Wednesday, September 30, 2009

"Because see"

Bill Poundstone's latest Humumentization of Ann Coulter yields something Brainard-worthy! (And here's more on Brainard.)


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"As personal as ever!" says Leland de la Durantaye, of this common misspelling of yrs truly's name! (I am straining my eyes a bit but this looks to be a PD sighting at the Harvard Book Store...a "staff recommendation"...Heyyy, I'll take it!)

In other "Ed Parks" news, someone recently wrote a really sweet (I mean that in an "awww!" sense and also a kind of frat-boy "suh-weet" sense) review of PD on Amazon, concluding: "Well done, Mr. Parks. I hope this is the first of many novels for you!"

Again: Heyyy, I'll take it!

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Changing the game

Paper Cuts on Ron Rosenbaum on Nabokov as game changer:

[In Slate] Rosenbaum wrote:

I have my own strong feelings about the question of genius in literature. I’ve always felt that if we look at the past century, Nabokov was a game-changer, as the academic phrase has it. Nabokov showed there is a place you can go, a place that the alchemy of words can transport reader and writer to, that no one had gone before. And Nabokov went there, with ease, in “Lolita” and “Pale Fire.” So it’s hard to call any other writer in the past century a genius of the same order.

Really? I guess it’s time to push Proust out of the pantheon and kick Kafka to the curb.

And yet...I think R.R. is right!? (At 2 in the morning.)

(Am not going to read his Slate piece on The Orig. of Laura, though, b/c I want to come to it "fresh.")

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Disambiguations™ for September 29, 2009

I. Richard Russo was on NPR's Morning Edition today, talking about some of his favorite office lit—including Personal Days! Listen here. (Full show here.)

II. "I don't buy it, and, more, I don't really even want it": Levi Stahl on The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.

III. The anatomy lesson: My favorite brainiac Meehan Crist gets to dissect, at Lapham's Quarterly:

The earliest lesson in dissection comes not from the West but from the East, in the pages of the Sushruta Samhita, an ancient Sanskrit text meant for students of the surgical arts who probably lived about six hundred years before Christ walked the streets of Galilee. It instructs its readers to find the body of a person—not too young and not too old—who has not died of poisoning or severe disease. Remove the intestines. Wrap the body in grass, hemp, or bast, the inner bark of trees. Place the wrapped figure in a cage, for protection from animals, and lower the cage into a river with a gentle current. Leave it there, bobbing in the rhythmic rush of water, “the body left to soften.” When you return a few days later, bring a brush made of grassroots, hair, and bamboo. Use the brush to remove one softened layer of the corpse at a time. “When this is done, the eye can observe every large or small, outer or inner part of the body, beginning with the skin, as each part is laid bare by the brushing.” In this way, you will travel beneath the skin and through the body to the very core, whisking away bits of bloated flesh until nothing is left, the body disappeared and your hands, empty.

IV. I also noticed, in the same issue of LQ, an essay by John Crowley:
Once last fall, world stock markets lost a trillion dollars in value in a single day, or maybe it was a week, and I found the evident impossibility of this somehow at once appalling and exhilarating. I wondered why—why it was exhilarating, that is. Was it the suggestion, the proof even, that this supposed value had not been actual at all, had been nothing, a projection, a magic trick? Why would that be exhilarating? Some of my own money was vanishing (as my wife reminded me, asking why I was laughing), and to most humans, the sense of a vast and necessary structure dissolving into thin air like Prospero’s cloud-capp’d towers might be gloom-inducing in the extreme.

Along about the same time, the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland was being set up for its first test run, and there was speculation that the machine could so focus the random possibilities of particle collision as to swallow up the planet and all of us with it. A mini black hole might be created, doomsayers warned, a spot of “true vacuum” that could actually draw in the entire universe at the speed of light—all matter and energy and all time and space—and leave nothing at all behind. Nothing at all.

This possibility, like the vanishing trillions of cash value, was exhilarating too, only awe-inspiring rather than appalling—godlike laughter as against demonic glee.

V. And...Columbia folk: I'm reading tomorrow...where is "Mathematics Hall"?

Getting Personal with Ed Park

Wednesday, September 30, 8PM

203 Mathematics Hall

Columbia Professor and acclaimed novelist and critic Ed Park will give a reading from his novel Personal Days, followed by an open Q&A. Personal Days, one of the Time’s top ten fiction books of 2008, was a finalist for the PEN Hemingway Award and the John Sargent Sr. First Novel Prize. Park is a founding editor of The Believer magazine, former editor of the Voice Literary Supplement and a contributor to the New York Times and LA Times, among many other publications.

The Columbia Review and 114 Rue de Fleurus, the writers’ house of Columbia University, are co-sponsoring the event. Attendance is open and no RSVP is required.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

A nod to the old ancestor!

2,560 years ago today, a boy was born on the North China Plain who would go on to become Asia's most influential thinker...

Confucius was born in 551 BC, to a family already far down the path from riches to rags, and worked as a cattle and sheep herder before becoming a reforming minister of crime. Disillusioned with the leaders of his day, he set off on a 15-year journey around the crumbling alliance of states now absorbed into China, a huddle of 30-year-old students in tow, selling his ideas on politics and the family for grain and cash. —Guardian


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Model behavior

Does the guy on the right look a little like...Vincent Gallo?

That's because he is.

(From Sung J. Woo's blog)

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Disambiguations™ for September 24, 2009

I. I've updated, for the first time in months! A few readings sprinkled throughout the fall...

II. The NYT on The New Literary History of America—our own Hua was on the editorial board. Hua explains:

Each essay is loosely fixed to a moment of "making"--the fashioning of a new idea, the publication of a book, a turning point-of-a-speech, a conversation that would outline a movement, the birth of cool, or simply a fleeting spark of a thought that would continue on as someone else's design for life. As such, our sense of the literary was canonical yet, at times, weird and wide-ranging--the founding of Alcoholics Anonymous and the publication of Linda Lovelace's autobiography seem to be the two non-"literary" entries critics have gravitated toward.
Other Disamiguation-fave contributors include Douglas Wolk, Howard Hampton, Joshua Clover, and more...

III. Dennis talks to Lars Von Trier via satellite.

IV. Andrew Gelman on Steve Hely's How I Became a Famous Novelist (a book I keep thinking about).

V. Jenny remembers Barbara Johnson and reproduces her syllabus from 1992. (Also follow for a link to Lindsay Waters' remembrance.)

VI. The Significant Objects project is still going strong—here's Stephen Elliott ("The Adderall Diaries" = play on "The Basketball Diaries"?) on some Hawaiian utensils:

I bought these Hawaiian utensils, a wooden spoon and fork, while living in Alaska in the mid-eighties with my first wife. We were living outside the Eskimo village Wales on the western edge of the state, three miles outside of Tin City Air Force Station. The Air Force station was the location of a long-range radar for air surveillance. It was originally built in the 1950s but Reagan gave it a serious upgrade during his successful bid to destabilize the Russians. From the top of a snowdrift you could see boats pulling into ports larger than many football stadiums, carrying steel arms more than a mile in length.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wall to wall

Best Foundation Ed Park.

Daily Post North Wales


Tuesday, September 22, 2009


"Plum" also paid endless attention to detail. On display is a letter to the novelist Arnold Bennett, thanking him for his praise. "I can never see why printers should do their job so slackly," he writes. In Jeeves and the Yuletide Spirit, the story Bennett had admired, Bertie Wooster tells Jeeves that he has been invited somewhere for "the festive s" – it was a habit of Bertie's to substitute the initial letter for the whole word. The first edition rendered this as "festives". The American edition changed it to "festivities". The later Omnibus edition stuck in "Christmas" instead. It was not until 1999 that the Penguin edition fulfilled the author's intention. —Telelgraph

(Via Jenny)

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Monday, September 21, 2009


Her self-assigned task, supported by a traveling scholarship from the Welsh Livery Guild, was to study The Budget’s transition to the Internet and the willingness of the Amish to accept that transition.[...]

[Welsh Livery Guild!]

There was the Amish man where she was a houseguest who asked her what an “ip-id” was. “He had read about an iPod,” she explained. “I wish I had had mine with me to show him.”

Her experiences taught her a general rule: “it is difficult to explain a Web site to someone who hasn’t seen one.”


The national edition of The Budget, now available in print only, is largely composed of submissions from hundreds of volunteer “scribes” from across the country. Typically, a scribe talks about the weather and segues into the goings-on in the local community. Around 500 scribe letters a week take up roughly 50 pages....

In a letter dated Sept. 3, a scribe from Camden, Ind., told how a great-uncle, Owen, had the family over to “cut down a big tree in the front yard and turn it into firewood. Uncle Owen cut it down while his sons stopped traffic as they had to throw it on the road. He got tired out, but at 89 I think that is doing quite well.”

—Selections from "Exploring News by the Online Amish," NYT


Friday, September 18, 2009

Be here now

"This week we have a BE that focuses on the question of how to BE with one’s children. There are some familiar voices below, but I have also enlisted the wisdom of two other incredible women, Heidi Butz and Camila Batmanghelidjh."


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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Disambiguations™ for September 17, 2009

I. At the Poetry Foundation, Jesse Nathan talks to Nicholson Baker about The Anthologist, which I want Ed-clone to read for me (after he finishes Inherent Vice).

II. "A remarkable young woman named September": Why Grognardia is my homepage. (The interview also links to the entry on The Awful Green Things From Outer Space, one of the great Tom Wham's games for TSR.)

III. "The Someday Funnies": Epic article in The Comics Journal (excerpted here), on "How Michel Choquette (Almost) Assembled the Most Stupendous Comic Book In the World."

IV. "Madonna taught me how to do this": Sweeney sends along Abby Elliott's Gwyneth/Goop parody (in response to the Paltrovian bibimbap primer).

IV.1: Quick -- someone write a think piece about the connection between "embedding" videos and "embedding" journalists!

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Now *that's* a lede™!

The Passion of the Swift, a three-act drama involving hubris, recrimination, redemption and most of America’s major media conglomerates, came to an end (we can only hope) on “The View” on Tuesday when Taylor Swift — who brings a touch of bland dignity to even the most skin-crawlingly repulsive public spectacle — announced that she was buying a condo. —Mike Hale, NYT

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

"Computer Love"

(Via Hua)

Box tops

At the new book design blog Spine Out...too much good stuff! Check out these natty new Nabokov covers:

(From Gautam!)

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Monday, September 14, 2009

"The first thing we should do is feel it"

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Saturday, September 12, 2009


I. "She said, only half joking, that she washed her hair a dozen times in the course of reading it: overwhelmed again and again, that was the only way she could clear her head enough to allow her to return to Ishiguro’s world. The novel does have that sort of effect." —Levi Stahl on The Unconsoled (at The Quarterly Conversation)

II. Sarah Manguso's Bookforum syllabus: Writing about not writing.

III. Ed-clone, please go see Destroyer, Locsil, JACK Quartet at Miller Theater tonight come on it's in the friggin' neighborhood no I'm too busy I can't I can't do anything right now I'm burning the candle at both ends, I'm buying more candles, burning 'em, it's candles night and day here but wait Ed (is this Ed or Ed-clone I'm talking to?) you love Destroyer you're always QUOTING IT ON THIS BLOG—

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

I thought this caption was funny


Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Just put on another hip-hop record

The amazing graphic-oneiricist David Heatley (My Brain Is Hanging Upside Down), who was cool enough to kick off the "Poem as Comic Strip" project that I curated during my PoFo days, recently covered a song he wrote at age 19—a real toe-tapper! He sends me this inspired video:


This week in Disambiguations™

I. Read about "the initial paper games bubble of the early 80s" at Grognardia.

II. Over the weekend I finished David Grann's "Trial by Fire" in The New Yorker. It Was Good. I was mildly distracted by the photo, showing an arm-tattooed Willingham reading what appears to be a Dragonlance novel... Just a few weeks ago, Levi had e-mailed me about Dragonlance! (Dragonlance is not mentioned in the piece.)

III. Jenny realizes the power of ASTRAL WEEKS! (Just kidding—it is mostly about how good Victor LaValle's Big Machine is.)


“Everybody was surprised,” Tuck said. “It happens — or, maybe it doesn’t happen — but, you know, it happened. You move on.” —NYT

(from Matthew)

His last column for The Daily Mail, “It’s English as She Is Spoke Innit?,” written in May, dealt with language education. He was the founder and life president of the Association for the Annihilation of the Aberrant Apostrophe, a fictional organization dedicated to combating false plurals like tomato’s and road signs like the one he spotted near Sevenoaks, with letters three feet high that read BUSE’S ONLY.

Listen up!

(Via Thos., WLLM = World's Laziest Links-meister)

VII. Pure Collins! Stubblemeister Paul wonders about those "Yes & Know" invisible ink entertainments...and what starts out as a stroll down Whimsical Lane merges with Relevance Highway!


Friday, September 04, 2009

Vampire weekend

My latest Astral Weeks is up at the L.A. Times—a look at Charlie Huston's series-capping My Dead Body.

(And over at The Faster Times, FS* Rebecca stays on the vampire beat...)

*former student

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Friday cogitatin'

Levi quotes Phillip Lopate on Sontag:

Sontag felt the big game was fiction. And that’s where you win the Nobel Prize. You don’t win it for writing essays. That’s understandable and that would’ve been great had she been a great fiction writer. Some people can do both, but she lacked a deep sympathy for other people—which is okay if you’re a critic because you don’t have to be that empathetic if you’re a critic, you just have to know what you think about something. And she lacked, for the most part, a sense of humor. It’s hard to be a great novelist without those two things.

...and it gets him thinking about Powell, friendship, humor, life, novels...and I agree!


(World's Laziest Blogger)

PS Here are some other recent Levi posts on Powell.

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Looking like a friend of Truman Capote

"This Harry Potter was a physician in Bergen County, NJ."

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Thursday, September 03, 2009

Thursday chucklin'

Via Malty


Nicely done

"She runs out of breath, and then settles, mysteriously, like an old Bible that italicizes ordinary words, on a single syllable." —David Denby on Julie & Julia

Tracy Kidder’s books are often published under blandly soothing titles (“House,” “Old Friends,” “Mountains Beyond Mountains”) that sound more like middle-period Crosby, Stills and Nash albums than like serious works of nonfiction. The title of his new one, “Strength in What Remains,” fits the cloying pattern. —Dwight Garner (in an otherwise glowing review of Kidder's latest)

"Somewhere a dialysis machine moved through its cleaning cycle, emitting a series of soft grunts and rumbles, like a discreet indigestion." —J.G. Ballard, Super-Cannes

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Wednesday, September 02, 2009

IdeaShare™ 2009

Dan Brown novel parody idea: The Lost Cymbal.


Tuesday, September 01, 2009

(K)night moves

Write joke here about reworking lyrics so it's about chess.

@dennislim sending me this.


September Believer

The September Believer is out, with Rich Cohen on car salesmen, an interview with Rebecca Solnit, Damion Searls's take on the abridged Moby Dick; an amazing excerpt from Stephen Elliott's The Adderall Diaries, Jack Pendarvis's new column, and more (Nick Cave...Brad Neely...). I'm especially excited by Sara Gran and Megan Abbott's piece on V.C. Andrews:

You could argue that Andrews’s books are so unusual and original that critics, scholars, and other “serious” readers don’t know what to do with them. Though there’s an obvious debt to the Brontë sisters, nineteenth-century sensation novels like Lady Audley’s Secret, and Daphne du Maurier’s Gothic fiction, at heart Andrews’s novels have little in common with the genres where they ought to fit. They’re too offbeat for romance, too slow to qualify as thrillers, too explicit for Gothic, and far too dark and complex for young adult. Many booksellers shelve them with horror, but Andrews’s concerns with family, emotion, and relationships put her books firmly outside the genre. Although the supernatural makes brief appearances in Andrews’s work, her largest topic is the all-too-natural tragedy of families gone wrong.

Ultimately, Andrews’s novels constitute their own genre, in which secrets, lies, desire, and moral corruption all stem from—and are contained in—the family. In her world, parents starve their children, sister and brother become husband and wife, and grandparents punish grandchildren for being “devil’s spawn.” No one is to be trusted, and few adults are who they claim to be. Most significantly, there are no happy endings. For all their teen-girl fantasy elements, the books are also gritty, raw, and extremely dirty. There is little cynical or formulaic about them. If anything, they are too raw, too revealing of the author’s own obsessions—which, as we’ll see, might be exactly why no one ever talks about them.

(You must buy the magazine for the whole's worth it™.)

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Reading rainbow

Gautam has organized his books by color!

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