Jami Attenberg's The Middlesteins, which hits bookstores today, tells the story of a Midwestern family whose matriarch is binge-eating herself to death. There's a lot of talk about the obesity crisis in the country, but it tends to happen along one of two set tracks: either accompanying stock footage of headless fat people, or else coming from sinewy trainers barking at the imagined laziness of their frightened charges. It's fair to say that people are ready for another kind of story, and The Middlesteins has the potential to fill that gap. It isn't a polemic about the sagacity of good nutrition, or about personal foolishness. It's about how and [...]
For Frank O'Hara, L was definitely for Lunch. He wrote most of Lunch Poems during his lunch hours—pausing, as he put it, "for a liver sausage sandwich in the Mayflower Shoppe" and taking notes on what he'd seen while roaming Manhattan. Eating and writing, eating and writing. I adore the book's title, not just for its banal literality, but for its figurative (ahem, poetic) potential as well: The volume of poems, small as a subway map, tucks easily into one's pocket. Like a snack. And the poems, too, can be consumed that way. As O'Hara's famous "A Step Away from Them" suggestively ends: "A glass of papaya juice / [...]
"There is almost nothing better for your work than having someone cook and clean for you who is neither a relative nor someone you’re sleeping with."
In a 2005 article about hecklers, Stewart Lee related an anecdote about his fellow stand-up comic Daniel Kitson. "Privately, the debate continues amongst comedians, 'what is Daniel Kitson doing?' Why, many wonder, does he do [small Edinburgh venue] The Stand when he could do the big room at Assembly? Why does he insist on shaking off half the following he has established every couple of years by doing a sensitive story show? Why doesn’t he have a nice haircut? Surely he could afford it now. But Kitson once told me, that after his Perrier nomination, he was doing a run at the Soho theatre. Sitting in a toilet cubicle [...]
Well, I started writing the book 20 years ago. I wrote 20 pages and then I set it aside. I am sort of a comer-backer, anyway. But I took this bag of notes and put it in the freezer compartment of my refrigerator. The story was already called Canada and I knew it was about a 16-year-old boy going across the Canadian border to Saskatchewan. I didn't know why he was going there. I didn't know why two parents would have abandoned him, but over those 20 years I would get a little idea about how a person would get in that situation, and write it down and [...]
"I am currently copyediting my second Twitter-to-book manuscript in a month. It is a trend I find [Darth Vader voice] disturbing…. The one I’m wrestling with now is incredibly whatever-the-real-opposite-of-clever-is. I won’t give the Twitter feed's name here, since I don’t want to be an über-douche about it, but seriously, it’s not good…. Some guy who works in television as a writer on a popular sitcom keeps a Twitter feed where he and a few friends enjoy retweeting others’ posts that are at once self-aggrandizing and self-deprecating, in which it’s obvious that the main thrust is the self-aggrandizing part and therefore the tweeters are shown to be kind of [...]
In 2010, an anonymous writer took over the advice column "Dear Sugar" at the literary website The Rumpus. Last night, Valentine's Day, she went public with her identity at a “coming-out” party in San Francisco. Like many others, I’ve become obsessed with her advice, but I wasn’t sure I wanted her to come out, and told her so when I interviewed her last year. Still, she did it anyway, which shows how valuable my advice is, I guess.
So you didn't win a Nobel Prize in Literature this week. Unless your name is Mr. Mo. Although, if you live in Europe, you did win a consolation Nobel Peace Prize at least. (Giving the Nobel Peace Prize to the European Union is like giving an Oscar to Alf.) Anyway, I know, it’s total bullshit. You totally deserved it. But you might just be a calendar year away from getting the recognition you so obviously deserve. Let me show you the way.
I waited by the phone all week for that congratulatory call from overseas myself! Not for the stuff I’ve already written, which, let’s admit, is pretty amazing. But [...]
Jennifer Egan's "recent sci-fi excursions expose her not as a writer resigned to the waning importance of literature, but as a literary 'luddite' willing to take things to the next level, to begin a sabotage." —I'm not buying all of this but I like this as an idea.
Shane Jones’ new novel, Daniel Fights a Hurricane, was published last week by Penguin. Like his first novel—Light Boxes, in which a town bands together to fight the month of February—Daniel Fights a Hurricane centers on a force of nature. The hurricane takes many shapes, including a mob of angry children, a monster with sharp teeth, and the madness that may or may not be filling Daniel's head with visions. The book is filled with surreal, hallucinogenic imagery ranging from the terrifying to the hilarious—there are “banana bombs," rotten bananas thrown like grenades—that work to create a sinister, modern fairy tale, but one written for the demented adult [...]
Part of a two-week series on the pull of bad influences in our lives and in the culture.
I don’t remember all that much about my first year at university except that it was the year we converted from pounds, shillings and pence to "decimal currency." I shared ground-floor rooms, overlooking the Third Quad in college, with a bearded, bear-like chap I called (for reasons which need not detain us) Eighty Two. He was impossibly good: for all practical purposes a saint. His father ran a school for the blind. He had just spent part of his gap year (though the term wasn’t in use back then) in a 12th-century [...]
"If you think you’ve got writers’ block after 45 seconds of not writing, you don’t need an app, you need someone gently to tell you that you should consider the possibility that writing is not just about writing, it’s also (and maybe mainly) about the space in between the writing, when nothing seems to be happening, or random stuff is having an incoherent party inside your head. Almost always, you do eventually start to write, and it seems that you’ve been considering after all."
Rupert says he forgot meeting because it took place on his wife Wendi's boat rather than his own
— David Folkenflik (@davidfolkenflik) April 25, 2012
Who gamed a substantial number of professional news-gatherers into providing free content for Twitter?
Remember back when newspapers and other organizations doubled their employees' workload? (You should, it was only like a couple years ago.) And they were all, ha ha, now you have to blog too! Or you'll get fired like all those union guys who used to run the printing plant! So that worked out pretty well actually. Worked out real good for… some people. But everyone has taken this [...]
11 a.m.: THE LITERATURE OF AIDS FROM 1981 – 1995, with David France, Michael Denneny, Larry Kramer, Sarah Schulman, John Weir, and Edmund White.
2 p.m.: THE LITERATURE OF AIDS FROM 1996 – 2011, with Rabih Alameddine, Gary Indiana, Zia Jaffrey, Amy Scholder, and Max Steele.
7 p.m. READING with Rabih Alameddine, Michael Denneny, Gary Indiana, Zia Jaffrey, John Kelly, Larry Kramer, Jennie Livingston, Amy Scholder, Max Steele, John Weir, and Edmund White.
1. Underwear is definitely pants.
This has been an issue, I believe, ever since the first writer ever worked at home.
A general guideline: underwear isn’t pants. That is, you can’t tell yourself, “At least I put on pants today,” if it was just underwear—and no, you shouldn’t sign for a delivery like that.
There's no shame in working in your skivvies, though. Victor Hugo used to get undressed and have his valet take his clothes away. Be proud; just know that it's not pants you've got on. Now go back to work.
2. All you need to be a writer is talent.
Despite the success of [...]
Dwight Garner's case for critical criticism came out just in time, looks like! "What we need more of, now that newspaper book sections are shrinking and vanishing like glaciers, are excellent and authoritative and punishing critics—perceptive enough to single out the voices that matter for legitimate praise, abusive enough to remind us that not everyone gets, or deserves, a gold star." Well he's in luck… on part of that?
Five days previous came this NYTBR piece on the latest by Dale Peck, by Ron Powers, who you likely don't know, but was the first TV critic to win a Pulitzer. In 1973. Lesse: "self-absorbed overreaching, a compost [...]
"Relationships often change people, but this was a weird one, because I was the same before and after it, but very different during." —The Lena Dunham story in the New Yorker (subscription-only) is totally worth it on a lot of levels (both "laughing at" and "laughing with," though mostly John Cook has the "laughing at" covered quite grumpily), but it's also a good addition to what I think is the best part of her projects about youth: what is it about the certain kind of person who can completely annihilate their personality because of love? I was like this when I was younger and it's completely alien to [...]
Here's a lot more on the strange case of Jonah Lehrer, the new New Yorker writer and "idea man" who borrows early and often from his own work. We've been staying out of this one—for one thing, it just doesn't need a mass outrage pile-on (it's not like he was writing things in the public interest; if he was doing this with subjects that were like, somehow important, maybe I'd be upset), and for another, it's all just incomprehensibly weird—but wow, that sure is a lot of recycled text. Oh but wait: there's more.
Over my bed, or the thing I call my bed which used to be a couch but is kinda now more of a cot, suddenly bathed in an unnatural moonlight, is a seven-foot book with arms and legs. It's a hardcover with a shiny commercial trade book cover. The title is set in a silvery font that jags and blurs out a little, like frost. It reads: THE COLDEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR. This was the title of a play the Drama Guild of my high school wrote and performed about homeless people for a one-act play competition. We didn't win, but I always liked that title. I always wanted [...]
Today would have been David Foster Wallace's 50th birthday, and if you'd like to mark it, here are some things that might interest you to read (or watch) and revisit. The list isn't intended to be comprehensive; for that there's the Howling Fantods, not to mention this, this and that. This is more like an old trunk, some favorite things that got packed away and today's maybe a nice day to take them out and rummage around a little: Remember when Frank Bruni peeped inside DFW's medicine cabinet? etc.