It's Not You... It's Your Apartment

The NY Times highlights a few men whose apartments have deterred potential flames. I'd turn and run if a guy had a stuffed baby seal, six months' worth of powdered milk in his cupboard, or forty-year-old sheets, too.


Jane Austen Has Never Been Hotter

Or so says the Times.
Gordon Brown’s teeth were controversial enough. But the most intriguing cosmetic retouching of the past month involves someone who doesn’t have to worry about her popularity.
Jane Austen has never been hotter. ITV, our most populist terrestrial channel, is giving up its peak Sunday-evening slots to adaptations of her novels. Anne Hathaway stars as Austen, alongside Maggie Smith, in the big-budget Hollywood biopic Becoming Jane, while Pride and Prejudice is to be remade as a time-travel saga. And the novels themselves are shifting more quickly than you can say Bridget Jones.
Yet despite all this, publishers have still felt the need to give Jane a heat magazine-style makeover. The traditional portrait of Austen on the cover of her novels has been retouched to remove her lace nightcap, enhance her cheeks with some beauty-salon rouging and, to complete the Beckhamisation, hair extensions have been added.
Why, you have to ask, is this sort of treatment necessary? Haven’t the publishers asked themselves why Austen’s novels are so popular at the moment?
The controlled irony, precise social observation and acuity of Austen’s writing offers us a refuge from the moronic inferno of modern trash culture. Everywhere the air is thick with the sound of barrels being scraped. Channel 4, a TV station founded and still supported by the State to broaden the nation’s cultural life, has become a cheapened and tawdry ratings-trawler; its makeover shows, such as Ten Years Younger, a tragic symbol of its doomed pursuit of freshness. Yet while Austen’s popularity is driven by a reaction against such superficiality, her publishers embrace the cult. Why?
The new Austen pic cannot be deployed to entice the producers of Richard & Judy into getting Jane on the sofa, nor can it be exploited to persuade the organisers of the Hay literary festival that it is worth booking her for a colloquium with Monica and Zadie. So what is behind this manipulation of how a classic writer is depicted?
Now, as anyone whose eye strays to the top of this column would concur, I am in a weak position when it comes to what constitutes a good visual image for a writer. The picture that graces this article makes me look, I am told, like a genetically modified Robin Day, shorn of the original’s charm and given a Proclaimers haircut. So I might be thought a touch too sensitive on the subject of managing writers’ appearances.
Perhaps. But while I should maybe think of having my column picture retouched, if only to make it possible for under15s to look at this page without a counsellor present, it still strikes me as significant that so much effort should have gone into retouching the image of a long-dead writer.
It may seem flip, but the only plausible explanation I can find for the retouching of Jane is a simple acknowledgment that when it comes to author pictures, publishers are always at it. There is scarcely a publicity shot of any contemporary author that looks like the real writer. The modern mistresses of chick-lit are all backlit, teased and air-brushed into icons of impossible glamour anyway, so why should the original queen of romance not get an image upgrade, too?
The publishing industry seems to believe that no modern woman can write knowledgeably about affairs of the heart unless she looks like a total fox, so presumably, when they came across plain Jane Austen’s rather homely features, they concluded that she had to be turned into a Regency version of Fiona Bruce before any new reader could take her seriously as a guide to the intricacies of sexual entanglement.
There is, of course, a great irony in all this and one that Austen would instantly recognise. The whole of her literary output constitutes an extensive, nuanced yet repeated warning against judging by appearances.
In Pride and Prejudice, George Wickham’s charm and good looks temporarily blind Elizabeth Bennet, then dazzle her sister Lydia into a foolish elopement. In Emma, both Frank Churchill and Philip Elton seem models of eligibility at first but it is the older, initially rather dull-seeming Mr Knightley who emerges as the perfect husband. And in Mansfield Park, the characters who initially entrance everyone, Henry and Mary Crawford, are eventually revealed as shallow to the point of wickedness.
Austen’s novels are full of many other good things — perceptive commentary on social change in a time of revolution and war, a humane moral conservatism that owes a great deal to Burke and Aristotle, a defence of Christian cultural traditions against commercial coarsening — but all these themes underpin a greater one: the importance of looking beyond surface fashion, charm and sparkle when making judgments, and the absolute need to trust character as revealed through action. If the Austen message were distilled into one proverb, it would be “Don’t judge a book by its cover”. Yet that is what the publishers feel they have to do now. Our society, they seem to think, can accept Austen only as a looker, not as an observer. It’s a prejudice of which none of us can feel proud.
That was the whole article, but you can find it here at the Times, too.

Gabriel García Márquez... still turning 80...

From the Guardian:
Hailed by a crowd of more than a thousand who gave a standing ovation, Latin America's most famous living writer, Gabriel García Márquez, clasped his hands above his head like a prizefighter as he entered the auditorium in the Colombian port town of Cartagena. During a special tribute at the International Congress of Spanish Language on Monday, the Nobel prize-winning writer, who turned 80 this month, recounted how his wife Mercedes had to hock her jewels to pay the rent and put food on the table for their two boys during the 18 months it took him to write what many consider the greatest novel in Spanish since Don Quixote - One Hundred Years of Solitude.
"To think that a million people would read something written in the solitude of my room with 28 letters of the alphabet and two fingers as my sole arsenal seems insane," García Márquez said, recalling that the novel's readers have now surpassed 50 million.
Read the whole article here.

First Look at the Last HP Cover...

Read more here at Publishers Weekly.


Lifting the Cover for Book Recruits

The BBC reports that publishing is a hard industry to break into...

Unanimous Decision on Young Writer Award

From the Times:
The novelist Naomi Alderman has won The Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award for her first book, Disobedience, about the tightly-knit world of North London's Orthodox Jews.
The judges were unanimous in their decision and singled out the 32-year-old’s novel for its wit, pace, intelligence and daring.
Read the whole article here.

Unfinished Tolkien Set to Publish in April

Christopher Tolkien, son of JRR Tolkien, has finished his father's novel The Children of Hurin. The elder Tolkien started the novel in 1918 but later abandoned it -- now it will be published in its completed form in April.

Why Feminism Could Be Bad for You...

From the Daily Mail:
For years, feminists have fought for equality, believing it is the key to a better society.
Now researchers have found that parity between the sexes may be bad for your health.
A study in Sweden, arguably one of the most egalitarian countries in the world, discovered that men and women who are equal are more likely to suffer illness or disability.
Those who earn the same are also more likely to become unwell or suffer a disability.
People who have management jobs, male or female, were also found to die younger than those with a less pressured lifestyle.
Read the whole article here.


NY Times Regrets Publishing Book Essay

From editorandpublisher.com:
In an editors' note in tomorrow's edition of The New York Times Book Review, the paper states that it regrets publishing a recent essay with certain resemblances to passages in someone else's essay -- particularly one involving a chambermaid.
The essay in question appeared in the Book Review on March 4, called "Confessions of a Book Abuser," by Ben Schott, who has contributed other pieces to the paper. The Times said that readers had pointed out "a number of resemblances" between it and "Never Do That to a Book," an essay on the same subject by Anne Fadiman that appeared in her 1998 book "Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader."
Schott denies reading the earlier essay before he wrote his piece.
Read the whole article here. And feel free to flip back a few posts to when I posted the essay & link here.


Planetary Emergency

Al Gore went before Congress today and "insisted before Congressional panels today that human-caused global warming constitutes a “planetary emergency” requiring an aggressive federal response." Read the article from the NY Times here.

No Snap Decision

This Guardian arts blog reminds us that Susan Sontag once said, "To collect photographs is to collect the world" and yet collectors are shying away from photography.

Do Better

Director Anthony Neilson gives young playwrights some advice through the Guardian: don't be so boring.

Philip Larkin

Ah, the universal attraction to Larkin... the dirty words. Glad to see that this Guardian book blogger stayed to read beyond the swearing.

Louis de Bernières

The Guardian asks Louis de Bernières why he writes.

Love the Accent?

Toby Young insists in the Guardian that talent is everything and, contrary to Stephen Fry's assertion, Americans will not just fall over for a British accent in a film.
Um, Toby? Did you *see* Love, Actually? Granted, that didn't feature the character, Colin, going for a film role or anything, but I think it's still an apt association. We might laugh because Colin stumbled upon supermodels, but he was going to get laid just because of that accent... just like British actors will always be seen as a superior group.

Lord Archer attempts to rehabilitate Judas

From the Guardian:
So where do you go after selling 125m books and spending time in jail for perjury and perverting the course of justice? It was obvious to Lord Archer. He wrote the fifth gospel and then got the Vatican to unveil it to the world.
You have to hand it to him. He aims high. And sometimes - like yesterday - he hits the bull's eye.
Sitting elbow to elbow with the Rector of the Pontifical Biblical Institute at a press conference in Rome, the irrepressible Lord Archer patted the slim brown tome he was presenting.
Overlooking for a moment other blockbuster authors such as Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, he said: "This is a gospel - and I think we're the first people to do that."
The "we" is explained in the frontispiece of his latest book, The Gospel according to Judas, which says it was written "with the assistance of Professor Francis J Moloney", an Australian and one of the world's leading Biblical scholars.
What the professor called "the fertile imagination of Jeffrey Archer" and his own renowned scholarship have yielded a volume that has already won readers in high places. And maybe very high places.
He would not actually vouchsafe that Pope Benedict had read it.
But, with the man from the publishers looking on, beaming ear to ear, the professor said he was an old friend of the pontiff and had "a suspicion that he may have read it, because I am aware that he has an interest in this whole enigma of Judas". Not exactly a papal blessing for the book cover. Not yet, anyway.
Read the whole article here.

Across the Universe: A Tale of Two Versions

Info on Across the Universe (the film based on Beatles songs):
In Hollywood creative differences among moviemakers often make for more interesting results on the screen. But rarely do those battles escalate so much that a studio takes a movie away from an award-winning director.
Such is the case — for the moment — with “Across the Universe,” a $45-million psychedelic love story set to the music of the Beatles, directed by Julie Taymor, the stage and screen talent whose innovative interpretation of the Disney animated film “The Lion King” is one of the most successful modern stage musicals.
After Ms. Taymor delivered the movie to Joe Roth, the film executive whose production company, Revolution Studios, based at Sony, is making the Beatles musical, he created his own version without her agreement. And last week Mr. Roth tested his cut of the film, which is about a half-hour shorter than Ms. Taymor’s 2-hour-8-minute version.
Mr. Roth’s moves have left Ms. Taymor feeling helpless and considering taking her name off the movie, according to an individual close to the movie who would not be named because of the sensitivity of the situation. Disavowing a film is the most radical step available to a director like Ms. Taymor, who does not have final cut, one that could embarrass the studio and hurt the movie’s chances for a successful release in September.
Ms. Taymor declined to be interviewed, but issued a carefully worded statement: “My creative team and I are extremely happy about our cut and the response to it,” she wrote. “Sometimes at this stage of the Hollywood process differences of opinion arise, but in order to protect the film, I am not getting into details at this time.”
Read the whole article here. Thanks to Jadis for passing this along!


George W.S. Trow

The New Yorker and the NY Sun talking about George W.S. Trow, a really kind of fascinating figure that I had never even heard of before.
This selection is from the New Yorker article:
It’s possible, of course, to think that all Trow’s elegant ranting amounted to cultural elitism. That of course he mourned the end of Wasp hegemony with its wisdom and history and moral clarity and—by the way—ethnic and economic exclusivity: He was its embodiment. Though not the son of a Vanderbilt or an Astor, he was still the great-great-grandson of a prominent New York City printer named John Fowler Trow (who invented a kind of early version of the phone book, the Trow City Directory). He still went to Exeter and Harvard, where he wrote his thesis about Edith Wharton and her treatment of social hierarchy. And he is now, as they say, a Dead White Male.
But as much as a certain kind of contemporary academic likes to try, it’s silly to dismiss Trow as a nostalgic snob. It misses the point. Trow’s rather amazing accomplishment was to make a whine about decline thrilling instead of boring, shocking instead of predictable. And while the intensity and singularity of Trow’s work had everything to do with his talent, it was also inseparable from another truth: that George Trow was slowly going crazy.
Check out the articles and if anyone wants to try and tackle Within the Context of No Context with me, let's do it.

Veronica Mars... Cancelled?

Remember when I got a little bit obsessed with Firefly? Well, the latest TV show to steal my heart is Veronica Mars. I'm somewhere in the beginning of the second season now (watching on DVD, of course) and I'm hearing all these rumors that Veronica Mars might be cancelled after its (current) third season. Say it ain't so! This Entertainment blog seems to think that there could be hope after all -- a possible format change, yes, but hope nonetheless. Thanks for keeping me updated, Jadis & m!

HP Goes Green

Bloomsbury has confirmed that Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows will be printed on "100% ancient forest friendly papers."

And here's the CNN article, too, thanks to Jadis.

Orange Longlist Announced

Read about the longlist for the Orange Broadband Prize in the Guardian or in the Independent.


Alain de Botton at the Met

Have you purchased your tickets yet?!

Alain de Botton will be speaking at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 1st as part of a series called "World Monuments: Touchstones of Past and Present." Check out that link for information on ordering tickets or for more information about the series.

...or just beg me for the extra ticket that I ordered. But if you come with me, you have to be prepared for me to abandon your company should Alain even glance in my direction.

Mother's Day Chick Lit

Now that the chick lit writers have grown up and become mothers, perhaps you should celebrate Mother's Day with some yummy-mummy lit.

Reinventing the Look (even Smell) of a Book

From the International Herald Tribune:
When Irma Boom suggested designing a book in an unusually squat size and shape, it didn't go down well with the publisher. Nor did her insistence that it should have a white cover, raggedy page edges and an introductory essay printed in type that starts off big and becomes smaller on successive pages.
"It was a struggle," Boom recalled. "I was suggesting something very different to all of the other books they'd published. But they were courageous and, finally, let me do it." The result, "Sheila Hicks: Weaving as Metaphor," was published last year by Yale University Press to accompany an exhibition of Hicks's textiles at the Bard Graduate Center in New York. It has since won a shoal of design prizes, and on Friday is to be awarded the Gold Medal at the Leipzig Book Fair for "The Most Beautiful Book in the World."
Read the whole article here.

Silent Voices of the Intellectual Opposition

The Guardian asks "Where is our Orwell, where is our Dickens?"


Pay Attention to the World

Check out the Guardian for a previously unpublished essay written by Susan Sontag before her death in 2004. Sontag argues for the "moral superiority of the novel in a mass-media age."


TimesSelect University

If you haven't heard the news, the New York Times online is now offering free access to the TimesSelect articles for those with university email accounts. Sign up here and enjoy the Maureen Dowd that has been denied to you for so long.

Thanks, Hil!

The House that TS Eliot Built

The Guardian takes a look at Stephen Page, the young publisher who is responsible for modernizing Faber and Faber.

A Stroll with Márquez and Castro

From the Guardian:
They were two old friends, each semi-retired, taking a stroll and catching up on each other's news. But to anyone watching, the sight itself would have been news.
Fidel Castro, the ailing Cuban leader, was out of his sick bed for a long walk and reportedly back to his old self, passionately discussing Latin American politics and global warming.
The other surprise was his companion: Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel prize-winning novelist who vanished last week when the literary world wanted to celebrate his 80th birthday.
Read the whole story here.

You've Read the Novels (Now Read the Footnotes)

William Grimes writes about the Annotated Pride and Prejudice and muses on the subject of footnotes in this article from the NY Times... click here or read the whole thing below. I include the whole of the article because I simply cannot help myself... I spent my senior year with a great number of the books he's listed as a result of my Austen research. It's always delightful to know that someone else has enjoyed your old friends, too.
Furze is a plant found all over England. It covers Egdon Heath, the forbidding wasteland in Thomas Hardy’s “Return of the Native,” and when I first read the novel, many years ago, I conjured up a vivid and completely inaccurate picture of what it looked like. I envisioned furze as a tangle of bare, black and gnarled stalks — a bonsai version of the leafless evil trees in Walt Disney’s “Snow White.” In fact furze is the same plant as gorse, the yellow-flowered shrub that Winnie-the-Pooh falls into. My reading was factually false but imaginatively true to the spirit of Hardy’s bleak, oppressive landscape.
Do details like this matter? The question posed itself, again and again, as I read “The Annotated Pride and Prejudice,” published this month. David M. Shapard, the editor, does not merely sprinkle a few footnotes here and there. Each and every page of Jane Austen’s text has a facing page of explanatory notes, more than 2,300 of them all told. Some are as brief as a word or two; others amount to small essays. No one, working diligently through novel and notes, will ever fall victim to what I now think of as the furze fallacy.
Mr. Shapard explains absolutely everything. He restores the proper contemporary meanings to word like “condescending” (polite to inferiors) and “vicious” (inclined to vice). “Fun,” it turns out, was a vogue word, the “awesome” of its day, which is why the flighty Lydia Bennet — the foolish sister who runs away with the despicable George Wickham — uses it a lot. Mr. Shapard sorts out the differences among a phaeton, a gig, a chaise and a curricle, distinctions as clear to Austen’s readers as the difference between a Volvo and a Porsche is to us.
All the details of day-to-day English life around 1796 come under inspection: currency, card games, fashions, dance steps, etiquette, mealtimes and the subtle gradations of social class. When Mr. Collins, the unctuous parson, is invited to sit at the foot of the table by the grand Lady Catherine de Bourgh, he is gratified, not insulted. The foot of the table was the second most desirable spot. When Elizabeth Bennet and her party are served grapes, nectarines and peaches at Pemberley, Darcy’s fabulous estate, it means something. As Mr. Shapard explains, “All three fruits, which had become more popular over the 18th century, tended to be grown by the wealthy, for they do best in warmer climates and thus in Britain they generally need to be grown under glass or next to heated walls, which adds to the cost of their cultivation.”
Any reader who sticks with the program and absorbs the wealth of material that Mr. Shapard offers will, insofar as such a thing as possible, read “Pride and Prejudice” as it was read and understood at the time of its publication, with all the period details in place and correctly interpreted. But the novel, in most respects, remains the same. The reader who does not know a farthing from a guinea, it’s safe to say, will nonetheless grasp the great drama of attraction and repulsion that plays out between Darcy and Elizabeth. The cut and thrust of their conversation is timeless. Generations of young women who do not know the first thing about an entailed estate or a quadrille will recognize in Austen’s heroine a kindred spirit, a contemporary, a valued ally in the eternal war between the sexes.
How can this be? Austen was a stickler for accuracy. Like most of the great 19th-century novelists, she reported on her surroundings with loving attention to detail, creating her world fact by closely observed fact. Yet with time, details lose their meaning. Who, a century from now, will understand what a yuppie was, or text-messaging, or the meaning of an Armani suit?
In an 1816 foreword to “Northanger Abbey,” begun in 1798 and finished in 1803, Austen warned readers that the world she described might seem unfamiliar. “The public are entreated to bear in mind,” she wrote, “that 13 years have passed since it was finished, many more since it was begun, and that during that period, places, manners, books, and opinions have undergone considerable changes.” Thirteen years! If English readers at the time were puzzled, how on earth are American, Japanese or Russian readers in the 21st century supposed to make head or tails of what they read? Yet they do.
On the other hand, reanimating the details does enrich one’s reading. They can illuminate and sometimes enlighten. Most facts are merely dated equivalents of present-day realities — one form of currency for another — but others help explain character and motivation.
That’s why there’s a niche market for annotated editions and period guides. A while back Daniel Pool responded to a crying need with “What Jane Austen Ate and What Charles Dickens Knew,” a whirlwind tour of day-to-day life in 19th-century England, with plentiful examples from Trollope, Thackeray, Eliot and Hardy. It tilts heavily toward the Victorians, whose world, with its railroads and factory towns and gaslighted streets Austen would not have recognized.
Deirdre Le Faye narrows the focus in “Jane Austen: The World of Her Novels,” a literate, highly informed survey of early-19th-century English life, followed by chapters on each of Austen’s novels, with well-chosen illustrations of fashion, furniture and houses. Austen cared about these things, and her characters’ lives revolved around them. Knowing what they were, exactly, makes it possible to enter that world more easily.
Austen is a special case. Certain writers create worlds that readers do not want to leave, ever. Extreme devotees of Austen do not simply enjoy the novels, they want to sit in the living room at Longbourn with the Bennet sisters, drinking tea and analyzing Darcy’s behavior. An entire subliterary genre, the Regency romance, exists to satisfy this desire. The fog-shrouded London of Sherlock Holmes is also enchanted territory, as well as Lewis Carroll’s dreamscapes, and it’s no coincidence that Holmes and Alice have attracted dedicated annotators.
Martin Gardner, decades ago, produced the exemplary “Annotated Alice,” as well as “The Annotated Snark,” recently updated and reissued as “The Annotated Hunting of the Snark.” Leslie S. Klinger, a tax planner with a consuming passion for the world’s greatest detective, recently edited “The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes,” a lavish three-volume edition of the stories and novels with 3,000 notes. Strangely, no comparable cult exists for Dickens and Trollope, despite their popularity, and it’s a safe bet that no reader has ever wanted to inhabit the St. Petersburg of Dostoyevsky.
But what about the old offices of The New York Evening Sun? In “The Annotated Archy and Mehitabel,” Michael Sims has put together a broad sampling of the poems and dispatches allegedly written by a cockroach named Archy for Don Marquis’s column, The Sun Dial. Archy first made his appearance in 1916. Jumping headfirst on a typewriter keyboard after hours, he banged out short notes, poems, strange rants and little tales of life in the office after hours, when the lights went out and assorted insects gathered round for a bit of conversation. Sometimes Mehitabel, an alley cat claiming to be the reincarnation of Cleopatra, appeared on the scene to spin her own tales of life and love on the streets. Their world is as inviting to me as Jane Austen’s Hampshire.
Marquis and his little friend breathed the same rarefied comic air as Krazy Kat and W. C. Fields. Newspaper humor does not usually age well. The great columnists of the 1920s and ’30s, giants like O. O. McIntyre and Franklin P. Adams, are period curiosities today, but Archy stands tall, a wickedly funny, philosophical wiseguy with a brilliant command of pungent American slang.
I refer readers unfamiliar with the brilliant bug to his account of an interview with a mummified pharaoh at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The conversation is an exchange of preposterous salutations, with Archy addressing the mummy as “my regal leatherface,” “my imperial pretzel” and “imperial fritter,” and the mummy responding in kind. “Greetings, little scatter-footed scarab,” the mummy begins, a warm-up to “my little pest” and “my scampering whiffle snoot.” No footnotes required, really, just an ear.
Mr. Sims annotates lightly, explaining topical references. His main textual contribution is putting Archy’s columns in proper chronological order and using the original newspaper versions.
A note can be a dangerous thing. Consider “The Annotated Lolita,” a steady seller ever since it was first published in 1970. Alfred Appel Jr., a worshipful Nabokovian, plods through the text, explaining what, in most cases, needs no explanation. Unwittingly he does an uncanny impression of Charles Kinbote, the mad annotator whose scholarly notes take over the narrative poem in Nabokov’s “Pale Fire” like a parasite consuming its host.
Nabokov, as it happens, went on to perform an Olympian feat of annotation in his mammoth translation of “Eugene Onegin,” with three volumes of notes to one of text. Many of the notes address precisely the kind of questions that “The Annotated Pride and Prejudice” deals with. For anyone curious about the rules of engagement when Lensky and Onegin face off in their duel, Nabokov goes into all the details.
Readers who complete “The Annotated Pride and Prejudice” have a leg up when tackling “So You Think You Know Jane Austen?” This challenging quiz book, intended for professional-grade Austen readers only, arranges questions, in four ascending levels of difficulty for each novel. Some questions are short, factual and to the point, like “How old is Darcy?” (The answer is 28.) Others require interpretation. Why, for instance, does Wickham elope with Lydia, since he is a mercenary cad and she has no fortune? The authors, John Sutherland and Deirdre Le Faye, need more than a page to answer this one.
The Austen quiz is great fun, to use a word that Austen would not approve. There should be one for every author in the canon, but at the moment, the only companion is “So You Think You Know Thomas Hardy?” If there’s anything in there about furze, I am ready.
Want more?

Here's a link to a few of the questions in So You Think You Know Jane Austen? and here's a list of the books mentioned in the article.

Greek History 101... Hollywood Style

The Guardian discusses Hollywood's depiction of Greek history as 300 opens in theaters.

More Monet

The Guardian gives us a glimpse into Monet's pastels and drawings. Remember that this show will be making its way to the States and you can see these works for yourself in Williamstown come summer.

And jump back to this article to read more about Monet's "enchantments of air and water."

Come In for a Free Faith Lift

The Guardian hunts for the best (or worst) wayside pulpit puns.
A few that made the list:
  • Come in for a free faith lift.
  • Fight truth decay.
  • Ch__ch - What's missing? UR
For those of you who'd like to try your hand at a slogan, I direct you to the Church Sign Generator.

Subversive Fairy Tales

There's been news going around of children's books that are being put in Britain out to emphasize positive representations of gay people... naturally, this was met with extreme opposition by conservative people, and particularly parents who are worried that their children will then feel like they might want to try out same-sex lifestyles. This Guardian book blog hits the right note to say that if parents are worried that their kids might (gasp!) feel like they can actually be free to find out who they are, then perhaps those parents might consider all the bad messages that are already out there in children's books and fairy tales.

Such a crybaby...

The Guardian book blogs ask, which books are sure to turn you into a blubbering mess?


Getting More Women on Op-Ed Pages

From the NY Times:
Whatever other reasons may explain the lack of women's voices on the nation's op-ed pages, the lack of women asking to be there is clearly part of the problem. Many opinion page editors at major newspapers across the country say that 65 or 75 percent of unsolicited manuscripts, or more, come from men.
The obvious solution, at least to Catherine Orenstein, an author, activist and occasional op-ed page contributor herself, was to get more women to submit essays. To that end Ms. Orenstein has been training women at universities, foundations and corporations to write essays and get them published.
Read the whole article here.


Blooker Shortlist

The BBC gives you the Blooker shortlist.

And now, the Times comments on Blook, son of Blog...

And now, more on blogs in the LA Times... Can the blog reshape journalism?

Option now, pay later

From the LA Times:
Author Jonathan Lethem, who has sold film options for several novels but has never seen one turned into a movie, has come up with a new twist: He's offering a film option for his newest novel, "You Don't Love Me Yet," to a filmmaker who agrees to pay Lethem 2% of the production budget when the film finds a distributor.
Ordinarily, authors sell the film options to their books before production begins
.Read the whole article here.

Russia Displays Looted German Treasure

That's... pretty much it.

Funky Tut

King Tut will be making an appearance in London this November and for a decent-sized sum, you can see all the glittering splendor for yourself.


Nothing Stranger than Non-fiction

The Independent discusses the nominees for Oddest Book Title of the Year:
They are not the kind of titles that are likely to top the books bestseller charts. But half a dozen bizarre tomes including a guide to stray shopping trolleys and a history of a Coventry ice-cream business may win their 15 minutes of fame as contenders for the Oddest Book Title of the Year.
The competition, which has been run by The Bookseller magazine since 1978, invites publishers, booksellers and libraries to submit their choices of the strange and odd.
Read the whole article here.

Winterson Novel "Left at Station"

A copy of an unpublished novel by Jeanette Winterson was discovered at a London Underground station. The Stone Gods is due to be published in September, but a young woman discovered the manuscript on a bench in the Underground station. It was mistakenly left by a Penguin employee.

Desai Wins Again

This time, Kiran Desai's Inheritance of Loss has picked up the National Book Critics Circle fiction award.

It's going to take some serious elbow grease...

Many, many thanks to m for this link...

Priests to Purify Mayan Site After Bush Visit.


When a narrative voice becomes your own...

The Guardian book blogs discuss when narrative voices attack.

Boys! Boys! Boys!

From the Guardian:
'I must admit, Sue, he's the dishiest thing for miles." "Yeah - and we haven't a hope of even speaking to him. You've got a steady boy and let's face it, I'm not exactly the most glamorous thing since Lynsey de Paul."
Sue really should have a little more faith. Within a few moments, Terry, best friend of square-jawed dish Ben, has crossed the curiously psychedelic disco in which they are loitering with a proposition. "I feel a twit ... but, well, my mate's on the shy side and he'd like to ask you to dance. Would you mind?"
It's an odd little tale of girl meets boy, girl discovers that boy only asked her out because he fancies her sister, girl is asked out by boy's best mate who - who knew? - has fancied her all along. ("I don't know whether we'll work out or not together, Terry. But you're kind, and gentle and nice, and maybe you can help fill the empty ache in my heart ... Maybe ...") It is short, unlikely and utterly banal, and yet in its own way rather gripping - a moving little melodrama conveyed in three short pages of speech bubbles and thought balloons.
Terry, Sue and Ben appeared in Jackie magazine on May 17 1975, the racier heirs to a genre established by the naughty boarding-school inmates and ballet-dancing heroines in the pages of Bunty and Romeo in the 1950s and 60s. And yet they, too, were a doomed breed. By the early 1980s, teenage girls wanted their cartoon-strip fiction in photos rather than drawings, and these glamorous, coltish young women, with their long-lashed eyes and gravity-defying breasts, made way for doughy teenagers with bubble perms photographed in their own clothes in suburban front rooms.
This romp through 40 years of adolescent girls' obsessions - ballet, boys and best friends - is captured in a new exhibition at the Proud Gallery in London, featuring picture and photo stories from publisher DC Thomson's stable of now-deceased teen girl magazines: Bunty, Romeo, Jackie, Patches, Blue Jeans. It features tales of spirited Scottish schoolgirls masquerading as obscure European princesses to attend the coronation, and blonde shopgirls who hide Donny Osmond in their boutique so he can escape crowds of fans, and spotty sixth-formers resentful because the new girl in school has stolen their best mate. But really, of course, it's about teenage girls - how vastly they changed over 50 years, and how profoundly they remained the same.
So if you're in London, enjoy the exhibit... if not, keep reading the article and just image that you were there.

Philip Pullman & the Butterfly Tattoo

From the Guardian:
Philip Pullman may have hit Hollywood paydirt by selling the rights to the His Dark Materials trilogy to New Line Cinema - but it seems his interest in film goes beyond the bottom line.
According to the Independent's Pandora, the author has awarded the film rights to an earlier novel, The Butterfly Tattoo, free of charge to a small independent Dutch company that promotes educational projects for young people. Dynamic Entertainment now has the option to adapt the book, in exchange for 10% of any eventual revenues. Filming is expected to begin in August.
Read the whole article here.

My only remaining question is when oh when will someone make the Sally Lockhart books into a movie? (Or several movies?) I loved those long before His Dark Materials came out. In fact, I started reading The Golden Compass and then set it aside because it was so unlike the Sally Lockhart books... I only picked GC up again (and the others in its series) when I went to Oxford because Pullman is an alum of Exeter College, where I studied. Anyway... go see the movie and cheers to Pullman for this intriguing venture.


The Louvre Abu Dhabi

More discussion and more pictures from the NY Times about the new museum.

The Tale of Harry Potter and the Naked Role

The frenzy finally comes across the pond.

Hatred for Deepak Chopra

From the Independent:
Different things spark off migraines in different people. An allergy to the smell of onions. A sharp strike to the temple with a refrigerated dessert-spoon. Kryptonite. That sort of thing.
For me, flickering vision and an abrupt and piercingly painful torsion of the optic nerve are the infallible signs of having received a press release announcing a new book by Mitch Albom, Paolo Coehlo or Deepak Chopra.
I have a conviction, perhaps irrational, but no less deeply felt than the Pope’s belief in a benevolent and omnipotent God, that anyone who goes for this kind of tree-hugging hippie crap is a morally and intellectually defective human being.
I might not agree with it all, but you can read the whole article here.

Jean Baudrillard

Jean Baudrillard died yesterday in Paris at the age of 77. Here's his obituary in the NY Times.


Wikipedia's Fictional Side

The NY Times discusses the Wikinovel.

Short Does Not Equal Shallow

Story stories often get the short straw when compared to novels, but lately, very short stories are enjoying some time in the sun -- and not unwarranted time, either, because it will probably take you longer to unpack the story than it did to read it. Read about it in the Guardian book blogs.

Books Ending Badly

The Guardian asks Richard Gwyn for his top ten list of books that end badly.

Authors, Now Playing

The NY Times reports on authors finding audiences in podcasts.

Publish or Be Damned

In the Guardian, Stephen Page argues that in this digital age, the relationship between authors and editors is even more important than ever.

Misery Makes Millions

"Misery literature" has become the book world's most lucrative sector.

Confessions of a Book Abuser

An essay from the NY Times by Ben Schott:
I have to admit I was flattered when, returning to my hotel room on the shores of Lake Como, a beautiful Italian chambermaid took my hand. I knew that the hotel was noted for the attentiveness of its staff. Surely, though, such boldness elevated room service to a new level. Escorting me to the edge of the crisply made bed, the chambermaid pointed to a book on my bedside table. ''Does this belong to you?'' she asked. I looked down to see a dog-eared copy of Evelyn Waugh's ''Vile Bodies'' open spread-eagle, its cracked spine facing out. ''Yes,'' I replied. ''Sir, that is no way to treat a book!'' she declared, stalking out of the room.
I appreciate the chambermaid's point of view -- and I admire how she expressed it. Yet I profoundly disagree. While the ideas expressed in even the vilest of books are worthy of protection, I find it difficult to respect books as objects, and see no harm whatsoever in abusing them.
There are, of course, some important exceptions: rare books or those of historical interest, books with fine binding or elegant illustrations, unpurchased books in bookshops, and books belonging to other people or to libraries. All of these I treat with a care and consideration that I would not dream of bestowing on the average mass-produced paperback. Once a book is mine, I see no reason to read it with kid gloves. And if you have ever seen a printing press disgorge best sellers at 20,000 copies an hour, you might be tempted to agree. It is the content of books that counts, not the books themselves -- no matter how well they furnish a room.
Indeed, the ability of books to survive abuse is one of the reasons they are such remarkable objects, elevated far beyond, say, Web sites. One cannot borrow a Web site from a friend and not return it for years. One cannot, yet, fold a Web site into one's back pocket, nor drop a Web site into the bath. One cannot write comments, corrections or shopping lists on Web sites only to rediscover them (indecipherable) years later. One cannot besmear a Web site with suntan-lotioned fingers, nor lodge sand between its pages. One cannot secure a wobbly table with a slim Web site, nor use one to crush an unsuspecting mosquito. And, one cannot hurl a Web site against a wall in outrage, horror or ennui. Many chefs I know could relive their culinary triumphs by licking the food-splattered pages of their favorite cookbooks. Try doing that with a flat-screen monitor.
All of these strike me as utterly reasonable fates for a book, even though (and perhaps because) they would horrify a biblioprude and befuddle a Web monkey.
The most rococo act of book abuse is something I have performed only once -- and it is a great deal more difficult than countless movies would have one believe. To excavate a hiding place for valuables within the pages of a thick book takes a sharp scalpel, a strong arm and a surprising amount of patience. I had hoped to cut a hole with the exact outline of the object to be hidden -- not, sadly, a revolver, but something equally asymmetrical. However, slicing page after page with uniform precision proved beyond me, and all I could manage to gouge was a rather forlorn rectangle. (There are some who would tempt fate by stashing their baubles within ''Great Expectations'' or ''Treasure Island.'' I played safe with ''Pride and Prejudice,'' since I had never gotten much further than its eminently quotable first line.)
I also enthusiastically turn down the pages of books as I read them -- so much so that I have developed a personal dog-earing code: folding a top corner marks a temporary page position, while folding a bottom corner marks a page that might be worth revisiting. In both cases, the tip of the fold points toward the relevant passage. Of course, this could be achieved with a ribbon or a bookmark; but so many books are bereft of ribbons, and I have always thought there is something ever so slightly shifty about those who always have a bookmark on hand.
My favorite act of abuse is writing in books -- and, in this at least, I follow in illustrious footsteps. Mathematics would be considerably poorer were it not for the marginalia of Pierre de Fermat, who in 1637 jotted in his copy of the ''Arithmetica'' of Diophantus, ''I have a truly marvelous proof of this proposition that this margin is too narrow to contain.'' This casual act of vandalism kept mathematicians out of trouble for 358 years. (Andrew Wiles finally proved Fermat's Last Theorem in 1995.)
Libraries have an ambivalent attitude to marginalia. On the one hand, they quite properly object to people defacing their property. Cambridge University Library has a chamber of horrors displaying ''marginalia and other crimes,'' including damage done by ''animals, small children and birds,'' not to mention the far from innocuous Post-it note. On the other hand, libraries cannot suppress a flush of pride on acquiring an ancient text ''annotated'' by someone famous. Like graffiti, marginalia acquire respectability through age (and, sometimes, wit).
While I take great delight in marking significant passages, jotting down notes and even doodling in my books, I do draw the line at highlighter pens. One of my schoolmates used to insist on marking the passages he needed to review with a fluorescent pink highlighter. It was gently suggested that, since swaths of his textbooks were smothered in pink, it might be easier to highlight the areas he didn't need to remember. He should have taken this advice, since the pink glop reacted badly with one particularly porous textbook, dissolving all of the type it touched and leaving legible only the irrelevant passages.
I am not unaware that the abuse of books has a dark and dishonorable past. Books have been banned and burned and writers tortured and imprisoned since the earliest days of publishing. While one thinks of such historical nadirs as Savonarola's ''bonfire of the vanities'' and the Nazi pyres of ''un-German'' and ''degenerate'' books, the American Library Association warns that we still live in an era of book burning. Perhaps inevitably, J. K. Rowling's boy wizard is the target of much modern immolation. One group in Lewiston, Me., when denied permission for a pyre by the local fire department, held a ''book cutting'' of ''Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'' instead.
To destroy a book because of its content or the identity of its author is a despicable strangulation of thought. But such acts are utterly distinct from the personal abuse of a book -- and there is no ''slippery slope'' between the two. The businessman who tears off and discards the chunk of John Grisham he has already read before boarding a plane may lack finesse, but he is not a Nazi. Indeed, the publishing industry thinks nothing of pulping millions of unsold (or libelous) books each year. And there was no outcry in 2003 when 2.5 million romance novels from the publisher Mills & Boon were buried to form the noise-reducing foundation of a motorway extension in Manchester, England. It is notable that those who abuse their own books through manhandling or marginalia are often those who love books best. And surely the dystopia of ''Fahrenheit 451'' is more likely avoided through the loving abuse of books than through their sterile reverence. Not that I expect the chambermaid to agree.
That was the whole essay, but here's the link.

Weekend in New York Photo Scavenger Hunt

From the NY Times:
One reason people visit New York is to catch a glimpse of things they'd never see in the average American city. Some such sights are mystifying, some charming, some jaw-dropping — and some are even legal.
This week, Weekend in New York offers a photo scavenger hunt, in which you (working alone or in a group) seek out scenes and objects intrinsically New York and capture them with your camera. The hunt could be the centerpiece of your weekend, but also could serve as just a way to enhance your downtime as you wander from restaurant to park to museum, observing the natives in their natural habitat.
If competing against others, award two points to the team that does the best in each category, and one point to anyone coming in a reasonably close second. Or, if you're playing alone, just award a whole bunch of points to your own team and declare yourself the winner.
Read the rest of the article and learn the rules here.

Patagonia in a New Light

Mmm... Patagonia. Definitely on my shortlist of places to visit before I die.
This image from the NY Times article: "The Hosteria Pehoe glows on the shores of a small island in Pehoe Lake in Torres del Paine National Park."


Mistaken Invasion

Yesterday, the Swiss mistakenly invaded Liechtenstein.

Read about it in the Guardian here and here.


Hooking Up...

The NY Times discusses Laura Sessions and her book about "the damaging effects of 'hooking up.'" Thankfully, it also discusses how ridiculous she is, too.
To critics, the book, which was published on Feb. 15, is an odd throwback -- not only retro in its point of view, but also out of sync with the current climate of high-achieving girls who are usually applauded for focusing on their careers and their female friends, rather than on finding Mr. Right.
Salon.com likened ''Unhooked'' to a ''50s-style handbook on appropriate femininity.'' Slate magazine said it is alarmist and ''makes sex into a bigger, scarier and more dangerous thing than it already is.'' A review in The Washington Post by Kathy Dobie, the author of ''The Only Girl in the Car,'' said that Ms. Sessions Stepp ''resurrects the ugly, old notion of sex as something a female gives in return for a male's good behavior.''
Many of the critics do not question that hooking up is common in the age group that Ms. Sessions Stepp singles out. In fact, while studies show that fewer teenagers are having sex, other studies of students at individual universities show that the hookup is the predominant way that students sexually interact.
But no studies draw a line between the hookup culture and either clinical depression or a lifetime of remaining single, the critics point out.
Read the whole article here.

Auden the Spy?

Well, not really. But MI5 evidently thought that Auden helped two Cambridge spies escape capture.

New Rough Guides Site

Rough Guides has updated its website -- and to celebrate, a few perks:


World Book Day Poll

And so, the numbers are in. A poll for World Book Day asked people to rate the top 100 books. Here's the top ten... apologies if your favorites didn't make the cut.
1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien
3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. (a tie) Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
8. (a tie) His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
Check here for the article and here for the complete list.

Former Soho Stripper Scoops Literary Prize

Really, it's just a good headline.

Librarian's Guide to New York

Check it out.

Thanks, m, for the link.