Happy Banned Book Week

September 29th, 2008 at 6:16 pm

Well, it’s finally here: Banned Book Week.

Sponsored by the American Library Association, Banned Book Week is observed this year from September 27th to October 4th. And while Banned Book Week probably falls somewhere beyond Grandma’s Birthday and Flag Day on the Degree of Celebration Scale, I am reading Bless Me, Ultima in order to partake in the festivities.

Because this isn’t really about banned books, which seem quaint and harmless. It’s about censorship and 1st Amendment Rights and free speech, which strike a far more resonant cord in freedom-loving folk.

In commemoration of Banned Book Week, Time has assembled a nice slide show of the most challenged books of all times:

Squares beware.

Banned Book Week does not currently have the celebratory, festive tradition of a Christmas or Thanksgiving or Fourth of July, but Authwhore thinks that the likes of Voltaire, Mark Twain, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell, J.D. Salinger, and Vladimir Nabokov should make for a really, really smashing good time.

So look for Banned Book Week party recommendations next year. Suggestions welcome and encouraged. We should strive for combining New Year’s Eve, Christmas, and Fourth of July in a week-long orgy akin to Carnival.



Reader’s Delight

September 24th, 2008 at 12:32 pm

While the meteorological and economic industries are facing the grim realities of their professions with hurricanes and financial crises, it is high time to be an armchair publishing quarterback. Because we suffer none of the detriment, we just read about it.

Right?

It is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s birthday today, September 24th.

The Palin-bashing book bandwagon is proving to be ever crowded with each passing day.

Obama is of course left out in the warm with movements like Books4Barack.

Barney Rosset, editor of Grove Press, the publisher of authors such as William S. Burroughs and Henry Miller, will be the subject of a new documentary, Obscene. It’s already in my queue. I haven’t been this excited about a documentary since Helvetica.

Bret Easton Ellis, who is probably the greatest living American writer for my money, better than John Updike, Phillip Roth (whose movie adaptations are doomed), and whoever else, is heading to Broadway with a theatrical interpretation of “American Psycho.” Yes!

Big Brother, I mean Google, is expanding its Book Search capabilities by providing discounts at participating booksellers. So do you pronounce it kew-pawn or coo-pin?

And because the general public is just dying for more Melville, Hollywood will be giving us another adaptation of Moby Dick.

French author, Pierre Pean, is on trial in Paris accused of inciting racial hatred in a book on the Rwandan genocide.

And speaking of lawsuits, The Mountains & Plains Independent Booksellers Association regional trade show held this past weekend in Colorado Springs, the association’s booth featured canvas messenger bags for sale bearing the motto “Reading is Sexy,” blatantly ripping off the brilliant intellectual property of some hack blog.

Which is almost as cruel and cheap as co-opting the title of a song by Sugarhill Gang for a blog post title.

Lazy and Depraved.

We should all be ashamed.



David Foster Wallace is Dead

September 15th, 2008 at 3:08 pm

Author David Foster Wallace, 46, was found dead at home by his wife, having hung himself in the garage.

A writer of “postmodern,” “darkly ironic” tales, David Foster Wallace is best known for his 1,079-page novel Infinite Jest. I’ve only read the abridged, illustrated version.*

But I did read Wallace’s collection of short stories, A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again. The titular thing is cruising. I read it prior to going on a cruise myself. Beyond Wallace’s signature barrage of endless footnotes, which I found mostly distracting, he suffered from mild agoraphobia and therefore confined himself to his tiny cabin, missing about 85% of the obnoxious excess that makes a cruise worthwhile.

While I don’t have anything more intelligent to say about David Foster Wallace that you can find by Googleing his name right now, I do mourn his loss and find comfort in imagining a lively discussion in Hell between him, Arthur C. Clarke, and Norman Mailer.

I’m sure they’re looking down hoping we vote for Obama.

*To the best of the authwhore’s knowledge, an abridged, illustrated version of Infinite Jest does not exist.



Black Belt Patriotism

September 11th, 2008 at 5:41 pm

Chuck Norris is set to release Black Belt Patriotism.  The book is, apparently, the Chuck Norris plan for getting the nation back on track.

 

At first I was skeptical that there would be a market for such a book, what with the flood of similar books on the market – written by any number of folks who might be better suited to present such lofty ideas.  Upon further reflection, I realized that Chuck Norris is as well experienced as our current president to speak on such matters.  He as acted like he is tough on crime, he has pretended to win wars and has simulated going after terrorists.  With consideration, I think this book will equal anything ghost written under George W. Bush’s name.

 

 

I will have to, at least, thumb through this roadmap of reform – if only to be sure there are chapters titled:

 

Judo Chop National Debt

 

Side Kick Pork Barrel Spending

 

Throw a Roundhouse Punch at the Welfare System

 

Give the National Budget a Total Body Work Out

 

 

For me, the rest of the book can be crap.  There had better some good leads, that is all I am hoping for…



The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon

September 9th, 2008 at 6:33 am

The Yiddish Policemen\'s Union by Michael Chabon

Somewhere between Jonathan Safran Foer and Philip Roth is Michael Chabon. With Chaim Potok a great uncle to them all.

And that man in the middle, Michael Chabon, has written one hell of a fine story with The Yiddish Policemen’s Union. It most certainly deserves the shiny metal penis that it has won.

It won that shiny metal penis, an award for achievement in science fiction, because, as the jacket copy informs us, “For sixty years, Jewish refugees and their descendants have prospered in the Federal District of Sitka, a “temporary” safe haven created in the wake of revelations of the Holocaust and the shocking 1948 collapse of the fledgling state of Israel.”

Genre-wise, that’s alternate history. And The Yiddish Policemen’s Union is also a mystery. And a hardboiled detective noir crime story. Which Michael Chabon would be perturbed that I’m even mentioning. Why must “genre” fiction be isolated and differentiated? So I’ll focus on the fact that while this book is indeed a brilliant alternate history and hardboiled detective mystery, it is most of all one hell of an entertaining tale. The short chapters usually end with cliffhangers and the in-between is full of turning plot points and suspense and revelations and action and raising stakes.

Never short of creativity and imagination, Chabon takes us into an underworld of black hat sects, a society of Jewish mobsters. It felt to me like Cormac McCarthy, but instead of cowboys, Jews. And yids, shuls, ganefs, platzs, latkes, rebbes, biks, gabays, nozs, and shammes.

Alaskan terrain serves as an apt metaphor for the bleak, unfortunate history of persecution and hardship of the Jewish people while their survival in such difficulty is a testament to the Jewish sturdy spirit and survival mentality. And “reversion” serves as a metaphor for continued plight and persecution.

And these Jews are fierce!:

“High, narrow forehead, black eyes hard as a couple of stones left on a grave marker. He has concealed his girlish mouth in the manly bloom of a King Solomon beard, fitted with careful streaks of gray to suggest maturity. The sidelocks hang limp and orderly. He has the air of a self-denier, but his clothes betray the old Verbover love of flash. His calves are plump and muscular in their silk garters and white hose. He keeps his long feet encased in brushed black velveteen slippers. The frock coat looks fresh from the bespoke needle of Moses and Sons on Asch Street. Only the plain knit skullcap has a modest air. Underneath it, his brush-cut hair glints like the business end of a paint-stripping rotor. His face displays no trace of wariness, but Landsman can see where wariness has been carefully erased.”

And Chabon, unable to help himself, proves to be quite funny as well:

“Rabbi Heskel Shpilman is a deformed mountain, a giant ruined dessert, a cartoon house with the windows shut and the sink left running. A little kid lumped him together, a mob of kids, blind orphans who never laid eyes on a man. They clumped the dough of his arms and legs to the dough of his body, then jammed his head down on top. A millionaire could cover a Rolls-Royce with the fine black silk-and-velvet expanse of the rebbe’s frock coat and trousers. It would require the brain strength of the eighteen greatest sages in history to reason through the arguments against and in favor of classifying the rebbe’s massive bottom as either a creature of the deep, a man-made structure, or an unavoidable act of God. If he stands up, or if he sits down, it doesn’t make any difference in what you see.”

Michael Chabon may very well be the Stanley Kubrick of book writing, an auteur so at the height of his powers that each of his works is distinct and very different, yet each one carries with it a palpable style that is uniquely his own.

And cloaked in the genre of 40s noir and hardboiled detective mysteries and the content of orthodox Jews, Chabon sneaks in some topical issues and current events as the murder our protagonist-detective has spent the first three quarters of the book trying to solve starts to evolve into a global plot to secure a homeland in Jerusalem:

“Because they think the idea of a bunch of crazy yids running around Arab Palestine, blowing up shrines and following Messiahs and starting World War Three is a really good idea.”
“They’re just as crazy, Bina. You know they are. Maybe they’re hoping for World War Three. Maybe they want to crank up a new Crusade. Maybe they think if they do this thing, it will make Jesus come back. Or maybe it has nothing to do with any of that, and it’s all really about oil, you know, securing their supply of the stuff once and for all. I don’t know.”

Depending on your perspective, Chabon’s topical descent into Jews vs. Palestinians and terrorism and oil with feel either clunky and forced or brilliant and fresh.

I, for one, am always in the mood for a good Texas joke:

“I don’t know much about Palestine,” Spade says. “I’m from Lubbock. My wife is from Nacogdoches, though, and that’s only about forty miles from Palestine.”



Tropic Thunder Protests – Retarded

September 7th, 2008 at 8:51 am

 


All of those protests by/for the folks with “developmental opportunities” against the movie Tropic Thunder were retarded.

 

Really.

 

I saw the movie a couple weeks back.  I am still giggling about parts of it.  I am amazed that more groups didn’t feel the need to protest the film.  I am kinda left thinking that some overly opportunistic organizer for a retard rights group put everybody up to the marching and interviews.

 

Tropic Thunder doesn’t pull many punches, when it comes to making folks look dumb – not just the retards.  It makes Jewish business men look pretty ugly, in one of Tom Cruise’s best performances to date.  There is the white guy, Robert Downey, playing and Australian who is playing a black guy – an effort which might have pissed of the NAACP and Russel Crowe.  Frankly, I am surprised that SAG actors wanted to be in the film because it makes you think that they might generally be outwitted by retards.

 

Tropic Thunder is offensive in the same way that Blazing Saddles was offensive.  It sets out to make every character an extreme caricature, pulling out the shitty slime that exists in all of our stomachs and showcasing it for amusement. 

 

In fact, the only character in the whole movie that does not get made into a contemptible ass is the retarded kid.

 

Tropic Thunder is funny.

It is a comedy.

There is no need to over-think the story.

There is no need to be retarded about it.



The Gonzo Tapes: Hunter S. Thompson Stuff, More

September 4th, 2008 at 6:51 am

However much I pride and shame myself for fixating on HST, news of The Gonzo Tapes came to me via Selena, who must be consuming far more pure mescaline than I.

In the Hunter S. Thompson estate’s never ending quest to rival Peanuts, The Simpsons, and Hillary Duff in product commercialization, there will now be The Gonzo Tapes, digital re-masters of Thompson’s personal recordings. They braved the scorpions and gunpowder in HST’s basement and emerged with what will surely prove to be rare and special commentary from one of America’s finest writers and journalists. We can’t listen to Walt Whitman sculpting Leaves of Grass. We can’t listen to F. Scott Fitzgerald musing on his day-to-day consumption. But we’ve got the Good Doc.

The package will be ready for  slaughter, I mean market, with artwork by Ralph Steadman, an introduction, and notes.

The Gonzo Tapes are scheduled to be available in stores October 28.

The Hunter S. Thompson bobble head will go on sale November 16.

The lunch boxes and backpacks will be released December 1.

The Hunter S. Thompson-endorsed aviator sunglasses and cigarette holders will be available sometime in mid December.

An anniversary Las Vegas visor is set to be released sometime in the Spring.

If you know the right people, the Hunter S. Thompson-approved ether has always been available.

Eventually, Sotheby’s will auction off his guns.



The Sept. 1, 2008 New Yorker Cover is Shallow and Reprehensible

September 2nd, 2008 at 1:00 pm

Object of Desire by Ana Juan Sept. 1, 2008 New Yorker Cover

The image is “Object of Desire” by Ana Juan and adorns the Style Issue, that sartorially themed edition in which the New Yorker inflates to InStyle-like proportions, weighed down by a glut of ads from the likes of Prada, Saks Fifth Avenue, Banana Republic, Gucci, Rolex, American Express, Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabanna, and Cartier.

Typically lending her services to the illustration of children’s books, Ana Juan here provides her mastery of subtlety by showing us a cat eyeing a feathery, canary-like shoe inside of a birdcage. Object of desire. Get it?

Heavy-handed enough for you?

I haven’t been this disappointed in the cover of a periodical since the August 25, 2008 Newsweek.

Newsweek

What Bush got right? I had expected to open the magazine up to find blank pages.

Anyone not outrageously offended by the New Yorker’s poorly timed usage of Ana Juan’s “Object of Desire” for their cover has clearly not read Dana Thomas’s Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster.

Maybe next week’s New Yorker cover will be a hurricane joke.