Sunday, December 31, 2006

This is not a pipe

Well blow me down!

I just realized that it was Sunday—and that my review of the first installment in Fantagraphics' Popeye reprint project is now up at the Los Angeles Times site.

Getting ready for the Year of the Wig—

—happy new year!

Book ark...

Today's the last day to visit Ivy's Books & Curiosities/Murder Ink...truth be told, there's not much left—a couple of shelves of fiction, a few cards, a scattering of mystery stuff. I did find a book by Michael Avallone (unprecedented!), whom Francis M. Nevins has written eloquently about—a sort of lower-rent Keeler with a taste for wild simile—but the title in question was a novelization of some forgotten war movie, and so I let it be...

* * *

You've probably seen and maybe listened to this—Slate's Audio Book Club features three critics talking about The Emperor's Children.

I've never listened to one of these before—it's a good idea, but I can't say I was crazy about the execution. I found myself agreeing most of the time with the voice that I think belongs to Meghan O'Rourke, and having issues/mentally defending the book vs. the other two speakers....One thing that bugged me was the perceived need to categorize the book (as a satire, or whatever), and then criticizing it for not fitting into these possible molds. I could understand the impulse, but at the same time I felt it was needlessly reductive.

Anyway, here's my cell-phone rendition of the cover:

Saturday, December 30, 2006


Love this image from Jordan Davis's Equanimity:

Reminds me of a recent whaaa? moment a couple weeks ago—on the Today show (or some morning show), there was a laborious segment about how if you're under the weather, you should stay at home, otherwise you'll get people in the office sick, etc., etc. Don't try to take cold medicine and "rough it." If you're a workaholic who's afraid that his/her absence will lead to a decline in productivity, consider that getting other people sick will eventually cause the office to grind to a halt. It went on like this forever.

The show broke for a commercial—for NyQuil, I think.

The commercial's argument was, if you're feeling under the weather, take this special kind of NyQuil and...go to work! Go for it!

Recline and fall

The challenge is as always to detect whether habits are recorded because they are normal or exceptional.
—Emily Gowers, review of Matthew B. Roller's Dining Posture in Ancient Rome, TLS Dec. 22 & 29, 2006

It was like the dream of Brian Wilson that Brian himself could never really approach, of an easy listening album that was at the same time a work of genius.Jane Dark's Sugarhigh!, on Scritti Politti's White Bread Black Beer

Friday, December 29, 2006

We predict... of the best books of next year will be Howard Hampton's Born in Flames.

I had the honor of editing a few of the pieces in their original incarnations, both for the PTSNBN and The Believer. Born is a generous helping of the best of this dazzling wordslinger, and it includes terrific pieces on Hong Kong cinema, Buffy and D.H. Lawrence, and Sting (a review so dead-on that it compelled an enraged Gordon Sumner to write a letter).

Let's hear what a distinguished academic has to say:

Born in Flames seems to have sprung from the pen of someone who walked out of the apocalyptic ending of Nathanael West's The Day of the Locust. While by no means parochial, his is a vision deeply grounded in Southern California, resting on a worldview shaped by violence, unkept promises, and a cornucopia of images, spectacle, and pop commodities. Hampton is a polymath and cultural omnivore, and what emerges from the pages of this dizzying and dazzling collection is an example of what important criticism is and can be: critical intervention not only into the meanings of individual genres and oeuvres but into our culture generally.
--David Suisman, Assistant Professor of History, University of Delaware

Out One: Android

1. Want to read more about Rivette's Out 1? Here's John Ashbery's 1974 take on the shorter version (Out One: Spectre), from the SoHo News.

2. Strangely, this review of a science-fiction novel by John Scalzi, entitled The Android's Dream, includes this description

The book is, I think, supposed to be a sci-fi send-up of the standard diplomacy potboiler, as competing teams of government agents search for a rare breed of sheep — a crucial element for an alien coronation ceremony — with the fate of the earth hanging in the balance.

...and doesn't mention the allusion to Philip K. Dick's Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

A little self-esteem boost

1. From Ned Beauman's blog at The Guardian:

A study by Ohio State University has found that our enjoyment of detective stories depends on our self-esteem. Specifically, the less confident we are, the better we like it when the murderer is revealed to have been exactly whom we suspected all along, and vice versa. The researchers suggest that guessing correctly is a "little self-esteem boost", which to some of us is very precious.

Then he mentions—Keeler!

(Via Dizzyhead Brent.)

2. Can't wait to listen to this: Claire Messud interviewed on the Bat Segundo Show.


Our own Matt Singer notes that our own R. Emmet Sweeney digs...Stick It. We're intrigued!

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


LDr. Wilson reported that after running a maze, rats would replay their route during idle moments, as if to consolidate the memory, although the replay, surprisingly, was in reverse order of travel. These fast rewinds lasted a small fraction of the actual time spent on the journey.

—Nicholas Wade, "In Memory Bank Dialogue, The Brain Is Talking to Itself," NYT, December 18, 2006


Division thing

In the Times this morning:

President Bush praised Mr. Ford for his contributions to the nation “in an hour of national turmoil and vision,” in a statement released early today from his ranch in Texas.

On the website, vision has been corrected to division. Was this a typo on the Times's part, or a misreading on Bush's, or some other slip along the way?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006


It wasn't supposed to happen—but another issue of The New-York Ghost has been prepared and is being shot through the ether as we speak.

You need to know that:

—It's 12 pages.
—It consists mostly of "Deadpan in Nulltown," by B. Kite and Bill Krohn, a collaborative discursus on a strange film entitled Follow Me Quietly.
—It ends with a poem by Aimee Kelley.

Subscribe now for free at the site.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Minimalist Christmas morning post

More on the closings of Ivy's/Murder Ink (definitely read this—it's by owner Jay Pearsall) and La Rosita.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas (Eve)!

Christmas soundtrack, via Dizzyhead Hua's Palace: "The Christmas Rock," by Sherman and Pretty Tony, with Calvin Mills II.

* * *

Wonderful essay in the Times by Dizzyhead Paul: "Jefferson's Lump of Coal."

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Mr. Wilson

At Slate, Zoilus blogger Carl Wilson writes eloquently on Destroyer and newish Canadian fave Final Fantasy.

Another Pynchon review...

...this one by the inimitable Luc Sante. Alas—another piece I'm not going to read in full, since I still want to read Against the Day and am very spoiler-sensitive (e.g., even the relating of a small joke or bit of wordplay can seem too much, like you're being robbed of some future pleasure).

At my rate of intake, I'll probably finish this by 2012, when Quetzalcoatl returns!

(I love how Jenny D is going to take this along to the MLA as her "light reading"!)

Friday, December 22, 2006

Happy "Kwonzaa"!

The menschy Jeff Yang (is he a Dizzyhead?) has a good rundown of the year in Asian Americana. Dig his seasonal play on the recent Survivor winner's name!

Philip K. Dick—or Harry Stephen Keeler?

Still in gay pinstripe clown-style pajamas, Joe Chip hazily seated himself at his kitchen table, lit a cigarette and, after inserting a dime, twiddled the dial of his recently rented 'pape machine.

(Answer next year.)

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Train in vain

Now that it's officially winter, I can finally start this:

Thursday, December 21, 2006


This meme (right word? No) is everywhere: Syntax of Things' "Underrated Writers 2006." Lots of interesting stuff here—Joshua Clover and Paul LaFarge get props, and I spot some Dizzyheads among the contributors...

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Happier posts

From the new Royal Books catalogue:

Portis, Charles. The Dog of the South (First Edition, Inscribed by Eudora Welty). NY: Knopf, 1979. First Edition. Hardcover. First Edition, Fine in a Fine dust jacket. SIGNED and inscribed by Eudora Welty to two friends, thus: "For --- and --- / with love / and with my thanks for so much, / Eudora / Chicago, April 17, 1980." A very nice secondary association, and an interesting connection between two important southern authors of different generations.
[Book #80736] Price: $650.00

From the Sylvester Stallone Q&A:

What do you consider your worst film? Rhinestone or Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot?
—Eric P.

The worst film I’ve ever made by far… maybe one of the worst films in the entire solar system, including alien productions we’ve never seen… a flatworm could write a better script then STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT. In some countries – China, I believe – running STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT once a week on government television has lowered the birth rate to zero. If they ran it twice a week, I believe in twenty years China would be extinct. Does that put it in perspective, Eric P.?

Simply disappear

And—tremendous sigh—speaking of New York ghosts...

This headline is too cutesy for me, but as soon as I saw it, the dread hit: "Many Suspects Seen in the Death of a Mystery Bookstore."

I knew it would be about Murder Ink and Ivy's Books, two stores joined at the hip on upper Broadway. This civilized oasis will be going out of business on December 31. Amazingly, this tidbit I wrote for the PTSNBN's holiday shopping guide a million years ago still exists:

The genteel Ivy's Books and Curiosities mingles new and used titles on the same shelves in healthy heterogeneity. When you realize that your friends don't read anymore, get them the variations on the classic theme book, the mottled covers decorated with pages from casting books or reproductions of Spanish movie posters. Other stocking stuffers include paper model kits, flip books, and slim, vintage recipe books from the '50s and '60s. Isn't it time your roommate relearned The ABC of Chafing Dish Cookery?

I go to—went to—Ivy's a lot, generally at least looking at the bargain cart parked outside, if I was walking uptown. I was in there twice this week, and indeed made a purchase yesterday afternoon, oblivious to its impending demise. The Times article mentions that the rent goes up "5 percent a year and currently runs $18,000 a month." Even with a parade of loyal customers, how can a small bookstore survive? Now, between the Barnes & Noble on 82nd to the three (four?) stores around Columbia (Labyrinth, et al.), there's nothing on the Upper West Side for bibliophiles—a mile and a half stretch.

I haven't even commented on Coliseum Books, which is also closing at the end of this year (my epitaph, written for the PTSNBN upon the occasion of the closing of the former Columbus Circle location, was a little premature, but basically holds true—click through at "Alberto Angelo" here). Coliseum owner George Leibson says, "I believe we will simply disappear."

And what is there to say about Gotham Book Mart? I knew it was in trouble, but didn't read that it had actually closed—until I came across a mention in this piece about the Finnegans Wake Society (which used to make its home there)...

UPDATE: $18,000 seems to be the magic figure—see "La Rosita to close by 2007," in the Columbia Spectator.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

It's Tuesday, and so...

...there's a new issue of The New-York Ghost. Visit the website to subscribe!

Cormac — Martha — Russell — Maud

1. Yesterday I saw a newish looking paperback of Cormac McCarthy's No Country for Old Men on the sidewalk. It was near a trash can, in the tarry-or-worse penumbral region of pavement. No. This is not something one picks up. Still, I stared at it, wondering why it was there, whether I should claim it...before realizing, I already have this book. And I still haven't read it.

2. But maybe I could have sent it to Martha Stewart, who is reading CMcC's The Road. She could enjoy No Country while listening to faves Leonard Cohen—or Eminem! (Via Critical Mass.) Is it just me, or would Martha's Book Club be more interesting than Oprah's?

3. In the spirit of my Anthony Powell discovery yesterday, here's a found-via–Site Meter (copy editors, please note my meticulous use of the en dash) review of Russell H. Greenan's It Happened in Boston?, an old Dizzies favorite. It's from an obscure "zine" called Time, way back in 1969. (I believe it was a competitor of The East Village Eye.)

"What kind of tale can possibly evolve from such a gallimaufry of trivia? A dreamer on a park bench, a dim-witted bird fancier, a dead cat, an eight-year-old boy, a picture dealer, a handful of pigeons and an insurance agent—hardly the cast of War and Peace, I must agree." So speaks the witty but slightly (?) deranged narrator, park-bench dreamer, master painter and hero (?) of this fantastical and compelling first novel. The unlikely tale that does evolve draws the unwitting narrator into a plot to palm off one of his works as a Leonardo da Vinci. Somewhat later he proceeds to poison no fewer than seven people in a visionary effort to meet and kill God.

4. And Maud awesomely links to Carla's Lowell-Yaddo piece...

(Boston? image from here.)

Monday, December 18, 2006


An old article that I found via this blog's Site Meter: "Anthony Powell as Clubman," from a 2000 Spectator.

I like that he and Henry Green (or rather Henry Yorke) were early friends.

(I'm really just putting this article here so that I can have easy access to it later!)

The Smedley Affair

The inimitable Carla has a fascinating piece on Robert Lowell at Yaddo up at the Poetry Foundation website.

A Fun Home With Paper Thin Walls

Dizzyhead Brandon alerts us to Paper Thin Walls, a newish music site featuring plenty of great (and free! we're very into free these days) downloads. Right now they're asking various music writers for their summing-up song of the year—it's fun!

The Dizzies-via-Critical Mass picked Alison Bechdel's Fun Home as its book of the year—and now a publication called Time Magazine also names it the top tome of oh-six!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Pirate joke from last night

Q: Why are pirates pirates?

A: Because they arrrr!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Another kind of 'Ghost'

Dizzyhead L. Lee Lowe informs us that the first audio installment of her YA novel Mortal Ghost—an online project—is now available. (We're between plug-ins right now, but hope to listen soon...)

Friday, December 15, 2006

Rosie the riveter

Oh, Rosie!

"To say 'ching chong' to someone is very offensive, and some Asian people have told me it's as bad as the n-word. Which I was like, 'Really? I didn't know that.'"
In related news: Am I the only one who raised an eyebrow when Sarah Silverman was interviewed by the Times in the wake of the Michael Richards racist-tirade flap, and wasn't asked about her own controversial race-baiting joke (the infamous "I hate ch--ks"*) and escalating/incensing non-apologies)? (In the piece, she's reminded only of Mel Gibson's drunken rant.)

My question: Why demand an apology? Better to just point out the problem, agitate, etc., and if the person in question wants to apologize, so be it. (A forced/pressured apology seems barely preferable to no apology at all.)

(More on Rosie at Angry Asian Man.)

*that's not "chicks"...or "chunks"...or "cheeks"!

Download now

Does everyone know about Featherproof Books, little downloadable books that you print out and fold into shape? (Sound familiar?) They are truly "light reading" —

—and speaking of which, check out Jenny D's list of the best books of 2006! (Here's an addendum.)

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Late-breaking Pynchon review

Couldn't resist! Here's British fantasist Michael Moorcock (creator of, among other things, the Elric of Melniboné novels) on Against the Day:

Gloriously, demandingly, daringly Pynchon has rediscovered vulgarity and continues to prove that the novel has never been more vibrant, more various or better able to represent our complex world. Give this book your time. I think you’ll agree it’s worth it.

(Courtesy Dizzyhead Brent)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Calling All Team Dizzies Members!

No new posts for a while—unless someone on Team Dizzies would like to take up the torch?!—but for the nonce you can subscribe to The New-York Ghost, called "the deeply pleasing mystery rag" by Jane Dark's Sugar High!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Can't stop won't stop (blogging)

We all have stories like that, stories we rely on to establish our charm in the begining of relationships. I tell one about wanting to play the ukulele in the school orchestra. They asked me what instrument I wanted to play, and I said the ukulele, and they said, but there's no ukulele in the school orchestra, and I said, then what can I play that's like the ukulele, and they said the viola. That story doesn't sound so charming on the page, but I tell it very well.
—Nora Ephron, Heartburn

(Courtesy Dizzyhead Rachel)

Hello—you're hired!

[Bud] Sagendorf had been a resident of Santa Monica since age 3, living with his widowed mother and older sister. The mother had moved there from Washington state after her husband died. She opened a beauty shop. Sagendorf's sister worked at a stationery store and guess where Segar bought his supplies? When she told [E.C.] Segar [creator of Popeye] of her brother's interest in cartooning, Segar invited him over to the house. Soon he hired Sagendorf as his assistant doing lettering and backgrounds. He asked Sagendorf only two questions before he was hired: Did he like fishing, and what type of books did he read? Sagendorf's answer to the first question was yes and 'science fiction' to the latter, and Segar enjoyed both—probably the fastest job interview in history. (Segar had already seen the young man's drawings, so he knew he could draw). —Ed Black's Cartoon Flashback

In the history of job interviews, this was one of the shortest. [Dreamgirls director Michael Bennett] was in an empty rehearsal room and I was brought in to meet him. He looked at me and asked, "Are you quiet?" "Yes," I said. "What sign are you?" "Scorpio," I said. "Oh, no, no, no," he said, ending the conversation. I must have looked utterly crestfallen because he looked at me again and gave me one of his impish smiles and said, "All right." And that was it, I was in. —Manhattan User's Guide

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Best athlete name—

Cowboys' kicker Martin Gramatica?

Phile under: Phylicia

Over at Manhattan User's Guide, Charlie Suisman shares a fond look back at the original Dreamgirls. (I love these before-they-were-famous tidbits.)

The Boston tryout is the period I remember with the most pleasure. Despite tech week's '10 out of 12s' – a grueling schedule of ten-hour rehearsals out of a period of twelve hours, the shared purpose, being out of New York, and the excitement over the show created a camaraderie among the cast, crew, designers, and everyone else working on the show. (Well, among most of us: Phylicia Ayers-Allen, who was in the chorus, had a permanently aggrieved look on her face and her demeanor made it clear that she was made for better things. And who's to say she wasn't right, since she went on to become Phylicia Rashad and to play Bill Cosby's wife on The Cosby Show.)

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Wry 'n' Philippe

We love the New-York Ghostiness of this.

Postmodern Times

I'm piggybacking off of Termite Artist/Dizzyhead Matt's post on Sylvester Stallone. At Ain't It Cool—a site I rarely (ever??) visit—he's answering round after round of questions.

This is not the funniest exchange—it's not funny at all—but I like it. (It also suggests a fun fiction-writing exercise: What if Sly and the Little Tramp had met?)


In "Remembering Charlie," Jerry Epstein's book on Charlie Chaplin, you are mentioned quite extensively. In fact "Rocky" was one of the last films Charlie ever saw. In the book Mr. Epstein says you were never able to comment on your appreciation for Chaplin's films, although he says you were a huge fan and had hoped to "have an audience with the great maestro." Could you tell us a bit about your relationship with Charlie and the effect he had on your career?

Eric Paul Erickson
Chicago, IL

I was scheduled to see Charlie Chaplin, but I froze myself out of that by, believe it or not, being too nervous, like I did when I was suppose to meet Elvis. I love Charlie Chaplin. I borrowed the hat idea from Charlie Chaplin and always pictured (in a urban, concrete, trashy way) that Rocky was the slight embodiment of The Little Tramp.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Other Books

Things I left out of my roundup—other categories for 2006 favorites:

Other graphic novels/comics of note include books by Gabrielle Bell (Lucky) and Kevin Huizenga (Curses), the latter of which reminds me of Haruki Murakami's latest collection of stories (Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman); Renée French's The Ticking, and ongoing resuscitation projects of Tove Jansson's Moomins, E.C. Segar's Popeye, and Jules Feifferiana

On the reprint front:
Howard Who?, by Howard Waldrop (Small Beer)
0 to 9, edited by Vito Acconci and Bernadette Mayer (Ugly Duckling Presse)
Born Under Saturn, Margot and Rudolf Wittkower (New York Review Books)

And in nonfiction, two slightly more academic works:
From Sun Tzu to Xbox: War and Video Games, by Ed Halter
Another Future: Poetry and Art in a Postmodern Twilight, Alan Gilbert

Friday, December 08, 2006

Your life in six words? Sure!

Park Lit/Housing Works maven Rachel F. proposes a good challenge. She's asking people to contribute to Smith storytelling magazine's search for the best six-word memoir!

I remember reading someone's ten worder...

I also remember the sci-fi version...

On your mark—get set—go!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Critical Mass: My favorite books of the year

[For those of you joining from the National Book Critics Circle blog—welcome! For those of you starting here, take a look over there for my top pick...]

Turning to fiction: Lawrence Douglas's debut novel, The Catastrophist is seriously underrated. I don't naturally gravitate toward the academic novel or the midlife crisis novel, but it doesn't matter—Douglas's prose is marvelously fluid, smart, and funny. The fact that I keep thinking "Nabokovian" can't be a bad thing. Other standouts (no particular order): James P. Othmer's The Futurist; Claire Messud's The Emperor's Children; my Believer co-conspirator Heidi Julavits's page-turning The Uses of Enchantment and (similarly narratively playful, completely original) T Cooper's Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes; Michael Friedman's very strange Martian Dawn; Laird Hunt's cool Sebald cover version, The Exquisite; Max Allan Collins's The Last Quarry, from the glorious recidivists at Hard Case Crime. Of course there are a dozen books (new Pynchon, Eggers, Lynne Tillman, Ngugi wa'Thiongo, et al.) that I haven't had a chance to finish/read yet and that I suspect would land on this shortlist. (Maybe make that two dozen.)

Nonfiction favorites: Mark Nelson and Sarah Hudson Bayliss's Exquisite Corpse: Surrealism and the Black Dahlia Murder; Richard Halpern's Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence; Brandon Stosuy's endlessly browsable Downtown-lit compendium Up Is Up, But So Is Down; Simon Reynolds's post-punk history, Rip It Up and Start Again. Among the people laid off by The Village Voice this year are two with excellent new books. Toni Schlesinger's Five Flights Up collects her inimitable "Shelter" columns (which I edited for several years), a wildly entertaining ride that's pure New York. And ex–film editor Dennis Lim has put together The Village Voice Film Guide: 50 Years of Movies From Classics to Cult Hits. It's a treasure trove of smart, elegant reviews from the paper's once-sui generis film section, authored by familiar names (J. Hoberman), old legends (Andrew Sarris, Jonas Mekas), and the occasional surprise guest (Oliver Stone, writing passionately on Breathless in 1972).

And I will plunge straight into conflict-of-interest land for my poetry picks—three uniquely brilliant things, by three friends whose tastes have shaped mine: Joshua Clover's The Totality for Kids, Sarah Manguso's Siste Viator, and Jane Yeh's Marabou.

i, i, i

i. Popular misspellings: Dizzyhead Brent points to Lindsay Lohan's heartfelt thoughts on the late Robert Altman (who directed her in this year's A Prairie Home Companion). It ends:

Thank You,


Lindsay Lohan

I just saw that Gawker is jumping on L.L. for this. But perhaps she meant to spell it that way—a sort of portmanteau meaning "quite adequate." She's telling us to be "just good enough, thank you." Not a bad policy.

In other solecism news: the Thomas Pynchon letter (below) in defense of Ian McEwan (which we initially misspelled as "McEwen," unconsciously giving props to the great novelist in exile, Todd McEwen) contains a small goof as well:

Memoirs of the Blitz have borne indispensible [sic] witness, and helped later generations know something of the tragedy and heroism of those days.

In this case, tripling the "i" makes us conscious of the authorial ego (not Pynchon's per se, but the general notion of an authorial ego). The fact that it's lowercase simultaneously emphasizes the lack of ego vis-à-vis the issue of I.McE's purported plagiarism: We don't necessarily need to use our own words, it is all grist for the mill, literature is one long conversation with the dead, there is no single author, etc.

Yes...that seems quite adequate for now.

ii. The latest issue of Time Out ranked the city's critics. They got it right: The top two film critics were J. Hoberman (a/k/a "Hoberjams") and . . . Dizzies search-idol Dennis Lim! Those polled call him "A critic whose opinion matters and who is aware of the whole world of cinema."

UPDATE: Dizzyhead Pete provides this link to the TONY piece.

iii. And this just in: Dizzyhead Christine on an Iraqi date saga.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Exhibit A is a page from Robert Shields's obsessive, decades-long diary. Exhibit B is Thomas Pynchon's letter in defense of Ian McEwan. (Both via various sources.)

This year I've been using the typewriter much more than in the past. I realized that even when I diligently entered notes into the computer, I'd rarely open the files (and almost never print them). I wanted something that was nearby, always "on"—I always keep a sheet of scrap paper in the typewriter—backs of the drafts of articles, junk mail, etc. The notes coalesce into a stack that' easily manageable and a lot of fun to go through—I also just like the way it looks: instantly ancient (and thereby invested with enormous meaning).


1. I was reading Slate this morning, and bristled at this (in a review by Caroline Moorhead):

"Written as a series of alternating sections or flashbacks, What Is the What—bad title, terrible cover—calls itself a novel but was created closely out of the story told to Eggers by Valentino Achak Deng, who reached Atlanta, after 14 years in refugee camps, in 2001."
But I think it's a great title! I don't know if this was intentional, but there's something Gertrude Stein-y about it, and the whole idea of an autobiography written by someone else is also of course GS-y. And the cover seems excellent to me—not just the image, but the cover's textbook feel, which triggers a tactile memory of school days (i.e., the period of childhood taken by Deng).

It seems like a positive review overall (I just skimmed the rest), but that absolute judgment —"bad title, terrible cover"!—went so against my own gut reaction (upon seeing/hefting the book) that I decided it was time to stop surfing and get to work. At least after posting this.

2. For a boost: Jenny quotes from a delightful Jessica Mitford letter.

3. I have seen an actual physical copy of the Believer's Visual Issue. A lot of meat on these bones! And it looks tremendous. The cover is especially ingenious: Once you pull away the "art cards" featuring Kehinde Wiley's paintings, you see...well, I won't say. But it's one of those fun surprise revelations, like...oh, the Velvets' banana cover!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


I occasionally live under the illusion that people visit The Dizzies to read my lighter-than-air musings on literature, cinema, comics, and ukeleles. The truth of the matter is that most visitors hone in on this hapless URL because they've searched for talking cats, voice of the Buffalo Sabres Rick Jeanerette, or news about Dennis Lim.

For those in the latter camp, here's a shot of DL talking to IFC after last night's event at BAM:

And check it out—the London Observer, in its gift-giving guide, writes:
A compendium of alternative film reviews from the past 50 years edited by New York's peerless critic Dennis Lim. V------ V---- Film Guide £9.99, John Wiley

(It also lists a subscription to Modern Painters as a good present for "culture junkies.")

(An astute Termite Artist pointed out to me that the PTSNBN did not even list last night's event. True? That's cold!)

Minimalist Tuesday

Out now: a new New York-Ghost!

Up at Return of the Reluctant: Kelly Link talks!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Names

In Vienna, he met Ceil Chaiken, a survivor of the ghetto in Kovno, Lithuania; they were married in 1946. Three years later, the family came to the United States, where Mr. Welles adopted his new name. (He based his first name on his Hebrew name, Eliyahu. His original surname, Sauerquell, is German for “mineral wells” — hence Welles; he chose the spelling as an homage to Orson Welles, his son said.)
—from Margalit Fox's NYT obit for Elliot Welles, "indefatigable Nazi hunter"

Things to do on Monday: New Haven—New York edition

1. Yalies! Ye sons—and daughters—of Eli! Tomorrow night (Monday, 12/4), go hear Believer goddess Heidi Julavits read from her ace new novel, The Uses of Enchantment. She'll be appearing with Chris Adrian, author of (the excellent-seeming, though I've only had a chance to read the first chapter) The Children's Hospital, at St. Anthony Hall at the corner of Wall and College Streets. It's at 7:30, it's free, and it's refreshment-enhanced!

2. Also on 12/4: New Yorkers! To celebrate—?!!?—the massive new V------ V---- film guide (compiling highlights from the past half decade [correction: century!] of the paper's once-heady film criticism), BAM is screening the best donkey movie ever—Au Hasard Balthazar!—at 7, followed by a panel discussion: Guide editor and dissolute bon vivant Dennis Lim talks with J. Hoberman and former Double-V PTSNBN critics Andrew Sarris and Jonas Mekas.

3. In other news—read the Limster in the NYT on Austrian cinema, and Michael Atkinson at IFC on Herzog.

4. What if Werner Herzog did an adaptation of Saul Bellow's Herzog?

To a T — A Full Plate — It Happened on the Back Cover?

1. A fine panel yesterday at the Small Book Fair—John Cotrona, T Cooper, and Peter Plate discussed various issues pertaining to indie-press fiction, and then answered a number of questions from the audience . . . some of which were decidedly off topic. It didn't matter, in the end, as all three were able to spin their answers into something interesting and useful. I'm now a big fan of T's Lipshitz Six, or Two Angry Blondes—here's what I wrote in my intro:

As the title suggests, two books battle between these covers, and sometimes it seems like three times that many. It’s an ambitious, at times delirious mash-up of Charles Lindbergh, Eminem, pre-James Frey truthiness, rampant identity shapeshifting, a straight-ahead (and heartbreaking) immigration narrative, and an intergenerational grief epic to boot. It gives post-, or post-post, modernism a very good name indeed.

And on Plate:

His latest novel is the taut, post-prison blues Soon the Rest Will Fall, about an unconventional romantic triangle, recidivist impulses, and hunting in the wilds of San Francisco. In lean, urgent chapters, his electric prose unfolds to a jazz and soul soundtrack, leading up to the most jaw-dropping courtroom scene you’ll read this year.

2. Here's the back-jacket bio for Russell H. Greenan's It Happened in Boston? (first printing, 1968):
Russell H. Greenan was born and educated in New York, where he worked briefly at banking before enlisting in the Navy. After war service and graduation from Long Island University, he sold indiustrial gas, diesel engines, and ball bearings, while continuing to read voraciously about art and the art world, always his major interest. Twice he saved enough money to quite his job and go to Europe, the last time with his family. It was in Nice, France, where they settled for a fifteen-month period, that his first novel was written. His favorite modern authors include Cellini, Nathanael West, and J.P. Donleavy, but his talent is uniquely his own.

It's like a little story. The details—Industrial gas! Ball bearings! It's TMI, but a good TMI. (The photo, by the way, is really good—Greenan looks like a successful race-car driver.)

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A Canticle for Fran Lebowitz

Someone please construct a joke with this punchline!

(Photo of FL courtesy Jen Snow.)

* * *

Today at 4 at the Small Press Center, I'll be moderating a panel featuring the talented T Cooper, San Francisco legend Peter Plate, and (replacing Joe Meno) John Cotrona, author of Lost Positives, named "Best Under-the-Radar Local Literary Debut" last year by the PTSNBN (i.e., me). Here's the citation.

Friday, December 01, 2006

The Skyline as Library — I Heart 'The Fountainhead' — If Books Could Kill

Via Hua: Insoociant posts a great pic of the Bibliothèque Nationale, four buildings designed to look like open books.

This reminds me of my recent viewing of King Vidor's The Fountainhead (1949)—terrific! The title sequence shows the edge of a building—that turns out to be the spine of a book . . . the cover of which says THE FOUNTAINHEAD! I can't find an image, but here's a pic of Gary Cooper as Roark, next to a model of one of his buildings:

Don't you like the name "King Vidor"?

Rounding out today's unconventional "books" coverage—fellow Saybrugian Ed has sent me a photo from the distant past, in which the Koran (I believe) goes head to head with Shakespeare:

This picture from the college yearbook originally appeared in The Yale Herald, accompanying a humor piece in which my roommate and I were...I forget the concept. (I think we were supposed to be "geeks," and/or supergifted overachievers.) The photo was taken by Campie Drobnack.

Don't you like the name "Campie Drobnack"?

UPDATE: A quick Google search suggests that Campie is architect!

Also you should know . . .

. . . that the new Believer is out—it's the yearly visual issue, with enough stuff to keep you happy through January. I haven't seen it yet, but there's lots of good stuff inside (including two "museum pieces"—Samantha Topol on Brooklyn's Homeless Museum, and Jen Graves on the strange story behind the imposing Maryhill in Washington State (and its phantom double). (I have a short piece on Rockwell and other matters—just the beginning is online.) Here's a taste of Dizzyhead Brandon's interview with Matthew Barney. (Why not give a gift subscription to someone this holiday season ? Rumor is it's only $40 right now, which is like a 900,000% savings off the cover price!)

The Giddies

By now—week's end!—it's old news that Philip K. Dick will be given the Library of America treatment, à la earlier pulp divinity H.P. Lovecraft, and that PKD champion/sage Jonathan Lethem will edit and write the endnotes. Good news!

Last week at the library I thumbed through an appealing little supplement put out by the Virginia Quarterly Review, in which novelists wove fictions around earlier fictioneers. I only had time to read one—and it was Lethem's excellent "Phil in the Marketplace." (It made me think: a PKD biopic wouldn't be a bad idea...) The piece can be read here.

My favorite bits are the invented Dickian titles that Lethem concocts:

The writer spins the rack. It’s all his old stuff, as though it had been sitting there for twenty years. Death of an Anti-Watcher. We Can Wrap It For You To Go. The Variable Feasibility of Perkus Tooth. Celestial Crap-Assessor.

Anthony Powell did a similar job (see here) with Julian MacLaren-Ross, who was an inspiration for the character of X. Trapnel, the most memorable fictitious title being Dogs Have No Uncles.

Other examples?

UPDATE: What about books you wished existed? Read Dizzyhead Jenny's marvelous new story. "The Other Amazon," up at Clarkesworld!

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