"Immersion in the life of the world, a willingness to be inhabited by and to speak for others, including those beyond the realm of the human, these are the practices not just of the bodhisattva but of the writer." --Jane Hirshfield

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Top Ten Books of 2007

From the NY Times.

I wish I could say I've read more of these, although I usually disagree with anyone's top ten.


In Bangladesh
In Turkey

In the U.S. in the 1990s.

The Top Ten
1. Scary Stories (Series) by Alvin Schwartz
2. Daddy's Roommate by Michael Willhoite
3. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
4. The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier
5. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
6. Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
7. Harry Potter (Series) by J.K. Rowling
8. Forever by Judy Blume
9. Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson
10. Alice (Series) by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
18. The Color Purple by Alice Walker
42. Beloved by Toni Morrison
69. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
71. Native Son by Richard Wright
84. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain
85. Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison

In Sudan, it's teddy bears they're worried about. You can't name them after the prophet. Here, we named them after a popular Teddy, and nobody made a fuss.

Was That Her Tongue? Bad Sex Shortlist

Is a doozy:
"Anne Hathaway's cow-milking fingers, cradling my balls in her almond palm, now took pity on the poor anguished erection..."

Read more.

And the winnah:

She sucked on him nonetheless with an avidity that could come only from the Evil One - that she knew.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Writing the McNovel?

Got idealistic dragons? Homoerotic vampires? Uh-oh. This was too good to pass up, from Paperback Writer via Nathan Bransford.
Bonus Mcpoints: you claim the novel is entirely your invention and has nothing to do with that other Brother McVampire series which you of course simply haven't had time to read yet.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Zippicamiknicks - Promiscuous Sex and Mindless Consumerism Vs. Totalitarian Paranoia

Margaret Atwood does Brave New World, Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Victoria's Secret:

"zippicamiknicks", that female undergarment with a single zipper down the front that could be shucked so easily: "Zip! The rounded pinkness fell apart like a neatly divided apple. A wriggle of the arms, a lifting first of the right foot, then the left: the zippicamiknicks were lying lifeless and as though deflated on the floor."

I myself was living in the era of "elasticised panty girdles" that could not be got out of or indeed into without an epic struggle, so this was heady stuff indeed.

The girl shedding the zippicamiknicks is Lenina Crowne, a blue-eyed beauty both strangely innocent and alluringly voluptuous - or "pneumatic", as her many male admirers call her. Lenina doesn't see why she shouldn't have sex with anyone she likes whenever the occasion offers, as to do so is merely polite behaviour and not to do so is selfish.

Everyone is happy at the Guardian.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

National Book Awards

Go Sherman and Denis! Two of my favorite authors, Sherman Alexie and Denis Johnson, have won in 2007.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Cover Story: Is this the End of the Hardcover Book?

Picador plans to publish most of its titles as "B format" paperbacks - of the kind used for paperback editions of novels by the likes of Ian McEwan and Anne Enright. The firm's publisher Andrew Kidd told The Bookseller: "We want to help well-reviewed authors get straight to their readers." At the same time, Picador's novels will also appear in limited hardback print runs, produced for the people who prefer to acquire books with cloth covers, boards, endpapers and so on, and who don't mind paying for those luxuries.

Such people, though, are few in number. So why have publishers persisted for so long in bringing out hardback novels, pushing for reviews and interviews with the authors, and waiting until everyone has forgotten about the publicity before issuing the affordable editions?
At the Guardian.

Does it matter if it is the end? I buy few books in hardcover, only those for which I can't bear to wait for the paperbacks, which I prefer -- easier to handle, lighter to carry, less space to store. And, yes, cheaper, so my book-buying budget goes a longer way. The same argument can be made for used books, which I do buy, but the rule I try to stick to is, once I have bought a used book by an author and liked it, I buy the next one new (in paperback, usually), to support the author and the publishing industry. (I bet they are happy to hear that. Well, they would be if they knew how many books I buy.)

The Over-Rated and the Dead

When the world speaks with one voice, it almost invariably gets it wrong. Thus, Norman Mailer, who died at the weekend, has been hailed as a great, if flawed, American writer, a pre-eminent chronicler of the 20th century. But it would be closer to the truth to characterise him as an arch-conservative who pulled off a stunning confidence trick.

Mailer hated authority, homosexuality, women and almost certainly himself, producing fiction and essays that would be comically bad if they did not display addictions to violence and abusive sex.
Then as now, few on the left cared that he was a hysterical opponent of contraception and abortion: "I hate contraception ... it's an abomination." It was left to one or two feminist writers, notably Kate Millett in Sexual Politics, to point out the contradictions that disfigured his work. Millett regarded Mailer as "a prisoner of the virility cult", a man whose "powerful intellectual comprehension of what is most dangerous in the masculine sensibility is exceeded only by his attachment to the malaise."

My feelings exactly. Read the rest.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Is the Story Alive or Dead, Would Somebody Make Up Our Minds For Us

After reading the article highlighted in a previous entry, I came across this one, at the Book Critics Circle blog, which is either confident or head-in-the-sand, depending on whose opinion you prefer -- the comments section is worth reading. My opinion? Well, not being primarily a short story writer, I don't really know. I think both sides have some interesting things to say, but I'm inclined toward the more negative view, unfortunately.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

I Want One...Is There A Fork and Knife Version?

Japanese women with environmental concerns close to their hearts may one day be able to wear a bra which can carry their own personal chopsticks to cut down on waste.

And the bra has benefits beyond protecting simply the planet -- the chopsticks tucked in both sides of the bra will give lift to the breasts and "gently accentuate cleavage", Triumph Japan said.

At Yahoo.com.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Natural Male Enhancement of Privacy

If you've ever watched late-night TV in the US, odds are good that you've come across Bob, the suburban everyman who goes from zero to hero after taking a product called Enzyte "for natural male enhancement." Steven Warshak, the man behind Enzyte and other dubious concoctions like Avlimil (for women), made a killing hawking the product, but he hasn't been smiling like Bob for some time. That's because the US government thinks his business is illegitimate and has gone after Warshak and his company in court. In the course of the legal battle, the Feds got access to much of Warshak's e-mail without a search warrant, and Warshak complained. Suddenly, the EFF and ACLU found themselves on the side of the Enzyte kingpin, arguing a case that could have major ramifications for every e-mail user in the country.
At Ars Technica.

Free Mandatory Book Marks in the UK

A scheme to put thousands of advertisements into library books will find borrowers taking home a little more than they had bargained for.

Up to 500,000 inserts a month are due to be handed out by libraries in Essex, Somerset, Bromley, Leeds and Southend.

The plan is being run by the direct marketing company Howse Jackson, whose business development director Mark Jackson said the company was "very proud" of what he described as "a brand new channel" for direct marketing.

Sounds like a lot of extra paper to me, but I hope they will leave a little white space on the inserts. I am always making notes on book marks, and really appreciate it when there is enough space. Grocery store receipts, the kind without advertising on the back, are my favorites lately.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Audacious Short Story

Short stories "succeed by wilfully falsifying many of the observable qualities of the lived life they draw upon. They also leave out a lot of life and try to make us not worry about it. They often do funny things with time - things we know can't be done, really - but then make us go along with that. They persuade us that the human-being-like characters they show us can be significantly known on the strength of rather slight exposure; and they make us believe that entire lives can change on account of one little manufactured moment of clear-sightedness. You could say, based on this evidence, that the most fundamental character trait of short stories, other than their shortness, would seem to be audacity."

Richard Ford, from The New Granta Book of the American Short Story, at the Guardian. The article goes on to discuss a number of stories. Might be worth keeping an eye open for this book -- available stateside.