Posts

Showing posts from September, 2007

A Few Quick Notes

Image
It's likely there won't be much in the way of updates around here for at least a few days, but I have a few fragments of information and marginal bits of thought to share before I go...
John Joseph Adams wrote a nice piece for SciFi Wire about Jeff and Ann VanderMeer's guest editing of Best American Fantasy.

Speaking of Best Americans, all the various ones from various publishers now seem to be out in stores. I stayed up much too late last night, utterly engrossed in The Best American Essays 2007, guest edited by David Foster Wallace. I always find a few essays in that book to be fascinating or impressive, but none of the other volumes I've read have so completely hooked me -- indeed, in all the other volumes I've encountered at least one essay that cured insomnia. That's not the case with this edition. I was reading the first essay, Jo Ann Beard's "Werner", last night at a pizza place across from Cooper Union, and I not only nearly missed the J…

A Report from the Lethem-PKD Event

Image
The Jonathan Lethem/Philip K. Dick event at Cooper Union was a real delight. It began with Max Rudin, publisher of the Library of America, announcing that a second volume of PKD's novels will be released from the LOA in August 2008, also edited by Lethem. He rattled off the titles of the five novels quite quickly, but -- assuming I heard him correctly and nobody involved with the book changes their mind between now and then -- the included novels will be:
Martian Time-SlipDr. BloodmoneyFlow My Tears, the Policeman SaidA Scanner DarklyNow Wait for Last YearLethem then read some excerpts from his introduction to the selected stories collection from a few years ago (which, Lethem informed us, would not be released in paperback because the paperback rights to the stories are owned by somebody else) and the whole of his own story "Phil in the Marketplace". Lethem then answered a number of questions from the audience. I took some notes, but missed as much as I got, and all …

JL on PKD at CU

Jonathan Lethem is going to be at Cooper Union on Thursday night, and according to Galleycat he will be revealing the contents of the second Library of America collection of Philip K. Dick's novels. I'm going to try to be there, and will report as much as I can back here. For those of you in the NYC area, here's the info (from the Cooper Union website):Jonathan Lethem: Philip K. Dick: Four Novels of the 1960s
Lecture and book signing
Thursday, September 27, 6:30 pm
The Great Hall
7 East 7th Street at Third Avenue
Free

Acclaimed writer Jonathan Lethem is the editor of a selection of novels written by science fiction writer Philip K. Dick from the 1960s. Dick left behind more than 160 short stories and novels when he died in 1982. Many of his tales have become successful films, such as Blade Runner and Minority Report. Lethem bundled four of Dick's novels into one book to give a new generation the opportunity to discover Dick's futuristic visions.Jonathan Lethem is the a…

New Strange Horizons

Image
The latest Strange Horizons has a marvelous essay by Abigail Nussbaum on Anna Kavan's novels Ice and Guilty:Ice's plot doesn't so much progress as spiral inwards, tightening in on the moment in which the encroaching ice leaves only the narrator and the woman alone in the world. Even this point of convergence, however, isn't the novel's purpose -- indeed, the story ends ambivalently, holding out the possibility of yet more iterations of the narrator's story to come. Ice is an exercise in sustaining an emotional tone -- an oppressive, terrifying, senseless one. It succeeds at this task admirably, making for a reading experience that is not so much pleasant as irresistible, and an emotional impact that proves very difficult to shake off.(For another view of Ice, see L. Timmel Duchamp's essay from Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet.)

Also in this issue of Strange Horizons is my latest column. This one is about Guy Davenport's story "Belinda's Wo…

Random Thoughts on Things Recently Read and Soon to Be Read

Image
Scott Esposito has posted a list of books he's hoping to get to in the next few months, and I thought, "Wouldn't that be fun!" -- of course, there are many books I'm hoping to get to, but I have no idea how much I'll be able to read, especially as November and December are particularly busy times at my new job, and I'll also be in the midst of helping shepherd the next Best American Fantasy into some sort of shape. (I'm currently cultivating a couple new guest reviewers for this site to pick up some of my slack. I feed them whenever possible and sometimes even let them have light. It will be fun to watch as they blossom...)

In putting together a list of books I'm hoping to read, or finish reading, soon, I realized there are a handful of books I've read and not written about. I'll start this rather random and rambling (and staggeringly opinionated!) post, then, with a few of those.

I don't often finish reading books I don't like. …

Literate Nobodies

Christian Bök offers his poetry students a somewhat different view than they are likely to get from many other teachers:
I often remind my students that, despite their belief that they have important knowledge to communicate to the world at large through their poetry, their status as poets already suggests that they have failed to make any momentous discovery that might have otherwise contributed to the history of knowledge; otherwise, the students might have exploited this insight in far more lucrative vocations, like the sciences or even business. I remind my students that they are probably taking my class in poetry because "math is hard"--and since they have no other worthy skills, they have chosen to accept their demotion to a lowly caste of literate nobodies. I get a few nervous giggles from the students after these waggish tirades--but then I underline my argument by saying that, if students really do believe that they are communicating, heretofore undiscovered, revelat…

Brooklyn Book Festival

Image
Tempest and I spent the day at the Brooklyn Book Festival, mostly just wandering around harrassing various vendors. I finally got to meet Hannah Tinti, editor of One Story, in person, and she told me about the Save the Short Story project, and even got a picture of me reading Calvin Baker's "Dominion", a very fine story indeed.

We also got to meet Tom Roberge of A Public Space, another person I'd exchanged plenty of emails with, but had not yet encountered in person. I convinced Tempest to subscribe, which was one of my better accomplishments of the day. There are only a few magazines I really wouldn't want to be without for even one issue, and A Public Space is one such magazine.

Gavin Grant and Jed Berry manfully manned the Small Beer Press table. Tempest and I had discussed the fact that there haven't been any good, physical literary fights recently -- plenty of internet flamewars and such, but nobody actually punching somebody out -- and so we tried to …

VanderBooks Massive Blowout Sale!

The much-anticipated and even now legendary VanderMeer Book Sale has begun. Get yours while supplies last! It's an amazing collection of all sorts of things, and if I don't get more specific than that, it's just because after looking at a few pages of it, I stopped, because if I kept looking, I would have kept desiring, and if I kept desiring, I might have begun spending, and if I began spending, I wouldn't stop spending, and I really really don't need to be spending right now. So please go buy everything there before my will power gives out and I succumb.

Brooklyn Book Fest and Sunday Salon

Sunday is the Brooklyn Book Festival, and I'm going to try to be there. If you are there and see me (wandering around lost and confused, most likely), please say hi.

If I've still got some energy and a few wits about me by evening, I'll be going to the Sunday Salon at 7pm at the Stain Bar, if I can find it (I tend to get bewildered in Brooklyn).

The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson

Image
a review by Craig Laurance Gidney


Like a patchwork quilt, Nalo Hopkinson’s new novel The New Moon's Arms positively seethes with patterns and threads that clash, but come together regardless. It’s a madcap comic novel about aging, the wounds of slavery, and the transformative power of love set on an imaginary archipelago in the Caribbean.

The action centers around Calamity Lambkin, a curmudgeonly 50-something woman on the verge of menopause. Her first person narration is raunchy and rollicking without resorting to the cheap sassiness that Hollywood assigns black women. You won’t find Calamity in a Tyler Perry movie anytime soon. Born Chastity, she has renamed herself Calamity after a life of hardship, involving a teenaged pregnancy, single motherhood and the disappearance of her own mother. During her father’s funeral, she starts experiencing intense hot flashes that coincide with her finding objects that have been lost long ago—mostly from her childhood. A monogrammed pin, a…

Tachyon's Superluminal Velocity

We are lucky to live in a world with some very fine small and independent presses. Despite all of the woeful news about how few people read books these days, and how difficult life can be for publishers and writers, and how difficult it is to get books noticed -- despite all this, individual and determined publishers continue to issue extraordinary books.

Recently, I've been continually impressed by Tachyon Publications, and I realized I haven't really said much here about Tachyon -- in many ways, I've just taken them for granted. Taking them for granted is a terrible thing to do, though, especially since they have a particular commitment to short story collections and anthologies, the sort of books that bigger publishers often consider anathema, but that devoted readers (like all of us, of course!) feast upon. (Mmmm, good paper, tasty book...)

I was looking around for some information on Jim Kelly and John Kessel's upcoming book, Re-wired: The Post-Cyberpunk Antholog…

The Moral Argument of Talking Dogs

The Rake on James Wood's criticism of "hysterical realism":
His puffed-up preferences are not moral imperatives. I happen to disagree with Wood, but in invoking moral objections he's already denied me equal textual footing for a rebuttal. Certain metatextual questions remain in play: We can talk, for example, about whether or not Robert Lowell should have incorporated his ex-wife's letters into his work, but I fear I'm not willing or able to sustain a moral argument for or against Pynchon's decision to include a talking dog and a mechanical duck in Mason & Dixon rather than more conventional, rounded human characters. To engage a moral argument about such things is to be led down the primrose path by Wood, where we will engage in narrowing the novel instead of celebrating its manifold possibilities.

The Price of Books

Image
Levi Asher is on a quest to find out why books are so expensive. He's just posted a fascinating series of short interviews with publisher Richard Nash, novelist and blogger Mark Sarvas, and agent Scott Hoffman.

As Mark points out, in comparison to going out to see a movie, buying a book is not a horrendously expensive activity. And in comparison to going to the theatre, it's downright cheap.

But, as Colleen can attest, I had a strong reaction when I grabbed the new Best American Poetry, a wee 192 pages, and saw the price was $16. It went right back onto the table from which I picked it up. I haven't bought a BAP since Lyn Heijinian's 2004 volume, which was also $16 (for 288 pages), but I ordered that one online and for a sharp discount, which is probably what I'll do for the new edition (the editor, HeatherMcHugh, is a poet I like quite a bit -- I buy BAPs for the guest editors, not the contents, really).

Later, I asked myself what price I would have been willing…

Fall Quarterly Conversation

The latest edition of The Quarterly Conversationis now live, and contains multitudes. I have a review of Rick Moody's new collection of novellas, Right Livelihoods, in which I try to make the case for Moody as a good science fiction writer and a bad satirist. Garth Risk Hallberg responds to James Woods's attacks on Don DeLillo. Scott Esposito writes about two memoirs of life in prison. Ann Fernald extols the wonders of Jean Thompson's Throw Like a Girl. Brien Michael looks at two books about gender, identity, and transgenderism. Richard Crary writes about Gabriel Josipovici and Goldberg: Variations. A.J. White explores Natsume Soseki's Kokoro. And there's more.

Description and Its Discontents

Image
As we got closer to the publication date of Best American Fantasy, I grew anxious to read reviews of the book. My anxieties were relieved early on, when Publisher's Weekly gave us a starred review and NPR put the book on their summer reading list. Visions of bestsellerdom danced in my head. (Well, not quite. I'm not entirely delusional.)

But we knew the book was pretty weird, and not likely to appeal to certain types of readers. I was curious how readers for whom it was not a perfect experience reacted. Soon enough, we heard from a couple of folks who didn't really like the book on the whole, and couldn't connect to, seemingly, any of the stories. These responses were in private, because we asked anybody who even hinted that they had reservations about the book to tell us why -- we were curious to understand how people could not share in our enthusiasm for these stories, and hoped we might learn something from the responses. Not liking a few stories was completel…