Saturday, January 8, 2011

Soup and Salad: James Franco wrestles Faulkner and McCarthy, Washington Times finally reviews McGuane, Saving Dickens' workhouse, Finding inspiration in a cabin, Richard Ford goes back to school, Books to Come, The mystery of the first mystery, Cortright McMeel's "Short," Bulletproof books

On today's menu:

1.  Actor and aspiring director James Franco wants to do the impossible: bring William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian to the big screen.  I haven't read McCarthy's "semi-apocalyptic Western," but Faulkner's 1930 novel is perhaps my favorite of his canon.  To remain true to the structure and narrative intent of the novel, it can't be filmed.  Not successfully, anyway.  I'd like to see Mr. Franco make a liar out of me.

2.  The Washington Times finally gets around to reviewing Thomas McGuane's Driving on the Rim (apparently this fall season was so jammed with "big books" that many major review outlets had to delay coverage of some titles).  The review is a pretty good one, however, and was worth the wait.  John Greenya does about as good a job as anyone in explaining the novel's plot, which in typical McGuane fashion is full of nooks and crannies.

3.  This just in from the Dept. of Mr. Bumble:  Could this workhouse be the inspiration for Oliver Twist?  The fight is on to save the landmark.

4.  At the 49 Writers blog, Alaskan writer Marybeth Holleman offers up some inspiring stories about writing ("git'n 'er done," as they say).  Holleman writes:
       Some years back, I sat in the world’s most perfect writing cabin at Hedgebrook, trying to get into my manuscript in progress, The Heart of the Sound.  Instead I milled about the cabin looking for anything else to do besides write.  I picked up the journal in which all the previous occupants had written their thoughts.  One spoke (so eloquently, of course) about not writing.  She doubted she would get any writing done.  She doubted anything she wrote would be any good.  She doubted being a writer, having anything worth saying.  It was a beautifully written piece, absolutely absorbing—and not just because I was desperate for something to do besides my own writing. But what astonished me most was the author’s name: Gloria Steinem.
      That night at dinner I shared it with the other five writers in residency, and we all breathed a sigh of relief.  Steinem’s doubts and procrastination put ours in perspective.  The desire to procrastinate, the doubts about our writing, it never goes away—so we might as well get used to it.

5.  Richard Ford will start teaching again.  I hope those Ole Miss students know how lucky they are.  Kneel at the feet of the Master, you Tweeting knaves!

6.  USA Today gives us a taste of Books to Come between now and April.  There's also an interactive, searchable calendar.  My Spidey sense got all tingly at the mention of titles coming from Joyce Carol Oates (A Widow's Story), E. L. Doctorow (All the Time in the World: New and Selected Stories), and of course the already-on-my-radar posthumous novel from David Foster Wallace (The Pale King).  Other popular mass-market books are coming from David Baldacci (The Sixth Man), Mary Higgins Clark (I'll Walk Alone), Jodi Picoult (Sing You Home), Jean Auel (The Land of Painted Caves), Danielle Steel (44 Charles Street), and J. D. Robb (Treachery in Death).  Plus, celebooks from Tina Fey (Bossypants) and Janet Jackson (True You: A Journey to Finding and Loving Yourself).  Other book previews can be found at 3 Guys 1 Book, The Millions and The Barnes and Noble Review.  Ah, Spring!  When the grass is brown, the slush is grey, and the books are hopeful.

7.  Who wrote the first mystery novel?  Paul Collins thinks he knows whodunnit.

8.  "Someone asked me a very interesting question about the book. They said: 'Is that a conscious literary technique, making the really short staccato chapters to go along with the title Short?' I kind of thought about it and said: 'Yes, I call that short chapterlet literary technique the “Dad who has two kids under six technique.”' Many times I wrote those chapters on runs to the grocery store, stealing a chair at the corner Starbucks. I’d set down the laptop and Bam, Bam, Bam, pump it out and then come home with the milk and eggs."  That comes from harried father and novelist Cortright McMeel (no, I'm not making up that name) in an interview with New West.  His novel about energy traders, Short, was published last month and while its subject matter doesn't hold a lick of interest for me, the interview is such a lively one, I might just have to check it out.  I love the idea of writing a novel in fragments during quick trips to the grocery store.

9.  And finally, Electric Literature answers that age-old question: "Can a book save your life?"  The answer is contained in this video.  (Warning: Books are harmed and killed in this video)


  1. :-) fun post! i like your blog- thanks for dropping by and saying hi on mine so i could come & see what you're doing. i think everyone is skeptical about james franco & faulkner. we'll see. :-) it will be interesting if nothing else.

  2. David, we've so enjoyed your contributions on the Roundtable, and really hope you'll keep dropping by and posting. And thanks for letting us know about your blog. I'll be a frequent visitor!