Wednesday, April 30, 2008

J.D. Salinger and "Raiders of the Lost Ark"

The reclusive author of Catcher in the Rye had some thoughts about the Harrison Ford movie. Salinger thought it sucked.

The Magazine of New Writing

The great Granta has a new-look website. You can watch a short film about the new-look Granta here and see 30 years of Granta covers here. Oh, and they have a lot of new stuff that you can only find on Granta online. Peruse the site happily.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Open Book

The Advocate profiles Portland's own Chuck Palahniuk, author of Fight Club, Invisible Monsters, and, most recently, Snuff.

Oh, and did you know Sam Rockwell's going to be starring soon in "Choke," a movie based on Palahniuk's wicked novel?

Anonymity: A Secret History of English Literature

The Sydney Morning Herald reviews John Mullan's new book highlighting the whys and wherefores of anonymous publishing throughout the history of English literature.

From the story:

Mullan takes us back to a time when the work, not its creator, was valued. We're reminded that early readers of Gulliver's Travels and Sense And Sensibility played guessing games about their authors. From John Donne and Daniel Defoe to Sylvia Plath and Doris Lessing, the annals of literature are replete with authors concealing their identity. We may know George Eliot was a she but did we know her nom de plume was a convenient cover for a most un-Victorian private life? And did we know her incognito allowed her to experiment with public taste or that she admitted being willing to abandon George if he turned out to be "a dull dog"?

Collecting Newspapers

The Fine Books & Collections Magazine blog has a fine post about collecting old newspapers. I, for a time, collected a few old Harper's Weekly editions because it contained the artwork of one of my favorite artists, Winslow Homer. I then removed those illustrations, had them framed and now they're proudly displayed on my living room wall. I probably did a bad thing by destroying the newspaper as a whole but I can live with it.

Pictured above: Winslow Homer's "Russian Ball," from the November 21, 1863 edition of Harper's Weekly.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Happy Birthday...

Harper Lee.

I know at this point it's a bit of a cliche, but reading To Kill a Mockingbird has changed my life in some unknowable subtle way.

Copland in Hollywood

There is an interesting story in the Wall Street Journal about Aaron Copland's time in Hollywood.

From the story:

Copland's part-time career as a film composer is one of the most fascinating chapters in the story of his professional life. Yet few know much about it. Nowadays, of course, it's perfectly respectable for a serious musician to moonlight in Hollywood, and scholars pore over the scores of Bernard Herrmann and Erich Wolfgang Korngold the same way they once sifted through Beethoven's sketchbooks. But none of Copland's half-dozen Hollywood film scores, not even the Oscar-winning one he wrote for "The Heiress," has been recorded in its entirety.

Why has so important a part of Copland's output been so completely ignored? I haven't a clue.

I was enthralled with Copland's music in high school. I begged my band director at Capital High School (Olympia, WA) to play as much Copland and Leonard Bernstein as we could. And, we did. He wouldn't let us play "Fanfare for the Common Man" though. He said it was "too hard." RUBBISH! I'm going to play it! So I ordered the whole score from a music company and passed it around furtively to my band mates (trumpets, trombones, tubas). We practiced, furtively, away from the watchful eyes and tuned ears of our band director. Oh, we were so naughty! Oh, we were such enormous band geeks! We never played it for a public performance anywhere, though I wish we could have. We practiced enough to make us passable, anyway. Copland would have been proud, maybe. We were just, you know, passable. Ah well.

Copland's "Fanfare" as played by the U.S. Marine Band:

Scanning Every Book in the World

It takes some time, but that's not stopping Google from trying. Their main book site is here and the Google Book Search blog is here.

Sunday, April 27, 2008


The great Roddy Doyle (The Commitments) has a new piece of fiction in The New Yorker.

The Art of the Book

A great hour-and-a-half panel discussion about book design with Dave Eggers, Chip Kidd, and Milton Glaser, moderated by Michael Beirut at the 92nd Street Y in New York City:

Quote of the Week

Put it before them briefly so they will read it, clearly so they will appreciate it, picturesquely so they will remember it, and above all, accurately so they will be guided by its light.
- Joseph Pulitzer

Friday, April 25, 2008

Friday's Poem

Dylan Thomas reading his "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night":

Today's Shakespeare Fix

The new Internet Shakespeare Editions. Supported by The University of Victoria and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, it is a treasure trove of all things Shakespearean.

Pictured above: Hamlet, Quatro 1, Page 1, published in 1600, that now resides at the British Library in London.

Calligraphy Portraits

BibliOdyssey always turns up wonderful stuff.

Pictured above:

Bust portrait of [King] Charles II in state robes, with garter chain, in an oval, printed within a second plate with calligraphic flourishes; a cutting of the top left corner from a official legal document. 1660s Engraving printed from two plates on vellum (Anonymous).

Top Ten Books About the Wilderness

This, according to Sarah Anderson, in The Guardian.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Crazy English

Evan Osnos, in the New Yorker, has an extensive and entertaining story about how the Chinese are scrambling to learn English before the coming Olympic Games.

And, talking about China, have you seen this month's special issue in National Geographic?

A Crusade to Edit America

There's a fun little column I found in the local Seattle Times about a guy who has deputized himself a grammar vigilante setting out to make the U.S. a safer place for spelling.

From the story:

I caught up with him Tuesday by phone in Spokane. The night before, he'd been nearly thrown out of a Spokane bar for pointing out that they misspelled "margarita."

"I can't fully explain why I'm doing this," he confessed. "Typos have always bugged me. I figured I should do something about it, so I came up with a national campaign. It's another way of seeing America, through its errors."

Seattle, he said, was as riddled as any place he's been. He even found a typo at the top of the Space Needle, where a sign describes the Needle's upper deck as its "crowing glory."

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Smile, You're on Ele-Vision!

What happens when you put cameras on elephants wandering through the wilds of Africa? Some pretty amazing images.

The Favorite Books of Scientists

Did you ever want to know what books theoretical physicists love? Or what's on a chemist's nightstand? Perhaps you're interested in learning what a primatologist reads and then quotes to friends. Look no further.

What Do Stan Lee and Richard Branson Have in Common?

Virgin Comics. The Los Angeles Times is relaying the story that comic book legend Stan Lee (who helped created Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, and the Incredible Hulk, amongst countless others) is to oversee Virgin Comics' superheroes.

Virgin Comics is an upstart comic book line created by British tycoon Richard Branson and has had a number of big-name creators writing comics under its banner, among them filmmakers Guy Ritchie, Terry Gilliam and John Woo, actor Nicolas Cage and musician Dave Stewart.

Lee, now 85, says he has some "exciting things in mind."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Think Outside the Bard

I wrote a piece recently for Stage Directions Magazine. You can read it here. The main thrust of the story is in regard to new play development and what some theaters and organizations in the country are trying to do to make sure new plays are not only being workshopped and read but actually being staged as full productions. Oftentimes, theater groups pick shows for their coming seasons based on the known tastes of its membership base. Why put on a financially risky play by an unknown playwright when you can put on "A Midsummer Night's Dream"? Why invest in an up-and-coming playwright when you can simply use the latest piece by David Mamet? For one thing - theater is more than simply a business.

The Lost Art of Writing About Art

The Wall Street Journal laments the crumbling of art criticism.

Pictured above: One of my favorite artists. Lyonel Feininger's "Bird Cloud," 1926.

Monday, April 21, 2008

The Artwork of Nicholas Jones

Pretty groovy stuff.

The Leaf

There's a story about photo detectives in the New York Times that's an interesting read.

From the story:

“The Leaf,” [pictured above] originally thought to have been made around 1839 or later, has become the talk of the photo-historical world. The speculation about its origins became so intense that Sotheby’s and the print’s owners decided earlier this month to postpone its auction, so that researchers could begin delving into whether the image may be, in fact, one of the oldest photographic images in existence, dating to the 1790s.

How Sportswriting Lost Its Game

The Utne Reader laments that sportswriting isn't what it used to be.

From the story:

Does sports journalism suck? In terms of urgency, the question is less national defense and more spilled milk, but I do feel like weeping whenever I peruse, fending off the bilge and looking for a piece that tackles an actual ethical or social issue. Or just tells a good story. Sportswriters don’t deny me this material outright.

Quote of the Week

The reading of all good books is indeed like a conversation with the noblest men of past centuries who were the authors of them, nay a carefully studied conversation, in which they reveal to us none but the best of their thoughts.
- Rene Descartes (1596 - 1650)

Friday, April 18, 2008

Friday's Poem

Lord Byron's "She Walks in Beauty":

Darwin's Archives

The Guardian relays to readers that 90,000 pages of Charles Darwin's archives are available for perusal. You can do that here. Some pretty great stuff to gander at, including...

1st editions of Voyage of the Beagle, Zoology, and Descent of Man.
All editions of Origin of the Species.
Beagle Diary
Field notebooks.
Transmutation notebooks.
Darwin's autobiography.

Your intelligence of all things Darwin will certainly, well, evolve.


World Book Capital 2008.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Happy Tax Day!

But in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.
Benjamin Franklin (1706 - 1790), Letter to Jean Baptiste Le Roy (1789)

For fun today, why not learn about Benjamin Franklin, the scientist, inventor, statesman, printer, philosopher, musician, economist? Good man, he is! Learn about him here and here.

My Writing in Venuszine

I recently interviewed a great local artist, Diem Chau, for Venuszine. You can read the story here.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

What Happens When A Few Groovy Artists Come Up with a Blog?

You get this. And, of course, there's this site, my favorite spot for all things illustrative.

I Am a Miserable Slacker

I've only had one book e-published. I have 199,999 more books to write to catch up to this guy.

The Age of Kings

Colin Murphy has a story on the Royal Shakespeare Company's latest doings. What are they doing?

From the story:

The Royal Shakespeare Company has staged the whole of Shakespeare’s History Cycle in the bard’s birthplace – over weekends a company of 34 actors perform 264 roles in eight plays across 72 hours.

Monday, April 14, 2008

A TNR Debate: "The Ten-Cent Plague"

In the New Republic, there's a fun debate between Douglas Wolk, the author of Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work and What They Mean, and David Hajdu, music critic for The New Republic and author of the new book The Ten-Cent Plague: The Great Comic-Book Scare and How It Changed America. They discuss Hajdu's book, the potentially malevolent effects of lurid horror comics on '50s teenagers, and the current state of the art form all with a fun slideshow highlighting those lurid horror comic covers!

Of Blurbatology

“The covers of this book are too far apart.” -- from a review by Ambrose Bierce (pictured above).

Critical Mass asks, "Does anyone really care about the blurbs on the back of a book?".

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Quote of the Week

When books are burned in the end people will be burned too.
- Heinrich Heine (1797 - 1856)

Friday, April 11, 2008

Off for a Few Days...

So posts will be few and far between. Fear not, I'll return next week after a brief time off to spend time in my old hometown - Olympia, WA. Have fun out there.

Friday's Poem

"Birches," by Robert Frost:

Classic Penguin Book Covers

Peruse some groovy old Penguin book covers here and here.

Is This Photo Emily Dickinson?

If it is, it's only the second known photograph of the famed poet. Interestingly, it was purchased on Ebay. What's more, the buyer went to have the photo authenticated by professionals. His tale, How I Met and Dated Miss Emily Dickinson: An Adventure on eBay, can be found here.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Fine Excess

The New York Times has a story, and accompanying slideshow, about a new exhibit being shown at Atlanta's Emory University.

The collection? The most important collection of poetry in the world - the Raymond Danowski Poetry Library. From the story:

Mr. Danowski, an American-born fine arts dealer and collector who now splits his time between Britain and South Africa, stockpiled more than 75,000 rare books, posters, periodicals and recordings; the collection comprises a nearly complete record of all published English-language poetry in the 20th century.

I think we need to repeat that again, a nearly complete record of all published English-language poetry in the 20th century.

Some of the highlights:
Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," first edition.
Sylvia Plath's "Ariel," review copy with handwritten notes within by Anne Sexton.
Hart Crane's "The Bridge," of which there are only 25 known copies.

Pretty amazing stuff. So amazing, I shall write a haiku about it...

Oh, that Danowski
Collecting fine poetry
I wish I was rich.

How "Slaughterhouse Five" Was Born

Steve Almond, on Slate, reveals the seeds of a modern masterpiece.

The Lessons of Likeness

The American Scholar has published a lecture written by Allan Gurganus and delivered as part of the "American Pictures" program sponsored by Washington College, the National Portrait Gallery ant the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The lecture is entitled The Lessons of Likeness: Being a True History of Thomas Eakins' Portrait of Walt Whitman (with an added three-precent of narrative speculation).

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Comic Book Tattoo

With me being a fan of Tori Amos AND comic books, I can't help but be a little more than intrigued about Comic Book Tattoo, a nearly 500-page deluxe-packaged anthology featuring some of comics’ brightest talents all of whom turn in new work inspired by the music of Tori Amos.

Jon's Book Reviews on Bookslut

I've started writing reviews for the great Bookslut website. A couple of them have been posted in their April edition.

Metro Stop Paris is an enlightening book about Parisian history. Having just visited Paris for the first time I found it rather riveting. Each chapter tells a different tale of Parisian history so, perhaps, you're not interested in learning about the life of St. Vincent de Paul or you're not interested in knowing the philosophic discussions of John-Paul Sartre. Never fear, the next chapter will probably offer you some little tasty nugget, like how Oscar Wilde is tied to the infamous Dreyfus Affair or about the relationship Anais Nin had with a psychotherapist.

The Secret History of the English Language is an interesting, fun (as fun as a book about applied epistemology can be), though a bit maddening, book about the English language. What we think are the origins of the language is nothing but hogwash, or so says the author, the delightful M.J. Harper.

Pulp of the Day

I found a fun new site. Each day they present a book cover from those heady days of pulp fiction. The thrills! The chills! The tawdry innocence! Pulp of the Day!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Look Who Is On USA Today's Groovy Blog

Wow! Me. Thanks, Whitney!

Science Fiction + Poetry = Science Fiction Poetry!

What exactly IS science fiction poetry? Suzette Haden Elgin discusses it in a short essay, "About Science Fiction Poetry," here.

A sample excerpt of a science fiction poem, for your edification:

There is a bacterium the color of melted butter,
under the microscope,
stunned and limp in the maw of a great blue molecule
that can only be sicced upon it by prescription.
I look at the gory photograph by chance,
as it caught my attention
— I was just passing by — I feel compassion.
(I am reminded, eyeless though it is, of the baby seals.)
What plaints it raises, and to what power, I will never know;
but I cannot keep from thinking: "Poor little thing!"

Want more science fiction poetry? Or, perhaps, you're writing science fiction poetry yourself? If so, join the Science Fiction Poetry Association.