Three Little Saturday Hangovers

And then I go (re)write till my ears bleed.

Happy Banned Books Week

Banned Books Week begins Sept. 24, um, today (which is Sept. 24).

I can imagine no finer distinction. Full ALA Banned Books list behind the cut — bold the ones you’ve read. Two observations about this list:

  1. If people read more, there’d be a lot more books on it. (Most of them are practically QUAINT.)
  2. Stephen King is winning.


Everything is on screen…

The marvelous Hank Stuever reviews Everything is Illuminated and likes it, sorta:

"Everything Is Illuminated" is no average tale of let’s-go-find-where-Grandpa’s-shtetl-shtood. Heavy with the burden of translating the shiftingly excellent narrative techniques of Jonathan Safran Foer’s 2002 novel on which it is based, the movie can’t help but take on a slightly too twee tone. Depending on your pop-cult sensibilities (Do you like the Dave Eggers crowd? Do you pay rent in Williamsburg, Brooklyn? Do you listen raptly to public radio’s "This American Life"?), you are free to revel in "Everything Is Illuminated’s" magical groove (I did) while at the same time finding it puzzlingly dull (I did that, too) and not quite the storytelling achievement you once considered it to be.

Friday Hangovers (update)

*Which is not to succumb to the argument that she doesn’t usually pick good books, just to say that there are some pretty banal choices in that list alongside the Marquez.


Natalie Angier weighs in on the human proclivity for cursing in a lengthy essay in the NYT:

"The Jacobean dramatist Ben Jonson peppered his plays with fackings and "peremptorie Asses," and Shakespeare could hardly quill a stanza without inserting profanities of the day like "zounds" or "sblood" – offensive contractions of "God’s wounds" and "God’s blood" – or some wondrous sexual pun.

The title "Much Ado About Nothing," Dr. McWhorter said, is a word play on "Much Ado About an O Thing," the O thing being a reference to female genitalia.

Even the quintessential Good Book abounds in naughty passages like the men in II Kings 18:27 who, as the comparatively tame King James translation puts it, "eat their own dung, and drink their own piss."

stars the decoration

The WaPo looks at lovingly rendered backdrops for television shows, focusing on Desperate Housewives (eh) and Gilmore Girls (yay!):

On shows where interiors are asked to convey so much about the people who live there, details are everything. Rachel Kamerman, production designer for "Gilmore Girls," and her team scour the Warner Brothers prop department, local stores and flea markets, even e-Bay, to find the perfect item for a room. Sets for the Dragonfly Inn, the bed-and-breakfast managed by Lorelai, are practically indistinguishable from the real thing. To go from the sun-baked Warner Brothers lot into a dark soundstage where antique chairs, Victorian wallpaper and a grandma’s attic worth of knickknacks have been arranged to evoke a cozy country inn is to experience the illusory magic for which Hollywood is famed.

"I wanted a lot of wonderful visual noise, and more of a sense of reality than what I’d seen on other shows," says Kamerman. "It was important to me to have real wallpaper and molding and drapery and tile. Our fireplaces are working fireplaces. Even the little knobs on the cabinet have tiny pressed flowers in them."

the cold, hard $$$ (updated)

Jeff Ford reacts to Jonathan Lethem’s geniushood and Matt Cheney’s reaction to it:

He feels that, although Lethem deserves the recognition for his fine work, the Award would do better to have been bestowed on a writer who has not yet “made it” and could better use the money. I congratulate Lethem. He’s written some terrific fiction through the years, and it heartens me to see someone with one foot firmly planted in the literature of the fantastic get due recognition from one of these “literary” groups. I think Matthew misses the point here, though. The 500,000 dollars is kind of a red herring, all be it a large red herring. Shit, who couldn’t use 500 grand, but I thought the whole idea of the award has to do with good writing. No amount of money is going to make you write any better. You could stack a million dollars in a writer’s room, and it’s not going to make a damn bit of difference as to whether she’s going to write a better story or not. Mary Rickert, Andy Duncan, Lucius Shepard, Howard Waldrop(or dozens more writers I could think of), won’t be getting 500,000 dollars, and I’ll bet we’ll see some terrific fiction from them in the coming year. I’ll bet Lethem will write some terrific fiction this year, but it’s not going to have squat to do with the 500 grand. At one point in our lives, Lynn and I lived on 300 dollars a month. We had a walk-up apartment in a shitty neighborhood and I kept a big stick behind the door all the time because I thought the drunk downstairs was going to go crazy and come up those stairs some night and try to kill us. We ate a lot of cheese, and these hot dogs, Pilgrim Franks, that were 79 cents a package — bright red, and the red dye would come off on a paper plate. During that time I wrote a lot of stories – all of them lousy. But the fact that they were lousy had nothing to do with my measly salary. It had to do with the fact that I didn’t know whether my asshole was punched or bored when it came to fiction writing. I make a lot more money now, and I’ve written some stories I’m satisfied with and some readers have said they liked, but I still have a file drawer full of lousy ones I stoke on a continuous basis. For christ sake, let’s let the guy enjoy the money. Hey, Matt, you have to read more of that Thoreau.

I think lots of people forget too, that it’s $500,000 over five years. Nothing to sniff at, for sure, but not Buy a Jet and become a Scientologist kind of money. But yeah, it’s not about the money.

Updated: Jeff expands his thoughts in a new post after Matt clarifies his in the comments to the post linked above.

Thursday Hangovers

  • Over at the new and improved Strange Horizons review section (which has an RSS feed even), Greg Beatty praises Kate Wilhelm’s Storyteller. Oh, but this is a lovely book. Everyone who wants to understand science fiction as a community will want a copy. Many people who want to become professional writers, or better writers, will also want copies, and that’s because this book blends two genres. On one hand, it is a memoir. In these 190 pages of honest, often poetic prose, Kate Wilhelm recounts the story of how the Clarion Writing Workshop came to be; the many struggles she, Damon Knight, Robert Scott Wilson, and a host of other dedicated teachers, administrators, and volunteers faced; and the lessons they learned along the way in close to three decades of shaping Clarion into its present form. I’m really looking forward to reading this one.
  • Weather Underground in Rita watch mode, and Ed has some invaluable link gathering. Too horrific to contemplate.
  • OGIC reveals her LBC nomination, the last one for this round. Discussions and author appearances to come. If any of the books look like your kind of thing, read along and participate in the discussion weeks. (Or just participate!)
  • Cory Doctorow points to new James Patrick Kelly goodies on the web: Periodically, Jim goes into a studio and records himself giving spellbinding readings of his stories, which he then releases gratis on the Web, under a Creative Commons license, with a tipjar for donations to pay for more studio time. Jim has just posted three more stories: "The Edge of Nowhere," "Barry Westphal Crashes The Singularity" and "Proof of the Existence of God (And an Afterlife)."
  • Carl Zimmer at The Loom on puzzles and creationism. (And he reveals that his brother is a consultant for the Oxford English Dictionary, which seems like one of the coolest jobs In The World.)

Inscribed Semi

Attention: consuming any of the following material may make you a target of chicken haulers.

So, yesterday on the drive home from work, I hit town and some slight rush hour traffic with it. I’m a car behind a semi, but the car in front of me isn’t very tall and so I have a good view of the large decal blazing across the dull gray back of the flatbed semi. It says: "Ain’t No Feelin’ Like Cow Mobilin’."

Now, I did what anyone would do. I called my cow expert immediately.

Christopher (who grew up on a dairy farm) agreed it was a curious phrase. We discussed for a bit whether this message meant that it feels good to cow mobilin’ or just unique. He popped a google window and searched on the phrase. And found the most awesome thing about chickens on the intarweb EVER at Apparently, there is a longstanding feud between cow haulers and chicken haulers, which is all you need know. And I quote from the mini-essay kicking off a long thread there:

There must be a secret school somewhere that teaches the fine art of chicken hauling. I say that because of the recent influx of chicken haulers on the road today. I suspect many of them came from this secret school. They all seem to have the same characteristics. They all drive the same, they all say the same things on the CB radio, they even all have the same accent. I would even go so far as to say they speak their own language. You can usually spot them by the rubber chicken sticking out of their back door, looking as though the door closed on it, while trying to escape.

Chicken haulers are much easier to spot at night. They pass you by like the sun – a yellow, hot ball of light, glowing in all directions. If it weren’t for the fact that they’re usually going eighty miles per hour, you’d be blinded for sure. Thankfully, they pass quickly and are soon out of sight. But, just in case you blink and miss one, don’t worry; just turn your CB radio on. They are sure to be talking, non-stop, especially if there are two or more traveling together. They like to do that – travel together as one, like an American road-train. In Australia, they hook five trailers up to a tractor, but here, they travel so closely that they often look like one long vehicle.

I suggest you read the whole thing. This is two feet away from great American literature. And I don’t know why Christopher would try and disguise the origins of such a fantastic link. Unless he’s afraid of retaliation.

(Link obviously completely snitched from UnCommonwealth, soon to make the great Typepad migration.)