5/27/2010 5:19:15 PM
Rick Bass has a lovely little piece on touring the Louvre in the current issue of Ecotone. He describes the sheer exhaustion and awe of seeing everything—or anything—in the great museum. Here’s a snippet from his observations:
Crawling through time like that, emptying from one chamber into the next, seeing hundreds and then thousands of paintings at once, was a little like moving through the chambers of the human brain and watching its artistic process, the rhythms toward and yearnings for beauty. All the celebrations and lamentations unfolded: as if, again, it was not the hands of artists doing the work as much as some overriding impulse—some spirit or instinct that was traveling for a while through their fevered minds. In such a vast collection, you can begin, as never before, to hear the larger reverberations of collected voices, collected glories, all powered by something more substantial than any one artist’s puny heart.
Image by Marc Lagneau, licensed under Creative Commons.
5/27/2010 12:39:09 PM
The good people at The Rumpus have come up with a new way of doing the book club, and it's awesome. I'll let them explain:
Here’s how it’s going to work. You pay $25 a month and every month you get a book in the mail that hasn’t been released yet. You’re invited to a moderated online discussion with the author at the end of the month which we’ll edit and run on The Rumpus as a feature article. You can also write a review of the book and we’ll run the best written review on the website. You don’t have to participate in the discussion or review the book, you could just subscribe to receive a new, unpublished book every month.
We’re going to try to only read good books. We’ll fail sometimes. Some books that are out now we would have liked to include are Sam Lipsyte’s The Ask, Emily Gould’s And The Heart Says Whatever, and David Goodwillie’s American Subversive. The books will often be hardcover, but not always. Sometimes they’ll be galleys, also known as ARCs, Advance Reader Copies, pre-printed paperbacks. It’s neat because we’re going to have a discussion about new books, rather than waiting to be told what books are approved for cultural consumption. It used to be that only people in the media got advance copies of books but that wall has come down quite a bit. Now everybody’s a reviewer.
It’ll be easy to unsubscribe from the book club at any time.
Source: The Rumpus
Image by ckaroli, licensed under Creative Commons.
5/25/2010 12:51:54 PM
The folks over at The Believer have awarded the fifth annual Believer Book Award to Percival Everett’s novel, I am Not Sydney Poitier. The book was picked from a short list of novels and story collections that the editors deemed “the strongest and most underappreciated of the year.” I’ve been thinking about the underappreciated thing. With so many books coming out, what does “underappreciated” even mean in the book world anymore? I sent this question in an email to Believer HQ and editor Heidi Julavits sent me this response:
Indeed, who in 2010 is not underappreciated? Even the appreciated are underappreciated. For example, the week after the Pulitzer Prize for fiction was announced, one of the two finalists was scarcely to be found in one of Manhattan’s most tasteful and typically on-the-ball indie bookstores (the clerk had never heard of it; she finally located their lone copy in an unfrequented and shadowy corner shelf).
Or take, as an example, Remainder, by Tom McCarthy, the winner of our 2007 award. That book was published by a big and powerful press (it was a Vintage Paperback original); it was even featured on the front cover of the New York Times Book Review. But astonishingly, despite that level of so-called appreciation, very few people—and by “people” we mean people we know personally, people who read The Believer and other books that we ourselves read, people who would seem to be the perfect audience for a book like Remainder—many of these people had never read the book even heard of it.
So by underappreciated maybe we mean that we’ve found a book that a certain sort of person should be appreciating, and based on our anecdotal and highly unscientific surveys, this book is not being adequately appreciated by those people.
5/24/2010 12:30:02 PM
Where is our contemporary war literature? Will vets writing about Iraq and Afghanistan benefit or suffer from the peculiar hiccups and habits of the modern Master of Fine Arts writing workshop? Can the experience of war even be schooled in the same way as, say, a love story? Michael David Lukas ruminates over at Virginia Quarterly Review on the future of war literature in an era of workshopped creative writing.
Source: Virginia Quarterly Review
Congratulations to the Virginia Quarterly Review, which won a 2010 Utne Independent Press Award for international coverage.
Image by Let Ideas Compete, licensed under Creative Commons.
5/20/2010 4:29:23 PM
Will bedbugs bring down New York? I wonder, after reading Sara Faye Lieber's lovely piece about the pests in a recent issue of Guernica. And yes, I meant to say lovely—though her beautifully written essay is, at times, a bit vivid for the squeamish reader. After the critters infiltrate her apartment, Lieber sets out to learn everything she can about them, for example: Did you know that bedbugs prefer to bite women and children? That they can live in your books for years? Or that months in a freezer will not kill them? (Did you want to know these things?)
Lieber channels her obsessive research into an interesting argument about the threat these hardy insects pose to cities (particularly New York), where secondhand furniture and dumpster-diving are ways of life.
“If city dwellers are unable to acquire and sell used things, they will be unable to furnish their apartments, fill their bookshelves, clothe their bodies, continue to build their rare record collections and create the comfortable and eclectic habitats that are the cornerstones of bohemian or at least somewhat affordable city living,” Lieber writes. “These practically invisible pests constitute an assault on anyone who believes in the value of the old, of sacred objects culled from bargain bins, of rare books found on shady street corners.” For example:
Whoever says kids these days aren’t into books has either never been to Brooklyn or is getting their information from an unreliable source. After I had salvaged eight plastic bins of my most beloved books and papers, my sister helped me lug the rejects out to join the rest of the tainted garbage on the curb. Because the bags were black, we used thick masking tape to make impromptu labels on the outside, on which we again wrote and illustrated the most ferocious warnings we could think of in both Spanish and English. My sister and I went inside to gather up the next batch of garbage bags. When we came back outside, the bags we had previously lugged to the garbage heap were already ripped open and little Dominican boys and girls were running away with the salvaged booty. We yelled after them in Spanish, “NO! NO! NO! LOS LIBROS TIENEN INSECTOS!” But they did not listen.
We chased after them, in some cases all the way to their doors, where we explained in Spanish to their parent sitting on a stoop why bedbugs are to be taken seriously. This was not an easy thing to convince them of in the face of a bounty of free books for their children. Even in Spanish, the name “bedbug” sounds like a punch-line. By the time we returned to the garbage pile in front of my apartment, new children had arrived. For what are a few measly bugs to an information-starved eight-year-old when right before her is the entire, lushly illustrated, multi-volume encyclopedia of animals or dance or space exploration? My sister stood guard while I went inside and got a bulk bottle of dish detergent, then poured it over the tainted bags of books the way I had seen my babysitter do more than once with the offending second-half of a dessert she felt too fat to finish. The green slime trick works every time. I didn’t feel triumphant depriving these inner city kids of their loot though. I felt like I had gone over to the dark side.
Image by Oldmaison, licensed under Creative Commons.
5/13/2010 10:02:21 AM
“An unread book exists only in the primordial soup of your imagination, and there it can evolve into any story you like. An unread book—any unread book—could change your life.” So begins Kristy Logan’s essay for The Millions, Confined by Pages: The Joy of Unread Books.
It’s a beautifully expressed sentiment. And for Logan, it’s justification for the 800 unread books on her shelves. “Some would find this excessive, and they would probably be right,” she writes. “But I take comfort in knowing that I will have appropriate reading material whatever my mood, that I will be spoiled for choice whenever I want a book, and that I will never, ever run out of new stories.”
I'm reminded of something the essayist Gabriel Zaid once wrote: “The truly cultured are capable of owning thousands of unread books without losing their composure or their desire for more.” Responding to Zaid, the British writer Nick Hornby wrote: “That's me! And you, probably! That's us! … With each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not.”
What about you? Is there joy in the unread books on your shelves? Or is it all just noise?
Source: The Millions
Image by gadl, licensed under Creative Commons.
5/4/2010 2:31:10 PM
The fabulous book blogger Maud Newton is celebrating eight years of book blogging by toasting her favorite book blogs. It's a fun roundup. Here's a taste:
Surely by now anyone who’s even occasionally dipped into book and culture sites over the past decade knows about Bookslut, The Elegant Variation, The Literary Saloon, About Last Night, and the other early blogs that tend to be driven by one (or two, or three) perspectives. I know all of the people behind these sites — some are good friends — but I followed them daily long before I met them in person, and I still do.
Among the many smart, independent group sites that have sprung up more recently, I suggest updating your RSS feeds to include one or more of: The Second Pass (run by John Williams; I’m a contributor alongside Emma Garman, Alexander Nazaryan, Daniel Menaker, Carlene Bauer, Jessica Ferri, and others), The Millions (run by C. Max Magee, and featuring Emily St. John Mandel and Sonya Chung, and most recently Lizzie Skurnick), The Rumpus (run by Stephen Elliott, and featuring Seth Fischer, Rozalia Jovanovic, and Elissa Bassist), HTML Giant (run by Justin Taylor and featuring Nick Antosca, Jimmy Chen, and Blake Butler), Words Without Borders (whose blog is edited by the inimitable Bud Parr), and Open Letters Monthly.
What are your favorite book blogs? Me, I don't know what I'd do without The Rumpus.
(Thanks, The Rumpus.)
Source: Maude Newton
Image by gualtiero, licensed under Creative Commons.
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