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Showing posts from November, 2007

Glowing Reviews

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Ed Champion linked to this, and I'm passing it on, because the customer reviews on this product are the funniest things I've read all week.

Wo(o)lf(e)s in the World

Virginia Woolf and Gene Wolfe are topics of a few conversation out on the internets these days:Some of Virginia Woolf's first editions are a bargain on the collector's market.
Woolf and other artists are being used to promote arts education.
Woolf [and others] and neuroscience. Or not. (The author of the book in question responds here.)
"Virginia Woolf and Boring Habits"
Larry at OF Blog of the Fallen is reading a lot of Gene Wolfe and writing up his responses.
Waggish reads The Book of the New Sun.
Spurious offers further thoughts on Book of the New Sun.
Richard Crary's thoughts on Mr. Waggish's thoughts.
Hoof and Hide is a Gene Wolfe blog. Which is not to say a blog by Gene Wolfe. Which is an interesting thought. In fact, I'd like to see Gene Wolfe and Virginia Woolf collaborate on a blog. Yet another of my impossible desires...

"I will have vengeance! I will have salvation!"

The website for Sweeney Todd has just been updated, and it contains a number of audio selections. I'm hardly alone in being simultaneously excited by Tim Burton directing my favorite musical and skeptical of a cast made up largely of people who are not known for their singing.

The clips on the site, though, are heartening. Most are of Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter. Neither will ever be mistaken for powerful singers, but they're not atrocious. (Alas, no Sacha Baron Cohen yet.) These versions of the songs are a bit thin on their own, and sometimes the actors get overwhelmed by the lush orchestrations, but I can imagine the songs working pretty well on film, which, thanks to the way the camera modulates the audience's proximity to the actors, can be much more effective as an intimate aural environment than live theatre (or maybe it's just me -- I hate plays where the actors are heavily miked, and I have more than once walked out of shows because of the sound de…

Magpie Semiotics

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Thanksgiving is a hit-or-miss holiday for me -- I've had some wonderful ones with friends and family, but some of my favorite Thanksgivings have been ones where I've hung out on my own and taken a break from everything. This year was one of those, and a memorable one, because I decided to see two movies I was sure would be interesting to see together: I'm Not There and Across the Universe.

Both films are based on the work of some of the most recognizable, revered, and influential musicians of the last fifty years: Bob Dylan for I'm Not There and The Beatles for Across the Universe -- musicians who came of age and influence at roughly the same time. Both films are helmed by idiosyncratic directors: Todd Haynes and Julie Taymor. Both films have gotten wildly divergent responses from viewers.

I am far more of a Bob Dylan fan than a Beatles fan (though I did go through a bit of Beatlemania as a kid, and so most of the words to their best-known songs come immediately to mi…

Join the KGB!

Tomorrow, I'll be reading with Lucius Shepard at the KGB Bar in Manhattan. (Rumors that either of us will be performing hip-hop are untrue, at least for me.) I plan to read my story "The Lake", from the brand-new Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, which is now available in all sorts of different formats. La Gringa has promised to throw pickles and other assorted fruits and vegetables at me.

No Country for Old Men

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(Some preliminaries. First, I should note that to say anything about my reaction to this movie, I have to discuss the last third in some detail. If you're the type of person who doesn't like to know anything about the last third of movies, don't read on. I don't think knowing such details would harm the experience of first seeing this movie, but that's just me.

Second, I should say that I did not read Cormac McCarthy's novel, from which the Coen brothers have wrought this film, though a friend who attended with us had read it, and said he thought the movie was quite faithful, or at least as faithful as is possible, given the differences in media.

Finally, I should mention that Richard Larson attended with us, so keep an eye on his blog in case he writes up his response, too.)

No Country for Old Men is as clear an example of subverted genre expectations as any movie I can think of. It gains power from the iconography of certain types of westerns and noir thriller…

The Affirmation by Christopher Priest

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It is useful to imagine the book as two funhouse mirrors facing one another.
--Waggish
We often pretend to be objective about books when writing about them, but such objectivity is obviously a lie, and I would be foolish to continue that lie when writing about a book that has affected me in such a particular way as The Affirmation has. I am not so much going to describe what I think the book will do to you as what it did to me.

What it does to you ... well, for that you're on your own.
A saying of Leonard's comes into my head in this season of complete inanity and boredom. "Things have gone wrong somehow." It was the night C. killed herself. We were walking along that silent blue street with the scaffolding. I saw all the violence and unreason crossing in the air: ourselves small; a tumult outside: something terrifying: unreason -- shall I make a book out of it? It would be a way of bringing order and speed again into my world.
--Virginia Woolf
diary, 25 May 1932
An a…

Earwig

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For two days I have had these lines stuck in my head:Don't worry about me
I'm about to die of pleurisyThe lines were written by Jack Kerouac in a song (which you can hear him sing here) that Tom Waits later adapted. There are two very different recordings of the Waits song that I know of: a sad, weary version included on Orphans (listen here) and a lively collaboration with Primus (from the album Jack Kerouac Reads on the Road; mp3 here).

Before I ever looked at a transcription of the lyrics, I heard the line "Well the worms eat away but don't worry watch the wind" as "Oh the worms eat away, but the worry warts will win". I still like my version.

In any case, I don't think I'm about to die of pleurisy. I like the word, though, especially since it reminds me of Laura in The Glass Menagerie, who was nicknamed Blue Roses because someone misheard her when she said she had pleurosis.

So Fey Reading This Weekend

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The lack of substantive posts continues at a furious pace around these here parts, but I do want to take a moment to note the reading and book signing this Sunday (11/11) by contributors to So Fey: Queer Fairy Fiction at Housing Works Used Book Cafe. Copies of the anthology have been donated by the publisher, Haworth Press, and proceeds from sales will go to local homeless people living with HIV. The reading starts at 5pm.

Steve Berman edited So Fey and scheduled readers include Mumpsimus contributor Craig Gidney, Rick Bowes, Eric Andrews-Katz, Tom Cardamone, Cassandra Clare, Ruby deBrazier, Joshua Lewis, and Sean Meriwether.

Mandarins Discussion

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I recently discovered Ryunosuke Akutagawa's short stories, and was particularly taken with the beautiful collection of them that Archipelago Books published, Mandarins.

I'm thrilled to see, then, that Michael Orthoffer (of the excellent Complete Review and Literary Saloon) is leading a discussion of Mandarins at the Words Without Borders blog this month.

Strange Horizons, WFC, Etc.

The latest issue of Strange Horizons has been posted and includes a column in which I blather on a bit and then recommend some literary journals that adventurous readers might enjoy.

While I'm here, I'd like to offer congratulations to the World Fantasy Award winners for this year -- especially to such friends, supporters, and critics of The Mumpsimus as Mary Rickert, Jeff Ford, and Ellen Datlow.

I was not at the World Fantasy Convention, for various reasons, but I had a little mini-convention all of my own. Friday's highlight was a panel on laundry. On Saturday, I participated in a kaffeeklatch with a writer I admire, Richard Larson, then continued on with him to see the associational (because its title invokes a fantastic creature) movie Before the Devil Knows You're Dead, which he liked overall a bit more than I did, but which I nonetheless thought was certainly worth seeing. And then on Sunday, to finish it all up, I moderated a special session of the SATs, which …

How to Save the SF Magazines

Paolo Bacigalupi, who used to work for High Country News, takes some lessons learned from his previous employment and speculates about the ways science fiction and fantasy magazines could save themselves from their ever-declining circulations. Paolo's thoughts appear in three blog posts: Part 1 (overview), Part 2 ("Marketing in Meatspace"), and Part 3 ("Online Marketing").

I don't have any great knowledge of marketing, so I will defer to Paolo and others on that, but I do hope the magazines are able to survive, partly because I respect the history they represent and partly because I like the idea of monthly magazines full of fiction being able to survive in our world.

But honestly, I only pay money to subscribe to one of them. I receive subscriptions to some others because once upon a time I reviewed them more frequently than I do now (I certainly still read them for Best American Fantasy), but for the others, when it comes time to make selections for BAF, …