Wednesday, May 31, 2006

books

Interview with Michael Pollan. Los Angeles City Beat. In Michael Pollan’s recently released book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals, the author delves into America’s twisted nutritional zeitgeist and discovers that we need to retrace our culinary steps. Then he does the legwork for us by investigating the origins of four separate meals, from a drive-thru McDonald’s dinner to one for which he himself has – not kidding – hunted and foraged. Another interview here: Austinist Interviews Michael Pollan.

books

A conference with ghosts. Writings by and about our disenfranchised prison population. By Daniel Burton-Rose. San Francisco Bay Guardian. Two new books by bright young writers delve into the impact of America's criminal justice system on society at large. In Conned: How Millions Went to Prison, Lost the Vote, and Helped Send George W. Bush to the White House, Sacramento-based investigative journalist Sasha Abramsky documents the way in which the widespread practice of stripping convicted felons of the right to vote has dramatically contracted the country's pool of eligible voters.

. . . Forced Passages: Imprisoned Radical Intellectuals and the U.S. Prison Regime, by UC Riverside ethnic studies professor Dylan Rodríguez, examines the collective output of a group of writers who, in their refusal to disappear, plumb the limits of the coercive power of the state.

books

Censorship is xxxx xx xxx. A new anthology looks at how we silence others and ourselves. By David Moisl. San Francisco Bay Guardian. "The ultimate dream of censorship is to do away with the censor," says Svetlana Mintcheva in Censoring Culture: Contemporary Threats to Free Expression, a collection of essays, interviews, and roundtable discussions whose contributors range from Stanford law professor Lawrence Lessig and hacker-culture explicator Douglas Thomas to fiction writers J.M. Coetzee and Judy Blume.

. . . In “Market Censorship,” New Press founder André Schiffrin discusses the situation of booksellers: "The market, it is argued, is a sort of ideal democracy. It is not up to the elite to impose their values on readers, publishers claim, it is up to the public to choose what it wants — and if what it wants is increasingly downmarket and limited in scope, so be it. The higher profits are proof that the market is working like it should."

film

Road to Nowhere. Al Gore scares the living hell out of Sam Adams. Philadelphia City Paper. I've been trying to tell this story for 30 years, and I've felt that I failed in it. But I think I'm making progress, and that's one reason I'm so happy that these moviemakers convinced me. They came to one of my slide shows and asked if they could make a movie out of it, and I was skeptical, but they convinced me, and I'm so glad now, because they've made a really entertaining movie that stays true to the science. I think when people connect all those dots, you will see a sense of urgency that goes up to the levels that match the awareness. And then the country will move past a tipping point and start taking action.

Friday, May 26, 2006

publishing

Justice, Love, Death & Literature An Interview with Sandy Taylor, Publisher, Curbstone Press. Interviewed by Jessica Powers. Sandy Taylor is co-director of Curbstone Press, which recently celebrated 30 years of publishing. Curbstone Press was started because Sandy and Judy Doyle "wanted to present literature that promoted human rights and civil liberties and promoted cultural understanding."

NP: The question is which came first, the love of human rights or books?

Taylor: Who remembers for sure? I’m not sure I ever separated the two. The hunger for justice is every bit a part of our experience as love or death. We’ve always believed literature has an effect on people’s lives.

Along with discussing his philosophy of publishing and life, Sandy gives would-be literary publishers many tips from his long career--advice on finding a distributor, getting into bookstores, the academic market, getting reviews, conferences to attend, and the importance of promotion. "...all kinds of factors involved in keeping the 'culture of the book' alive."

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

culture

Battle Cry for Theocracy. By Sunsara Taylor, Truth Dig. BattleCry is a part of the evangelical organization Teen Mania, and you can learn a lot about the kind of society that Teen Mania is fighting for by reading up on its Honor Academy, a non-accredited educational institution that offers directed internships to 700 undergraduate and graduate youth each year. Among the academy’s tenets: Homosexuality and masturbation are sins. Interns are forbidden to listen to secular music, watch R-rated movies or date; men can’t use the Internet unsupervised; the length of women’s skirts is regulated. The logic behind this—that men must be protected from the sin of sexual temptation—is what drives Islamic fundamentalists to shroud women in burkhas!

books

New Book Lays Out Impeachment Crimes and Impeachment Roadmap. The Case for Impeachment: The Legal Argument for Removing President George W. Bush from Office. By Dave Lindorff & Barbara Olshansky, SF Indymedia. The authors believe that just as the president's many impeachable crimes are political in nature, they demand a political response. What is required is that the public rise up this November, throw off years of lethargy and cynicism, and elect to Congress representatives who are committed to standing up for the Constitution, for the tradition of three co-equal branches of government, and for the civil liberties that hundreds of thousands of Americans have died defending...

bookselling

Why Go Independent? But friends, every time you put a dollar into amazon.com's already overflowing coffers - into Big Corporate Store's already overflowing coffers - you are robbing the small store in your community. You are sending your dollars to Seattle or Chicago or New York. And you're taking tax dollars out of your community - and tax dollars, as you know, represent much more than a new book or CD or gewgaw. They represent road repair, police salaries, city parks and on and on. And by hurting the small business owner - who lives and is trying to make his living in your community - you are taking him out of the economic equation.

lit blogs

Ann Arbor Book Festival. Dan Wickett of Emerging Writers Network blogs the cold, rainy book fair.

Saturday was best summed up by Orchid Co-Executive Editor Keith Hood at about 3:45 p.m., just before the Literary Journal Panel. Responding to somebody who asked how the day had been going, Keith replied:

"It hasn't sucked as much as I thought it would."

And a bit more...

lit blogs

Attended this weekend - Asian American Writers Congress (Los Angeles). The Hermit Poet. I had a great time at the first annual Asian American Writers Congress held at UCLA. The program began with the keynote speaker, Shawn Wong who addressed the where have we been and where are we going aspects of Asian American literature.

Monday, May 15, 2006

books

Generation Xerox. Youth may not be an excuse for plagiarism. But it is an explanation. And then there’s Kaavya herself. All the reasons an unknown girl got such a large advance for a slight novel—her promotability: extreme youth, voguish ethnicity, good looks, public poise, and Harvard imprimatur, as well as the book’s autobiographical verisimilitude—are the same reasons her downfall is so riveting. The story also has a crossover appeal, pleasing both young people envious of their mega-successful peer and older people who enjoy imputing moral inferiority and too-clever-by-half stupidity to the younger generation.

leonard

Leaning out for love. Leonard Cohen returns from the mount with a book of longing about love, life, sex -- and more sex. The dark messiah has returned. He's older, perhaps wiser, definitely cheerier and tumescent as ever.
Leonard Cohen has surfaced with his first book of new poetry in 22 years. Book of Longing will, no doubt, grab aging boomers in all the old, familiar places.

In one poem, Other Writers, Cohen discusses the spirituality of close friends, including Roshi, and compares their sacred pursuits to that of him placing his hand down the front of a woman's jeans.

I've got to tell you, friends
I prefer my stuff to theirs.

Another poem is titled The Lovesick Monk: "It's dismal here," he whines. There was a definite lack of sex on Mt. Baldy.

bookselling

What Are Independent Bookstores Really Good For? Not much. By Tyler Cowen, Slate. NewPages.com does not share the statement made in the title of this article, but I think it's only fair to read and reflect on it.

"Our attachment to independent bookshops is, in part, affectation—a self-conscious desire to belong a particular community (or to seem to). Patronizing indies helps us think we are more literary or more offbeat than is often the case. "

Friday, May 12, 2006

bookselling

Cody's Books on Telegraph Ave. in Berkeley to close its doors. In 1989, after a minor firebombing, the store announced that it would continue to sell Salman Rushdie's controversial "Satanic Verses'' -- a decision that Ross called "our finest hour.''

"Rushdie came to the store once, a surprise visit when he was still in hiding,'' Ross said. The author gave the bookstore 5-minutes notice to announce that he was in the store and would sign books. "There's a hole above the information desk from the bombing. Someone scribbled 'Salman Rushdie memorial hole.' When Rushdie was here, he looked up and said, 'Some people get statues, others get holes.' "

writers

Jhumpa Lahiri on PEN's World Voices. Interview by Suzanne Dottino, KGBBarLit. SD: One of PEN’s principle missions is to defend free expression, something that’s not only relevant but also crucial in today’s global state of affairs. "Faith and Reason” is a provocative theme for PEN International New Voices Festival. What’s to be learned in its exploration and perhaps more practically speaking, what impact can writers truly have to make inroads in cultures where free speech has never been valued? What can literature do to ensure that that freedom isn’t eroded in others?

JL: The fundamental impact any writer can have on the world is to write honestly and well. And in order to aspire to write in such a way, the writer must be able to express himself or herself in an absolutely uncensored, unhindered environment, and to obey no authority other than what the work demands. This is true in any culture, and for all literary traditions.

publishing

Soft Skull Press According to Richard Nash & Richard Nash According to Susan Chi. By Susan Chi, KGBBarLit. “What we’re trying to do with fiction is kind of a three pronged model, the first of which is obviously to find new writers, and the second of which is to breakout lower mid-list writers. There’s essentially two kinds of mid-list writers, the ones the big publishers want to publish and the ones the big publishers don’t want to publish…There’s a whole cohort of writers, tending to be on the younger end, the 35-50 age group, who have published a few books and despite a far amount of critical appreciation, they’re not selling in numbers that allow the editor to show up at the editorial meeting and say this can sell 15,000 copies, because they’ve only sold 2000 copies each time round."

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Writers

Rustbelt Roethke: A Professional Writers' Workshop. July 9-15, 2006. "Recharge your batteries, pick up new ideas and techniques, make friends and influence people, write and work with a discerning group of peers at Rustbelt Roethke, a professional-level writers’ workshop with a comfortable, egalitarian atmosphere at a modest cost."

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Media

Hollywood Star Robbins Blasts US Media Ignorance of 'High Crimes' in Iraq. By Tim Harper, Common Dreams. Acclaimed American actor/director Tim Robbins blasted the US government's policy on terrorism -- and the US media's failure to examine it critically -- at a news conference in Athens promoting his stage version of George Orwell's "1984".

Writers

Interview with George Saunders. Boldtype 31. BT: You pick up on a sort of campy but unsettling beauty in the way we all agree to talk in conversation, in meetings, on TV. How do you go about making that literary?

GS: I never had a sense of what literary language should be like, and when I tried to do it, it always came out like Thomas Wolfe on quaaludes — where you describe the same thing three times. ...Even when I overhear somebody on their cell phone up here on campus. If you forget the phone, and just think of it as a poem, it's unbelievable: "Mom, I told this fucking guy I was too hungover! What are you talking about, Mom? I was too wasted, I couldn't call you." The idea is that you have to listen, and then you purify it a little bit.

Alt Mags

Human Rights Tribune - Special Issue on Migration Introducing the new format and layout for the Human Rights Tribune. This issue of the online publication is a special focus on migration. Each issue of the Tribune features timely articles about important events and issues affecting human rights, as well as the people and organizations involved in the promotion and protection of these rights.

Publishing

Small Publishers Book Big Rewards. Nonmainstream presses generated $14 billion in 2005 -- more than half of all book sales -- by targeting niche readers. By Stacy Perman, Business Week. ...small presses are championing new voices, focusing on niche markets or subjects and genres that have either been ignored by the big houses or simply deemed unprofitable -- such as poetry and foreign authors. They are creating whole businesses by reissuing out-of-print classics and maintaining the tradition of printing literary fiction.

Archipelago publishes 8 to 10 titles a year. As a non-profit, the house relies on donations from foundations and individuals. "I knew we couldn't make it if we relied only on sales," Schoolman says. That way the house can stick to its mission and plow any profits back into publishing. And that allows Schoolman to bring unknowns such as Croatian writer Miljenko Jergovíc and Greek poet Miltos Sachtouris to an American readership.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Media

Colbert Lampoons Bush at White House Correspondents Dinner -- President Not Amused? Editor & Publisher. Addressing the reporters, he said, "Let's review the rules. Here's how it works. The president makes decisions, he’s the decider. The press secretary announces those decisions, and you people of the press type those decisions down. Make, announce, type. Put them through a spell check and go home. Get to know your family again. Make love to your wife. Write that novel you got kicking around in your head. You know, the one about the intrepid Washington reporter with the courage to stand up to the administration. You know -- fiction."

Comics

Daniel Clowes Talks Confidential. By Jason Silverman, Wired News. WN: Has there been any progress for literary comics in the 20 years that you've been writing?

Clowes: It's hard to see it objectively. The news articles that have been written about me have changed. It used to always start, "The bang-zoom comics aren't just for kids anymore." … The shift came when (journalists) didn't have to put me in the context of a world that they figured nobody understood.

...WN: Do you read comics online?

Clowes: I don't read much of anything online. It's not an enjoyable experience for me to read something with light projected through it. I like to read comics sitting down, looking at this piece of paper that can't do anything else.

Music

A Sour Note on Modern Times. By Tony Long, Wired News. To listeners weaned on pop tunes running 2:48 (with guitar solo), a 15-minute adagio can be daunting. Some of Bruckner's stuff, especially when played under a heavy baton, must seem excruciating to modern ears. But that isn't Bruckner's fault. His music was geared to his world, not ours.

Life is a sprint these days. So maybe the right solution for the purveyors of the classics is to take a work of 40 minutes and cut it to 10, giving you time to catch a quick listen before moving on to the next big thing in your day.

Lit blogs

From Emerging Writers Network, An Independent Book Store Looks for Help. I received a letter yesterday that I'll pass along here. It comes from the current owners of Burke's Book Store, Corey and Cheryl Mesler. Burke's Book Store has been around since 1875 in the Memphis, TN area, and appears to have been run as a family owned store for just over 100 years.

Books

Faking It: How America Lost Politics. Joe Klein explains why politicians think you're stupid, how the presidency lost character and how we can bring it back. By Onnesha Roychoudhuri, AlterNet.

The dirty little secret about many political reporters and columnists is that we're romantics. I don't do it to watch politicians screw up, although that's sometimes fun. I do it for the moments when they do something inspirational, challenging or give me something new to think about. I realized that during my career, those moments had been rapidly disappearing, particularly over the last 10 years. I wanted to think about why that had happened and write a book about it to make people aware of this in the hopes that things can get better again.

Music

What Neil Young, Springsteen, Pearl Jam and the Dixie Chicks have in common. By Don Hazen. AlterNet. Anti-war albums and songs are topping the charts with sky-rocketing sales. It's likely never, ever happened -- as Randall Wallace pointed out this weekend, four of Amazon's top-ten selling records on April 30th have real anti-war songs!

Listen to Neil Young's new music at http://www.neilyoung.com/

Monday, May 01, 2006

Writers

Ferlinghetti's beat definitely goes on. Legendary poet still draws crowd. By David Abel, Boston.com. One of the last legends of the Beat Generation, Lawrence Ferlinghetti left his enclave in North Beach, San Francisco, last week to accept the New England Poetry Club's Golden Rose, which club officials say is the nation's oldest literary prize.

Lit Mags

New batch of literary magazine reviews posted.

Books

Death is the new sex. Sandra M. Gilbert’s new book takes an unflinching look at the last taboo. By Kal Munger, Sacramento News & Review.

Death’s Door is very personal; Gilbert returns again and again to her own loss as she surveys Western attitudes toward death. But her examination--including the institutionalization of the dying and the medical and technological attention given to a passage that once took place in the home--always returns to poetry. “We’re always struggling to control death,” she said. “Poetry reminds us that we can’t.”

...Gilbert believes the study of literature is necessary to understand death “because poets and writers are the ones who refuse to believe that there’s any kind of control over death, and they are not embarrassed by that lack of control.”