Garrison Keillor shits on your dreams

Keillor paraphrases The Incredibles, saying if everyone is a writer, no one is. He tells us about hanging with publishing celebs at a rooftop party, with "wall-to-wall authors and agents and editors and elegant young women in little black dresses" (the last being either call girls or the assistants from the publishing house). And, you know what?
[T]his book party in Tribeca feels like a Historic Moment, like a 1982 convention of typewriter salesmen or the hunting party of Kaiser Wilhelm II with his coterie of plumed barons in the fall of 1913 before the Great War sent their world spinning off the precipice.
That is bold, sir. And at fault? Drum roll please...oh, it's self-publishing, the whipping boy of traditional publishing everywhere!
Call me a pessimist, call me Ishmael, but I think that book publishing is about to slide into the sea. We live in a literate time, and our children are writing up a storm, often combining letters and numerals (U R 2 1derful), blogging like crazy, reading for hours off their little screens, surfing around from Henry James to Jesse James to the epistle of James to pajamas to Obama to Alabama to Alanon to non-sequiturs, sequins, penguins, penal institutions, and it's all free, and you read freely, you're not committed to anything the way you are when you shell out $30 for a book, you're like a hummingbird in an endless meadow of flowers.
I choose not to articulate my thoughts on this, sirs and madams, for the sake of my sanity. Oy.

Spontaneously spouting poetry requires work

Sure, we all want to be able to throw off a line of poetry in conversation to sound as brilliant as we really are, but what to memorize for maximum smarm?

The fanfic dilemma

Confession: I avoid fanfic like the devil avoids church. I'm generally not interested in non-canonical views of characters I'm attached to, which I think explains why I've never heard of the Marion Zimmer Bradley fanfic fandango. Jim C. Hines does a really great job of bringing all the facts together, and sheds some light on a tricky wicket.


Orlando Bloom is not a musketeer

Orlando Bloom, continuing his domination of books-to-movies, will be the Duke of Buckingham in a new adaptation of The Three Musketeers. You heard that right, gentlefolk, they're going to put Orlando Bloom next to Christoph Waltz, and hope that no one notices that one of the people with an accent is actually a block of wood.

Hurray casting!

Watch your favorite book instantly

Netflix, how I love thee! I will instantly stream a movie, thank you.

For those of you who need to stream literary shiz, GalleyCat put together a list of instantly streaming literary adaptations. The lesson I learned is that women don't write books that become movies that stream instantly. Womp womp.

On the importances of titles

Oh, Elizabeth Eslami, I really feel for you, in your article about people assuming your book is erotica. A slightly misleading title is making you have to defend your characters' reputations and repeatedly state that they are not incestuous.

But no one saw this coming with the title Bone Worship?


Rock stars and authors, one and the same

No, I'm kidding, only Neil Gaiman gets to be a rock star author (except for celebrity memoirs). But Jeffrey Wasserstrom came up with 5 reasons author tours are like rock concerts. Among them is the knowledge that being the opening act for someone huge is bittersweet. He of course leaves out the drugs and groupie sex, to meet HuffPo standards of cleanliness.

Science pop-up book makes me feel smart

Sure, it might be aimed at a slightly younger crowd, but this pop-up book about particle physics will make a scientist of me yet. Collide your own atoms and see if you can discover popped-up Higgs Boson particles before CERN--I double dog dare you.

A primer in technology

Do you feel overwhelmed by all the new doo-dads and interwebs running around? Well, I can't really help. But I can help if you're interested in the gossipy side of Silicon Valley. Behold, a reading guide to titles about the tech-mafia leaders. Nerds: they're so in right now!


Bad Ombreviations

I may have skipped writing posts in favor of watching the Lost finale. I know, bad. But hey, look at...this...bulldog who can't get up!

Hey, he has to learn to get himself upright. It's dog science. And ADORABLE.


Not be a crotchety grandma yet again, but...

So, okay. The Rumpus is launching a new book club, and, well, I'll let them describe:
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.
Now, on the one hand, it is nice to be able to read something first, and be the smug, "Oh, you're just getting to that now? I read it before it was cool" guy. And talking with the author about her book, also a great way to engage with the text. And I don't have the issues that the dick commenters do below the announcement (Oh, $25 is too much! How dare you make any profit on this endeavor?). But I feel all "ew" inside about the reader reviews. Don't we have enough crappy reader reviews? Isn't that what Amazon and Goodreads are for? Why are you punishing me Rumpus? I don't care about John D. Took An English Class Once's opinion. Throw me a bone! Don't open another forum for meaningless crap reviews!

Then again, it's possible I just hate book reviews. In which case, please disregard, and give your $25 to the Rumpus.

Outer space, weirder than you thought

But not just because of the space itself. Sometimes the human aspect is the weirdest. Mary Roach's next book is going to be about all the shit we don't talk about when going into space, and some of it is just weird.

Sure, being in space makes you hotter, but, if you're a Japanese astronaut, they make you origami 1,000 paper cranes to see how you deal with boredom and monotony. The plus is, you get a wish after the thousand paper cranes. The downside is, anyone who doesn't wish for Sadako to live is a fucking monster, and doesn't get to go on the shuttle. What a traumatizing story. Thus concludes today's chapter of "For real, you gave that to children?"

Pimp my Novel round up

Over at Pimp My Novel. And the world makes sense once again!


Storing the stash with style

For some of us, closet space is a mythical beast to be worshiped and lured into our homes. For this demographic, where do you store your books?

Om nom nom storage I love you.

Using Twitter...for good?

This post about geographic slang disparity via Twitter is awesome. He writes:
The southern US is the focal point for words like "bruh" and "ima" (and its orthographic variants i'ma and imma), while "hella" is centered in California and "rad" in the Pacific Northwest. "Wicked" is more characteristic of New England (especially Massachusetts), but less strongly than the others (perhaps because of its polysemy - its meaning as "very" is likely a regionalism but its older sense of "evil" is almost certainly not).
His methodology is also pretty interesting.

Blowing up enemies with book learnin'

Ever wondered what a tank covered in books looks like? Wonder no more! Take that, ignorance! Take that, illiteracy!

Sidebar: I would have embedded the video, but it is unembeddable. Why would anyone do that? You're not driving more traffic by making it harder to access, sirs. You're just pissing me off. Argh.


Wheeling, dealing, and busting ghosts

I'm taking the day off because, well, I am lazy. In exchange, I bring you library support and Ghostbusters:

Day off: earned.


People don't want to keep books that they won't reread

Some smarties crunched some numbers, and put together a list of the most and least desired books on book swap websites. Interesting stuff, reader types!

Lost is awesome, also a to-read list

Lost is amazing for many (many, many many) reasons, but up there are the regular allusions to great books and great ideas. The writers are incredibly well read and have fabulous taste in books, and drop tons of hints and insight into the characters and plot:
If one book was most influential on the show, it was probably “Alice in Wonderland.” "To say there is only one is unfair," said Lindelof, "but we keep coming back to 'Alice in Wonderland' thematically. That was a book that both Carlton and I remember very specifically as children. It was a gateway drug to sci-fi and fantasy in many ways."

One wild success, or a career of pretty good?

Would you rather write one insanely successful book, or a string of literary titles? I would take the one-off (less work, my friends), but there's been some discussion about which is better:
Sometimes, there are writers who seem born to produce just one book. Ralph Ellison published Invisible Man in 1952 and spent the rest of his life trying to follow it. Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano was the fruit of a life-and-death struggle. Jack Kerouac's On the Road towers above all his other books, and he died an alcoholic aged 47. Guiseppe di Lampedusa's The Leopard was not fully recognised until after his death.

Either way, in songs or novels, sustaining a lifetime's work as a writer is exceedingly difficult. Most literary careers begin, and possibly end, before the age of 40. Some fly too close to the sun, and fall to earth; others give up, exhausted and demoralised.


Ray Bradbury: The man, the myth, the mythology

Ray Bradbury is super, super prolific, and may or may not be the great American mythologizer.
He's seen the future, and it's not all grand pink-stoned chess cities on Mars and houses that tidy up after you. It's also knowing that the world is about to end and that there's nothing to do but lie under the covers and wait for oblivion to come. It's a room full of robots telling stories about the people who made them, long after the human race has vanished from the earth.
Live strong, Ray.

Dear Daddy Long Legs, please do advise

Some might suggest that, of women in literature, Juliet Capulet might not be the best for love advice. Mostly because she was 13, and my love advice at 13 involved having friends talk to boys for you and wearing Bonne Bell Lip Smackers.

I would prefer to ask...erm...I actually can't think of anyone I would prefer to ask. Awkward. Thoughts?

Hotties can read

Are you interested in hotties? And you interested in men? Then perhaps you'll be interested in Hot Guys Reading Books. Some of the guys aren't reading, and some aren't...hot...and some of the photos seems to have been taken surreptitiously, which is a little sketchy, but for the most part, hurray!


International book covers are ridiculous

What possible discussions took place in Germany, for instance, when publishers first received the manuscript for Martin Amis's House of Meetings – a novel that describes the misery of life in a Russian gulag – and set to work on a cover that featured six figures body-popping in the windows of a modern apartment block? What prompted Italian book designers to give junior wizard Harry Potter a hat shaped like a mouse, and why did the French opt against the monochrome design that jacketed Jonathan Safran Foer's Everything is Illuminated in the UK and the US, concocting instead a watercolour of somebody fondling a woman's breasts?
These are super fair questions! What is up with some of these international covers?

Tyra Banks, smizing model

Because while she writes, she smiles with her eyes. Her YA trilogy stars the Intoxibellas, and that's how you know this is actually Tyra's brainchild, because only she would come up with that.

Love. Her.

The mistress memoirs and the path to a book deal

It turns out, having writing talent doesn't land you a book deal. In reality, all you have to do is fuck a celebrity (not even an A list one!).

So, aspiring authors, take heart: don't worry about rejections, because boning, and not talent, is the way to success.


Neil Gaiman charges $45k for four hours

Neil Gaiman recently spoke at a library event, and was paid $45,000 for a four hour talk (and before anyone asks, the money was earmarked for speakers, so they couldn't spend it on anything else).

Some people are angry, but I say, hey, I would also charge that much. Now taking speaking engagements! Mail cash, and I assure you I'll show up.

Romantic writers: They're just like us!

They go on crazy diets! They hurt themselves trying to impress the ladies! They give each other nicknames! They redecorate!

Check out five little known facts about Romantic writers. Super fun times.

Lee Child has no stuff

But in Lee Child's case, he has no stuff by choice, whereas I have no stuff by lack of money and lack of desire to go into debt. Because I'm smart, America. Down with credit card debt! Anyway. Back to Lee Child's living habits:
The entire left-hand wall—stretching from the white Corian kitchen counter along the living space and to the windows that open to a small balcony—is a plane of glossy white laminate cabinetry. Inside the cabinets are some 3,000 books, as Mr. Child believes books make a room visually chaotic and that displaying them is pretentious. The books are shelved randomly; Mr. Child said his photographic memory allows him to know exactly where each one sits.
Dear Mr. Child,

I am incredibly messy, and also will be really chatty when you're trying to work. If you're looking for a freeloader, please contact me before you turn to Craigslist.

Laura C. Ombreviations


Happy Mother's Day with domestic gifts

EW put together a list of 24 books to give your mom for Mother's Day (which is useful to you now only if you're a day late...). I only link to it late because it's a bit oddly skewed toward domestic tasks, with books about cooking, sewing, decorating, and gardening making up the vast majority of titles. And sure, a lot of moms like those things. But where are the zombie survival guides? The local restaurant guides? Moms can like thrillers, too. Just saying.

So, moms: what books would you prefer for holidays?

Things about Twilight I could have kept from you

I have, in the past, been a bearer of Twilight related bad news for society. I have sworn that, one day, I will be a force for good, instead of evil, but it just keeps being easier to bring the bad Twilight news to the fore. So, continuing my trend: did you know that Twilight related baby names have shot through the roof? There's going to be a whole generation of boys named Cullen dating girls named Bella, causing their parents to squee to no end.

And, although the boys won't sparkle, there are coping methods for non-sparkle boyfriends. ...Are these all signs of the apocalypse, or just me getting a headache?

Feminist toys for girls and boys

Check out the Bronte sisters action figures, and the Brontesaurus:

Do want. And thanks to Michael, for sending this along!


Rounding up, rounding up the road

At Pimp My Novel. Go go!

Also, I think I've made a reference to The Wiz previously in a round up title, and I'm not sure because I won't look it up. How's that for lazy?


The bodice rippers of architecture

An awesome new collaboration between romance publisher Mills & Boon and the UK's National Trust has inspired Meredith Blake to consider similar collaborations in the US.

She says it might be a little difficult, but, hello, sweeping plantations of the South! Ranches and stately northern farms! ...Other places! We can do for the Walt Disney Concert Hall what Dan Brown did for the Vatican.

Once again Amazon confuses "bestseller" with "most downloaded"

Over at Jacket Copy we learn that the top 10 Kindle downloads are free. And, look, as someone who regularly creates free content (that is read by people who regularly create free content) I'm not saying there's anything wrong with offering an e-book for free. I think it can be a savvy publicity tool, and a nice boost for your numbers (clearly). But I will say that these are not bestsellers because they're not being sold.

So, yes, these are the top 10 Kindle downloads. But they are not the top 10 sellers. As the Jacket Copy post says, other titles by the same authors that are being sold (as opposed to being given away) are ranked in the mid-thousands, which really makes you question how good a sense you can get of what people like and what people take because it's free.

I vote we actually make a distinction between "most sold" and "most downloaded." Because most people I know stream movies they would never pay for, use Pandora to listen to music they would never buy, and, oh, use the Kindle to download books they would never purchase.

How to cope with your unread library

Kirsty Logan writes at the Millions about her vast collection of unread books, why she keeps them, and how she avoids feeling guilty about them. I have absolutely felt this way before:
Last week I bought a book. I looked at the blurb and read the first paragraph, and I could feel the texture of the book in my mind....With every sentence I read, the book I had imagined shrank smaller and smaller. By the end of the third page, it had disappeared. The actual book was by no means bad, it just wasn’t the book I thought it would be.
Been there! I think I'm also less likely to read books I got for free, or bought for cheap, as opposed to books I've borrowed, or expensive books I've bought. Am I alone in this?


Get sucked into a book

For reals!

Angry authors say great things

Amazing list of quotes from angry authors. Oh god, I love when people say things they shouldn't (who aren't me).

The New Yorker speaks

The New Yorker (holiest of holy)'s web editor Blake Eskin talks about how the New Yorker approaches the internet. He says:
...[I]f you had to come up with a list of adjectives for what the New Yorker brand represents – excellence, polish, depth – those aren’t necessarily things you can achieve on a blog, podcast or Twitter feed.

When we started the website the original plan was to fact check blog posts and that just doesn’t work. You can’t ask people to write in a freer, more immediate way and then put them through the same editorial machine. But New Yorker writers tend to have informal voices that are a lot more formal than most.
Fair point! He talks a lot about tying in blogs and print--really interesting, really worth the read.


Animals as plot devices

Many have lauded Yann Martel's use of animals as characters in his novels (but not all). Andrew O'Hagan has a great article about animals as major characters in fiction. Interesante!

Inside the house of Dave Barry

The NYTimes went to Dave Barry's house, took some pictures, and did an interview that allowed him to speak more than the interviewer (unlike Deborah Solomon, my arch-nemesis, who quotes herself more often than the people she's interviewing). Barry says:
Best Recent Gift: My wife gave me a shaving thing with a brush on it. For 35 years I shaved in the shower, without looking, which is why my right sideburn was always shorter than my left. The new shaver has made me a more clean-cut human being, and I even use after-shave, and women want to have sex with me now. All of them.

If He Had $20 He’d Buy: Just $20? Well, that rules out drugs.
Well, I've found someone else I'm a fan of.


Books to read before 16 (or now, if you have the time)

I usually have some arguments with lists, but I think this list of 20 books to read before you turn 16 is pretty solid. Granted, I haven't read all of them, but I didn't say, "Really?" to any of them, which is a huge thing in my world.

Jewish fiction as the quintessential American experience

At 3 Quarks Daily, Bliss Kern writes about new Jewish fiction and its place as the new American experience:
New Jewish American authors find themselves free from the burden of identity politics and have space to allow the particularity of their characters and stories to emerge. The stories that have emerged so far have the power to speak to readers with little or no relationship to Judaism. The pages of these stories capture the unselfconscious attachment young Americans, raised to tell a story of being 1/4 this and 1/4 that, have for their mythic past. Their characters are familiar to all; like young Americans today, they must all refashion myths from the past to craft a sense of self and collective identity in which they can feel comfortable. Although a past story of exile and landlessness stands almost in direct opposition to the American story of patriotism and manifest destiny, the stakes of recognizing each as not the truth of the present do not.
This piece is worth the read, I think. I would say, however, that the thesis seems to boil down to the idea that Jewish writers are American, rather than an "Other," which I think is a little reductive, of both what makes an American and an American Jew.

Erotica saves publishing, peasants rejoice

Apparently erotica is one of the few growth industries in publishing. To quote:
Exactly why erotic literature has become so popular now is a matter of speculation, though it doesn't seem entirely coincidental that the creators were mostly raised in the era of Madonna videos on MTV, open discussion of sex during the initial HIV scare, and the mainstreaming of porn. Much of the new erotica is simply porn moved to the printed page, only smarter and largely aimed at women.
Once again, Madonna is at fault. Damn you, Madonna!