(More items will be added throughout the week at the auction. And there are other…

Other Stories

Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie:
On TV you never see Africans involved in helping Africa. It’s always some kind westerner. If I got my information only from American TV, I would think Africans were a bunch of stupid idiots. [...]

The Africa that you see on TV here is not the Africa I know. Africans don’t sit down, filled with despair, at least the ones I know don’t. They move on with life. Even in the poorest areas of Africa there are people who are showing initiative. There are other stories to tell.

Whiteman by Tony D'Souza

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I went into Tony D'Souza's first novel, Whiteman, with bunches of biases: We had taken a marvelous story of his for Best American Fantasy, I have been following pretty closely his dispatches from Nicaragua about the Eric Volz case, and his editor is Tina Pohlman, for whom I have tremendous respect. The one negative bias I had toward the book is that (for various, complicated, contradictory reasons) I judge stories of middle-class white people in "exotic" settings more harshly than I do other sorts of stories. (And yet at the same time I am fascinated by such stories.)

For me, then, Whiteman accomplished a lot -- soon enough, I was so thoroughly drawn in by its narrative voice and particular details that it became, in many ways, just another book for me, one on which none of my biases had any effect while reading.

Whiteman is an episodic novel with a first-person narrator named Jack Diaz, who works for a relief agency called Potable Water International and lives for th…

Three Lives

Update

The silence hereabouts has been caused by a few things, but all is well. My transition to a new life continues on apace, as I have now signed a lease for an apartment in Hoboken, NJ and will be moving there over the course of the next few weeks.

If anyone has emailed me recently, please bear with me if I've been slow responding -- not only is life hectic at the moment, but I also had some computer troubles (fixed now, it seems) and am sorting through email to see what survived and what didn't.

This ends today's public service announcement. Actual content to appear ... soon...

Spaceman Blues by Brian Francis Slattery

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There's a certain leap of faith we take with any book -- if it's a book we've heard a lot about, we're going on faith that the hype is accurate; if it's a book by a writer whose previous works we've enjoyed, we're going on faith that this one is going to appeal to us too; if it's a book we've heard nothing about by a writer we've never heard of, we're taking the greatest leap. I find the suspense with the latter sort of leap the most unbearable when the book begins well. Great beginnings can lead, after all, to great disappointments.

Thus it was with some trepidation that I began Brian Francis Slattery's first novel, Spaceman Blues -- a book that isn't due to be released until August, so I haven't heard much about it yet, and the author is not someone whose name was familiar to me before I started reading the novel. Then began the suspense, because the first pages were not just pretty good, they were extraordinary. The events …

Cultural Appropriation

I have never gone to WisCon, and so I am always grateful afterwards for the many detailed reports on discussions from the convention, and the extensions of those discussions. The one I've been enjoying (and sometimes cringing) reading recently grows out of last year's panel and follow-up discussions of cultural appropriation. There are already a bunch of blog posts involved, but here are the paths in that I've been following:
Transcription of this year's panelOyceter's description and discussion of the panel and the following discussion sessionK. Tempest Bradford's discussionSeparate from the discussions of cultural appropriation (but valuable to look at alongside them), I discovered Robert Philen's post on "Talking About Race" via Reginald Shepherd, who also recently wrote a long and thoughtful post titled "Some Thoughts on Race and Academia".