Saturday, October 29, 2011

Soup and Salad: NOT David Foster Wallace, Halloween Costumes for Literary Nerds, John "Lightning" Sayles, Jason's Hemingway, He Ain't Heavy--He's My Kindle, Reluctant E-Book Converts, The American Book Awards, Reading on the Toilet

On today's menu:

David Foster Wallace?  Nope, not even close.

1.  Let's kick things off with the latest useless-but-addictive addition to Tumblr: Not Foster Wallace.

2.  By now, you probably already have your Halloween costume all picked out--maybe you've gone the DFW route with a bandanna and a pair of granny glasses.  But there's always next year's outfit to think about.  Here are 20 Clever Halloween Costumes for Literary Nerds.  I'm especially partial to going as "The Green Light" from The Great Gatsby.  However, this year I'll be handing out candy dressed as Future Struggling Mid-List Novelist (i.e. whatever I'm wearing at the time).

3.  At The Millions, Robert Birnbaum has a very long convo with filmmaker-novelist John Sayles, which only serves to remind me of the weight of Sayles' A Moment in the Sun as it rests midway up my To-Be-Read pile (aka Mt. NeverRest).  Apparently, Sayles is something of a wizard when it comes to writing.  Let's eavesdrop:
JS: While we were also going around the country doing publicity for [the film] Honeydripper, our last feature. We went to 36 cities by air and if you have traveled domestically lately you’re in Raleigh–Durham airport for six more hours with a delayed flight, so you better have a book to work on. So I had a lot of that. Or you’re in Israel and you’re awake at three in the morning and can’t get back to sleep because your body thinks its 10 a.m. and you’re back at home. So you are going to be up for five hours and nobody else is around. I actually write very fast. I actually wrote this thing in about a year. Including research.
RB: Wow. How much revision
JS: You know, the revision is interesting. I did my own revision — really only a couple of weeks of that. I took the main four characters’ chapters and I extracted and combined them via computer, into the Book of Royal, the Book of Hod, the Book of Diosdado, the book of Harry, and then read them to make sure–
RB: –for continuity.
JS: And then my literary agent Anthony Arnove, who was Howard Zinn’s agent, took it around for almost two years.
RB: Did he do any editing?
JS: No. So in about a year and a half — a little bit more — we had gone through all the major publishers, including people who had published me before, 17 years later.
RB: All owned by conglomerates now.
JS: So we got two bites, “We want it, and I just have to ask the people upstairs.” And then they never called back. So obviously the people upstairs said no. Then Anthony went to the second tier of smaller publishers, not quite the university presses. And McSweeney’s said yes.

4.  Norwegian cartoonist Jason has a chat with the folks at The Casual Optimist.  I've always been drawn to Jason's work (pardon the pun).  For those who haven't had the pleasure of picking up one of the beautiful editions published by Fantagraphics Books, The Casual Optimist explains it to you:
Jason’s comics are immediately identifiable. You cannot mistake them for the work of someone else....Jason’s work references both the pop and the high-brow: zombies and werewolves on the one hand; Hemingway and the Beats on the other. The result is both original and off-beat. His protagonists are like renegades from a Max Fleischer cartoon who’ve inadvertently wandered into a Jim Jarmusch movie…Anthropomorphic animals smoking cigarettes, drinking coffee, talking about French actresses. Action and slapstick wrestle with ennui and loneliness.
This is a panel from The Left Bank Gang which re-imagines Paris of the 1920s with Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce and Ezra Pound as graphic artists rather than writers.  Brilliant!

Click to enlarge

5.  The New York Times asks: "When an e-reader is loaded with thousands of books, does it gain any weight?"  Click here for the scientific answer.

6.  Speaking of Kindles, Jenny Shank gives us 5 Reasons E-Books are Awesome, Even for the Very Reluctant.

7.  Maybe it's because I wasn't very book-aware in 1980 (more concerned with avoiding wedgies in the locker room and getting stuffed into my locker between classes, I guess), but I never heard of the glitzy, Oscar-style American Book Awards.  The New York Times has the scoop on the literary disaster: The Short, Unsuccessful Life of the American Book Awards

8.  And, finally, here's what I consider one of the most important book-related news stories of 2011: "Is reading on the loo bad for you?"  The Guardian examines a semi-scientific survey of bathroom bookworms to determine whether or not fecal microbes and hemorrhoids are hazardous to your reading health.  If you can get past the unforgivable puns (e.g., "...the situation became clear that here, on his hands, was a big job" and "As Curtis says, 'we don't need to get anal about it.'"), it's enlightening and gives credence to what I've always maintained: it's okay to sit and think while you shit and stink.  When I worked in the Pentagon, a co-worker and I were committed bathroom readers (separate stalls, of course), but we completely grossed out another office worker who, every time she saw us coming back in the door from the restroom with books in our hands, would say, "Oooo, gross!" and then walk around the office shuddering for a good fifteen minutes.  She just didn't understand that the solitude of the stall was the only haven where I was able to get any reading done.  As Henry Miller says in the article, the toilet might just be the best place to absorb Ulysses.

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