Friday, October 31, 2008

studs terkel (1912 - 2008)

Studs then asked the doctor, "How long do you give me?"

"I'll give you to 99," said the doctor.

"That's too long," said Terkel. "I think I want a nice round figure, like 95."

Studs Terkel died today at 96.

everything I do's gotta be ingenious, blah, blah, blah, blah

Rolling Stone has posted David Lipsky's recent profile of David Foster Wallace.

He was six-feet-two, and on a good day he weighed 200 pounds. He wore granny glasses with a head scarf, points knotted at the back, a look that was both pirate-like and housewife-ish. He always wore his hair long. He had dark eyes, soft voice, caveman chin, a lovely, peak-lipped mouth that was his best feature. He walked with an ex-athlete's saunter, a roll from the heels, as if anything physical was a pleasure. David Foster Wallace worked surprising turns on nearly everything: novels, journalism, vacation. His life was an information hunt, collecting hows and whys. "I received 500,000 discrete bits of information today," he once said, "of which maybe 25 are important. My job is to make some sense of it." He wanted to write "stuff about what it feels like to live. Instead of being a relief from what it feels like to live." Readers curled up in the nooks and clearings of his style: his comedy, his brilliance, his humaneness.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

free esha

Click here to learn more about what you can do to help American graduate student Esha Momeni, who has been arrested in Iran while doing research on the Iranian women's movement.

An American graduate student doing research on her master’s thesis in Iran has been arrested and is being held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, where she is at risk of torture and other ill treatment, Amnesty International reported.

The student, Esha Momeni, who is enrolled in the School of Communications, Media, and Arts at California State University at Northridge, traveled to Iran two months ago to visit her family and to do research on her thesis project, a video documentary of the Iranian women’s movement.

On October 15, Ms. Momeni was stopped while driving in Tehran by people identifying themselves as undercover traffic-police officers. They said they were arresting her on suspicion of a traffic offense, and then took her to her parents’ home, which they searched. They seized her laptop and video footage of the interviews she had conducted. She was taken to the section of Evin Prison run by the Ministry of Intelligence.

Ms. Momeni, who was born in Los Angeles, has not been charged with any offense. Her family members were told she would be released quickly if they did not make her arrest public. But when they were not allowed to visit her and were told that no details of her case would be revealed until an investigation was completed, they went public.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

sunday short stack special election edition

"Our imagination is the only limit to what we can hope to have in the future." - Charles F. Kettering

sunday short stack

"I hope that when I die, people say about me, 'Boy, that guy sure owed me a lot of money.'"
- Jack Handey

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

married with children

lesson: never label anything 'botched crime story'

An unpublished work by Stanislaw Lem has been discovered, a "quasi-opera" Lem had been trying to find for decades.

Lem mentioned the missing piece in numerous interviews, including those given to Stanisław Bereś and Tomasz Fijałkowski. 'We've turned everything upside down here. I still hope it surfaces somewhere', Lem told Bereś.

Also the writer's secretary, Wojciech Zemek, for years searched for the piece. 'From time to time Mr Lem would ask me whether I'd already found it, and I'd reply regretfully that I hadn't', remembers Mr Zemek. 'And yet I held the folder containing it so many times in my hands!'

The folder, an old-style grey cardboard, ribbon-tied folder, was inscribed 'Botched crime story' and contained an unfinished Raymond Chandler-style crime novel that Lem started writing in the mid-1950s. It has now turned out he used that typescript to create a hiding place so perfect the text went missing for five decades - he simply slid the Stalin opera between the pages of the crime novel typescript.

'I always knew that every one of Lem's pieces has a second bottom - even a botched crime story can hide an opera about Stalin!', commented Mr Zemek.

Via 3qd

Sunday, October 19, 2008

sunday short stack

"For three days after death hair and fingernails continue to grow but phone calls taper off." - Johnny Carson

Friday, October 17, 2008

while letterman might be a big fan of santa...

...I don't get the feeling he's hoarding the love for Palin.

Awesome fake laugh alert at 2:44

Whatever...I like this guy:

Here's to being a little too awesome.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

without secrecy, nothing is possible

Did a young Milan Kundera play informer for the Czech police?

The allegations could diminish Mr. Kundera’s moral stature as a spokesman, however enigmatic, against totalitarianism’s corrosion of daily life.

The reclusive Mr. Kundera vehemently denied the account.

“I object in the strongest manner to these accusations, which are pure lies,” he said in a statement released by his French publisher, Gallimard.

In a rare interview on Monday with the Czech CTK news agency, Mr. Kundera also accused the news media of committing “the assassination of an author.”

The story is the most dramatic recent episode in Eastern Europe’s fitful reckoning with its Communist past, an era that Czechs, with their soft Velvet Revolution against the Soviet system, have been loath to explore deeply.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

sunday short stack

"A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking." - Jerry Seinfeld

Thursday, October 09, 2008

the salinger rumor was a fake out

Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio has won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

they too are compleatly malnecessarry

M. Webster's New "Dictionary" Shall Burden Us with a Tyranny of Words

absolutely nothing to get alarmed about

Don't let Bruce Weber write my obituary:

Charles Wright, who wrote three autobiographical novels about black street life in New York City between 1963 and 1973 that seemed to herald the rise of an important literary talent but who vanished into alcoholism and despair and never published another book, died on Oct. 1 in Manhattan. He was 76 and lived in the East Village.

That hurts. You can get all three books in one volume here.

Monday, October 06, 2008

edwardians in colour

The Telegraph has amazing photos from Albert Kahn's attempts to create "a photographic inventory of the planet as it is inhabited and managed by humanity at the beginning of the 20th century."

the centre cannot hold

Last week, a Nobel Prize judge obnoxiously deemed all American literature to be "too isolated, too insular" to "really participate in the big dialogue of literature."

American writers were "too sensitive to trends in their own mass culture," he told the Associated Press. "Of course there is powerful literature in all big cultures, but you can't get away from the fact that Europe still is the centre of the literary world."

Literary cruise missiles immediately blasted off from the United States. "Put him in touch with me and I'll send him a reading list," said Harold Augenbraum, executive director of the US National Book Foundation.

David Remnick, editor of The New Yorker magazine, suggested it was the Swedish Academy which had been convicted by literary history of ignorance and bad taste. Some of the greatest, and most admired, writers of the past century were denied the Nobel Prize, he said – including several Europeans.

"You would think that the permanent secretary of an academy that pretends to wisdom but has historically overlooked Proust, Joyce and Nabokov, to name just a few non-Nobelists, would spare us the categorical lectures," he said.

However, in an intriguing twist, Gawker reported the following from a "tipster": "I work for PEN in Britain, and there is a rumour here that [the above comments are] an attempt to cover up J.D. Salinger's being on the shortlist for this year's Nobel."

The winner of the 2008 Nobel Prize for Literature will be announced this Thursday.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

sunday short stack

"What you risk reveals what you value."
- Jeanette Winterson

Friday, October 03, 2008

look, shiny object!

From the Lol folks, Pundit Kitchen takes on Election '08 and the world. I've seen this one out and about, but I love it more every day.

tried to run from my distraction

Pearl Jam's Stone Gossard does his best Prince.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

some pre-debate palin links

Is it too much to hope this is her last day as a nominee? It is, isn't it?

I'm sure this doesn't even scratch the surface, but I'm cleaning out my bookmarks.

parsing poppycock

At Slate, a grammarian tries to parse Sarah Palin's sentences:

Granted, diagramming usually deals with written English. We don't expect speech to reach the heights of eloquence or even lucidity that the written word is capable of. In our world, politicians don't do much writing: Their preferred communication is the canned speech. But they're also forced, from time to time, to answer questions, and their answers often resemble the rambling nonsense, obfuscation, and grammatical insanity that many of us would produce when put on the spot.

Yet surely, more than most of us, politicians need to be able to think on their feet, to have a brain that works quickly and rationally under pressure. Do we really want to be led by someone who, when asked a straightforward question, flails around like an undergraduate who stayed up all night boozing instead of studying for the exam?

west hollywood book fair

Days later, I am posting photos from the West Hollywood Book Fair. (I'm using the excuse that school started this week.)

Tents abound

I was trying to show the presence of the park underneath the festival. (Note the basketball hoop in the background.)

No idea.


“Not So Secret Agent: Literary Agents Speak” Panel

“The Changing Face of Book Culture in Los Angeles” Panel

Carolyn Kellogg and Erika Schikel

David Ulin, Louise Steinman, Andrew Tonkovich

I think the LA Times Festival of Books needs couches.

No idea.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

52 books in 52 weeks

20. Best of the Web 2008

This first entry in a new series from Dzanc Books features the best fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction appearing in the wide wide world of web in 2007 (according to series editor Nathan Leslie). My LA Times review is here.

21. Tin House: Fantastic Women

This 2007 special issue of Tin House features women writers who are fantastic both in style and content. Including many of the writers from the Women of the Slipstream panel at this year's Festival of Books, the collection can serve as a valuable introduction to the "genre" that resists characterization or a sweet indulgence in other worlds.

22. Dirty Snow by Georges Simenon

It's been awhile since I've read something so bleak and misanthropic, and I forgot how much I love books like this. Even though the second half of this story of soullessness under German occupation didn't satisfy, the atmosphere is irresistible. Stabbed a man in undetermined European country just to see him die.

23. My Sister, My Love: The Intimate Story of Skyler Rampikeby Joyce Carol Oates

Despite reading lukewarm reviews beforehand, I enjoyed this fictionalization of the Jon Benet Ramsay story. The narrator - brother of the murdered child star - rambles and rambles, but it's part of his charm and makes sense for the character. I am sure the story could have been told more succinctly, but I didn't mind Oates taking her time.

24. A Fraction of the Wholeby Steve Toltz

I can't remember the last time a novel made me laugh out loud so often. Steve Toltz has a gift for observation and a strong sense of narrative pacing. At times, it seems as if an episodic tale is included more because Toltz wanted to share it than have it serve as character or plot development, but there's much joy here.