Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Soup and Salad: Salinger's Toilet, Anthony Doerr, another "Into the Wild" death, Dickey's "Deliverance," Readers reading

On today's menu:

1.  J. D. Salinger's toilet is up for auction on eBay.  Now those of you who thought Mr. Catcher in the Rye was full of shit will have a way to prove it.

2.  Writers on Process is a cool new discovery of mine.  It features interviews of writers.  And by "writers," I don't mean just those noble scribes who produce books.  The website also features songwriters, journalists, screenwriters, and poets (yes, they're scribes who produce books, but they're maligned and live in the publishing ghetto, so they're technically a breed apart).  There's a great interview with Anthony Doerr (who wears a pair of chainsaw ear protection muffs when he writes), author of The Shell Collector and Memory Wall.  Money quote:
I'm not sure I believe in writer's block.  I believe in failures of courage.  I have plenty of them everyday.  (I'm having one right now, for example, answering interview questions, rather than writing fiction).  It's always easier to answer email or fold laundry or pull weeds or lie face down on the floor than it is to confront the problems in whatever piece of writing you're working on.  So it's not necessarily that I get blocked as much as I get too afraid of facing whatever dead-end I've written myself into.  Sometimes the courage isn't there, and that's okay, but you can't let yourself have too many failures because then a piece of writing tends to freeze over, like a big lake, and then you'll need even more energy just to chop through the ice and get back to where you started.
Also, check out this interview with novelist Rosecrans Baldwin, whose novel You Lost Me There is on my short list of lusted-after books published this year.  And the website promises an upcoming chat with one of the best female singers to hit my ears this year, Lissie.

3.  Sad news from Fairbanks, Alaska: a person trying to reach Christopher McCandless' ill-fated schoolbus has drowned crossing the Teklanika River.  McCandless was the young self-annointed "Alexander Supertramp" who threw off the conventional shackles of society, then got in waaaaay over his head when he tried to survive a winter in remote Alaska.  Both Jon Krakauer's book Into the Wild and the subsequent movie are highly recommended.  Kraukauer's description of the Teklanika is chilling and should be cautionary words for any "adventure tourists":  The water is too deep, too cold, too fast. As I stare into the Teklanika, I can hear rocks the size of bowling balls grinding along the bottom, rolled downstream by the powerful current…

4.  Dwight Garner's excellent re-appraisal of James Dickey's Deliverance in The New York Times has me wishing I'd read the book (another on my long-list of unreads!) instead of only having seen the movie.  On the occasion of the novel's 40th anniversary, Garner re-read the book while sitting beside a lake ("Dickey’s stuff is always best read beside a vaguely sinister body of water"). He goes on to appreciate the book for its unapologetic hairy-chested narrative: "His was a jangling American voice; in his amplitude he was the closest thing the South had to a deep-fried Norman Mailer."

5.  And finally, as I leave you today, I send you off to Steve McCurry's blog which features some heartening* photographs of readers caught in the act...

*"heartening" because now we have photographic evidence of that rare, elusive species, Homo Bibliophile

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