shaken & stirred

welcome to my martini glass


insert title of pointlessness here, which is more than I'm willing to do at the moment

I think I have a cold. Ken Jen lost. We must wonder if he threw it, right?

Oh well, everyone looked relieved, especially since they'd already heard about it on the interweb yesterday. (Um, yeah, I'm kidding.) (Space time paradox! Hey, I have this great idea, go back in time and kill your grandfather!)

The local TV news people look like whores. No, really. These ones do.

A few stray links:

  • Molly Ringwald catch-up. The cool teen star. (Note to Christopher: telling people she lives in Paris is no longer accurate.) (Via Maud, via Trixie(!).)
  • "What's the frequency, Kenneth?" mystery solved years ago at Harper's (vaguely familiar, though I felt I'd missed this so there's a chance you did too). It was Donald Barthelme. (Via Altehaggen, who makes me sad with tales of absence and hosting troubles.)
  • Birnbaum vs. Lan Samantha Chang -- hey, she grew up in Appleton. Maybe she can get Carrie to please come back from vacay now?
  • China in the Guardian, totally blowing his preemptive earring strategy to hell. Now they'll just go for the whole ear. (Via no one in particular, but we'll give Mr. McLaren The Nod. )
Now, sniffle snuffle, good night.


too cold for swimming but the lady don't mind (no, no, no)

(It's possible that even small amounts of karaoke may rot your brain. And by "your" I mean my.)

NYT story on Arctic surprises and nine-story drilling rig(!):

The ice-cloaked Arctic Ocean was once apparently a warm, biologically brewing basin so rich in sinking organic material that some scientists examining fresh evidence pulled from a submerged ridge near the North Pole say the seabed may now hold significant oil and gas deposits.

This is just one of many findings from a pioneering expedition that in late summer sent dozens of scientists and technicians on three icebreakers - one with a drilling rig nine stories tall - into the drifting, crunching plates of sea ice to retrieve the first long-term record of climate and ocean conditions there. The expedition drilled 1,400 feet deep, retrieving cores of sediment that, with some gaps, span 56 million years. Scientists from around the world gathered in Bremen, Germany, this month to analyze the samples.

Somewhere someone is making up a plan to drill and extract.

r&r meets recovery

Oh, that was fun. What a lovely holiday. Please, hit rewind. They came from the east and the north (see also: The Sideshow at the Modern Word, which I keep forgetting to link). Drinks were drunk, fairly huge amounts of food were consumed, biscuits were made, songs were sung, Japan and Raleigh represented by phone, etc. I believe we were not the only ones consuming Kerry champagne, but we still found plenty of things to be grateful for.

Now the house is sad and quiet. The alarm clock went off. Come back. Rewind.

(Sidenote: We saw Sideways and I wanted to love it, expected to love it and ... didn't. The posse was together on this one, with nary a dissenting voice. So, rather than say more, I choose to pretend I didn't see it. But if you're on the fence and want to know why no love, send me a note.)

Posting will probably be light until Thursday or so, because it's time to start the new book and crank out a chapter to turn in to the writing group Wednesday night. I'm sure the fine souls on the right will take up the slack.

Also, I scored eight of ten (missed two and eight) in the Guardian's books into film quiz (via the Altehaggen).


we now interrupt your pre-holiday festivities (loading up on Vitamin C and alpha lipoic, right?) with astonishingly fantastic news (UPDATED)

Mr. Chris McLaren, one of S & S's most favorite people in the world, has joined the blogging ranks. Huzzah and welcome!

And just to ensure proper hazing, I'm going to poach my first link from him: science textbook disclaimers. Caution: gravity may cause laughter.

Everyone blogroll him immediately.

And what I said yesterday about a hiatus? Starting later today, it will be enforced.

UPDATED: Mr. McLaren is definitely bringing it -- he's posted a fantastic overview of Scott Westerfeld's work and appraisal of So Yesterday. Go check it out.


and what kind of xmas cards should you send to go with your mink coat?

Colleen De Maio cracks me up.

And if olf's don't do it for you, Buffy e-cards for every occasion.

do not wear your coat down a dark alley late at night because the sassy coat patrol will find you

Eek is making me feel as covetous as I was of the June Carter Cash "Faux Leopard Car Coat". She just got hooked up with some mink:

I already had Grandmother's red swing coat, which had white fur trimmed sleeves (I've been told it brings an unfair comparison to Mrs. Claus), and JC's grandmother's black wool coat that I salvaged from her move does have some kind of a black fur collar, but those are backups. Stand back, babies. Hate me if you must, but if fur is the new black, sit your capelet-ed asses down, ladies. Though I'd never, ever, ever condone killing some little rodent for a new coat, and though I will continue to wear my vaguely fur-esque black coat in most casual situations, you may see me occasionally stepping down my cracked concrete steps clad in luxurious mink, Rada R. embroidered into my shell-pink lining.

Now I have to go assure my faux snakeskin stand-by I didn't really mean that I covet other coats.

in which even I am bored

Things are busy and busy things keep busy girls from posting. I guess I will take an actual hiatus here, without having posted my intended reviews of So Yesterday and The Game of Sunken Places (free copies for giveaway upon return). If you're looking for something quick and pleasurable to read over the holiday, picking up one or both of these would be a smart option.

People are coming. Supplies must be laid in. Stockpiled really. We have achieved guest room. A new bag has been installed in the Vacuum Cleaner of Doom for use this evening. All is quiet. All is well.

We plan to maybe do some writing. Definitely some drinking and lolligagging. Perhaps those of you patient souls in the slush pile can even expect responses following this news blackout.

Dan Rather, you will be missed. Of all the anchors, you are the one I can most imagine clinking glasses with.

Have a good several days. Until we meet again. All that.

gaddisly yours

You see, I decided since doing the weekly reading last week during lunch on Monday and Tuesday worked so well with Chapter 1 of The Recognitions that I'd do it again this week. Only it hasn't happened. I find the book squinting at me knowingly, taunting me, really, and I am comforted only by the thought that surely this Thursday will be a light chat night (falling as it does when most people are comatose from overindulgence in honor of thanks) and I'll be able to get all caught up by next week.

Except, I'm fearing a pattern. I hope the rest of the drinking Gaddis readers are performing with greater honor.

Also: see Matt Cheney's list of stories he dug from this year. Several of my own favorites are on there and once I remember what other stories I read this year that were actually published this year, I might even compile something similar.


breaking in with very little cause

The latest m-word craze (feels recycled, but I like this one) and I'm CHANGING it slightly:

Grab the nearest book at hand. Go to page 42. Select your favorite sentence. Post it and the name of the book in your journal (add these instructions to your journal as well).

There are two equidistant books, so two sentences. The first is from Tanith Lee's Piratica, Being a Daring Tale of a Singular Girl's Adventure Upon the High Seas:

Up she went, hand over hand, quicksilver in the sunlight, hair like a banner.

And from Kage Baker's story collection Black Projects, White Nights: The Company Dossiers:

"Well, the painting's not finished yet," the Sea Captain said, "because I'm still learning about you."


and this makes us safer how?

You can go here to register your dissent about the mistreatment (and subsequent death) of Edwidge Danticat's uncle by Homeland Security. (Thanks to Robert Birnbaum for the links.)


have a nice...

Nothing to see here, move along. Might check in with a couple of reviews early next week, might be dormant till after Thanksgiving weekend. You just don't know.


a typewritten plea for help

A few days ago, Mr. Rowe sent the following query to a group of friends. We're still struggling with an answer, so I repost it here because youse guys are the smartest. Help us please. George needs earmuffs.

I've been writing a lot over the last few days on one of the manual typewriters we bought down in Asheville. It's a lot of fun and, counterintuitively (to me at least), has made me worry a lot less about producing "clean" first drafts.

Anyway, it's loud. I mean LOUD. Gwenda's developing strategies to deal, but poor George the Dog isn't happy with it at all (and really, G isn't _happy_). All of which leads me to this. I'm having the devil's own time finding a US dealership list for the companies that still make manuals (Olivetti and Olympia seems to be about it, though apparently there are companies in India that make 'em, but not for distribution over here). I think the main problem I'm having is that my google skills suck. Anybody have the time or inclination to help me out (or rather, help George and Gwenda out) with this? I've tried what seems like dozens of keywords and search parameters, and while I can find lots of places to buy them ONLINE, I kinda want to go check one out before I get a new one.

This is all on the theory that the newer models are quieter than my current one, of course.

If anybody has any experience with newer model manuals and is willing to share your knowledge post in the comments or email Christopher at CVRowe AT Gmail DOT com. He's also posted his own query at his site.

ends that are loose

I find myself relieved that the National Book Awards have been awarded, with no obvious collapse and tumble of publishing house bricks and what seems to have been a ceremony (compared with last year's) so civil as to be dull. Hurrah.

Some stray links:
  1. The first book in the new Small Beer Press reprint line Peapod Classic is now available: Carol Emshwiller's Carmen Dog. (Small Beer is, of course, the publishing concern of Gavin Grant and Kelly Link.) The edition sounds fabulous and looks purty and I can vouch for what's between the covers: brill. Order right now! Sidenote: SciFiction's original this week is a new Carol Emshwiller story "All of Us Can Almost..." about flying, or not.
  2. A new study describes the brains of Buddhist monks while meditating, check it out at MeFi.
  3. Also via MeFi, one that I'm pretending I haven't seen, apparently these computers cause eye disease. And I thought all I had to worry about was carpel tunnel. I can't wait to be the world's oldest 55 year old, flexing my hands to prove they still work and bumping into things.
  4. Little Toy Robot (sorta) stalks Michael Chabon but holds out on telling US his curious readers the name of the exhibit in question. (Yes, I realize it's probably available at the museum link, but that's no fun.... it's so official.) (Also, see the Millhauser quote from today.)
  5. Maud Newton hits another one out of the park, this time talking about why we should all be worried about the censorship of science textbooks.
  6. Have I mentioned how much I heart Uncle Grambo? And he hearts The White Stripes, just like me. And also Luna and, well, really good list of bands from the original UG. Go check it out. (He's responding to this list, compiled by surveying a bunch of music bloggers -- and I think it's a pretty ass-kicking list too. SO there.)
  7. The recently returned to the b$&*verse Susan nails what's so wrong about hearing stranger/neighbor noise when you live in an apartment. Seriously, I can't believe what a difference it is to be in a house now, where any noise from next door is faint or not at all and I can play music any time I want. Although... there is an evil part of me that would have loved for Leo the Bongo King to have to endure the typing noise from Mr. Rowe during his prime sleeping hours of late afternoon.
  8. Don't forget to check in over at the Gaddis Drinking Club tonight, where we'll be having a rousing, confusing, apocalyptic conversation about chapter uno. There's a cross-eyed dead saint girl in the book. And a Barbary ape. Who could resist?


Godless won! Now everybody read it. It's good, I promise.


please, for me

Watch House? Since I like it, it'll almost certainly be canceled, but still, there was a horses or zebras joke in the first five minutes.


existential query # 2

(#1 is private.)

Can listening to someone else type make you more productive? Maybe, but it's probably the new mattress and deeeeluxe bedding (seriously, I am ready for my rap video close-up, shoop it up). I've already moved a power strip in here for those times when I really am too lazy to be in the office. (Plus, are you paying attention? Typing LOUD.)

Anyway, I've actually opened the Girl's Gang file and started rewriting the ending. I figure I'll work my way backwards on this final, final polish, in which I hope that the people who wanted to see it before still want to see it in a week and a half or so. My November goal shall be met! Prepare the canons! (I warned you about the oddly good mood when I posted the obit story, didn't I?)

The best thing about answering email is all the lovely email you get in return. I'm planning on getting to at least some of the remaining 23 of you on Wednesday night, pre-writing group, same coffeeshop. Perhaps by then I'll have gone bat-hat mad and be making the click-clackety typing noise with my mouth as I bang on my computer keys. Sounds fun, huh?

Did I mention that I'm getting very excited about the Happy Thanksgiving coming up, in which many lovely people will visit (and the guest room will be set up and books unpacked)? The excitement is nearly too much too contain. (We're doing Mexican feast this time, I believe, since we have ready access to lots of fresh ingredients.) (We will, of course, miss you and you; you know who you are.) I also forgot to mention that I got new glasses -- sorta Tina Feyesque -- but you will never see them unless you come stay in our guest room or knock on our door in some hotel very early or very late.

And um, Jeff's right -- you don't want to wait too long on the Gaddis reading. I managed almost half the first chapter during a much-interrupted lunch today and tried to remember to jot down the parts I liked best. I found that the reading got much (almost said easier, but it's too early in this game for arguments!) more pleasurable once the dead wife was buried and Wyatt introduced. Young Wyatt reminds me of some amalgam of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn with access to Christian scholars. See, let the drinking begin. It must be easier to pontificate with drink in hand.

Now go look at the bottom of the well for the stars of broad daylight...

typewriter, typewriter in a dish

Mr. Rowe hard at work with his new (old) method. Just so the writing group is ready for those typewritten photocopies. It's so old school and after you get over the loudness of the banging keys, soothing.

any comment would be in bad taste

So I won't make one about this:

The handwritten suicide letter was 10 pages long, penned by an exceedingly private man who seldom shared his personal thoughts.

More deeply puzzling to friends and family, Robert I.H. Hammerman, 76, copied and mailed the letter to 2,200 people Wednesday, the day before the retired Baltimore Circuit Court judge shot himself in the chest.

(I suppose this is the wrong time to talk about my oddly good mood today? Thought so.)

weekend afterdate* (update)

I'm afraid I have no real links of interest (though I agree that this dog is cute, via Moorish Girl) this morning and am too busy for much but weekend highlights. In no particular order:

  • The BWI annual warehouse sale was nightmarishly chaotic. You'd expect a slightly more sedate scene than say, JAWS, for a place specializing in kids and YA books and graphic novels. (They're direct to library wholesalers, so they dabble in other things too.) But these people were pros -- they had their time-honored hoarding strategies; one family just kept throwing a tacky afghan over clusters of boxes until they could sort through them . It was very like being a last-minute shopper the day before x-mas and coming up against one of those bared-teeth Professional Holiday Shoppers who is only there to buy extra gifts for her beautician and dermatologist. Still, when it comes to books, I can take the moms and jane and johnnies of the world -- and Mr. Rowe's no slouch either. We came out with a giant box of books and ephemera. And I even snagged copies of a couple of books I plan on reviewing here in the near future (read: this week) to give away to the two readers of S & S.
  • I holed up at Third Street Stuff's new coffeehouse yesterday afternoon and downsized the inbox from 173 messages to 23. My brain turned to mush after awhile and so there's still a few of you I need to write. Feel free to deluge me with new mail though, while I'm feeling resolved to answer quickly.
  • Mattress shopping is odd and awkward. Especially when the salesman has on a specific kind of pointy-toed cowboy boots.

I believe that's all of note. So, shoo, go look at the fine sites to the right.

*Yes, I'm aware this isn't a word.

UPDATE: Mr. Rowe shares some good news he got over the weekend.


people who own golden retrievers don't cheat

There's a fantastic profile of Tyler Hamilton, and the charges he now faces, in today's NYT. Alez, Tyler.


it's a pirate, pirate world

Fittingly enough, since I coveted a book on possible locations of pirate treasure at the library today, there's a photoshop contest on what the world would be like it pirates ran it. Glass eyeball machine! Buddha with parrot! Wal-Marrrrt! Peg-leg dog!


(Via Boing Boing, which reminds me that I actually am remarkably easy to amuse.)

bless the veterans.... (update)

I think they've saved my head and life by letting me sleep in until, approximately, now. Last night was writing group, followed by the Last of the Post-Election Benders. Later, we join the new gym and reclaim our faculties.

Waking up to this was not good. There's a beautiful scene in Justine's forthcoming book Magic or Madness involving "the real Miss Havisham's" grave, and I'm hoping she'll post it, or about the cemetery itself. I also hope they string up the bastards done it by their toes. Smashing graves is unforgivable. I greatly miss this little statue of a horse and riding lady, done in white marble, that was in glass case in front of my great-grandmother's tombstone. It was a rare flourish in an otherwise plain graveyard. Of course, smashed.

Anyway, more coherence later. Now I'm going to have bubbles in a bath.

UPDATE: Justine has posted, as requested.


pollack moves up on my list*

Go read what Neal Pollack has to say about this stupid site I had planned to ignore:

The south gave us Johnny Cash, Ray Charles, Michael Jordan, Hank Williams, Tennessee Williams, fried chicken, Gone With The Wind, Truman Capote, pecan pie, barbecue, Mark Twain, and manned flight. The list goes on and on. Thomas Jefferson and George Washington were both from Virginia, both founding fathers and both gun-toting slave owners. If you say 'fuck the South," you're saying fuck Nashville and Charlotte and Charleston, and Atlanta, and Austin, and New Orleans, and Athens, Georgia, the city that gave us the B52s and R.E.M. and...OK, well, fuck R.E.M. But that has nothing to do with the South.

I assume this person is a Democrat. The last three Democratic Presidents came from Texas, Georgia, and Arkansas, respectively. I say this to all of you who think it's funny and wise to say "fuck the South." If you fuck the South, you're fucking yourselves.

(Via MeFi.)

*Obviously, I don't agree with everything the man has to say, but on this one, I'm with him 100 percent. Except I still have a soft spot for REM.

don't blame the south

In today's WaPo, Peter Carlson examines how Terry Southern pioneered the concept of corporate torture reality shows in his novels.

As fans of what Southern used to call the "quality lit game" will no doubt recall, Southern was into sadistic billionaires tormenting money-grubbing weasels back when prime-time TV billionaires Donald Trump and Richard Branson were still schoolboys.

Back in the '50s and '60s, Southern was famous, the author of "Candy," a comic porn novel, as well as the screenplays of such classic movies as "Easy Rider," "The Loved One" and, best of all, the brilliantly demented Cold War comedy "Dr. Strangelove." Southern had a dark, sardonic wit and he traveled in the hippest of circles, hanging out with the Rolling Stones, Allen Ginsberg and Lenny Bruce. He was so cool the Beatles put his face on the cover of their "Sgt. Pepper" album.

In 1960, Southern published a novel called "The Magic Christian," the comic tale of Guy Grand, a billionaire who amuses himself by staging elaborate pranks that cause people to reveal how much they're willing to degrade themselves for money.

In the book's most famous scene, Grand buys a building in downtown Chicago, demolishes it and builds a gigantic vat perched atop a huge gas heater. He fills the vat with 300 cubic feet of manure, urine and blood purchased from the Chicago stockyards. When this hellish cocktail is nice and hot, he stirs 10,000 $100 bills into it and puts up a sign that reads "FREE $ HERE."

And then. . . . well, people will do just about anything for money, won't they?

Southern's website is worth a look, with links to interviews and other press, plus a full life's worth of blurbs.

We'll be dedicating our next game of Book Lover's Trivial Pursuit, in which very little money-grubbing is done, to the memory of Mr. Southern.

a footnote on blahblahjamesblah

I don't have much to add to the rousing debate over whether the Caryn James' piece is pro or con -- for a round up of responses see CAAF's post; I found it diverting while I read it, if misguided. And since I've only read one of the books, Madeleine is Sleeping and the first two chapters, or stories, from Silber's Ideas of Heaven, I won't try to address the substance of her larger point (attack) (tomato, potahto). Seems like her own opinion to me, and as some have noted, not really an opinion she bothers to actually build evidence for.

I do have something to say about her thoughts on Madeleine:

Ms. Bynum's extravagantly imagined "Madeleine" enters the sleeping heroine's dreams of gypsies and circuses, as childhood veers into a precocious sexuality in a fantasy influenced by writers from Ludwig Bemelmans to Angela Carter. The novel is lovely, yet transparently the work of an ambitious young writer more enamored of language than substance. She's 32 and this is her first book, while the other nominees have previous books behind them.

This is, to put it delicately, horseshit. I found the novel very substantial -- dazzingly so. The first two chapters I worried that the narrative wouldn't have the weight necessary to sustain the beautiful writing and shimmery texture. It does. The fact that Bynum's 32 and this is her first book is irrelevant, utterly. Who cares if she doesn't have previous books behind her? I doubt seriously if James read these books blind, she would have pointed at the Bynum and said, "That's a first novel! I can tell, I can tell! Transparent, language-lover!"

I've got your one-sentence chapter right here.


quiet day

It's rainy and blustery outside, not that I've ventured out, and I made the mistake of reading the news for the first time this week. I'd planned to catch up on email today, but instead I'm going to curl up and read Kage Baker's The Graveyard Game... back tomorrow and maybe cheerier. In the meantime, here's a poem:

The Cities Inside Us

We live in secret cities
And we travel unmapped roads.

We speak words between us that we recognize
But which cannot be looked up.

They are our words.
They come from very far inside our mouths.

You and I, we are the secret citizens of the city
Inside us, and inside us

There go all the cars we have driven
And seen, there are all the people

We know and have known, there
Are all the places that are

But which used to be as well. This is where
They went. They did not disappear.

We each take a piece
Through the eye and through the ear.

It's loud inside us, in there, and when we speak
In the outside world

We have to hope that some of that sound
Does not come out, that an arm

Not reach out
In place of the tongue.

--Alberto Rios


read a book: Godless

When the National Book Award noms came out (oh, so long weeks ago), I was immediately charmed by the reaction of one of the youth literature nominees -- Pete Hautman, nominated for Godless. He was quoted by the Minneapolis Star Tribune as saying:

"After I found out 'Godless' was nominated, they made me not say anything for 24 hours, and it nearly killed me. I kept telling our two poodles over and over. They're very literate," he said in an interview from the Golden Valley home he shares with author Mary Logue.

"I never thought one of my books would be nominated. It's dangerous to think about things like that. You can make yourself nuts. There is a lot of really good stuff being printed for children and young adults, so getting noticed gets tougher every year. A nomination like this gives you an edge where you are going to be looked at, especially by teachers and librarians who are important for young-adult writers. I hope wonderful things happen. I'll have more book sales, more readers. My skin problems will clear up."

It seems a little remarkable to me that someone could have the presence of mind to both be witty and humble at once after being told something so huge. And to be honest about the fact that it would help with sales. So, I resolved to make this book the first of the nominees I read (except for Madeleine is Sleeping, which I'd read and loved already). I immediately reserved Godless at our local library.

It turned out that all the political anxiety of the past several weeks has made young adult fiction the perfect balm, and I've actually read three YAs in the past couple of weeks that I'll talk about sometime during this one. The Christian Science Monitor posits that the youth lit nominees will get more attention because of Judy Blume's Lifetime Achievement Award and I hope that's true (CSM link via TEV). They all sound worthy of appreciation and I intend to make it through at least a couple more. But first Hautman.

Godless is a fantastic book. It's funny (in the same way that Hautman seems to be; it's always hard to know whether people's work will be) and the light touch with the absurd conceit of the book -- a group of teenagers decides to build a religion around their town's water tower -- makes something work that could ultimately wear thin. The exploration of religion is pointed and never shies away from pushing at sore spots. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if someone at some point doesn't try to ban this book because the Christian characters are mostly comical and unable to resonate with the narrator, who in the end does not decide to become "really" religious. Just to give you an idea, I'll include the section in which we're introduced to the group church sessions which form some of the funniest sections of the book:

While my mother is obssessed with my physical well-being, my father frets over my soul. Every Sunday, without fail, he drags me to mass at the Church of the Good Shepherd. In my opinion, he's a borderline religious fanatic.

A couple of months ago I made the mistake of leaving one of my drawings face-up on my desk. It was a picture of Bustella, the Sirian Goddess of Techno War. Bustella is very busty, and at times her clothing doesn't exactly stay on her body. In fact, in the drawing that my dad saw sitting on my desk, she was wearing nothing but a scabbard for her sword.

Next thing I knew he'd signed me up for Teen Power Outreach, better known as TPO, a weekly brainwashing session for teenagers held every Thursday night in the church basement.

My father believes in brainwashing. He's a lawyer. He thinks you can argue anybody into anything.

The head brainwasher is a car salesman named Allan Anderson, who insists we call him Just Al. Or maybe he meant we should just call him Al, but the first meeting I went to I called him Just Al and it stuck. Too bad for Just Al.

The conversations between the main characters are priceless (and at the TPO meetings: "How come only men can be priests? I mean, who wants to be a nun?" or "So, how do priests breed if they can't have sex? Do they send out buds like amoebas?"), and the characters themselves resist shallow or stereotypical definition. The bully also gets to have a brain and get the girl. The main character is overweight but still a charismatic force in the group. The girl is attracted to the bully and yet still smart. Shin, the book's tragic heart, is so timid and then so nutty that it's hard to read him. The chapters all begin with bits from the book Shin begins transcribing, since he sees himself as the chosen instrument of the ten-legged one:

And they looked up and they saw the great silver belly, fat and wet, and they fell down upon their knees on the moist earth and they bowed down before it and they named it the Ten-legged God.

There are grand expeditions to the top of the water tower and to swim inside it, with moments of true terror and exhilaration in the descriptions of those trips. But most of all, what Hautman gets right is how smart kids think when they begin to question religion. How acid-laced the humor is and how insightful the questions. And even while taking on something that big, he manages to tell a very human story, about events that do matter to the rest of these character's lives.

"Think about it, Einstein," he says. "You live to be a hundred, you're gonna remember it like it was yesterday. It was probably one of the great moments of your life. Sure, maybe they'll send you to ding-dong school, take away your DVD player, whatever. That's nothing. Who else you know that's swum in a water tower? How long you think it'll be before you have another night you'll never forget? Me, a few months I'll be healed up like nothing ever happened. But I'll still have last night. It was like a religious experience."

And that's before Shin goes truly nutty and the nail-biting conclusion. I'm glad this book was nominated for an NBA. Say what you will about awards, but I'd likely never have bothered to read it (even if I heard about it) otherwise.

wednesday a.m. linkfest (with one update)

1. Maud posted a link to the Underground Literary Alliance's new web effort, a blog on which they are publishing the fiction of members. The first thing I saw, skimming and trying not to look too closely was the sentence, "THE OVERTHROW WAS IMMINENT." Yes, in all caps. I may be blind.

(And yes, I am trying to keep the ULA down!)

2. There's a tiny movement to save the Pikeville home and farm of Harriett Simpson Arnow (whom I consider a Kentucky writer, but others have posited a "Michigan writer" -- she's buried here so I win), probably best known for her NBA-winning The Dollmaker. Reading some of this piece though, I have to wonder if old Harriett was all that popular with her neighbors:

Harriette Arnow's 1944 best-selling novel, "Hunter's Horn," was taken from her experiences in the now-extinct community of Keno, where the home is located and where she once was a teacher in a nearby, still-standing one-room school.

"I can read Hunter's Horn and depict who each character is in the story, because they're all real people," said Wanda Worley, a native of the area. "Many of them were dead before I was born, but my parents and grandparents had told me the same stories."

3. I made my first post at the Gaddis Drinking Club, professing my ignorance. And there's already a host of fantastic posts up by the other, far more knowledgeable members. The library should have the book for me within a day or two.

4. Dance, Dorothy, dance. (Also via Maud.) I find this upsetting for many reasons.

And herm... that's it. Except for: (Update)

5. Over the weekend, we were in B&N and lo and behold there was a table of Lemony Snicket books (the other side was for creepy Polar Express stuff, yuck) and I was dismayed, woefully dismayed really, to see that they've put crap covers with Jim Carrey's face on the Unfortunate Events books. This is a terrible idea, especially because Brett Helquist's illustrations are so perfect. I hope this is just a limited thing and that the real editions will still be out there. Movies made from books should not impact the enjoyment of the actual books. They have violated a natural law here and should be punished. (Anyone who is rich and would really, really like to get me something should go buy me one of those Helquist pieces. Thanks.)


little known facts

I currently have 11 books out from the library and six hold requests. (Okay, so two of the hold requests are for books of Ralph Eugene Meatyard photographs from over a year ago, which likely means they no longer reside in the library.) And I have three dollars in fines.

three more things

I forgot.

The first two are cadged from GalleyCat: Boswell manuscripts missing (in the Scotsman) and Hans Christian Anderson: pervy, snotty nancy boy (in the SMH).

(If you've been following GC's publication of answers to the question of whether the election will change literary culture, the next sentence will make sense; if not, go read up. My biggest fear about any change in literary culture due to the election results is that some great writers who we need writing right now may be paralyzed for a time.)

Last: all aboard for Gaddis and drinking!

neglected links & others

Since I started using Bloglines instead of Feedreader it's way easier to keep up with reading stuff, but I've not yet gotten into the habit of actually emptying my little "clippings" folder of things I mean to link to. Thus, this post, which is all I have time for at the moment. But first:

1. Remember all that time ago when I promised I'd catch up on email? Well, most of you know that probably never happened. But I'm planning to set up shop in the coffee house around the corner Friday evening, or possibly Sunday, and answer all, all, all messages, no matter how delinquent of me. So, prepare to get responses to email you'd forgotten you sent in the first place.

2. A site in honor of bookstore cats (via Sharyn November).

3. Cipolini unretires! Long live Mario the Great! At TDF Blog.

-- Hey, one benefit of this approach is that everything else is now too old to post. --

4. Howard Waldrop (and Lawrence Person) LOVE The Incredibles. Lots. The biggest problem we have in reviewing this film is there aren't any flaws. One reason Pixar's films succeed where so many live-action films fail is that they finish the script before they start making the film. In Hollywood's star-and-ego driven ecosystem, sometimes the script is the last consideration, they're frequently ruined by waaaaay too many cooks, and sometimes time constraints preclude rewrites ("We've only got Johnny Depp for six weeks, so I need that script tomorrow"). Pixar's scripts in general, and certainly this one in specific, are polished to a luminous gloss before the first scene is rendered, because it's too expensive to do it any other way. There's not a wasted scene anywhere in here (we won't say "wasted shot" because there are no shots). It's hard to see how you could make a better comic film about retired superheroes, animated or otherwise.

Later: a post on young adult novels I've read and loved recently (So Yesterday, Godless (NBA nominee) and The Game of Sunken Places).


help the schwartz

The amazingly talented and prolific David Schwartz writes in with a call for help:

I'm working on a research paper for my MLS, and I need responses from fiction-type writers who have sold at least three stories to markets that are distributed in the U.S. I need lots of responses. ... I wonder if you could post the link for this in your blog. It's here ( and it shouldn't take folks more than five minutes to fill out and email to me.

So, go help Dave out already, okay?


"the world's newest fruit"

Yes, we fall for grocery store gimmicks, but I seriously suggest you check out the peppadew of South Africa... The story of the peppadew is here. What's the second newest fruit you ask? That would be the kiwi fruit 26 years ago.

The website also boasts that "No real animals are harmed in the making of...", so you can chew with the guilt-free joy that comes from the harm of imaginary and false animals.

I suggest using it in a salad. Or a frittata. Or just about anything.

nadruwrini 8 or good night

Must collapse and visit The Shut Inn (sorry, really). Before anyone else says it: I love all you guys.



nadruwrini, post 7: not much better than paging through books with clumsy fingers looking for something half-remembered

In the interest of late(ish) and possibly embarrassing things:

When I was in high school, I bought The Enlightened Heart; An Anthology of Sacred Poetry edited by Stephen Mitchell. Many of the poems in it ended up leaving quite the impression on me, even though most of them are now half-remembered. The book was unearthed several years ago, in a box of books that was stored at my folks that hadn't gotten too smoky to be incognito, to look just like books that had never been through a fire. Which most all the books I bought before I was a senior in college have... other than the ones I had with me at my various smallish apartments, my library stayed at my parents' and so became smoke-infused or vanished-to-ash in the fire that was set by some terrible person when I ws a junior in college. (I'll never forget calling all the numbers of my family members from a spring break hotel room with my friend Andi and finally getting my grandma on my dad's side... she blurted out, "Hello, I'm not supposed to tell you this, but your house burned down.")

Anyway, I just flipped through looking -- but not quite knowing -- for the poem I liked best then. I knew I'd recognize it and could almost picture it, the way a poem is an imprint sometimes, instead of just words in your memory. I'm sure I'd pick an entirely different one now, but here it is:

Buddha in Glory

Center of all centers, core of cores,
almond self-enclosed and growing sweet--
all this universe, to the furthest stars
and beyond them, is your flesh, your fruit.

Now you feel how nothing clings to you;
your vast shell reaches into endless space,
and there the rich, thick fluids rise and flow.
Illuminated in your infinite peace,

a billion stars go spinning through the night,
blazing high above your head.
But in you is the presence that
will be, when all the stars are dead.

-- Rainer Maria Rilke

blahblahblah post 6(?) (Updated)

Just a few more quotes (courtesy of Ain't Nobody's Business If You Do: The Absurdity of Consensual Crimes in a Free Society by Peter McWilliams):
  • "Robert Benchley's list of infallible syptoms of intoxication in drivers:
    1. When the driver is sitting with his back against the instrument panel and his feet on the driver's seat.
    2. When the people in the back seat are crouched down on the floor with their arms over their heads.
    3. When the driver goes into the rest-room and doesn't come out."
  • "There should be asylums for habitual teetotalers, but they would probably relapse into teetotalism as soon as they got out." -- Samuel Butler
  • "Prohibition only drives drunkenness behind doors and into dark places and does not cure or even diminish it." -- Mark Twain
  • "Although man is already ninety percent water, the Prohibitionists are not yet satisfied." -- John Kendrick Bangs
  • "If I go to church on Sunday and cabaret all day Monday, well, it ain't nobody's business if I do." -- from the song by Porter R. Grainger & Everett Robbins
UPDATE: Check out the truly productive Chance Morrison... and, of course, Ed. I may be flatlining now.

NaDruWriNi, Post the Fifth

"I'm only a beer teetotaler, not a champagne teetotalar; I don't like beer." - George Bernard Shaw

Listening, appropriately, to a song wherein the main lyrics are "I got drunk and I fell down." Which inspires me to share a few pieces of advice from years of bartending (through college) and drinking (still counting).

1. Whenever possible, choose quality. Better than quantity in the honey-smooth feeling way. Reduces hangovers and generally improves life -- just as choosing to consume all other high quality things does.

2. A corollary to one: Bourbon vs. Single Malt? Don't be a snob. Yes, yes, there are some mind-blowingly delicious single malts out there, and yet, there are magnificent bourbons as well and most of them are far more inexpensive. Including the best one on earth, George T. Stagg. It's only released once a year (about now), so pay attention and track it down.

3. If stranded on a desert island what one boozelicious choice would I pick and why? Champagne. (Obvs. no voting for Bush on a desert island, thus endless celebration.)

4. If it's pink or blue, don't drink it. The bartender hates you.

5. Hippies don't tip. Don't be a hippie.

6. When you start to yell at strangers over something you'd usually let go or talk about later, go ahead and let the backlash of happiness begin. This leads to good anecdotes and, in some limited cases, better haircuts for people mocked as "ponytail man." Plus, that philosophy professor was just plain wrong.

7. There's nothing wrong with the occasional afternoon drinking "spell" -- especially when involving the track or another sporting event. So long as it doesn't happen often or alone, drink your mimosa (add a little Grand Marnier for perfection) or Bloody Mary or afternoon wine without feeling especially Bloodworth-Thomason. However, when the early evening hangover sets in, don't blame me.

"I have taken more out of alcohol than alcohol has taken out of me." -- Sir Winston Churchill

NaDruWriNi, Post 4 ish

So... I used to have this book called Inspired By Drink -- and I'm sure it's around somewhere -- but it hasn't made a shelf yet in the new place. I find myself left with little to write about without it to plagiarize from. Drinking is good and yet good for writing? One says no, after reading that immediately below.

So, I'll happily take questions of the Dear Aunt Gwenda variety or otherwise instead. We're talking universal secrets here. And I WILL answer them tonight. So, ask away. I don't think I'm gonna finish the clown story, because it interests me not at all, but the beauty of this is: you can go do it.

If no questions, I watch zombies and read and listen to music. Is your definition of writing so narrow? Oh, undrunken ones?

NaDruWritNi, Post 3 (actual fiction): Clowns R Scary

Reminding, this clown is the inspiration.... part 1.

The Bomb in his shirt was shaped like a dollar bill. George Washington’s face pooched like a saddlebag draped between his nonbreasts -- it was hard to distract from that kind of thing. The time before his arrest was short, but S traveled with smooth wheels, calm that he wouldn’t be able to escape.

He wondered where the bandana dangling loose around his neck came from and pulled up one end. The tag said China, so China it was. S didn’t slide the Chinese bandana over the bottom half of his face until he hit Broadway. Why bother?

Still, no one noticed. Not even flickering recognition lit the gazes of the pink-lipped girls as he glided by. They called and clamored with their candy lips, but their eyes fluttered endlessly across the crowd, making it impossible to say whether the sirens longed for him any more than the businessmen and birthday boys he slid past. He’d planned for the round rubber nose to attract their attention, knowing his cleavage wouldn’t do it. It was a little insulting that this hadn’t worked.

He rode on, the handlbars stiff in his hands, comforting in their resolve to carry him forward. The Bomb grew warmer and he wondered how long he had.

NaDruWriNi, post 2

I'm sneezing like a cat's inside my nose. If that cat sneezed alot. Either I'm getting a cold or I accidentally ate something I'm allergic too. (Too "to" preserved in honor of indicating level of intoxication.)

Or possibly I'm allergic to writing about clowns. Better get back to that.

(Whoa Whoa Whoa Whoa Yeah...)

I warn: do not expect too much. I'm a rewriter.

NaDruWriNi, Post 1 (Updated)

Well, hell, if Ed's going to do this, I may as well try and catch up.

Technically, even though it's always 5 somewhere, I can say I actually began to drink pre-5. Let's say 4:45 eastern time. Then we had to go to FIVE restaurants to get in without a reservation AND wait at the bar. And C is feeling under the weather.

The fact that I slept until nearly 11 and took an hour and a half bubble bath mid-afternoon should leave you to believe nothing -- except that very little of consequence besides unpacking the new dishes has been done today. However, seeing as how I have (sorta) quotas to meet that I'm already behind the behind on, well, why not. However, I'm having trouble coming up with a subject to write about this evening, so let's make this as disorganized as it actually is. The Rosebuds are still on and the first person who writes me via email or posts in the comments a sentence, a word or a scenario, I'll write that, drunkenly, in your honor.

Be kind. Or I shall just be drunk and writing about that.

(dinner = bottle of wine: with a side of kick-ass Indian -- almost like what I used to get in my London neighborhood off Kensington High St.)

UPDATED: I'm going to write about this clown. But that shouldn't take long.

NaDruWriNi, and two sentences

In honor of National Drunken Writing Night, which I think we should all participate in. Details on how can be found at the awesome Weirdsmobile. (Via Ed.)

If you happen to be working on some creative writing project, post exactly one sentence from each of your current work(s) in progress in your journal. It should probably be your favourite or most intriguing sentence so far, but what you choose is entirely your discretion. Mention the title (and genre) if you like, but don't mention anything else. This is merely to whet the general appetite for your forthcoming work(s).

The first is from the YA novel -- Girl's Gang -- and is chosen more or less at random from the print-out I'm working from. I'm doing my final polish.

By the time the river ended, I could have been in the caves where the pirates stashed their treasure off the coast of the Caribbean, or at least North Carolina.

The second is from the short story I'm currently reworking, "The Haunted Houses of My Youth."

We went during a steady rain and I even talked Steph inside, but no decades old, murdered blood spilled over the dusty wooden floor.

Now you. I'm going back to listening to The Rosebuds.


that parasite story

Awhile back, I posted about Redmond O'Hanlon, who I adore, and Justine requested that I tell the verboten parasite story that Christopher wants me to stop bringing up over meals. So, I'm finally getting around to it, but instead I'm going to let O'Hanlon tell it, from this Nexus interview (which has lots of other fascinating ookiness in it):

Now, before you became fascinated with the depths of the ocean there was a fascination with Africa. I understand there's another little fish over there which goes in through another orifice.

Ah, yes, that was a fascination with jungles in general, but that's actually in South America. You have to remember that when Gondwanaland, when South America was linked to Africa, the Niger was part of the Amazon. Then up came the Andes and blocked the river off, so it reversed its flow. So it had a very, very long time for some very interesting parasites to evolve. Now this is a tiny catfish called the toothpick fish, and in fact I talked about it as a joke on a television program in the UK. And the serious scientists went out and they took some special fine mesh nets with them and found these fish are absolutely everywhere, the candiru, or the toothpick fish.

So say you've had too much to drink, and you dive in and you take a pee this little fish locks onto the stream of urine and in fact swims very, very powerfully. It's got a terrific burst of energy in the tail muscles, and it will make its way straight up your urethra and put out six retral spines on either side and does a half turn, and hangs in there. And the pain apparently is spectacular and there's nothing you can do. You have to get to a hospital before your bladder bursts and, in your best Portuguese, you have to ask the surgeon to cut off your penis.

That fish lives where?

All over the Amazon Basin. But we fooled it. I'm very proud of this. This really is a contribution to science. It comes under science I think. This is a cricket box, which you'd understand here, but the piece of genius is I put a tea strainer on the front of it, and then I found they enter all your other orifices as well, so I gave up. It's best not to go for a swim in the Amazon.



I am heartsick.


exercise those rights (updated)

Wow, so this is how it's gonna be? (And why my stomach hurts.)

Among the few people who didn't realize what was happening at first, they were extremely annoyed when they figured it out. "Is that Republicans over there? Yeah, it is!" said a man toward the back of the line. "They're gonna come down here and, try to try to fool us? That's not happening." Behind him, a woman added: "Un-huh, that's not right."

(Bearman link via William Gibson, but follow the Stephen Elliott one too.)

And go read the sensible thoughts of Jeff, Maud and Ed. I am comforted by the blogger army of shared unease*.

Vaguely pessimistic hope can only be rewarded with victory.

UPDATE: *It has been pointed out to me that the unease may be only mine. Ditto the pessimism. I actually feel pretty up about the whole thing, but a lifelong strategy of employing the "not getting one's hopes up only leads to pleasant surprises" principle is hard to shrug off.

REUPDATE: It's not just me, but the above stands. Let's all be shiny and happy until the ballots have flown. Good luck, America.

she has a lovely voice

If you happen to be in New York City, you can go see and hear (though touch is probably inappropriate unless you know her) Justine Larbalestier read, along with Barry Malzberg. Having read with Justine myself, I can tell you she is one of those readers with the snake eyes in her pocket, by which I mean her Aussie accent. It's just not fair to us poor 'Merkins. You can find out more on Justine's site at that link up there, but here's the relevants:

On Monday, the 1st of November, me and Barry N. Malzberg will be the double act for the NYRSF reading series at the Melville Gallery in the South Street Seaport Museum, 213 Water Street (between Beekman and Fulton), in the downtown Manhattan part of New York City. Doors open at 6:30PM and the reading begins at 7:00PM precisely. I'll be reading first cause I get too nervous if I have to wait. (Suggested donation $5.)

(Thanks to Tingle Alley for the reminder and the biscuit memories.)

how very beautimous

Old Hag's new site is up and it's BEYOOTIFUL, in a way that again makes me feel both lame about the inadequate stylings of this site and greener than green with jealousy.

Pretty yellow.