Saturday, October 04, 2003

Today's reading 

Laura Lippman's short story is now up. Go read it. This part especially sticks in my brain:

" Like most teenagers, she assumed her generation had invented depravity – and she was not entirely off the mark. Her clients remembered their pasts as one might remember a dream – hazy, incoherent, yet vaguely satisfying. Indulged in their youth, they had little need for rebellion in adulthood, and even less energy for it. "

If that doesn't make you sit up and take notice, what will?

And more reviews 

Chris Petit loved Dan Fesperman's new book THE SMALL BOAT OF GREAT SORROWS. With good reason. It's a phenomenal book. And I'll say more when my review goes up here.

Meanwhile, Joan Smith is less enthusiastic about Henry Porter's EMPIRE STATE.

Like father, like son 

Dwight Gooden's son is busted for dealing crack in Florida.

Just think if he'd inherited daddy's fastball....

Stasio's roundup 

Like clockwork (every couple of weeks, anyway), Marilyn Stasio's back with her latest roundup of crime fiction reviews.

Summary: mixed review on Robert Parker's latest book (Jesse Stone, not Spenser.) Rave for Mission Flats, although less enthusiastic than my own. Negative for Reginald Hill and for Anne Perry's new WWI book, and lastly, a good review for Robert Heilbrun's debut legal thriller.

So in short, if you're new, she likes you this week, if you're not, better luck next time....

Stasio has always intrigued me, because so many people pay attention to her reviews, and yet most of the time figuring out her stance on a book is akin to pulling an abcessed tooth out of a bloody gum. At the very least, the word that springs to mind is "coy". Occasionally she'll let rip though, and because it's so rare it's all the more shocking (I bet he's still recovering from the blow.)

Snark is as Snark does 

So Laura Miller, fresh off filletting Chuck Palahniuk's latest book for Salon and whining about what books kids should read for school for the NYT, tries to define snark. And here last night I was wondering why the whole brouhaha about Snarkwatch had disappeared all of a sudden after being such a hot topic. Couldn't it have just stayed buried? Snark is just so...August.

Although this section, where Ms. Miller considers the question of authors who simply view all negative reviews as "snark", did amuse me a whole lot:

"Why not let authors lash out at their tormentors, giving back as good as they've gotten, serving up great, vile spoonfuls of the critics' own medicine? An odd position for a book reviewer to take, but in fact it's fairly self-serving. In my experience, the author who responds publicly to a negative review usually does such a poor job of defending himself that he winds up validating the reviewer's judgement. Also, it attracts attention and readers to the original review."

Somehow I think the use of the term "he" was no accident.

Friday, October 03, 2003

Hix Nix Books by Blix? 

The long-suffering U.N. arms inspector finds a soothing balm for his woes: a book deal. Pantheon in the US, Bloomsbury in the UK, both for next spring.

In other news, Geraldo has decided to turn the search for WMDs into a 2 hour primetime special scheduled for November Sweeps. His sources tell him with absolute certainty that the WMDs are located not in Iraq, as has been widely speculated, but in Al Capone's vault.

My Secret Identity 

TMFTML's been getting a lot of emails lately, which is no small feat considering that they are supposed to be anonymous. However, in breaking news, they have been unmasked as the heretofore-unknown authors of this, this, and most recently, this. No wonder people are wondering about their sexual proclivities....

Awards, awards, awards 

The Giller Prize shortlist is announced, and except for one surprise, John Gould, it's a pretty familiar list. Supposedly the thing they have in common is that they all have endings. So why didn't any crime fiction make the list?

Speaking of, The CWA has announced the shortlist for the Debut Daggers. So far, several of the previous winners (Joolz Denby, Caroline Carver, Edward Wright) and a runner up (Edwin Thomas) have parlayed their success into book deals. I read 3 of the 4 listed and they were excellent debut novels. Should be interesting to see who wins this year and whether I'll be seeing the book in stores in a couple of years from now...

There was an election yesterday? Oh, yeah. 

Actually I did vote, considering I've only been back home for less than 2 weeks and had very little time to get a sense of who I ought to vote for.

But in the end, Dalton McGuinty and his merry band of Liberals prevail bigtime. Former premier Ernie Eves (quick, that page will change pretty soon!) is set to resign and contemplate why he wasn't quite the man to carry on the mandate of HarrisLand. Of course, Walkerton, the Big Blackout, and a sliding economy didn't exactly help matters for Ernie. But this bit of news couldn't have helped much:

"The voter turnout was low, which is unusual in an election where the government changes. Just over 52 per cent of eligible voters cast ballots, a sharp difference from 1999 when 58 per cent of voters went to the polls."

Yeesh. And I wonder, of those that voted, how many were seriously ambivalent about the process. Me included. The lovely thing about Canadian politics is that it inspires total apathy in its constituents because the candidates are just so unbelievably annoying. It's so much worse on the Federal level. The last time there was a viable opposition to the Liberals was....when Mulroney was PM and the Liberals were it (sorry, the Bloc Quebecois doesn't count.) The rot has seeped in so much that it's a fait accompli that Paul Martin--aka the Prince Charles of Canada--will finally ascend to his rightful spot on the Liberal throne. Gag. Nothing against Martin but for those of a decidedly younger generation, it's not exactly inspiring stuff.

I really, really miss the Natural Law Party. Maybe I'll take this up to soothe my nerves.

Hi, I'm Jack Valenti, and these are my cheeks. 

It's only October, but the Academy Awards campaigning is already hot news. Well, more that the MPAA has decided to piss a whole lot of people off by banning "screeners"--DVDs of the movies under consideration that are sent by the truckload to Academy members' doors.

Roger Simon pretty much shoots a big fat hole into the reasoning that this ban is only meant to "prevent piracy":

"The grownup part of the audience has suffered as the younger audience has had their taste dumbed down as never before. The promotion of more artistically serious films through these screeners was one of the only ways of leveling the playing field. Now it seems even fewer of them will be made.[...]

[...]Listen up, Jack! This Academy voter (and film lover) is not going to cast a single vote in any category for your plastic major studio crap until this ban is lifted. THE BACKLASH STARTS HERE!"

I'd say so, and Jeffrey Wells talks more about it in today's column, offering an interesting solution along with comments from Robert Towne, Roger Avary, LA Times critic Manohla Dargis, and more. I loved Wells' comment after he posted Valenti's memo:

"Will someone please explain to me how preventing the mailings of commercially available DVD'S helps to stop piracy? Ding-dong...somebody answer the door!

"Call me excitable, but as soon as I read this I thought of the moment in SPARTACUS when Charles McGraw slaps Kirk Douglas and says, "No talking in the kitchen, slave." Grab that McGraw and stuff his head into a kettle of hot soup! Revolt! Torches and pitchforks!"

Any bets on which independent company will be the first to breach the ban?

NY Times Bestseller List, October 12 edition 

I used to do this on the newsgroup I post to frequently, but since I now have my own space, it's time to comment on the movers and shakers of the NYT List. This will be a regular feature every Friday morning or so (or earlier if I can access the list on Thursdays.)

Making its debut at the top is Mitch Albom's THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN. Just more proof that people don't pay attention to reviews, whether spiked or not.

The Da Vinci Code won't go away. It's #3, Ron Howard is making it into a movie, and it's the biggest source of envy for authors pretty much everywhere. But it's a horse I've beaten to death elsewhere.

Other debuts: Neal Stephenson's QUICKSILVER (#6), which I guess won't be reviewed by the likes of this guy. James Lee Burke is at #12, which may be the best a Robicheaux book has done in a while, but I'm so woefully behind on this series that I can't even remember. Haywood Smith rounds out the main list at #15.

Heading up the extended after a nice run in the main list is Mark Haddon, newly minted winner of the Guardian's Children Fiction Prize. So it ain't the Booker shortlist (boo hoo) but a worthy achievement nonetheless. Truly a book where hype is exceeded by the reality.

THE FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE is at #17, and people are still after the latest Chuck Palahniuk, now at #19--so what's the fainting count by now? Thirty? Forty? One million?

Clyde Edgerton shows up at #24, just ahead of Carol O'Connell's latest Mallory novel DEAD FAMOUS and Steven Bochco's demonstration of how to stretch a 200 page book into 260 pages, DEATH BY HOLLYWOOD. And because I think sheis cool I'll mention that A FAINT COLD FEAR is still sticking around at #31.

And one last thing: why the hell is Dan Brown's backlist selling well in both hardcover and paperback format? At the same freaking time? Couldn't the publishers make up their mind? Or did they know a cash cow when they see it.


It's Friday. How could it be a slow day at Page Six? But Angie Harmon has gained entry into the Too Much Information (TMI) Hall of Fame.

Courtney Love got arrested again. And the meltdown continues....

Renee Zellweger has split up from Jack White. Maybe he can go back to dating his daughter/his sister/his/daughter/his sister...I mean his ex-wife, of course.

And finally, Nicole Kidman is admitting in Australian papers to dating Lenny Kravitz after all. I guess we'll be hearing all about her liason with 50 Cent in the near future.

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Look, what an adorable test pattern 

Phew. Putting in all those links took some work. And I know it looks screwy in IE, but I'm too bloody tired to change anything right now.

Gawker's GroveWatch continues, and by Choire's reckoning, Lloyd had a pretty good day. IMO he could have done more with the whole Halle Berry/Eric Benet bustup, but then, I kind of feel for poor Halle. Here's this unbelievably gorgeous woman, and she keeps picking losers: wife-beaters, eardrum shatterers, sex-addicts, and in a category all by himself, Fred Durst.

Laura Lippman has updated her site. Go buy EVERY SECRET THING at one of the stores I link in my toolbar. Because all the cool kids have read it already.

Recent crap I've written...reviewed this and this (scroll down a bit). And now that I bring it up, talk about one absolutely kickass issue this month. Holy shit, what good stories and talent.

I've joined the blogosphere. Everybody cheer now.

What will you get here? A little of this, a little of that. My interests run the gamut from crime fiction to klezmer, from publishing to music, forensic science to gossip. Idiosyncratic? Well...that's what I'm calling this, so you have been warned.

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