Saturday, October 30, 2010

More on Ted Chiang

I had more to say about Ted Chiang's collection than could fit in the column. I found myself writing a line that felt like a last line, even though I'd only discussed three of its eight stories. (I should note that Chiang's stories tend to be long.)

Chiang's book originally came out in 2002; since then, he's published a short story ("Exhalation") and two longer pieces ("The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate" and "The Life Cycle of Software Objects"). I might still write about "Exhalation," which I listened to on the Star Ship Sofa podcast, and which is included in an ambitious and very satisfying SF anthology I plan to cover soon. I'm currently listening to "Merchant" as well (via SSS). "Lifecycle" was published as a book by Subterranean Press, which has also made the full text available online.

Labels: ,


For my latest Astral Weeks column, I look at the fiction of Ted Chiang:

In a genre brimming with more-is-more-ists, Chiang is notable for his sparse publication history. The first story in this book [Stories of Your Life and Others] appeared in 1990 (remember Omni?), the last in 2002, with only three additional fictions appearing since then. In fact, he has more awards (including multiple Hugos and Nebulas) than published works, suggesting he's that rare writer who waits until a story reaches its ideal state before releasing it into the world. (Chiang's even rarer than that: He actually turned down a Hugo nomination for the final story in this volume, the polyphonic "Liking What You See: A Documentary" because he wasn't satisfied with how it came out.)

Labels: ,

Friday, October 29, 2010


I was on WNYC's Brian Lehrer Show this morning, talking about my contribution to the book Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book. You can listen here! (Editor Sean Manning and novelist Sigrid Nuñez were also on.)

Some more info on Bound to Last here. I wrote about Gary Gygax's Dungeon Masters Guide. More soon...The book is really good!

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Crude trade terms

“At least candy is honest about what it is,” she said. “It has always been a processed food, eaten for pleasure, with no particular nutritional benefit.” Today, she said, every aisle in the supermarket contains highly manipulated products that have those qualities. —"Is Candy Evil, or Just Misunderstood?," NYT


Sweet that kiss, like our butter-cream-center bar. And blonde she was, like our Crispo Taffy. With eyes as blue as jelly bean No. 18—which goes in the jelly bean mixture No. 9. Dressed all in pink silk, as pink and as crisp as our Silko Spun Crunch.
But I'm talking in crude trade terms—about something too fine to compare with mere candy.
—Harry Stephen Keeler, The Riddle of the Traveling Skull

Labels: ,

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Tonight! Reading at KGB...!

I return to KGB for a reading with Bryan Charles! (What will I read?!) More info here, but I'll just copy it for you:

The Open City October KGB Reading

Featuring readings by:

Bryan Charles
Ed Park

Wednesday, October 27, 7PM

85 E. 4th Street (btw 2nd and 3rd)

Bryan Charles is the author of the novel Grab on to Me Tightly as if I Knew the Way and Wowee Zowee, a book about the band Pavement. His memoir, There’s a Road to Everywhere Except Where You Came From, is forthcoming from Open City Books in November.

Ed Park is the author of the novel Personal Days. He is also a founding editor of The Believer and a former editor of the Voice Literary Supplement. A new story will appear in the winter 2010-11 issue of Open City.

Labels: , , ,

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Juche idea

A photographic cover version of Guy Delisle's nonfiction graphic novel Pyongyang.

(Here's my take on the original.)

Labels: ,

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A handsome dish-shaped face

My review of James Howard Kunstler's The Witch of Hebron is up at the L.A. Times. I wound up enjoying this novel quite a bit, but some of it was tough going:

"The Witch of Hebron" is a sequel to Kunstler's 2008 novel, the evocatively titled "World Made by Hand," and it shares that earlier book's Hudson Valley setting and many of its characters. Kunstler ties up some loose ends here, but these leftovers are the weakest thing about "The Witch of Hebron." The book's initial weakness could also be a matter of a rough transition from "World's" first-person viewpoint (that of Robert Earle, here a relatively minor presence) to a fitfully omniscient third-person perspective. My favorite bad sentence is "She had a handsome dish-shaped face with very large, questioning eyes," though "Minutes later, he was in the central chamber of the new construction that had filled the courtyard between the two wings of the U-shaped modernistic high school" has its own exquisite dreadfulness.

Labels: , ,

My life as a dog

Not me:

Dr. Park was born and raised in New York City. After graduating from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine in 2002, Dr, Park completed his internship at Oradell Animal Hospital in New Jersey. He became a clinical instructor for emergency and critical care at Cornell for two years before moving to California for his residency. In 2007, Dr. Park transferred his residency from Advanced Critical Care in Orange County to CCVSC with Dr. Gfeller. Dr. Park has continued to work for our practice and will be finishing up his residency at FVSEC under the guidance of Dr. White. Outside of work, Dr. Park spends time with his wife and newborn son. He loves piano, martial arts, cooking, and is a fan of the New York Mets.


Friday, October 22, 2010

Thoreau Journal: Origins

"What are you doing now?" he asked.
"Do you keep a journal?"
So I make my first entry today.

Oct. 22nd 1837

(via--who else?--Damion)



I thought this said "Return of the Secret Doors."

For a split-second the other day I misread the side of a truck:




Thursday, October 21, 2010

The hole truth

None truly devours his own tail. It's always the end

that endeavors to consume
the beginning—
this is the credo of the hole
at the end of the world.

—From "Ouroboros," by Nicky Beer

(at Poetry Daily, via Jordan)

Labels: , ,

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Celebrity Chekhov

When a man in the audience asked [Charles] Yu if the pistol he referred to in the novel is "Chekhov's gun," Yu is at first dumbfounded. "I guess it could be," he stammered. After the questioner clarified a bit—explaining Anton Chekhov's rule that if a gun is mentioned at the beginning of a story, it will have to be fired by the end—Yu laughed and shook his head. "I thought you were talking about Chekov from Star Trek," he said, relieved.

—Paul Constant, The Slog

N.B.: The original title of this post was: "Who are Yu?"

Labels: , , ,

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

EP at KGB with Bryan Charles

On Weds., Oct. 27, I'll be reading with novelist/memoirist/Pavement scholar Bryan Charles at KGB—it's a reading for Open City. (A story of mine will be in the winter issue.) Bryan's memoir, There's a Road to Everywhere Except Where You Came From (a VTS, as the narrator of Joseph Weisberg's 10th Grade would say), is out now from Open City Books.

I'm excited! I don't know what I'm going to read from yet. (Probably not Personal Days, the award-losing novel of 2008....)

Maybe something from the Work in Progress or the Work in Progress 2 (i.e., the Work in Progress that I'm not supposed to be working on until I finish the first Work in Progress, but which I sometimes still work on anyway). Or from the Work in Progress 3, a/k/a Disambiguation, originally the first Work in Progress, that I would occasionally read from in 2009? (Remember 2009?) Or maybe just this gemlike short story that is currently here [points to skull]...

Starts at 7! My only reading of the fall! A/k/a my only nocturnal appearance below 14th Street of the fall!

Labels: , , , ,

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Book Notes™ With Ed Park

I. Closing out my D&D/RPG "trilogy" of tales (thus far comprising "Welcome to Tyosen™!" and "Cow Vase") is "Dungeon Masters Guide," my contribution to Bound to Last: 30 Writers on Their Most Cherished Book! (Sean Manning put it together.) Pub date is October 26. The interviewer inside my head wants to step in for a moment.

Q: Are all these pieces part of some greater work?
A: I can't answer that right now, I'm sorry!

II. Speaking of "Cow Vase"—it will be included in the forthcoming book Significant Objects (Fantagraphics, 2011)!

III. F.S. Yvonne Woon's YA novel Dead Beautiful is out—what a cool website!

IV. Jenny D on her Kindle experience.

V. Lev G on his Yale experience.

VI. My sister went to Montreal and got me this Ed the Happy Clown comic. Someone should write something about Chester Brown's notes on his old work—the notes are equally fascinating!

VII. I think that's all for now...

Labels: , , , , , ,

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Woman symbol wields a power-stick

I'm using an old legal pad these days—so old that the first page is taken up by notes for a movie I reviewed for the PTSNBN (i.e., 4+ years ago!). The surviving page gives no indication which movie it was, alas. Any guesses™?

—we've been chasing a ghost—
[t?]his entire island is Toterkoff—
[woman symbol] wields a power-stick—
>she's a machine
pathways[?] over an abyss —

emergency release—
the bottom falls out—

like bubbles
sword falls—
released in sky

>He thinks he's God—
Happy aerial cargo[?]—
safe landing on H2O—
one shot—
"You've got your story.


Monday, October 11, 2010

From Lawrence Block's newsletter

Lawrence Block

3. Speaking of backlist, and of old books I’d like to see reissued, there’s one I can’t find. I wrote a plaintive essay about it, and the good people at Little, Brown posted it on their new Mulholland Books website. I thought someone might recognize it, but so far nobody has. My guess at this point is that Lancer never got around to publishing it, and it’s as lost to world literature as all those wonderful lines Coleridge would have added to “Kublai Khan” if that wretched man from Porlock hadn’t turned up on his doorstep.

On second thought, I’m not sure Sinner Man belongs in the same newsletter with Samuel Taylor C., let alone the same paragraph. But if you recognize the book, please get in touch, lest my first crime novel forever blush unseen and waste its flagrance on the desert air.


This video will give you energy for the rest of the week

(Via Shadowplay)

Sunday, October 10, 2010


By the time her talk was over, she had traced her lineage of influence and admiration to some fifteen writers from Russell Edson to Proust. What had begun as a shop-talk about one writer’s beginnings had become a pageant, an exemplum of literary activity —a profession. The writer who had started with translations of Leiris and Blanchot and with some idiosyncratic short short stories had turned into the translator of Swann’s Way and the author of a novel and four volumes of stories—148 stories—republished in a collected edition of 730 pages. She’d gone from bonsai to forest management. —Richard Locke on Lydia Davis, Threepenny Review

(via Quilty)

Labels: ,

Friday, October 08, 2010

"The Art of McSweeney's"

Just got my hands on this book — it's amazing!


By the time I got to the offerings by the Belgian designer Christian Wijnants, I was totally at sea. On the rack: a batch of blazingly warm, painted-desert colors in regal fabrics: burnt sienna, sunrise peach, sandstone orange — and all the pieces were hu-u-u-uge.

An ocher velvet toga seemed to be formalwear for an inflatable Macy’s parade version of Barney Rubble ($785). A jumbo bathrobe sweater ($775) had enough volume to house a sumo wrestler and the back end of a pantomime horse. —Cintra Wilson, NYT

I like how the comedy keeps building...


Thursday, October 07, 2010

Rachel Aviv tops "20 Top Nonfiction Writers Under 40"!

Yes, I know, the list (at the New Haven Review) is in alphabetical order, but still! (Hold onto your hats—R.A. could qualify for the top 20 under thirty.) Here are some Avivian Blvr. pieces.

The list also includes Ta-Nehisi Coates, Josh Glenn who turned 42 yesterday, Lindy West (whom I started reading this year, hilarious), Brendan Koerner, and many authors who have written for The Believer, some of whom I've edited: Tom Bissell, Eula Biss, Chuck Bissterman I mean Chuck Klosterman, Joshua "Witz" Cohen, John D'Agata, Touré...Gideon Lewis-Kraus...I am probably missing some...

...the writer behind the list, NHR editor Mark Oppenheimer, is also a Believer contributor—check out his great piece on Evan Connell from 2005.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

The personal mark

Presented with the total on the LCD screen, I swiped my credit card and crafted my new signature in the big, loopy letters I thought might attract a little attention. Instead of ‘‘Alex Kuczynski,’’ I wrote ‘‘Snooki’’ with a heart over the ‘‘i.’’ [...]

I went bolder. Buying baby wipes and ointment at the drugstore chain CVS, I signed, very legibly, ‘‘Cher.’’ Another day, ‘‘Kim Jong-il.’’ I thought signing the name of a North Korean dictator — whose name clearly didn’t jibe with my Caucasian features — would stir some sign of life in the checkout clerk. Nothing. [...]

The philosophical idea of the personal mark has evaporated.

—Alex Kuczynski, "Identity Crisis," NYT, 10/3/10


On still other important documents, a single official’s name is signed in such radically different ways that some appear to be forgeries. Additional problems have emerged when multiple banks have all argued that they have the right to foreclose on the same property, a result of a murky trail of documentation and ownership. —"Flawed Bank Paperwork Aggravates a Foreclosure Crisis," NYT, one day later (10/4/10)

Labels: , ,

Best American 2010 — Neither Here Nor There™ — Kimchi news — Borges vs. England

I. The latest edition of The Best American Travel Writing features F.S. Avi Davis's "The Undead Travel," about vampires and tourism, which appeared in The Believer. I picked it up at the bookstore the other day and was reminded that one of the great things about it is how it channels a Sebaldian tone, in a way that's well suited to the topic...a tour de force!

II. Today the latest The Best American Nonrequired Reading landed in the mailbox, or rather on the doorstep, and it contains F.I. Rachel Aviv's great Harper's piece, "Like I Was Jesus."

III. I was thumbing through it, thinking vaguely Wow there's a lot of good stuff here, why can't I ever write something that would be a best nonrequired piece, hmmm, etc. etc. and then saw my name! In the back there are a few pages listing "Notable Nonrequired Reading of 2009," and it mentions my story "Untitled," from Gigantic's debut issue. File under: A nice surprise!

IV. Neither Here Nor There™: This is a rather long LAT article about the Korean kimchi shortage! It's all due to a cabbage shortage, the result of rainy weather. Not that funny excerpt that gets sort of funny the more you look at it:

In recent days, a black-market cabbage trade has sprouted. Police say many residents are hoarding the vegetables for resale. Four men were recently caught stealing more than 400 heads of Chinese cabbage.

V. I've been reading with considerable delight Fernando Sorrentino's Seven Conversations With Jorge Luis Borges (as, I see, has Levi). I love how you think, Well, I've pretty much used up all the Borges that I can easily acquire, and then—pow! Here's another Borges book you didn't know about! This bit made me laugh: "[I]t's strange that England—which I love so much—provokes so much hatred in the world but that nevertheless one argument that could be used is never used against England: that of having filled the world with stupid sports."

VI. F.S. Sam told me that his Lorriemoros joke was the first thing he thought of upon waking up that morning! Heyo!™

Labels: , , , , ,

Sunday, October 03, 2010


A joke from F.S. Sam:

Q: What do you call a snake telling a story about eating its own tail in a pithy-sad 2nd person?

A: Lorriemoros!

"Heyo!" is a registered trademark of Sam MacLaughlin.

Labels: ,

Friday, October 01, 2010

New Believer! October!

Ah yes...another first of the month, another issue of The Believer! That's how it is every month, except when it's the second month of a two-month extravaganza...but I'm getting ahead of myself! This month there's a great piece by Zach Baron on the late Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series of fantasy novels, whose work continues without him...(read the whole thing here and see what I mean)...Wells Tower has an interview with the late great Barry Hannah...David K. O'Hara with a seasonal offering on "autumnal folk," focusing on a U.K. band from the ’70s called Heron that I'd never heard of before...David Fincher interviewed...Ashley Butler on the gas mask...Susan Straight journeys into Inland Empire, CA...Interesting reviews, including Rozalia Jovanovic on Lydia Davis's Madame Bovary translation and Stephen Burt on poet Aaron Kunin...the usual Pendarvis/Hornby/Marcus columnal poem by Alan Gilbert! interview with legal scholar Marianne Constable (full text here)...and—believe(r) it or not, much, much more!

Labels: , , , , , , , , , ,

View My Stats