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Thursday, October 9, 2008

Welcome To the World, Baby Girl, Baby Girl

posted by on October 9 at 1:00 PM

Bookshelves of Doom points to a blog by someone who works in a hospital who sees all the terrible baby names that come through:

Now, normally I barely register what the names actually are because after seeing one million different spellings of Jessica (Jessycaugh was by far the WORST) and other designer names for kids you start to lose faith in humanity.

But this person started this blog specifically to tell people about this one:

Renesmee Bella was this little girl's new first name. Now, I also get to see the first letter of the middle name and if I so choose I can go find what the middle name actually is. This particular name had the first letter S. Which I automatically decided stood for "sucks"...because was all I could do to help keep my sanity. But no, this poor child's name was Renesmee Bella STEPHENIE....and that's when I think I blacked out for a little bit. Kid's mom? Like 15. And from what I found out from the doctor she hooked up with some guy based on his name (Edward) and orginally was going to give the kid up for adoption. Like, had these people paying all her bills because they were going to get the baby. Then, in August she suddenly decides having a baby WOULD be cool after all (a cookie for anyone who can figure out the twitard significance of that).

Stephenie Meyers' Twilight series convinced this fan to fuck a boy because of his first name, keep the child because that's what the main character does in the last book, and then name the child after the main character's child. That's a fucking Twi-hard. Who says kids don't read?

Stupid Elitists Overlook John Grisham Yet Again

posted by on October 9 at 11:33 AM

This year's Nobel Prizewinner for Literature is French author Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio, the author of novels like Le procès-verbal and Désert. They declared him "author of new departures, poetic adventure and sensual ecstasy, explorer of a humanity beyond and below the reigning civilization." I know nothing about Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio. I have never actually even heard that name before in my life. I guess the Nobel official who declared American culture was too insular was right. Here is the Wikipedia page for Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio. Enjoy.

Reading Tonight

posted by on October 9 at 10:09 AM


RIght now, Susan Orlean, author of The Orchid Thief, is reading at Third Place Books. She's got a new kid's book out called Lazy Little Loafers.

Jamaica Kincaid is reading up in the U District. This lecture appears to be directed toward the how-to-write crowd, but anyone can attend, and there will probably be enough autobiographical material to make the lecture worth Kincaid fan's time. Also in the U District, David Domke reads from The God Strategy, which is about how people in power are sticking it to us by talking way too much about imaginary spacemen who shoot lightning bolts at us.

At Madison Market this afternoon, Sarah Kramer will discuss new new book, Vegan A Go-Go! I would hope there would be food samples at this thing, but it's smart to host the thing where people buy food.

Most importantly, at the Hugo House, they are welcoming their new Writers-in-Residence with a reading. Ed Skoog, Angela Jane Fountas, Storme Webber, and Stranger writer Cienna Madrid, read from new work. I am unfamiliar with Fountas and Webber's work, but Skoog is phenomenal and I've read and enjoyed quite a lot of the fiction Cienna's working on right now. You should go to this one if you don't go to Slog Happy.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Did I Mention There's a Poetry Slam Tonight?

posted by on October 8 at 3:00 PM

Over at Maisonneuve, there's an interesting essay about how literature readings are not interesting at all.

One of the best depictions of how a literary reading becomes something to be endured instead of enjoyed is to be found in Russell Smith’s comic novel Noise. The protagonist attends a poetry reading in an unventilated room with a strong “odour of feet” and a drunken patron who shouts invective at the small gathering. The distractions mount:
The dishwashing machine at the bar came to life with a mighty buzz, and Dick’s voice was drowned. Simultaneously, someone in the front bar put money in the Dukes of Hazzard pinball machine, and it awoke with a synthesized William Tell overture and a fanfare of bells. …Another drunken shout from the bar, and a chorus of shushes from the crowd. “Whatsamatter,’ came the drunken voice, ‘am I in church, or what? Thought it was a bar.’

Smith’s description is funny because it happens to be entirely accurate. It captures perfectly the stifling atmosphere one often encounters at readings: the tiny, self-conscious audiences; the improperly set up sound systems; the readers who don’t know how to project or crisply enunciate; the forced laughter; the sheer tedium of it all. When readings are well-organized and the authors good performers, the result can be memorable. But this happens so rarely that I’m compelled to ask: what’s the point?

You should read the whole thing. It's a pretty good case against readings. I disagree, of course; I think once you attend enough of them, you have a pretty good idea about who's going to be a good reader and who's going to be bad. And a lot of the readings described in the post sound like the author is talking about friends' poetry readings, and so attended out of obligation. It's never a good idea to attend a friend's poetry reading. This is an important rule of thumb everyone should remember.

Sexy Librarians Need Your Help!

posted by on October 8 at 12:00 PM

Friends of Seattle Public Library have a very important post up on their blog right now. The Library's budget has been slashed by our friend, the Mayor. Here's the gist:

Library collections are funded by city government. This year the Mayor proposes a budget for library collections that is over 2 million dollars short of the library’s projected need. Last year was the first year, because of City Council action, that the library received more funding for collections than they had in 2002. In fact, between 2002 and 2004 the library’s collections budget was cut by 26%. Lack of funding over a long period of time impacts the quality of collections in our library system. Last year there was progress. This year we’re looking at another funding loss.

What do they propose you do about this? I'm glad you asked. The City Council has the power to restore the budget to its pre-Mayor Hack'n'Slash state.

Here’s how you can help: 1) Email council members:,,,,,,,, Tell them your name, the branch you use, how you use the library and how it is important. Thank them for their past support and ask them to increase the library’s collections budget. OR 2) send a handwritten letter to your councilmembers: Jean Godden, Jan Drago, Nick Licata, Bruce Harrell, Tim Burgess, Richard Conlin, Tom Rasmussen, Richard McIver, and Sally Clark at Seattle City Hall, Floor 2, POB 34025, Seattle Wa 98124-4025. Tell them what branch you use, how you use the library, and why the branch is important to you and/or your community. Thank them for past support and ask them to consider increasing the library’s collections budget. 3) Call City Council between 4:30 and 5:30 on Oct 8 at 684-0481 or email in the same time frame to: messages received in that hour count as “official testimony” in the first public hearing on the mayor’s budget.

For further information:

Cutting funding to the library is completely bullshit. SPL is one of the best things about this town. Make sure your council members know that.

UPDATE: Erica covered this last week, and did a much better job of explaining it than I do. You should read her post.

Reading Tonight

posted by on October 8 at 10:14 AM


Uch. One day, a task force of brilliant sciencey people will get together and figure out some way to watch a presidential debate that doesn't involve drinking 12 Guinness during and immediately afterward. That will be a great day for mankind. Unfortunately, I will be dead of a ruptured liver long before that day ever happens. There are readings tonight. Let's look at them, shall we?

You have already missed children's illustrator Graeme Base. He started reading up at Third Place Books at the ungodly hour of 9:30 in the morning.

Eric Liu and Nick Hanauer were supposed to read at the Green Lake branch of the Seattle Public Library, but the Green Lake branch is still closed. Instead, you could go to the Douglas-Truth Branch of the SPL to see Jewell Parker Rhodes read from Yellow Moon, which is about vampires and voodoo.

Art Spiegelman is reading at Town Hall. There will be a Suggests for that popping up in a moment or two. Art Spiegelman is always entertaining.

And later today, also up at Third Place Books, Dennis Lehane will read. Lehane wrote Mystic River and Gone Baby Gone, but he's supposedly given up writing mysteries and is instead writing historical novels, as in his newest one, The Given Day. And that is what's going on today. I am now going to take a nap under my desk.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Bookselling With Terrorists

posted by on October 7 at 11:24 AM

This LiveJournaller named Rachel, who until recently worked as a bookseller at 57th Street Books in Chicago, has previously written about encountering Barack Obama in her bookstore.

Obama's been a regular customer at 57th Street for years. I have a friend who works there, and it seems like a great bookstore; it's a co-op, and it's fairly highbrow because it's so close to the U of Chicago. Yesterday, Rachel wrote a great post about the awful turn McCain's taken in his campaign and the whole Ayers issue. It puts things into perspective as far as Ayers' presence in Chicago goes. Here's a taste:

Two fairly frequent shoppers there are Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn. ... It occurred to me, reading the news today, that if Barack Obama is a terrorist by association with Bill Ayers, then I, too, am a terrorist, or at least a terrorist by association. I took money from him, money which later paid my paycheck -- I profited from this connection! I smiled at him, and treated him like any other customer -- and much more respectfully than some of the Nobel Prize winners (to be fair to me, there are so many). Besides just working there, I was -- and remain -- a member of that co-op bookstore; we are members and shareholders together, and the profits from the store (if ever there are any) are distributed among each shareholder. I've certainly spoken to him more frequently in the last year than Barack Obama did; the senator was barely in Hyde Park this year.

Rachel admits that this is "a fun sort of sophistry," but I think it's important to note, and her post is definitely worth reading all the way through. Ayers is part of the community in Chicago, and a whole lot of people would have to be considered "pallin' around with terrorists," if having an Ayers connection is the only qualification.

(Thanks to Slog tipper Christin.)

Reading Tonight

posted by on October 7 at 10:18 AM


There are a bunch of kids books readings today for some reason and then a bunch of readings that I will talk about now.

At Seattle Mystery Bookshop, Jewell Parker Rhodes reads from Yellow Moon, a mystery about a voodoo practitioner. E Lynn Harris says it has "an exciting contemporary heroine battling New Orleans's racist past and preparing for post-Katrina times."

At the Montlake Branch of Seattle Public Library, Kim Barnes reads from A Country Called Home, which is a novel about a man and a pregnant woman fleeing to the wilderness. At Town Hall, Keith Devlin reads from The Unfinished Game, which is about Pascal and Fermat and their elitist correspondence. I hate it when these elitists start doing math. I prefer my math done by people as dumb or dumber than me.

And then there are two very interesting-looking readings. At the University Book Store, Michael Meyer reads from The Last Days of Old Beijing, which is about gentrification in China. If you're at all interested in urban planning or China or urban planning in China, this is for you. And then, at Elliott Bay Book Company, Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards are hosting an evening of choice-y readings. Baumgardner reads from Abortion and Life. Richards reads from Opting In: Having a Child Without Losing Yourself. Someone, somewhere, is really pissed that two books involving the words "Abortion" and "Having a Child" are sharing reading space in the same evening.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Dracula Is the new Dune

posted by on October 6 at 4:00 PM

Oh, man. Bram Stoker's great-grandnephew, who has the admittedly awesome name of Dacre Stoker, is going to co-author a sequel to Dracula with a Dracula historian. It's apparently "the only Stoker-family authorized Dracula project" since the Lugosi movie. I can't imagine this will do a lot of business—Dracula is in the public domain, after all, and has appeared everywhere from kiddie cartoons to Buffy in the time since the movie. Still and all, way to cash in on a long-dead relative.

How to Read Fiction In An Election Year

posted by on October 6 at 2:00 PM


This week's Constant Reader is about how lots of people—myself included—have a hard time reading fiction in an election year.

It can be difficult to read fiction during the autumn of an election year. In 2004, the last time the election was the most important in American history, fiction sales fell drastically in at least one major Seattle bookstore as sales of political books soared. It's hard to entertain flights of fancy when images of neocon-inspired apocalyptic death are dancing in your head. But only reading books about the election between now and November is a surefire way to wind up in the booby hatch. The solution, then, must be to read fiction about politics.

I review two books with American in the title—American Savior, about Jesus running for president, and American Wife, about a very thinly veiled Laura Bush analogue and her relationship with her husband—and really like one and really hate the other.

I also manage to get in a plug for a book that I read for the first time when I was 16 and still totally adore to this very day, Only Begotten Daughter, by James Morrow. It's a sci-fi novel about God's only daughter, who was born to the Virgin Murray. Give it a read, won't you?

New Kindle: Bigger, Dumber, Less Angular?

posted by on October 6 at 1:00 PM


So apparently, photos of Kindle 2.0 have been leaked on the Internet. The next Kindle, which at least looks rounder than the previous version, (BoingBoing refers to it as ""fake Chinese iPod knockoff" look") is also bigger. How many other 2.0s have been bigger than their previous versions? Also, it doesn't have an SD memory card slot any more, which means the memory might actually be smaller than the original.

Reading Tonight

posted by on October 6 at 10:15 AM


We have two open mics and a few other readings tonight.

At Town Hall, there is a sold-out reading featuring Christopher Paolini, the one-time wunderkind who wrote Eragon and Eldest and the conclusion to the trilogy third book in a four-book series, Brisingr. This reading is sold out. But based on the reviews of Eldest and Brisingr, you probably didn't want to go anyway.

At Seattle Public Library, Robin Preiss Glasser, who is the co-author of the children's book Tea for Ruby, will be reading. It's kind of weird, in that most people will show up for this reading due to the book's co-author, who is not in attendance. It's co-written by Fergie (the Duchess of York, not the lowest-common-denominator pop star).

And at Seattle Mystery Book Shop, Ian Rankin signs his newest mystery, in which his series protagonist, Inspector Rebus, nears retirement. I'm often annoyed by mystery series because the main characters never change, but you know what retirement means for fictional policemen. If Inspector Rebus gets a young, hip-talking streetwise partner in the middle of this book, there will be blood.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Reading Today

posted by on October 5 at 10:00 AM


We have an open mic and a few other events today.

At Queen Anne Books, Richard Farr reads from Emperors of the Ice. This is one of those non-fiction books about people who go to the Antarctic and then things go horribly, horribly wrong. Some folks love these sorts of books. That is all.

At Elliott Bay Book Company, Abigail Carter, who is a 9/11 widow, reads from The Alchemy of Loss, which is her memoir about being a 9/11 widow.

And at the Hugo House, poet Sam Hamill reads. Here is information about Sam Hamill. That is also all.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Reading Today

posted by on October 4 at 10:00 AM


An open mic, a mystery by a local legal historian, and three other readings today.

Up at Third Place Books, Naomi Wolf, who was discussed on Slog yesterday, reads from Give Me Liberty: A Handbook for American Revolutionaries. Wolf, you'll recall, once convinced Al Gore to wear earth tones. This helped Al Gore win the presidency in 2000, and that's why things are so great right now.

At Elliott Bay Book Company, Brian Culhane reads from The King’s Question, which the press release calls a collection of "thoughtful and shapely poems." You can read two poems of his here. The Anthony Hecht Prize mentioned at the top of that page is not The Stranger's Anthony Hecht.

And at Grey Gallery, Rivet Magazine is having a farewell party and art auction. Rivet Magazine wasn't perfect, of course, but in its last couple of years, it really came together as an interesting and chatty read. This is the book event of the night.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Friday, October 3, 2008


posted by on October 3 at 4:00 PM

Rivet Magazine, which has produced several very good issues in the last couple years, is closing down. I do not know if this is indicative of the death of print or not, but it is still sad.

Tomorrow night at 7:30 pm, Rivet is having a final party and an art auction at Grey Gallery. Here are some the artists who have contributed to the art auction:

Gala Bent, Chelcie Blackmun, Jamey Braden, Ethan Cameron, Celeste Cooning, Tammy Vince Cruz, Diana Falchuk, Nick Greene, Shaun Kardinal, Wade Liostro, Allison Manch, Emily Pothast, Kristen Ramirez, Yanka Sabat, MichaelVincent Santos, Specsone, Laura Wright

I'm certainly no Jen Graves—which is a nice way of saying my opinion on visual art is virtually worthless—but I do like some of the artists on that list. It costs ten bucks to get into the auction, and there will be a Last Dance-themed party after the auction at 9 pm. It should be sad, but it's definitely worth your time. It's a real shame that Rivet is fading away.

You Are Not Your Fucking Film Grosses

posted by on October 3 at 3:00 PM

Say, I wonder how the lackluster film adaptation of Choke is doing at the box office? The Cult, Chuck Palahniuk's fansite, has announced a contest:

Clark Gregg and I got on the phone yesterday and decided that we needed to hit the ball out of the park this weekend with the box office numbers on CHOKE. ...if CHOKE doesn't at least crack the top ten in this upcoming weekend's box office, it's chances for being around much longer are slim. What's sad is, CHOKE is competing against movies that opened up in over four times as many theaters. But it's still averaging better than most on a per theater basis! Why? Because it's a great film! And it's one that needs our support! And dammit, that's what we're gonna do!

So Clark and I came up with a way to challenge as many people as we could to go see CHOKE this weekend... with as many people as they can convince to go.


We need everyone reading this post right now to go see CHOKE this weekend. But before you do, we need you to email this post to everyone you know. Contact everyone in your address book. Everyone you work with. All of your family and extended family. Everyone on your MySpace page. Your Facebook page. EVERYONE!!!

If you've already seen it, go see it again. If it's more than 50 miles away from where you live, leave enough time for the drive. If it's out of state, make it your day.

The person who gets the most people to go, gets a character named after them in Chuck's next book. Yes, this is for real. Clark and I spoke to Chuck on the phone yesterday, and he's completely on board with this.

Chuck fan reactions, including accusations of desperation, sheep mentality, and vaselined Michael Jackson glitter gloves, are after the jump:

Continue reading "You Are Not Your Fucking Film Grosses" »

Book Rumor Excitement!

posted by on October 3 at 12:00 PM

Rumors are circling the tubes that Thomas Pynchon's next book will be a psychedelic Raymond Chandler hard-boiled noir pastiche. And it will be just 400 pages. And it will be published in August of next year.

When Tom Nissley reviewed Pynchon's previous book, Against the Day, for us when it was published a year and a half ago, he had an extreme proposal for Pynchon:

...what if, instead of releasing a white monolith that daunts even his fans, Pynchon put out ten 100-page books from the same material? (How I'd love to see the Chums of Chance storyline captured in a single little book.) The vast mystery of their intersection could remain, but can you imagine how eagerly readers would snap up the pieces of the puzzle? It would be a hit!

I thought that was a great idea. But I'm also excited about the idea of a Pynchon book that doesn't appear as daunting as his last half-dozen books. I hope this rumor is true.

Today in E-books

posted by on October 3 at 11:22 AM


Sony unveiled their new e-book reader yesterday. It's pretty similar to their last reader, but it includes front lights and touch screen capability. You can add text by using a stylus on a virtual onscreen keyboard, and you can turn the page by swiping the screen with your finger. The device will cost 400 dollars and will be released later this month.

In other e-book news, the iPhone is far outstripping the Kindle as the most popular e-reading device in America. Forbes says:

Stanza, like Kindle, lets users download new content directly to their device. It has a snappy interface that allows readers to flip through a book simply by tapping the edges of the page and responds far faster than Kindle's poky E-ink screen, which takes about a second to turn pages. On the downside, the iPhone's LCD screen can strain eyes after hours of reading and chews through battery power far faster than Kindle or the Sony Reader, both of which can go without recharging for days.

And then there's what some may call Stanza's unfair advantage: the application is free, as are its titles.

Of course, an unfair advantage is still an advantage. Right now, the multi-use capabilities of the iPhone make it look like a better deal than the Kindle. I wonder if it's possible to do a timeline chart of e-book downloads? This year probably looks like a straight vertical line.

UPDATE: If you're interested in trying out your iPhone's e-reader, you should download Kelly Link's last book of short stories, Magic For Beginners. It's available free, minus two stories that had contractual obligations, here. Link writes great short stories that are kind of fabulist like Aimee Bender, but have a slight sci-fi bent, too.

Reading Tonight

posted by on October 3 at 10:06 AM


A how-to-write-books author and the author of an 800-page book about Steve Goodman will be reading tonight, along with three other authors.

At Open Books, we have Aaron Shurin, reading from his newest book of poetry, King of Shadows. I have never read Shurin, but he has a very complimentary Wikipedia page.

At Town Hall, Naomi Wolf, who has already been discussed on Slog today, will be reading from her newest book, about patriotism and also the lack of patriotism. She'll also be at Third Place Books tomorrow if you miss her tonight.

And in the U District, Neil Gaiman reads from his newest, The Graveyard Book. It's a sort-of goth take on The Jungle Book, for young adults. I read it and, frankly, I was underwhelmed. But he's written lots of entertaining stuff, even with his weird attachment to Tori Amos.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Slog Commenter Book Report: Abby Goes Out With The Wolfman

posted by on October 2 at 1:00 PM

As you know by now, I bring a batch of advance reader copies to Slog Happy, with the caveat that the person who reads (or tries to read) the book has to review it for all of us here on Slog.

Today's book review by Abby is a little bit special. Two Slog Happies ago, we had a drawing for Bumbershoot tickets. We also had a book called The Wolfman that I didn't think anybody was going to take home. So when Abby won the Bumbershoot tickets, I made her take The Wolfman, too. I immediately felt guilty about that, especially when I learned that Abby was actually reading the book—I kind of foisted it on her as a joke.

But Abby is strong and good and she actually went ahead and read the whole thing. Anything you don’t like about this review no doubt is due to the editing process and not at all Abby’s fault and you should blame the editor. I am the editor.


A book about a werewolf that solves murders. That's not what I look for in reading material—in fact, those elements (werewolves, murder mysteries) usually direct me away from a book. But this one came with Bumbershoot tickets. So I gave it a chance.

And it turned out that I really liked it.

The Wolfman is the story of Marlowe Higgins, a Vietnam vet who's also a werewolf who has to kill whenever he transforms. He's managed to direct the werewolf (referred to always as 'the wolf' or something like that, separating it from Marlowe himself) towards killing bad guys instead of random people. He's managed to set himself up in a small town, getting a job as a line cook and a friend on the police force who feeds him information about suspicious deaths and murders. It works for him. And then a serial killer shows up in his town and things get messed up.

There's more to it than that, of course, but it's a mystery, and going into the story any more here would ruin it. I'm too nice of a person to do that, especially since The Wolfman is worth reading. It's a well-crafted book, telling the story both of how the murders are solved and how Marlowe got to where he is, managing to use flashbacks in a way that doesn't seem ridiculous. Not knowing a whole lot about werewolf mythology, I found this conception of it very interesting and to me, unique. And it all makes sense, which is important for a story like this- if it's a book that's about a werewolf who catches a serial killer, it better be consistent in the world it creates.

The star, though, is Marlowe himself. Just familiar enough to be recognizable, unique enough to be memorable. Badasses with hearts of gold are familiar territory, of course, but there's enough in Marlowe to make him interesting, anyway. He's a badass more by circumstance than by design. Pekearo does a great job of revealing that, piece by piece, personal tragedy by personal tragedy. What I especially like is the attention to little details—Marlowe's T-shirts and favorite metal bands, the small things that round out a person and a character. I like seeing little irrelevancies in characters, particularly leading ones; everyone should contain multitudes.

Apparently, Pekearo envisioned a series around Marlowe Higgins, turning him into the kind of anti-hero that mysteries thrive upon. The tragedy of The Wolfman is that this is the only one. Nicholas Pekearo was an auxiliary policeman- a volunteer cop that didn't get a gun or bulletproof vest- in Greenwich Village in New York, where he grew up, and was killed in the line of duty in 2007 at the age of 28. (Admittedly, that was another reason why I wasn't expecting much from his book- the human-interest level was far too high for something readable, right?) So there is no more Marlowe Higgins. And that's a shame- there are far worse protagonists out there who get to continue existing.

Many thanks to Abby.

Library Closed by Rampaging Stachybotrys

posted by on October 2 at 12:00 PM

The Green Lake branch of the Seattle Public Library has been closed temporarily on account of mold. A city industrial hygienist found Stachybotrys mold in a crawl space in the library. The branch's re-opening has not been scheduled, but regular Green Lake Library patrons are encouraged to check the library's website for more details. Full press release is after the jump.

Continue reading "Library Closed by Rampaging Stachybotrys" »

Reading Tonight

posted by on October 2 at 9:54 AM


We have an open mic, a young adult fantasy book, and many other readings tonight, nearly all starting just as the vice-presidential debates end.

At the Seattle Public Library, Marilynne Robinson reads from Home. Her second novel, Gilead, is one of Barack Obama's favorite novels. Doesn't that make you want to see her a little bit more?

At the University Book Store, Rowan Jacobsen reads from Fruitless Fall: The Collapse of the Honeybee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis. This is a fascinating subject, but for some reason it took me until just now to realize the title is a play on Silent Spring, which is a little bit too precious.

At Elliott Bay Book Company, Danny Goldberg reads from Bumping into Geniuses: My Life Inside the Rock and Roll Business. One day, everyone who ever even said one sentence to Bonnie Raitt is going to have a book.

And at Town Hall, Peter Galbraith reads from Unintended Consequences, which is about our misadventures in Iraq, and the title is fairly self-explanatory. Oh, crap. Peter Galbraith has cancelled tonight due to a family emergency. Apologies to readers and sympathy to Mr. Galbraith.

Full readings calendar, including the next week or so, here.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Roth's Indignation

posted by on October 1 at 4:17 PM


As last week's Stranger sets in the west, I'd like to call your attention to Sean Nelson's lovely books lead, about Philip Roth. Nelson is one of the best readers of Roth I've ever met; he's got an almost-instinctual understanding of how the man's books work. Here's a sentence:

One of the perils of being a close Roth reader is the often-irresistible assumption that he spends his life conjuring up ways to tantalize his audience by blurring the distinction between autobiography and fiction.

In a time when Nobel literature heads are saying America doesn't produce word-class literature, it's good to have such a great writer explain why Roth is one of the best in the world.

Blind Rage

posted by on October 1 at 3:54 PM

Defamer reports that the president of the National Federation of the Blind is calling for a boycott of the movie Blindness, which is based on Nobel Prize laureate Jose Saramago's book of the same name. The plot of Blindness, in which everyone in the world goes blind at the same time except for one person, is supposed to be hateful toward blind people somehow:

The National Federation of the Blind condemns and deplores this film, which will do substantial harm to the blind of America and the world. Blind people in this film are portrayed as incompetent, filthy, vicious, and depraved. They are unable to do even the simplest things like dressing, bathing, and finding the bathroom. The truth is that blind people regularly do all of the same things that sighted people do. Blind people are a cross-section of society, and as such we represent the broad range of human capacities and characteristics. We are not helpless children or immoral, degenerate monsters; we are teachers, lawyers, mechanics, plumbers, computer programmers, and social workers.

This movie looks bad on so many levels, but I can't rustle up any sympathy for the NF of the B on this one. And I'm not sure that a boycott of a movie by a group of blind people is going to do much damage to a film's box office receipts.

Fiction, Not Autobiography

posted by on October 1 at 2:34 PM

I feel like an idiot, but the David Foster Wallace story I recommended earlier today was fiction, not autobiography. (I'm still trying to track down where my source found a reference to it that way.)

I guess it still hurts to read, though in a different way. I'm so sorry about the confusion.

Book Pirates!

posted by on October 1 at 1:47 PM

Tele-Read says that Peter Sunde, co-founder of torrent site The Pirate Bay, has requested that someone send him a Kindle. I predict that if Sunde finds a way to get pirated books onto a Kindle, it will double the sales of the thing.

In other e-book news, Sony is supposed to make a major e-book related announcement tomorrow at 6 pm ET. I hope it involves book pirates.

David Foster Wallace's Last Days

posted by on October 1 at 12:20 PM

Speaking of David Foster Wallace (with reference to the link Jen posted earlier): This piece of reporting about his final days is hard to read. The analysis is generic but the stuff his family offers up to the Salon reporter is horrifying: crippling anxiety, hospitalization, electro-convulsive therapy treatments. When the news first broke a lot of people in comments here on Slog were jumping in with their "analysis" about how "selfish" DFW's suicide was. Would you like to know how DFW's sister thought about it? She says:

Inevitably our thought was, if only he could have held on a little bit longer. And then we realized, he did. How many extra weeks had he hung in there when he just couldn't bear it? So we're not angry at him. Not at all. We just miss him.

Hayden Carruth

posted by on October 1 at 12:19 PM

American Poet, dead at 87. I always found Carruth's poems to be eminently readable and accessible. Everything Billy Collins claims to be, Carruth actually was.

Try "Letter to Denise," with its argument over whether bears pee or piss, and then you can hear him read a poem of his own called The Cows at Night," with its references to "...girls very long ago/who were innocent, and sad/because they were innocent,/and beautiful because they were/sad." And then read his marvelous "Regarding Chainsaws," about a friendship viewed through the history of chainsaw ownership. He was one of the greats, and a real populist poet.

David Foster Wallace

posted by on October 1 at 11:09 AM

In 1984, at the age of 21, David Foster Wallace wrote an account of his mental condition a fictional story that seems to borrow liberally from his own experiences, as an essay published in the Amherst Review. It turns out he had a lot to say about his own depression, hallucinations, and an early suicide attempt. Just reading it hurts.

Reading Tonight

posted by on October 1 at 10:24 AM


We have a poetry slam and many other readings tonight.

Tess Gerritsen reads at Seattle Mystery Bookshop from her new mystery, The Keepsake, in which a supposedly ancient mummy turns out to be a very recent murder victim. (Cue Law & Order ch-chung! sound effect here.)

Up at Third Place Books, Emma Donoghue reads from her latest book, The Sealed Letter. Donoghue wrote Slammerkin, which was a pretty fun Victorian novel. I have not read anything by her since, however.

And Tony Wagner is at Town Hall with The Global Achievement Gap, which is a book about how our education system is well and truly fucked, especially when compared to other countries.

Then we have a couple different readings with poets and fiction. Up in Wallingford, Donato Mancini, who has created a giant poem constructed from "enormous chains of vinyl letters," reads with Shin Yu Pai, who also plays with the visual aspects of letters.

And at Elliott Bay Book Company, Leni Zumas (who wrote a lovely collection of short stories called Farewell Navigator that I took on a Lunch Date some time back) reads with Stranger contributor and very good poet Travis Nichols. Nichols will be promoting his contribution to State of the Union, an anthology of political poems published by local press Wave Books.

Either of those last two readings would be a fine time out on the town.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Not Cake, but Good Nontheless

posted by on September 30 at 5:00 PM

Sloane Crosley is the author of the collection of humorous first person essays I Was Told There Would Be Cake. I loved the book. Both Bethany Jean Clement and Slog commenter PopTart hated the book—maybe it's a boy/girl thing?—but I at least have confirmation, with her list of 6 favorite books, that Sloane Crosley is a great reader.

Five of the books—Birds of America by Lorrie Moore, The Chosen by Chaim Potok, Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami, The Garden Party and Other Stories by Katherine Mansfield, and Slouching Towards Bethlehem by Joan Didion—are wonderful. I haven't read the sixth, On the Edge of Reason by Miroslav Krleza. But the way Crosley describes it, "A droll philosophical novel about a Croatian man who, one day, decides to speak his mind during a dinner party and conversational and social chaos ensue," pretty much guarantees that I'll read it soon.

Stupid European: "Blah Blah Blah."

posted by on September 30 at 3:29 PM

Nobel literature head: US too insular to compete

STOCKHOLM, Sweden (AP) - Bad news for American writers hoping for a Nobel Prize next week: the top member of the award jury believes the United States is too insular and ignorant to compete with Europe when it comes to great writing.

Counters the head of the U.S. National Book Foundation: "Put him in touch with me, and I'll send him a reading list."

As the Swedish Academy enters final deliberations for this year's award, permanent secretary Horace Engdahl said it's no coincidence that most winners are European.

"Of course there is powerful literature in all big cultures, but you can't get away from the fact that Europe still is the center of the literary world ... not the United States," he told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Tuesday.

Let's see how he likes our literature when we send Randy "The Macho Man" Savage over there to shove some John Grisham novels down his snooty-ass throat. U!S!A! U!S!A!

It Was the Best of Times, Again, It Was the Worst of Times, Again

posted by on September 30 at 3:00 PM

Sydney Carton and the Slingshot of Doom, a Charles Dickens fanfic.

“And where is Evremonde? He must also come,” declared the guard.

“I am right here.” said Sydney as he stabbed the man’s heart with his dagger which he had in his boots.

Blood spilt from the man’s heart as he fell to the hard ground. With haste, Sydney took off the man’s clothes so the blood would not spread and stain. He took off his own clothes, and put on the guard’s.

Wake me when we get to the Great Expectations slash.

(Via the always-entertaining Bookshelves of Doom.)

Every Spine Tells a Story

posted by on September 30 at 2:09 PM

Nina Katchadourian has a collection of photos of stories told in book's spines. They're pretty great. This one is my favorite:


Reading By Numbers

posted by on September 30 at 12:24 PM

Via Bookninja:

An editorial says that California's (awful-sounding) reading comprehension rating system for young reader's books is a horrible idea. I agree:

Another problem is that the programs assign different numbers to the same book. "The Magician's Nephew" from the Narnia series by C.S. Lewis, for example, is a 790 Lexile level, a 5.6 Reading Counts level and a 5.4 Accelerated Reader level. "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," the next book in the series, is listed as 940 Lexile, 6.1 Reading Counts and 5.7 AR. The guidelines could prohibit a child who enjoyed the first novel from reading its sequel because of the conflicting reading levels.

One of the best parts of reading and English for kids is that, unlike math, it's hard to standardize. These stupid, stupid number-grading systems would have totally turned me off from reading in school when I was a kid.

Slog Commenter Book Report 5: "Erin" Chooses the 19th Wife

posted by on September 30 at 11:18 AM

As you know by now, I bring a batch of advance reader copies to Slog Happy, with the caveat that the person who reads (or tries to read) the book has to review it for all of us here on Slog.

Today’s reviewer would prefer to remain anonymous, so I will refer to her as "Erin." "Erin" is reviewing The 19th Wife, by David Ebershoff, a book that I reviewed in Constant Reader a few months back. Anything you don’t like about this review no doubt is due to the editing process and not at all "Erin"’s fault and you should blame the editor. I am the editor.


I'm wracking my brain, attempting to recall the last time I picked up a book that was nearly 600 pages long. Not only did I pick this book up, but I finished it within a week of cracking its cover.

When I saw The 19th Wife at Slog Happy, I lunged for it. I'd heard the hype surrounding this book, and, growing up in a predominantly Mormon community as a high schooler (although I myself am not Mormon), I was familiar enough with the religion to be intrigued by a novel of its earliest days. This book weaves together two stories—of Ann Eliza Young, the supposed 19th wife of the (in)famous Brigham Young, and of Jordan Scott, a young gay man who was excommunicated from a modern-day polygamist community. Also thrown into the mix are several other documents, including a fictional Wikipedia entry, a letter written from Brigham Young while he was incarcerated, letters from Eliza Young's son Lorenzo, and inquiries from a college student at BYU writing her thesis on Ann Eliza's life.

I'm usually put off by an author's attempt to weave two separate stories into one work, and the beginning of this book was no exception. My primary problems with this style of writing is that I feel myself drawn towards one story more than the other and the number of characters grows to be so large that I find myself mixing them up or forgetting who certain characters are. At the start of this book I was more intrigued by the story of Jordan Scott than I was by the Latter Day Saints' beginnings. However, as I read further, I felt myself becoming more involved with both storylines and I couldn't wait to find out what happened next in each one. Ebershoff has a great ability to distinguish his writing style between the stories in a way that they both don't appear to be written by the same person, which is a difficult skill to master. Also, the number of characters does not grow to such an overwhelming level that it's difficult to keep the stories straight. I never had a problem remembering what happened previously as the author jumped from story to story.

I recommend this book to anyone interested in reading a fascinating, thought-provoking story that will be remembered for a long time to come.

Many thanks to "Erin."

Reading Tonight

posted by on September 30 at 10:10 AM


We have four readings, mainly of a spiritual bent, tonight.

Up at Third Place Books, Dr. Janet Dallett explains "some of C.G. Jung's basic ideas in candid and clear prose" in a book called Listening to the Rhino: Violence and Healing in a Scientific Age.

At Elliott Bay Book Company, Robert Kull, who lived alone in Patagonia for an entire year but now seemingly can't shut up about it, reads from his new book Solitude.

At Town Hall, Nalini Nadkarni explores our intimate connection with trees in Between Earth & Sky. I don't think she means 'intimate' in that way. Pervert.

And at University Temple Church, Kathleen Norris reads from Acedia and Me, a memoir about depression and faith. I have to say, I read Norris' last book, The Cloister Walk, in which she lives with monks and studies the Bible as a work of literature. I'm as atheist as they come, but I really, really enjoyed that book. Norris is gifted at explaining faith in a way that even non-believers can understand and take something from. I have not read Acedia and Me, but I bet Norris would be interesting to talk to even if her newest book somehow sucks up a storm.

The full readings calendar, including the next week or so, is here.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Re: Oh Dear

posted by on September 29 at 3:25 PM

Awkward schmakward, Paul. Celebrity cameos make everything better.



Oh Dear

posted by on September 29 at 3:00 PM

Stephen Colbert is guest-starring in an issue of Spider-Man.


It's always awkward when real people show up in a comic book. Case in point: the Hulk went on a rampage a few years ago because he was jealous of Freddie Prinze, Jr.

I Guess They Weren't Empty Threats

posted by on September 29 at 2:00 PM

Someone has burned down the home of the British publisher of Jewel of Medina, a controversial novel written from the point of view of Muhammad's wife. Random House refused to publish the book because Muslim groups threatened them with violence.

In a recent interview, the British publisher said "To claim that Muslims will answer my book with violence is pure nonsense." Whoops, maybe?