Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Word Tsunami

I love literary quarterlies. I mean, I just think they're swell - Black Clock, McSweeney's, The Paris Review, Tin House, Glimmer Train, A Public Space. I love the care and passion that these editors and publishers put into their little magazines, working from tiny budgets with shoestring staffs. I remember when I interviewed George Plimpton a few years ago in his apartment, I was stunned to see that The Paris Review at the time was produced from his cramped, low-ceilinged basement. It looked fit for a college yearbook, let alone the most important quarterly of the past half-century.

I love that both established authors and great soon-to-be-knowns contribute. I love that these magazines insist that our time is worth theirs. Despite the fact that the quarterly audience presumably reads the paper everyday, grazes the alt-weeklies, tries to trudge through The New Yorker on a semi-weekly basis, and also keeps up a steady book-reading habit, the quarterlies tells us, no, it's not enough, and now is the time to read tens of thousands more words that will enrich your day, week, life. Subscribing to a literary quarterly is like putting a fixed-rate mortgage down on your future reading time - you might not get to it for a while, but when you do, it'll pay itself off many times over.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Tales of Hoffman

The San Diego Padres reliever Trevor Hoffman broke the all-time saves record on Sunday with his 479th save. Wow, a remarkable achievement, made even more so by the fact that Hoffman was a shortstop in the minors! Apparently, Lee Smith, the man that Hoffman leaped frogged in the record book, was invited to attend the game, but missed it due to "prior commitments."

Smith has been getting some player-hatred online for this, but I ask you - how fun is it to watch someone break a record you thought might carry you into immortality? I have no beef with Smith shining on the game; it must be very painful for him to deal with a drop into second place. I cringed when the Maris family was invited to witness Mark McGuire as he busted their dad's single-season home run record - especially now that we know that McGuire was juiced. Sportsmanship has to run both ways, after all - if McGuire had broken the record on a level playing field, I would say more power to him. Because he didn't, I say fuck him.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Sullivan's Travails

Sorry for that interregnum...dealing with work and other paying matters.

I was struck the other day by Andrew Sullivan's plight. His publisher had to recall the first print run of his new book after a portion of one chapter was inexplicably lumped in with another. I can relate, thought my situation was a bit milder, as it was a galley, not a first print run. My British publisher (which shall go unnamed) produced a reviewer's copy that was completely screwed-up -a large chunk of text was repeated in two different places. See, there's a difference in kind between a galley proof that has typos and a galley that's poorly organized. Reviewers understand that they will encounter their share of misspelled words, "tk" holes, and such - but this was more like an unintentionally bad attempt at Mark Danielewski experimentation. What would reviewers think - that I somehow thought Truman Capote had written In Cold Blood in 1975?

But I digressively whine - In the final analysis, I don't think it made a damn bit of difference. Maybe If I had made a big stink then, it could have been some left-field cause celebre. Book didn't sell squat in England anyway.

Monday, September 11, 2006

A Trip to Sundance

So, as I wrote earlier today, I spent three glorious days at the Sundance Resort in Utah this past weekend to talk about my book The Gang That Wouldn't Write Straight. Most folks think only of Sundance in regard to film, and for good reason. But for the past four years, local bookstore owner Karen Dallett has organized a series of author forums grouped around specific themes. My talk was part of a six-author package on the media. (it was the penultimate talk in the series, which concludes on September 30th with 'American Theocracy' author Kevin Phillips)

It worked like this: Patrons, most of whom are loyal to the Sundance author events and have purchased the entire six-author enchilada, showed up at around 12 to have lunch in The Tree Room, a beautiful dining space at the resort, with huge windows that reveal tangles of pine trees and the towering peaks beyond - which, incidentally, are starting to sprout patches of auburn (the leaves turn fairly early here) Then at 1, I was on, bloviating in my usual way about New Journalism. There was a spirited discussion afterwards, with a lot of interesting questions and insights - one woman told us that her engineer husband had been called to testify during the Watergate hearings about Rose Marie Woods' 18 and a half minute gap on that infamous Nixon tape. I signed a bunch of books in the library, and for that lunch hour, all was right with the world.

Events like these are a boost to the fragile author's ego; In Utah, I was pumped full of self-importance and love for mankind. It's illusory and all too transient, of course - your plane touches down on Burbank tarmac, and it starts to feel like a hazy dream. The trip had a salutary effect, though - all writers should be made to feel that their work isn't in vain every once in a while, and you can do worse than Sundance.

Sundance, Kid

Sorry for the delay - I was in Sundance over the weekend as part of their Authors on the Media series, and it was fab. More later, when I have the time to gather my thoughts and get it down here...

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Disney, finally..and Mailer, too

Here is something a lot of us have been waiting for - perhaps ten years, maybe longer? I've lost track. It's Neal Gabler's mammoth, definitive biography of Walt Disney, one of those long-gestating projects that never seem to materialize. Looking at the Amazon page for Walt Disney: The Triumph of the American Imagination however, it seems like this book is going to be a mind-blower, delving as it does into Disney's alleged anti-semitism and alcoholism.

This, and a new Mailer novel, too? It's going to be an interesting Winter.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

I Have No Flipping Idea

Jesus, this is harder for me than I thought it would be - I can't let go of summer. Summer means I can be irresponsible and call it a well-deserved break, and for an adult that's called grace. Fall means hunkering down, a fresh start, and all that crap. I can't deal. Therefore, I'm running on empty, blog-wise - the tank needs to be filled up a little before anything decent appears in this space any time soon.

Friday, September 01, 2006

The End of An Era

As you might have already read elsewhere on the web, Robert Christgau, the self-proclaimed dean of rock critics and mentor to countless writers, was axed by the Village Voice yesterday. I had my issues with Christgau, as did many readers who had read his Consumer Guide of pocket record reviews for eons (Blue Oyster Cult is better than Black Sabbath? Nigga please...,) but the man did help me to build one hell of a great record collection. He was the zen master of the capsule commentary; Christgau could pack more ideas into three sentences than most cultural critics could articulate in a 10,000 essay. My hope is that Christgau will now pocket his severance and put his talent to good use, maybe write a book or two.

So, how many reviews has Christgau written since 1967? Check out his web site - er, that would be 13, 236! Just graze through that index, it's quite astonishing to behold.

God's speed, Dean....

Good Things, 9/1/06

The end of the summer, already? Christ almighty, I am getting older by the minute. Very good things:

Three more days of summer

Alice Kaplan's "French Lessons"

Tom Snyder's Electric Kool-Aid Acid Talk Show DVD

Fretboard Journal

Allen Ginsberg's Howl (Happy 50th birthday)

My Kids