Showing posts from October, 2007


The next issue of Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet will soon be released into the wild, and it contains a marvelous variety of stories, poems, and oddities, most of which, I'm sure, are of high quality, and there's also a story by me. (Don't blame LCRW. The editors are sworn to secrecy, but I can tell you they're only publishing "The Lake" because I kept sending them gift subscriptions to The National Review and Soldier of Fortune , and I promised to stop only if they would publish one of my stories.) I'm particularly excited to see that Kirstin Allio has a story in this issue, because the only thing of hers I've read is Garner , an extraordinary novel set in my home state of New Hampshire. Garner was a LitBlog Co-op pick some seasons ago, and has remained one of my favorite LBC books. Though there are many different choices for how to subscribe, most subscriptions to LCRW cost less than a new lung. So what's your excuse?

Out There in the World

Rick Bowes has taken to calling me "Garbo" (or, when he's feeling particularly familiar, "Greta"), but it is not true that I am avoiding the world, merely that I am busy with teaching, grading papers, writing lesson plans, etc. As proof, though, of my continued existence, I offer the following: Tonight's Interfictions reading at McNally Robinson , where I will be reading alongside Tempest Bradford, Veronica Schanoes, and Delia Sherman. (I may also channel Theodora Goss, having last achieved this feat two years ago at the World Fantasy Convention, when Dora couldn't make it to a panel.) A conversation about Best American Fantasy at Booksquare , in which Jeff, Ann, and I throw questions at each other. Many thanks to Kassia Krozser for inviting us to do this! The evidence is before you, my children. Garbo or ... Harpo ? You decide!

Into the Wild

I admire Jon Krakauer's book Into the Wild quite a bit, and so I was wary about seeing the movie. What I most like about the book is the interplay between Krakauer's sensibility and Chris McCandless's story -- Krakauer understands the mix of idealism, frustration, and foolhardiness that led McCandless to abandon as many of the accoutrements of civilization as he could, dub himself "Alexander Supertramp", and set out with very little preparation or knowledge, eventually heading for the wilderness of Alaska -- and yet Krakauer is also different enough in temperament from McCandless to be able to provide a counter-narrative through his wrestling with the implications of McCandless's actions, ideas, and mistakes. It's not as drastic a counter-narrative as Werner Herzog provides the story of a somewhat similar Alaskan dreamer, Timothy Treadwell , in Grizzly Man , but it's enough to make the book compelling and thought-provoking. Alas, the movie Sean P

The Aussies are Coming!

Some of the most fun I had at the World Fantasy Convention a few years ago involved hanging out with various Australians. They all stood on their heads to adjust to the gravity here, and I just found that tremendously endearing. A bunch of Aussies are coming to New York City this weekend and then continuing on eventually to the World Fantasy Convention in Saratoga, NY. Alas, I'm not going to be able to be there this year (too many work obligations), nor am I going to be able to go to the event at the Australian Consolate to welcome Australian SF writers to the U.S. because it's at nearly the same time at the Interfictions reading at McNally Robinson, alas. (Yes, I said alas at the beginning and end of that sentence. Because I feel much alasness.) But I'm hoping to at least make a brief appearance at the Books of Wonder event on Saturday from 3-5, where Garth Nix, Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Jonathan Strahan will be collectively and ind


My thoughts are fragmentary today. Here are some of the shards: A few days ago I watched The Dresden Dolls: Live at the Roundhouse , and though it didn't give me the utter and complete joy of the Dolls' earlier DVD, Paradise (because how could they possibly top Christopher Lydon listening to the song about him ?! And Brian Vigglione's wonderful drumming at the beginning of "Half Jack" ? And the stiflingly heat and invigorating intimacy of the stage? And...?), it's great fun if you like their music. I was particularly taken by the collaboration with Trash McSweeney (of the Australian band The Red Paintings ) on the old Tears for Fears song, "Mad World" . I've liked the original version of "Mad World" since I first heard it while riding on the school bus one day many years ago -- that version of the song seems utterly psychotic to me now; Gary Jules offered a somewhat more melancholic and teen angsty version later. The McSweene

Baby Got Book

Now and then friends send me links to weird things. I don't blog about them much, because, well, we're all pretty good at finding weird things on the internet these days, aren't we? But sometimes.... Sometimes somebody sends me a link to something so bizarre that I must share, because the joy I get from such things simply cannot be contained. So it is with this extraordinary video called "Baby Got Book" . (Don't worry, it's safe for work ... and church...)

Farewell to the Giornale

Sad news this morning: Giornale Nuovo has reached an end . Giornale Nuovo is a blog I've been reading and linking to for years now, and, in fact, I have probably linked to a greater percentage of the posts there than to any other blog, because though new material came out somewhat infrequently, the posts were so often fascinating and beautiful -- many times focused on artwork of some kind -- that they deserved much attention. The archives are rich and extraordinary, and well worth sauntering through. I will miss the excitement of new GN posts, but I am grateful for all that has been given to us over the years, and I will keep some hope up for an eventual resurrection.

Stephen King and Leonard Lopate

Leonard Lopate did a good interview with Stephen King on WNYC last week (the day after my birthday, actually). King talked about his edition of The Best American Short Stories and about short stories in general, and he gave much praise to F&SF . It's well worth a listen.

"Akhil and Judy" by Avi Lall

Whenever I encounter a piece of writing that blows the top of my head off, I try to settle down and figure out how it works and what I so forcefully responded to within it. Sometimes I can figure it out, sometimes I can't. Sometimes the top of my head just won't go back on. So it is with "Akhil and Judy" by Avi Lall, published in the latest issue of Porcupine Literary Arts Magazine . You might not have heard of Porcupine , but it's worth your attention; this issue in particular is rich with good poetry, prose, and pictures. But "Akhil and Judy" is the standout for me, and a standout among all the stories I have read this year, or, for that matter, any year. I have a few hypotheses for why I find this story so affecting, so impressive, but I don't have much in the way of solid reasoning, though I'm going to try here to make my hypotheses hold some water. I know the story's effect on me: during one of my three readings, it brought me t

New Blogroll

I'm experimenting with a new version of the blogroll in the sidebar. The hack to create it comes from Google Operating System and utilizes Google Reader . (Yes, we've pretty much become All Google All The Time here at Mumpsimus Central.) I do wish there were a way to ignore the first articles "A" and "The" when alphabetizing, but I haven't figured it out yet; also, people are alphabetized by their first names. When I was writing in every link separately myself, I alphabetized the blogroll by ignoring initial articles and sorting by people's last names, but I also stopped updating the blogroll because it was absurdly time-consuming to keep doing this in Blogger's template editor, which has some nice features, but which, when it comes to revising long lists of links, is awful. So the compromise I've made is to have an easy-to-update blogroll that is not alphabetized perfectly. (See what sacrifices I make for you?!) I thought about creatin

Alive and Kicking

Though I am shamefully behind in blogging, reviewing, interviewing, and e-mail answering, nonetheless, I am not dead yet. Just busy in the midst of a few different things, especially trying to figure out how to teach anything to energetic 9th and 10th graders and, in the bits of spare time that allows, reading stories for the next edition of Best American Fantasy (thanks, by the way, to Rick Klaw for a very nice review in The Austin Chronicle ). Proof of my status as a living, breathing human being can be found at two upcoming public events in Manhattan. First, on October 30 , I will be participating in the Interfictions reading at the wonderful McNally Robinson bookstore, with some of my favorite fellow-readers, Tempest Bradford, Veronica Schanoes, and Delia Sherman. And then on November 21 , I will be reading at the KGB Bar with Lucius Shepard . (I expect to read a story that will be coming out in the next issue [I think] of LCRW .) This is something I'm looking forward

A Few Small, Personal Thoughts on Doris Lessing

There are few awards that much interest me these days, but I look forward to the announcement of the Nobel Prize in Literature every year, not because I think it's more legitimate than any of the others, but because it's so often weirdly surprising, and now and then it goes to a writer I quite respect. The choice of Doris Lessing this year surprised me mostly because she's been rumored for it so long that I was sure her time had passed, especially since most of her work since her autobiographies hasn't gained much acclaim. As for me, I can't claim to be devoted to Lessing the way I am to Coetzee and Pinter , but I did go through a Lessing phase eight or nine years ago, and read many of her books. Which doesn't mean I'm an expert, by any means -- she's so prolific I don't think I read even half of her novels. Maybe a quarter. (I gave a lot of them away, and the ones I kept are in a box in New Hampshire, so I don't have any at hand. Thus,

Nova Swing by M. John Harrison

a review by Dustin Kurtz Nova Swing's conceit is essentially the same as the conceit of M . John Harrison’s previous book, Light . Somewhere out in the hinterlands of human-inhabited space there is a stretch of bad physics, a mean glowing strip of strange, light years long, known as the Kefahuchi Tract. In Light the Tract is a wild plaything for entradistas -- thrill-seeking celebrity pilots whose exploits seem to make up the substance of much of that galactic arm’s rumor. In an example of the casual but powerful analogy at which Harrison excels, the galactic neighborhood near the Tract is often called the Beach. The Tract is also puzzlingly related to an invisible, though hungry, earthly horror and his serial killer scion. And, just to spice things up, the Tract is somehow involved with ancient alien relics, the appropriation of which forms the goal of much of that book’s plot. If you haven’t read Light and are confused, don’t worry. I have read it, and those muddled se

A Conversation with Thomas Ligotti

by Geoffrey H. Goodwin (Geoffrey Goodwin is going to be popping in here at The Mumpsimus now and then with interviews with a variety of writers. I'm thrilled that the first he has provided for us is an interview with a writer as unique and fascinating as Thomas Ligotti.) Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and Thomas Ligotti are a reasonable list of the three best writers of horror short stories. In the tradition of gnarled minds that scare more with their thinking than with simple shocks, they're almost certainly the ones who matter most. Ligotti is a genius at exploring emptiness and nothingness. He has committed his life to rejecting life. It's harder than it sounds. His stories take place in a "world forever reverberant with the horror of all who ever have lived and suffered" (a phrase taken from "We Can Hide from Horror Only in the Heart of Horro: Notes and Aphorisms" , excerpts from his notebooks from circa 1976-1982). His many books, including

Blade Runner: The Final Cut

It's a shame that Warner Bros. is, so far at least, only releasing Blade Runner: The Final Cut in theatres in New York and Los Angeles, because the virtues of this version lie not so much in the few changes from the earlier "Director's Cut", but in the remastering of the imagery and sound. To see the new version in a theatre like the Ziegfield in New York, with a giant screen and excellent sound system, is a visceral and sometimes truly stunning experience. I had seen the earlier version of the movie at a midnight showing at the Angelika in the '90s, and I remember enjoying it -- certainly more than I've ever enjoyed the muddy DVD -- but it was nothing like seeing (and, indeed, feeling ) the new version. I barely have words to describe it, because it was an experience outside of words, an experience of the senses. The plot of the movie has never been its main attraction for me, the mix of brutality and camp remains sometimes jarring, and the philosophic

Bat Segundo's Guano Doesn't Stink

Though I had a rather scarring encounter with Bat Segundo some time back, I remain in awe of the quality of guests he gets for his podcast and the interesting directions the interviews go in. He's just posted some new interviews, including ones with Jeff Parker (who I just met last week), Katha Pollitt , Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie , and Brian Francis Slattery , author of the marvelous Spaceman Blues .

The Cowboy Angel Rides

The best writing advice I've read in at least a week comes from M. John Harrison's blog. Read the whole post. Here's a paragraph in case you don't trust me: When I read fantasy, I read for the bizarre, the wrenched, the undertone of difference & weirdness that defamiliarises the world I know. I want the taste of the writer’s mind, I want to feel I’m walking about in the edges of the individual personality. I don’t want to read a story misrepresented from some other culture’s folklore, or a story in which mainstream ideology of the last fifty years is presented as myth. Go read Clive Barker . Go read Kenneth Patchen , who was reportedly an unlikeable man but who could write you a fantasy in a couple of lines. Or put “The Gates of Eden” on repeat.

Buy a BAF, Get a Hobart

Hobart is a young literary magazine, and editor Aaron Burch is so excited that a story he published, Catherine Zeidler's "Pregnant", is included in Best American Fantasy that he's named Prime Books to be Hobart's Small Press of the Month and he is willing to send a back issue of Hobart to anybody who orders BAF from now on . (Although I expect he'll have to put some limitations on that, as millions of you are now about to go buy more copies...) If you're interested in Hobart , be sure to stop by the website ... and do consider subscribing -- it's an attractively-designed magazine with eclectic content (in a good way).