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Hmmmm (IV): Hmmm, indeed.

Literary Snobs

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May 22, 2011, 10:49am Top

American politician and walking punchline Michele "Crazypants" Bachmann misquotes both the Scriptures and John Adams:


One has to respect the talent to misquote multiple sources. Shine on, ya crazy diamond.

May 27, 2011, 11:01pm Top

Jun 1, 2011, 10:04am Top

Jun 1, 2011, 12:19pm Top

3: Saskatchewan is the dramatic pause between Ontario and British Columbia.

Jun 3, 2011, 2:07pm Top

Some lovely editions of Evelyn Waugh available through Abebooks:


Jun 3, 2011, 4:03pm Top

5: Those are pretty editions. Hmmm, indeed. The recent reprints have illustrations that preserve that same spirit.

Jun 7, 2011, 10:05am Top

Jun 7, 2011, 11:00am Top

This is based on the assumption that floor to ceiling books is a bad thing. That attitude sounds more American than Canadian.

Jun 7, 2011, 1:03pm Top

I don't get why they've considered burning them. Can't they give them to goodwill? or sell a lot containing 350,000 unsorted books on ebay?

Edited: Jun 7, 2011, 2:10pm Top

But someone still has to sort them...box them up and mail 'em, once they're sold.

Jun 7, 2011, 3:59pm Top

Last summer, a distant relative died and I was left with the task of dealing with his accumulation of books. !5,000 books, when boxed, needed two trips with a U-Haul cube van to move. Although all the books could probably have been crammed in the van in one trip, the weight of the boxes necessitated two trips.

After loading them onto the truck, unloading, sorting, reboxing and then taking the unwanted to various charity/goodwill shops, I spent over fifty hours on the damned things. And that was only for 15,000. I don't even want to imagine the space, time and money it would take for 350,000 - all for the vague hope that there might be something of value. It is more likely like there would be thousands of old cookbooks, guides for fad diets from the 50s and 60s, memoirs penned by long-forgotten celebrities and politicians (you know, that local T.V. anchor or state politician from the 70s), as well as outdated science and pop psychology texts. Here on LT it's easy to forget, especially when browsing the more "snobbish" libraries, just how many "time-sensitive" books are produced each year. They often end up in the possession of compulsive book hoarders - especially when they're priced so low by people desperate to unload them.

Jun 7, 2011, 4:31pm Top

Yeah, I think there should be a better differentiation (in the article and elsewhere) between a book collector and a hoarder. A book collector is discriminating, disciplined and , for the most part, of sound mind. Hoarding is a type of mental illness and I'm willing to bet a good many of the books in this particular collection fall into the categories my colleague Beardo describes: trashy, out-of-date tomes, READER'S DIGEST "condensed" novels; bought bulk, crammed into whatever space was available.

Jun 7, 2011, 5:09pm Top

12: What's wrong with trashy out-of-date tomes? I enjoy my collection of Erik von Daniken and Victorian smut.

Jun 7, 2011, 5:19pm Top

I fall into the category of trashy and out-of-date

Jun 7, 2011, 5:37pm Top

14: LOL! are you slumming here on this list ... like me????

Jun 7, 2011, 7:54pm Top

How, how, how to get them all to Baltimore?


Jun 7, 2011, 8:58pm Top

15: hehe, just playing around

Jun 7, 2011, 9:01pm Top

16: that place looks awesome

Jun 8, 2011, 12:51am Top

War, famine, poverty, social inequality, sustainability issues and any number of other pressing and legitimate issues confront us. So it is enlightening, if unsurprising, to see that at least one academic hasn't let these real concerns distract him from his pursuit of antisemitic and racist Smurfs. Sheesh.

Jun 8, 2011, 9:05am Top

19: I never knew Ferdinand Celine wrote Gargamel's dialogue?

Jun 8, 2011, 10:02am Top

I have a theory that people who denounce conspiracy theories are part of the conspiracy:


Jun 8, 2011, 12:19pm Top

21: So who put you up to say that? The Illuminati? Freemasons? Knights Templar, Poutine Division, Saskatoon Local 107?

Jun 8, 2011, 12:51pm Top

The article was an interesting read. I used to read Aaronovich regularly when I lived overseas and he's a good writer.

I think the other guy has a point though. Like cartels and monopolies, private groups that wield great power because of their financial holdings are dangerous to the public good. Their meetings are not transparent and it is not a fair assumption that what they decide to do is (using the arguments from the article) either trivial or positive.

One person quoted in the article pointed out that the tendency of such groups as the Bilderburgers is to continue making a fetish out of free market capitalism, this has impacts on public policies and on how people's assumptions are formed. Those who dismiss all disquiet about such things as antisemitic uninformed silliness are not really engaging that side of the issue.

Jun 8, 2011, 3:07pm Top

Any cabal of powerful people is deserving of scrutiny.

Jun 15, 2011, 12:06pm Top

Interesting article on NPR about the Supreme Court justices and what they think about writing.

A key quote (several paras long) that I thought everyone here would enjoy:

"The only good way to learn about writing is to read good writing," says Chief Justice John Roberts.

That sentiment is echoed by Breyer, who points to Proust, Stendhal and Montesquieu as his inspirations. Justice Anthony Kennedy loves Hemingway, Shakespeare, Solzhenitsyn, Dickens and Trollope.

Justice Thomas says a good legal brief reminds him of the TV show 24. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg says one of the great influences on her writing was her European literature professor at Cornell, Vladimir Nabokov — yes, the same Nabokov who later rocked the literary world with his widely acclaimed novel Lolita.

"He was a man in love with the sound of words," Ginsburg said. "He changed the way I read, the way I write."

Many of the justices admit to linguistic pet peeves. Kennedy hates adverbs and disdains nouns that are converted to verbs — "incentivize," for example. Scalia readily admits to being a snoot.

"Snoots are those who are nitpickers for the mot juste, for using a word precisely the way it should be used, not dulling it by misuse," said Scalia, adding, "I'm a snoot."

That contrasts with Thomas, who, when asked by interviewer Bryan Garner whether he would describe himself as a word lover, replied: "Not particularly. ... I like buses and football and cars."

Jun 16, 2011, 1:32am Top

Warner Herzog reads "Go the Fuck to Sleep".

Jun 16, 2011, 6:31am Top

>19 beardo: - I went to a show at the Edinburgh Festival a few years ago and the comedienne did a show on Belgium (her family came from there) - one of the exhibits was the black smurf, which looked savage and came in its own cage.

Jun 18, 2011, 9:56am Top

Jun 18, 2011, 3:02pm Top

Or the fact that we were paid to lie, actually instructed to lie by our bosses

What does AOL think it is? The CIA under George Tenet? The nerve of this slave-drivers. New Grub Street has gone digital and revolution will not be televised. In fact, the revolution has been crushed ... brought to you by Jamba Juice.

Jun 18, 2011, 5:01pm Top

Wow, that was so depressing. I can't imagine having such a job. My rather dull office job seems heavenly in comparison.

Jun 19, 2011, 11:22pm Top

33: Finally! A place to put all my Harold Robbins and Warhammer 40K books!

Jun 19, 2011, 11:32pm Top

Bibliophile heaven!

Jun 21, 2011, 11:57am Top

The latest list of its kind:

The 30 harshest author on author insults in history

At some I laughed, at others I cringed. I imagined the dismissive comments about the "cult of Nabokov" this list would provoke. A fun read.

Jun 21, 2011, 12:10pm Top

30: Check out Fighting Words, an anthology of such author on author insults. Proof that authors and "the literary set" aren't all latte-drinking, New York Times-reading, Prius-driving genteel intellectuals. Set William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal in the same room and watch the teeth fly.

Note: the video quality is awful, but the audio (more important anyway) is fine for this Celebrity Deathmatch:


And the idea of a fey WASP like William F. Buckley threatening to punch out anybody is hilarious. Although truth be told, Henry James novels needed more bare-knuckle boxing sequences.

Jun 24, 2011, 12:27pm Top

Jun 25, 2011, 4:47pm Top

38: Is Peter Watts up for a beatification by the Vatican? I think I missed the middle part.

The news story does point towards an interesting precedent: Are we to consider animated characters human beings? The comics fan's personal taste aside, how is term "child porn" being defined? (And is the Catholic Church writing friend of the court briefs in his defense?) What next? Should I look out for police if I put the works of Balthus on my iPad? Or read Lolita on my Kindle? Child porn -- especially when actual children, not pictorial representations thereof -- is obviously damaging and evil, but the news story does give me a creeping feeling of dictatorship and censorship.

Jul 5, 2011, 1:15pm Top

For those of you who like your science on the straaaaaange side:


Jul 5, 2011, 6:20pm Top

Good article.

It's interesting to re-read Hunter S. Thompson's insightful piece on Hemingway's suicide in Ketchum...and then fast forward to Hunter taking his own life, for many of the same reasons.

Jul 8, 2011, 10:47am Top

A chilling commercial on the importance of clean, safe water:


Jul 14, 2011, 5:34pm Top


Granted, rather than a "Hmmmm" this might be more of a "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

Jul 15, 2011, 9:46am Top

44: I see nothing wrong with "erotic romance." Not really my thing, but whatever. "75 book deal"? WTF? There's a fine line between being prolific and being a sausage factory; looks like the romance biz chose the latter by a long shot. Reminds me of Robert Silverberg churning out his softcore shlock for the cheapo paperback biz back in the 60s. Alas, I shouldn't be expected to find quality in any of Ms. Dohner's works?

Jul 15, 2011, 5:55pm Top

A positive look at "fan fiction":


I dunno....

Aug 15, 2011, 3:38pm Top

Why did Japan surrender:


Another great find from me pal, Gord.

Aug 17, 2011, 8:07pm Top

Interesting. And we all laughed when we heard the same explanation (Russia declared war on Japan, and a few days later Japan surrendered) in Soviet era school books.

Aug 18, 2011, 10:20am Top

51: Why? The Taliban and the Tea Party agree on just about everything: opposed to gay rights, women's rights, worker rights, religious rights, etc., except that the Taliban are willing to take govt funds, which makes them, at least to the inbred knuckle-dragging sages of the Tea Party, "socialist gays."

Best country in the world, eh?


Aug 19, 2011, 10:28am Top

The man who pissed off Hitler:


Aug 20, 2011, 10:41am Top

A thrilling moment in time, as crucial as the fall of the Berlin Wall:


Aug 23, 2011, 12:30pm Top

OED deems terms like "cassette player" and "video jockey" as obsolete:


Edited: Aug 27, 2011, 1:18am Top

Theodore Dreiser, one of the two best novelists of the 20th century?


Aug 27, 2011, 3:23pm Top

His books were long and they were about IMPORTANT ISSUES! I guess that suits the hacks and short-sighted greedheads working at Rupert Murdoch's capitalist-porn tabloid, the Wall Street Journal. The stuff I wipe my ass with has more journalistic integrity than that paper.

Aug 27, 2011, 4:03pm Top

56: that article is really silly-sounding and reads mostly as "I hate those pseuds in the English department who didn't give me tenure..." He is merely lashing out first at multiculturalism, then at English depts themselves, and almost parenthetically taking a jab at leftism with the crack about Marxists who still haunt the E dpt -- jeez, what a lot of negativity and his overall point being...? "Bring back the old white male canon"? Who really can tell...and who cares.

Aug 29, 2011, 12:13am Top


Gord, again. A little floating piece of history. A fragment of the past, clinging stubbornly to 21st century...

Aug 29, 2011, 2:23pm Top

The return of "airships":


I love dirigibles/zeppelins, whatever you want to call them. The more the merrier, as far as I'm concerned.

Aug 29, 2011, 6:19pm Top

59: On the contrary, his conservatism and his questionable taste in novelists of the century aside, he is raising the banner of the literary snob and railing against the way in which University English departments have been taken over and converted into cultural-political studies departments. His complaint is not new, and has been repeated often both outside and inside academe.

A recently retired English prof of decidedly non-conservative politics told me last year that his former department was "the last place on earth where you can still find Marxists and people who think that deconstruction is the cutting edge." A young English prof told me recently that The Sentimentalists, while it is a thoroughly shitty novel, will be the subject of dozens of papers over the next year written by eager young academics convinced that its baffling unreadability is the mark of a truly great novel. He reminds me also that Kathleen Winter's sentimental and misandrist Annabel is written for classroom use as much as for commercial appeal.

I recently read a review of a new general anthology of Canlit, which pointed out that the anthology contained not one work by a white male writer. If the anthologists, both professors at U of T, are to be believed, not one white male writer in Canada has produced any work worth including in an anthology of our best writers. This boggles the mind, until you realize that the anthologists are preoccupied with questions of Identity, and white males, by definition, do not have an Identity.

The preoccupation with politics and context pushes to the forefront some thoroughly forgettable writers, whose sole contribution to literature is the colour of their skin or the nature of their genitalia. Attitudes learned in universities are carried out into the world of books. This is how M.G. Vassanji can win the Giller Prize twice, despite the fact that his books are completely unreadable. Vassanji can't fucking write, yet he is considered a Major Canadian Writer because of those Giller wins and his place in curricula -- a place that is assured not by the dismal quality of his writing, but by his skin colour and country of birth.

That article expresses several central tenets of literary snobbery. It holds that something does indeed separate high culture from low, and that the quality of a work is more important than the fashionability of its themes. And I believe these truths will outlive the bullshit artists who have taken over the study of literature. Their ideas are already yesterday's theory. We will soon be moving on.

Aug 29, 2011, 6:34pm Top


Can't react to books I have not read, but I will note that the LT audience seems to totally agree with you on the Sentimentalists which has not a positive review on the site (16 out of 16 "meh" reviews) while Annabel has nothing but enthusiastic positives, many of whom specifically are reacting to the writing style. However I defer to you as someone who has actually read/heard of both works. I am not very up on Canadian lit, my exposure being limited to Robertson Davies and Margaret Atwood.

However I don't feel that the canon has really been destroyed by focusing on others besides white males. I think there are many fine writers from both genders and from many different ethnic groups. I have enjoyed reading books by people such as Vikram Seth or Amitav Ghosh, or by the many terrific female writers I've had the pleasure of reading, and this does not keep me from loving all my dead white male authors too. If Canada is specifically excluding white males from all book prizes that is obviously silly and very much a question of overkill. But, I have not really seen that happening in the US. Which is where the author was writing about.

Aug 29, 2011, 6:47pm Top

However I don't feel that the canon has really been destroyed by focusing on others besides white males.

I agree. But that's not what's really at issue here. What's at issue is how we find value in a book.

I wouldn't say that Canada is excluding white males from book prizes, but they are being largely excluded from academic study. And this is not because of the quality of their work. It's because the study of English literature has become fascinated with gender and race in place of literature itself. This is why Mordecai Richler is not read in Canadian Literature courses, while M.G. Vassanji is.

From what I hear, this problem is not unique to Canada -- although outside of academe, the US seems to be incredibly efficient at excluding women from critical acclaim.

Aug 29, 2011, 7:01pm Top

So are we talking about who is writing the books, or whether the subject matter is race/gender?

If the problem is that books specifically about race/gender (particularly when written by an approved minority) are getting all the attention of the literature depts while books on other subject matter are ignored, this seems a legit critique I guess, if it is really true and not greatly exaggerated. Of course I can't comment on Canada and will assume your comments make sense there, but I don't really think they apply, at least not to that level, here in the US.

I do have a problem with conflating the two issues, and would like to point out that publishers are often guilty of doing so (for example, getting black reviewers of novels written by black people, or female reviewers for novels written by women) which may add fuel to the perception of lit departments. The writer of the screed to which I was reacting didn't do a very good job of being specific about what he was bewailing. Except, of course, those sneaky Marxists.

Edited: Aug 29, 2011, 7:29pm Top

I CAN comment on Canada and testify that "place and race" are more important here than actual literary quality. Drop in a few Canadian place names, feature a minority or "oppressed group" in your book and you are a literary GOD in our home and native land.

Screw the disenfranchised and under-represented if they can't write worth a shit. Propping up mediocre writers simply because they meet some kind of cultural checklist and calling that our "national literature" sickens me.

Mordecai Richler wipes his ass with 99.99% of the writers in this country and yet, A.J.'s right, his books are under-represented on curricula because he never kowtowed to the cultural poobahs who hold sway here, in publishing and academia. He ridiculed granting agencies and cultural bureaucrats and is STILL being punished for it, years after his death. But political correctness has had its heyday...only in tiny, hidebound institutions does it still hold sway. But we'll root it out of there eventually too. And exterminate it...

Aug 29, 2011, 7:32pm Top

Darn, I think I've just lost any chance I had of ever winning a Governor-General Award or Giller.

Oh, well. Life goes on.

Aug 29, 2011, 9:37pm Top

If the problem is that books specifically about race/gender (particularly when written by an approved minority) are getting all the attention of the literature depts while books on other subject matter are ignored, this seems a legit critique I guess, if it is really true and not greatly exaggerated.

Well, before we can say if it's really true, and not exaggerated, we have to define words like "ignored." A literal-minded person can debunk the claim that women writers in the US are critically ignored, despite the fact that the statement is generally true.

Suffice to say that the Globe & Mail published a story last year which claimed that Richler is no longer being taught in any Canadian university. And as I pointed out, that recently published anthology (I think it's the Penguin Anthology of Canadian Literature in English) is lacking white males.

As for conflating the subject of the book and the race/gender of its author, no-one is guiltier of this than academe. It is there that the idea of "appropriation of voice" was invented, after all. The author is dead, except where it is convenient to keep the author alive so that we can talk about the importance of the author's Identity.

Aug 30, 2011, 11:49am Top

I find that this discussion is getting difficult for me because I don't belong to academe, and have no idea what they get up to inside their ivory towers. If it goes on I will just feel like I'm playing devil's advocate.

I do recognize a get off my lawn screed when I see one, whether I may agree with parts of it or not. I still think the article in the Wall St. Jrnl was practically content free. It just came off as a nasty rant.

This has been a very interesting discussion though that has caused me to (1) have a discussion on the topic with my SO who sort of agrees with you two that multiculturalism is too much of a sacred cow, though he thinks this is more of a marketing thing than necessarily an academic thing, and also, as a Marxist, his opinion would not count :) and (2) to put Richler on my TBR because according to both of you he must be one heck of a terrific author. I had never even heard of him before, but that's insular Americans for you.

Edited: Aug 30, 2011, 12:16pm Top

Favorite Richler novels:

THE APPRENTICESHIP OF DUDDY KRAVITZ (considered his masterpiece but I prefer COCKSURE because of its pure nastiness)

BARNEY'S VERSION was his last book and one of his very, very best. Parts of it had me hooting in laughter, other sections made me tearful.

The notion that people like him and Timothy Findley (NOT WANTED ON THE VOYAGE) weren't considered good enough to make it into the anthology A.J. mentioned shows a disconnect between the moron editors and the task they were given (an anthology of the best of the best Canuck writing). I put literary academics at the same pig trough as arts administrators. Purportedly professional and impartial but, in reality, oriented toward their own warped, fucked up vision of the world.

You probably shouldn't start with COCKSURE--it's one of his two or three best books but I know some find its satire TOO scathing.

Aug 30, 2011, 12:25pm Top

My father was a prof and my sister is a prof, and I have heard this argument over the dinner table. ;)

The WSJ piece is a get-off-my-lawn screed; the good parts of the argument are undermined by its political content. In a sense, it is just as political as the schools of criticism it complains about, so the piece is at risk of collapsing into "they present views I don't like, and that's wrong." Note the bit about America's imperial enterprise; the fact is, whatever the ivory tower may do, our literary world is suspicious of the myths that enabled American empire. It doesn't matter how you slice it, that's contemporary letters.

But at its core, this is a complaint about the influence of literary theory on the English dept. It's becoming a more prominent complaint these days; I expect that in 20 years, the literary theorists will be writing get-off-my-lawn screeds in the WSJ, complaining that a concern for aesthetics is destroying the study of literature.

Edited: Aug 31, 2011, 10:12am Top

Ideologies of the world, using cows to illustrate and explain them:


Sherron found me this one--my first giggle of the day.

Aug 31, 2011, 1:41pm Top

They need Tea Party Conservatism: "You have two cows. The government takes one in order to convert it to Evangelical Protestant Christianity. The Church takes the other. Marcus Bachmann propositions you to have gay sex with him. Why do you hate America, er, cows?"

Aug 31, 2011, 2:14pm Top

The latest news has $20 billion gone missing in the Iraq war and "reconstruction".

Which begs the question: has anybody checked Dick Cheney's bank account?

Aug 31, 2011, 4:07pm Top

What writer said this? No resorting to Google. Guess.

I can’t write thrillers because I can’t stand mechanical coincidences. Contrived coincidences. I’d be a much wealthier writer if I could learn, but I just can’t.

I have friends who do it beautifully, though. Grisham, King. I asked King about it once, How do you plot? Give me some tips. But he told me he has no interest in plot. He just has interest in writing. He has such fun he’s started writing on Sundays, too. He’s just a boy loose in a candy store.

Aug 31, 2011, 4:11pm Top

Hmmm...I was gonna say Peter Straub but I don't think he fits.

Friends with Grisham AND King--I'd say this guy/gal needs to hang around with a better quality of author...

(I eagerly await the answer.)

Sep 1, 2011, 10:48am Top

No other guesses?

Barry Hannah!

Sep 1, 2011, 11:01am Top

Fine author. Never would have guessed him. You devil, A.J.

Sep 5, 2011, 1:20pm Top

Sep 5, 2011, 4:53pm Top

The best philosophers are usually always kind of right. It's the ideologues, dogmatics, and puritanical dingbats who demand you swallow the entire opus without questioning it. Same goes for Nietzsche He was an accomplished philosopher who dissected European ethics and the genesis of morality and religion. But women and democracy ... not so much.

Sep 6, 2011, 10:46am Top

With North Africa so much in the news of late, thought this group would like to see some pics from the most recent issue of THE ATLANTIC MONTHLY---a different war in the desert:


Sep 9, 2011, 5:08pm Top

Neil Gaiman has to beg for funding?


Hmmm....somehow I don't think so.

Sep 10, 2011, 1:07am Top

82: I can't believe Gaiman would ever be short on money.

Sep 11, 2011, 6:03pm Top

The history of hollow earth theories:


"Standish’s research is impressive, taking in everything from the British Enlightenment and American religious utopianism to such hollow-earth literature as Jacques Casanova’s five-volume 1788 novel “Icosameron” (about a society of nudist hermaphroditic dwarves)to Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Pellucidar novels, in one of which Tarzan descends into a “Symmes’s Hole” via zeppelin."

Casanova? Hermaphroditic dwarves? That's so going on my wishlist!

Sep 12, 2011, 9:38pm Top

Sep 12, 2011, 10:12pm Top


I'm very careful when I read a book, the spine barely shows I've been reading it. My wife thinks I'm weird. Her books look like they've been manhandled by a powerful strangler. Nah, I'm just being mean.

Sep 13, 2011, 12:08pm Top

86: Hence the popularity of e-readers.

Sep 16, 2011, 1:14pm Top

CS Lewis on a young Ray Bradbury letter up for sale:

Sep 17, 2011, 1:06pm Top

A fragment lodged in the throat of history that refuses to go away:


Sep 18, 2011, 12:43pm Top

And few more reasons why political correctness is the last bastion of the moron:


Sep 20, 2011, 4:57pm Top

Heh heh. Book store employees have just become "honorary" snobs:


Sep 21, 2011, 10:43pm Top


I might add, Cliff, that Short people got no reason to live...

Sep 24, 2011, 10:41pm Top

Got The Pleasure of the Text by Barthes. He talks about the interconnections between literature, language, and pleasure. Warms the cockles of my heart. The reason we're all here is because of the pleasure we get from reading.

Sep 25, 2011, 11:47pm Top

...and to lose friends and alienate people.

Sep 26, 2011, 9:56am Top

94: I always thought Sales and you were frenemies?

Edited: Sep 26, 2011, 10:53am Top

"frivals"? (Friendly rivals)

Oct 29, 2011, 11:36am Top

Slavoj Zizek. This guy's been catching my eye a lot lately. Kind of a nutty professor...but I get the feeling he's crazy like a fox. His interview on Charlie Rose:




I'm going to be seeking out a copy of his book, LIVING IN END TIMES.

Oct 30, 2011, 4:21pm Top

Weird. Russian film that's morphed into some kind of strange, epic, sociological experiment. Another find by that Gord fella. Read on and prepare to be amazed:


Oct 31, 2011, 8:31pm Top

Nov 1, 2011, 4:07am Top

A Sad Day for humanity, 7,000,000,000.

vs. 13 or so Borneo Rhinos

Nov 1, 2011, 10:06am Top

Good piece by Ackroyd.

Nov 1, 2011, 12:50pm Top

100: Yes I saw that on my e-mail this a.m. I agree with you it is not cause for celebration. I wish for humanity that all future children be wanted and that their parents be able to raise them as best they can. It is hard to be one of the youth out of work in the Middle East and other poor areas of the world...

Nov 1, 2011, 2:06pm Top

Another reason to restart the space program and space exploration ...

Nov 6, 2011, 10:20pm Top

Jan Morris used to be a man, aka James Morris:


Never knew that. Glad to know NYRB didn't reveal that in their publication of Hav While a fascinating tidbit about the author, it would have been a distraction. But the gender reassignment surgery is talked about by Morris in her anthology of travel writing, The World

Just one of those things that makes you go, "Hmmmm."

Nov 13, 2011, 7:52pm Top

Lost in the shuffle: the GREAT Dick Smith receives an Honorary Oscar.


Nov 17, 2011, 9:13am Top

Kim Kardasian and her family made $65 million last year, folks:


Western culture is a urinal covered with crude graffiti.

Nov 19, 2011, 11:46am Top

Nov 25, 2011, 11:04pm Top

Gord sent me this:


Is Thorium the answer to our energy woes?

What do YOU say, Robert Zubrin:


Nov 29, 2011, 5:21pm Top

The VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT now available on-line:


We've chatted about this book before.

Edited: Nov 30, 2011, 10:34am Top

Another fantastic piece by Neil MacDonald--this one relating to the scales of justice and yet one more example of the gaping divide between the rich and powerful and da poor people:


Dec 1, 2011, 12:02pm Top

Veteran reporter Brian Stewart on the crisis in Syria and possible implications:


Dec 1, 2011, 8:23pm Top



And one wonders why people like Hitchens and Richard Dawkins are spiking in popularity?

Dec 6, 2011, 8:39am Top

Another terrific Neil MacDonald piece, on the hypocrisy of American political and religious leaders:


Dec 6, 2011, 10:00am Top

113: Voters are stupid. The trickiest thing in America is telling the difference between the morally hypocritical shyster in the pulpit and one on the campaign trail. But we're resigned to our lot of flipping a coin over which necrotic, awful, uninventive, dynasty-sodden, cash-voracious party we desire to have occupy our government offices. But, hey ... "best system in the world" -- said the frog as it slowly boiled to death.

Then again, I haven't voted since 2006 and apart from missing out on those lovely "I Voted" stickers (Hey! It matches my middle class white liberal guilt! Excelsior!), I don't think I actually missed out on anything. Americans over-emphasize the ACT OF VOTING as opposed to WHO WE VOTE FOR, since we have the right to vote, unlike our many free market tyrannies we support financially and militarily.

I'd be amused to see what pro forma boilerplate twaddle spews forth as a rebuttal to this post.

Dec 6, 2011, 1:24pm Top

Income inequality in the US from the oECD report:

Dec 6, 2011, 8:05pm Top

>107 CliffBurns:
It's been around for a while Cliff, but it is still unbelievably stunning. Thanks.

We have a similar phenom (Tree Swallows on the Connecticut River), which occurs in September.

Dec 9, 2011, 10:04am Top

The covert war in Iran:


I pass these little foreign policy pieces along because sometimes an outside perspective is helpful in discussions/debates. Often rhetoric and partisanship conceal the relevant information that folks need to know.

Dec 9, 2011, 10:08am Top

117: Meh, the US has to make money somehow, since we're just barely surviving with our two main industries -- ironic t-shirts and iPod apps.

Dec 24, 2011, 6:26pm Top

Vlad Putin and "soft authoritarianism" in Russia:


(From Gord)

Dec 30, 2011, 10:00am Top

Capitalism is a dirty word--yet another solid piece by Neil MacDonald:


Dec 30, 2011, 1:04pm Top

#121 About freaking time, however, I'm sure the spin doctors of the right will find a way. They are very skilled.

Dec 30, 2011, 1:06pm Top

Yes, Luntz has already told everyone to call it "economic freedom"... that should do the trick.

Seriously, why are people so dumb about framing/propagandizing? We find it easy to judge other people's propaganda but not our own.

Dec 30, 2011, 1:55pm Top

#123 I thought the article very balanced, tho, showing how each side's propaganda spurs on the other's.

Dec 30, 2011, 6:02pm Top

Human caused atrocities in history, by the NYT:

Wow, Genghis Khan may have reduced the world population by more than 11% all by himself! Well, him and his hordes, I guess. (I remain mystified as to why people find him fascinating.)

Dec 30, 2011, 7:03pm Top

Not a pretty picture of our species, is it?

Dec 31, 2011, 11:12pm Top

126: I'm ready to accept rule by Cylon overlords at this point. Our species is in dire need of a major course correction. Like the Joker said, all we need is a little push and we'll eat each other.

Happy New Year!

Jan 9, 2012, 10:15am Top

Another excellent article by CBC's Neil MacDonald:


The morass of American politics.

Jan 12, 2012, 10:46pm Top

A piece on cultural stasis and refashioning old ideas:


Jan 17, 2012, 11:48am Top

I liked the comment "Thank you science!" But I also thought the idea of helping women that have been subjected to FGM is a great one. Good on these French doctors.

Jan 19, 2012, 9:20pm Top

Feb 5, 2012, 9:20am Top

Virginia Woolf and the dying art of letter-writing:


Feb 10, 2012, 9:06am Top

Joyce's works now in public domain:


I have just started work on a sequel to ULYSSES...

Feb 10, 2012, 11:06am Top

To be called "Troy the Guiness, Leopold".?

Feb 10, 2012, 11:54am Top

Now you're getting into the spirit!



Feb 11, 2012, 8:04pm Top

UK police arrest at Rupert Murdoch's flagship rag, the Sun:


A fair and balanced perp walk.

Feb 11, 2012, 10:20pm Top

There's a spit and an especially hot, bright flame in Hades waiting for Rupert some day.


Feb 12, 2012, 9:18pm Top

Feb 13, 2012, 8:46am Top

America's death row. Another terrific Neil MacDonald article:


Feb 14, 2012, 3:51pm Top

Now if this doesn't make you go "Hmmmm", nothing will:


Feb 20, 2012, 4:26pm Top

Any fans of the poet Mary Oliver in this group?


Feb 20, 2012, 5:09pm Top

She's one of my mother's favorites. I like her poems too. Thanks!

Feb 20, 2012, 10:15pm Top

Feb 25, 2012, 6:00pm Top

Can literary criticism be grafted onto a children's picture book?

"The Very Hungry Caterpillar is a phantasmagoric, bodyshock horror story that focuses on the tenets of extreme gluttony and one creature’s psycho-compulsive desire to consume the world around him. Taking cues from Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft, The Very Hungry Caterpillar’s conception of horror isn’t a hyperbolic focus on blood and viscera, nor is it concerned with gothic notions of ghosts or death: rather, the anathema is an internalised grotesque; it is the body itself that is to be feared, treacherous from the inside and predisposed to extreme bloating, mutation and the eventual emergence of the literal monster from within."



Feb 25, 2012, 6:58pm Top

Ha ha, clever. What in the hell that critic would make out of, say, Grimm's fairy tales, one can not even imagine.

Feb 26, 2012, 10:22am Top

Mar 5, 2012, 8:47am Top

Mar 8, 2012, 4:28pm Top

Well, that answers that question.


Mar 8, 2012, 5:16pm Top

Wonderful. I love XKCD.

Mar 16, 2012, 9:50am Top

NASA animates the formation of the moon. Beautiful!


Mar 16, 2012, 1:03pm Top

155: So when the hell are they going back? Or do we have to wait for Al-Qaeda to develop a space program for us to start to care?

Mar 16, 2012, 3:44pm Top

The Russians will probably get there first. They say they're going to do it by 2030.

Mar 16, 2012, 4:10pm Top

157: Not unless there's oil and potential ballot-stuffing measures for Vladimir Putin

I'd hasten to say the Chinese, but that would involve them actually creating new technology, not churning out poorly constructed knock-offs and pirates copies.

Edited: Mar 16, 2012, 4:20pm Top

Elect Newt. He's all for a return to the moon - and its eventual inclusion in the Union.

Youtube video

Mar 16, 2012, 5:54pm Top

159: Well, if the gay-hating Teahadists all want their own domain, let em take the Moon. See how that theocracy will do without, ya know, science and junk. Wait a tick, didn't the English try to do that with the Puritans? But hey, if the Rightie-tightie-whiteys want to do John Carter-meets-John Calvin, what could possibly go wrong? In the words of CIA genius guy George Tenet, "It's a slam dunk!"

Mar 17, 2012, 3:47pm Top

Tim Parks asks "Why finish books?":


Another Gord find.

Mar 17, 2012, 6:01pm Top

161: I think he's got it wrong. Not that it isn't an interesting idea, and I once did something similar, in picking up and reading the first chapter of 1984. Though I found it amazingly powerful, I put it back on the shelf knowing it was not yet the right TIME for me to read it. I have always intended to return to it.

I side with E. M. Forster on this issue. On the one hand he agrees: "Nearly all novels are feeble at the end. This is because the plot requires to be wound up. Why is this necessary? Why is there not a convention which allows a novelist to stop as soon as he feels muddled or bored? Alas, he has to round things off, and usually the characters go dead while he is at work, and our final impression of them is through deadness."

On the other hand: "Books have to be read (worse luck, for it takes a long time); it is the only way of discovering what they contain. A few savage tribes eat them, but reading is the only method of assimilation revealed to the west. The reader must sit down alone and struggle with the writer...."

If you bail out on a book, you haven't read the book. You've read chapters, you've excerpted, you've dabbled, perhaps you've been artistic or zen about it, but you have not read the book.

Each to his own.

Mar 17, 2012, 6:38pm Top

Terrific response. Well stated.

Mar 19, 2012, 1:16pm Top

No, really: CAN you trust your government and its rogue henchmen?


Mar 20, 2012, 11:45am Top

(Every author in the group hastily clicking on the link to make sure none of THEIR titles are listed...)

Mar 20, 2012, 8:06pm Top

166: Well, those are Photoshopped images, except for "Atlas Sharted," which I think was Rand's original title for it. Then again, can "Git-r-Dune" by Larry the Cable Guy be any worse than the shameless Dune cash-ins excreted by Kevin J. Anderson?

Mar 22, 2012, 8:09pm Top

168: Might make reading the galleys of Snooki's latest novel more palatable. Probably the best way to watch a Michael Bay movie too.

Mar 22, 2012, 9:28pm Top

Reportedly the only decent buzz that's been at St. Martin's in over a decade...

Mar 23, 2012, 1:00pm Top

Democracy in action:


In particular, I draw your attention to:

"But with the US holding the most votes at the World Bank, which has 187 members, the vote on the next president should be a formality....The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund were created at the conference at Bretton Woods in 1944 as a means to regulate trade between nations in the aftermath of the Great Depression and World War II. A US national traditionally heads the World Bank while a European runs the IMF - currently France's Christine Lagarde."

No outsiders need apply. The two most powerful financial institutions in the world, controlled and manipulated by a small cadre of individuals. Sounds like something out of a Dan Brown novel, don't it?

Apr 2, 2012, 4:10pm Top

Oh, this is GREAT. Another fookin' brilliant find from Gord. Films conceived and created to instill terror...but with the very best intentions. God, I love this stuff:


Apr 2, 2012, 11:26pm Top

Worst album covers of all time?


My wife sent me this one...

Apr 3, 2012, 8:59pm Top

Cliff and Guido,

Wonderful! In their own, twisted ways...

Apr 4, 2012, 7:09pm Top

Apr 4, 2012, 7:42pm Top

Great pic.

Apr 6, 2012, 8:46pm Top

When it comes to men of the cloth, it's all about the bling:


Apr 16, 2012, 6:49pm Top

179: Nicholas Sparks must be pissed.

Apr 16, 2012, 7:36pm Top

179: Cop-out.

Apr 16, 2012, 7:37pm Top

Does this mean the jury didn't like any of the nominations? Interesting.

Edited: Apr 16, 2012, 8:06pm Top

182: On occasion, the Jury will award the Prize, but the Board (meaning: Columbia U's board) will be against for some reason. This was the case with Gravity's Rainbow and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, where the Board's gossamer-thin skin and neo-Victorian mores got in the way of rewarding groundbreaking literature.

Besides, the nominees were the usual batch of Stuff White People Like authors: Denis Johnson and David Foster Wallace (Granted, both are great authors, but nominating DFW is equivalent to nominating Tom Hanks for a rom-com. There are aspiring authors wallowing in obscurity who should be rewarded. The same for regional authors with loyal followings. And dangerous, offensive authors who, ya know, write good.)

Is there a literature award equivalent to the Independent Spirit Award for movies? That I'd like to see.

Apr 17, 2012, 5:47pm Top

Weird, huh? Out of all the fiction titles published in 2011, the judges couldn't settle on ONE good one? Seems pretty dodgy to me.

Apr 17, 2012, 8:20pm Top

Less dodgy than just plain pathetic. Also, the shortlist came across as respectable but stale choices. Unless there is a shake-up in the works, the Pulitzer may lose steam, devolving into entropy and irrelevance, in the shortsighted notion of respectability, propriety, and kowtowing to the middle class. A kind of cautious aesthetic puritanism.

Which bring up a valid point: It's time for the Jury and the Board to look at offerings from smaller, independent presses rather than the random tentacles of Random House, etc. churning out naked attempts at prestige-bait.

I think it's less a "conspiracy" in the classic sense than "everybody knows everybody" in the little village of Manhattan (publishers, reviewers, authors, academics, etc.). Akin to the incestuous maelstrom we have in Washington, DC, albeit with probably less weapons grade moral hypocrisy and outright bribery.

Apr 18, 2012, 7:26am Top

It's time for the Jury and the Board to look at offerings from smaller, independent presses....

Uh, 2010's Pulitzer for fiction went to?

Apr 18, 2012, 9:19am Top

It's a bit odd to see the Pulitzer committee falling down after so much time - their last gap was 1977. It seems like a case of epic procrastination to me. Just pick one already! Nobody cares! Get one out there with the stamp on it and come back next year. Is that so hard? Apparently this year it was. Or maybe since it's 2012 the board has decided to throw in the towel.

I can't offer much by way of further comment, being extremely ignorant of the modern literary scene. I'm a bit disappointed about it really, since this was the first year of my life when I might actually have cared who won the Pulitzer.

Apr 18, 2012, 10:55am Top

186: Well, what's a Prize without a bit of tokenism?

Apr 30, 2012, 7:48pm Top

Excellent article on the Occupy movement transforming contemporary art:


Check out some of the links too, they're quite instructive.

Apr 30, 2012, 10:19pm Top

More e-book industry bad news? bit.ly/IPngcc

May 4, 2012, 10:05am Top

New clue to an old mystery:


Anyone read Harlan Ellison's tale "Croatoan"?

May 4, 2012, 3:19pm Top

Anybody who watches "Supernatural" knows what really happened.

May 7, 2012, 8:58pm Top

Venerable Toronto art movie theater closes. Check out the sign:


(Another Gord discovery. Bless the man...)

May 9, 2012, 10:35am Top

You wake up and you're in an empty city, with no memory of how you got there...


May 9, 2012, 1:32pm Top

Neil MacDonald hits the nail right on the head, yet again. On the American political campaign:


May 14, 2012, 10:59am Top

I hate hate HATE police provocateurs and the coverups that protect actions that often lead to tragedy and violence.

The folks in charge deny police would do anything to inflame a situation but dig these two lines from a report on the deportment of police officers during the last G20 meeting here in Canada. Do you see the, uh, y'know, contradiction here:


The commission also saw no indication that RCMP undercover agents or event monitors acted "inappropriately" or as "agents provocateurs."

and, later:

The RCMP arrested five people during that incident, "two of whom turned out to be undercover Toronto police officers," said McPhail.
It's unclear what the Toronto officers did to get arrested because McPhail found there was no record-keeping for the reason of their arrest.


May 14, 2012, 11:04am Top

198: That is more of a WTF??? than a Hmmmmm.

May 14, 2012, 11:07am Top

It's such an unpardonably stupid finding from a supposedly impartial watchdog (appointed by the government, of course).

Hand out the paint and brushes, this one's another whitewash.

May 14, 2012, 11:36am Top

That's not all of it. The RCMP's official policy on "kettling" protesters is that they don't do it; peaceful protesters are supposed to be allowed to walk away at any time. But they participated in kettling protesters at the G20.

The problem is that the RCMP wasn't in charge. The Toronto police were in charge. The RCMP didn't use agents provocateurs, but the Toronto police did. And the kettling was against RCMP policy, but the RCMP were acting on Toronto police orders.

And the report is by the Commission for Public Complaints Against the RCMP, which has no authority over the Toronto police service ... since there is no national oversight body for all police forces, and no judicial inquiry into the G20 events, nothing will happen.

May 16, 2012, 9:50pm Top

198: With a name like McPhail, how could an undercover op possibly end badly? Probably the "Undercover Cop" t-shirt he was wearing. Too bad Johnny McHigh-Success-Rate failed his drug test.

May 16, 2012, 11:16pm Top

Further reports, from the Globe & Mail:

(A report by the Office of the Independent Police Review Director) slams police for 'kettling' scores of people — many passersby — at a downtown intersection for several hours in a severe thunderstorm, calling it 'unreasonable, unnecessary and unlawful.'

Even officers in place thought the situation untenable, with one describing the incident commander as 'maniacal,' the report says.

'Where are they going to give them a chance to disperse?' one officer asked.

'They aren’t, that’s the problem,' another replied.

'Well, that’s stupid.'

Look, when the police on the scene say the policing is getting stupid, the policing is probably getting stupid. And when the incident commander turns into Col. Kurtz....

May 17, 2012, 9:37am Top

Yup, yup and yup.

My oldest son has taken it into his head that he wants to be an RCMP officer. It's hard because his dear old dad ain't the biggest fan of cops and the reputation of our national police service has taken a terrific pounding in the past decade.

Civilian control and oversight over every aspect of policing, codes of conduct with teeth, putting bad cops in jail (not segregated from other prisoners), THAT'S the way you bring the pigs to heel.

May 17, 2012, 9:48pm Top

203: To be fair, Kurtz could get the job. His methods were just ... unsound.

May 17, 2012, 11:14pm Top

205: Indeed. That's why they fired him and he took the only job he could get, with the Toronto Police Service.

May 18, 2012, 12:23pm Top

206: "I beheaded a who lot of VC double agents and all I got was this lousy universal health care." I imagine he'd be wearing that t-shirt. Given his girth, the words might even be seen all at once.

May 18, 2012, 7:56pm Top

... and according to today's Globe & Mail, charges have been recommended against Col. Kurtz, a.k.a. Mark Fenton.

He stands to receive an awful wrist-slapping.

May 18, 2012, 8:41pm Top

Yeah, yeah, we've all seen these in-house disciplinary hearings, cops assessing cops and no details revealed.

I reiterate, until we start firing bad cops, putting the worst of them in jail, nothing will be solved.

May 18, 2012, 10:37pm Top

209: All in the Game, yo.

May 18, 2012, 11:24pm Top

209: Just you wait until you've been winked at and told never to do it again. You'll find it's no picnic.

Edited: May 19, 2012, 12:17pm Top

It's the fucking pig that broke the guy's arm with a truncheon for taking a picture of what was going on--HE'S the sonofabitch I want to see slow-roasted over a fire, smell the bacon sizzling...

May 19, 2012, 6:52pm Top

212: What's the Canadian version of the 1st Amendment? Might alleviate the tendency of your fascist Mounties from getting all medieval on your ass.

May 19, 2012, 8:05pm Top

We call it the CHARTER OF RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS and I often wonder how many cops are actually conversant with that relatively short and succinct document.


May 20, 2012, 12:01pm Top

214: I actually found a sociology book on policing (circa 1960s - 1970s) called City Police by Jonathan Rubinstein. Picked it up mainly because I'd been watching The Wire -- and my fiancee's grandfather was a small-town cop -- and I'd like to get beyond the Good Cop/Bad Cop caricature we see in pop culture. Find out "the real deal" with what it takes to be a city cop. There's got to be more to the story beyond "Manly Heroes of the Thin Blue Line protecting us from anarchy and chaos" vs. "Fascist pigs trampling on citizen's rights and running the neighborhood like an occupying army." I call bullshit on both depictions. At the root of it, being a copy is still just another job with a paycheck at the end of the week. Some treat it with the respect and honor it entails, with all its frustrations and petty idiocies, making it not too dissimilar from every other job these days, while others treat it like James Patterson, simply a reason to cash in on ill-gotten gains.

May 20, 2012, 1:16pm Top

It's just that the possible damage bad cops can do is so much higher than almost any other line of work. A bad cop is rot and corruption right at the very core of our civilization and when we can no longer rely on those individuals entrusted with upholding laws and rights, our society as a whole suffers.

May 31, 2012, 10:10am Top

Jun 1, 2012, 4:59pm Top

217: Pushing the Assad family into the nearest turbine engine would be a good start. Or leave them in a ditch after dispatching them Qaddafi-style. I'm all about options.

Jun 4, 2012, 8:17pm Top

Here's one for Karl--a piece comparing Robert Anton Wilson's THE ILLUMINATUS and Ayn Rand's ATLAS SHRUGGED:


Some funny bits here, for example: "Both novels are ridiculously long. Both were largely ignored by the literary and educational establishments, due to their unmistakable whiff of madness..."

Oh, yes.

(Courtesy Gord)

Jun 4, 2012, 8:54pm Top


Jun 4, 2012, 9:25pm Top

219: Except the Illuminatus Trilogy was written better and Robert Anton Wilson didn't admire child-killers. The same comparison can be made between Atlas Shrugged and The Bible, especially the whiff of madness. Seriously, have you read Ezekiel and Saint Paul? Both were frothing lunatics.

Jun 6, 2012, 12:46am Top

What happened to flying cars and other ruminations. An article from THE BAFFLER:


(Courtesy Gord)

Edited: Jun 6, 2012, 11:02am Top

wrong thread

Jun 15, 2012, 8:44pm Top

A couple of pieces on the idiosyncrasies of translation.


Jun 16, 2012, 6:45pm Top

So that's what the Air Force has been doing:


Dig that space-plane action, man!

Jun 17, 2012, 11:07am Top

Niall Ferguson on the west's economic woes. Living on credit and passing the bill to our grand-kids. Welcome to the consumer culture:


Jun 27, 2012, 12:07pm Top

Apparently, this is the position of the Texas GOP (Republican Party), long a harbinger for the eventual platforms of the overall US GOP: We oppose the teaching of critical thinking skills because they challenge "children's set beliefs," but we also think that we should teach kids skepticism of things like "global warming" and "evolution" because they are only theories:



Jun 27, 2012, 12:16pm Top

From the article:

The GOP also opposes the teaching of “critical thinking skills” because they “focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority.”

Yikes, indeed...

Jun 27, 2012, 7:19pm Top

229: All the better when our beloved heterosexual leaders of evangelical persuasion poke us into cattle cars and lead us to the ovens. God forbid we ever question that motley lot of closet cases, child rapists, Catholic-Fascist goons, and Thomas Kinkade aficionados.

Jul 1, 2012, 11:07pm Top

Yeah... I teach in Texas. It really is as unreal as you think it is. Let's face it, it isn't about teaching them to think but about teaching them to be good employees someday.

Jul 2, 2012, 8:45pm Top

231: I thought the technical term was wage-slave?

Jul 2, 2012, 10:13pm Top

232: Drones?

Jul 22, 2012, 11:06am Top

I think it's just about time to roll out the fucking guillotines again, don't you?


Jul 27, 2012, 12:19am Top

Wow, #236, Must be true, 'cos I read it on the net!!!!!! Thanx.

Jul 28, 2012, 3:50pm Top

In news of the utterly unsurprising sort:


Also, in a follow article, grass is green and water is wet.

Aug 8, 2012, 11:11am Top

More literary necrophilia...by someone who should know better:


Aug 8, 2012, 2:54pm Top

Agreed. I hate this practice of giving original characters to other writers. Recently happened to Robert B. Parker's Spenser and Jesse Stone.
Not a huge fan of pastiches either.

Aug 8, 2012, 3:18pm Top

I thought a pseudonym was to hide the identity of an author. What's the point of one otherwise?

Aug 8, 2012, 3:40pm Top

I'm not a fan of using other people's characters, too, but at least they're in the hands of an author who very probably understands what's at stake if he should fail to service the characters well. And he's dealing with characters which Faulkner worked with, too, in a different way at least, if you count his screenplay adaptation of The Big Sleep.

As for the pseudonym- does anyone know if there are stylistic differences between Banville's "name-brand" works and his "off-brand" works? If it's close to The Book of Evidence then I'll give it a shot, but if it's like The Sea, then I'll take a pass.

Aug 8, 2012, 7:13pm Top

240: It will only be a matter of time before we see "The Pale King and Ghosts," since the publishing machine is only too eager to dig up the dead and check their pockets for loose change.

Aug 8, 2012, 8:32pm Top

Just an aside, "shrouds have no pockets".
Guess I was wrong.

Aug 9, 2012, 7:07pm Top

She was a parishioner at the church where I served for nine years as deacon, and she and her husband Ray attended the early service - always loved it when I came up on the rota for a preaching spot because I would get to see them.

Aug 9, 2012, 7:15pm Top

Whoops - I know Mary Ann Oliver - a different Mary Oliver. Mea Culpa. BUT, my friend Mary Ann is also a poet.

Aug 20, 2012, 5:20pm Top

From the aforementioned article:

"Given all of this, it is clear that most political struggles at the moment amount to a war over time. The generalised debt crisis that hangs over all areas of capitalist life and culture – from banks to housing and student funding – is ultimately about time. Averting the alleged catastrophe (of the end of capitalism) will heighten the apocalyptic temporality of everyday life, as the anticipation of catastrophe gives way to a sense that we are already living through the catastrophe and it, like work, will never end. The increase of debt justifies the extending of working hours and working life, with retirement age being pushed ever further back. We are in a state of harrassed busyness from which – we are now promised – there will never be any relief.

The state of reactive panic in which most of us find ourselves is not an accidental side-effect of post-Fordist labour. It is highly functional for capital that our time is not only quantitatively short but qualitatively fragmented, bitty. We are required to live in the condition that Linda Stone has called “continous partial attention”, where our attention is habitually distributed across multiple communication platforms."


"continuous partial attention"--yup, that describes my state of mind close enough to be eerie...

Edited: Aug 20, 2012, 6:03pm Top

But Cliff,

Is your attention "habitually distributed across multiple communication platforms."?

The article was interesting but portentous.

Aug 20, 2012, 7:17pm Top

"Is your attention "habitually distributed across multiple communication platforms."?

My computer is the center of my world--I can write on it, create music, edit movies. In that sense it is a multiple communication platform all on its own.

On the other hand, I don't have a cell phone, laptop, tablet or any silly gadget.

Sep 7, 2012, 1:37pm Top

Sorry...someone forwarded me this damn thing and I haven't been able to stop laughing for the past fifteen minutes:


Sep 7, 2012, 5:47pm Top

We Snobs (I do not qualify as a true Snob myself, so I claim the status of Would-Be Snob) pride ourselves as having more insight, and more refinement, than most. So, in order to stay ahead of the curve, read 'SCARED SH*TLESS' (2012) so that we can do our duty and keep the Common Weal appraised of what to watch out for in our brave new world.

Sep 11, 2012, 3:23pm Top

Philip Roth's "open letter" about Wikipedia:


I feel kind of bad for laughing. Like much of Roth's work, it's kind of magnificent in its insanity.

Sep 11, 2012, 4:04pm Top

Too bad the "death of the author" guys (like Barthes and Foucault) are actually already dead, because it would be so amusing if Wiki started saying all kinds of weird things about their work and they were not allowed to refute it because they are "only one source". THAT would be fun to watch.

Sep 11, 2012, 5:57pm Top

Wikipedia once again proves to be horseshit.

Sep 11, 2012, 6:03pm Top

I have a feeling that is probably what's bothering Roth so much, the idea that anyone out there can post stuff about him. The Broyard story has been literary gossip for years but this is the first I've heard of him objecting to it. Part of what cracks me up is that he goes to such great lengths to prove he never really knew Broyard when he wouldn't have had to know him to use his story.

Sep 11, 2012, 6:06pm Top

Yeah, he should have had his editor help him cut that down. It sounds like protesting an awful lot too much, just on the sheer length.

Sep 11, 2012, 8:35pm Top

I think that anyone who had not read any Roth books would be disinclined to start after reading this. It could have been said in one medium length paragraph.

Sep 13, 2012, 12:12pm Top

259: But I did admire Roth's trilogy about the hivemind and chiseled space-hero.*

*Hasn't read any books by Philip Roth.

Edited: Sep 25, 2012, 5:51pm Top

I did rather like This
ETA. That link seems to have expired on 26/09/12.

Sep 17, 2012, 11:36am Top

Another good article by Neil MacDonald on why America shouldn't gut its freedom of speech provisions to cater to the mob mentality:


Sep 20, 2012, 10:52am Top

From a note by my pal, Gord, a man who's run some of the finest bookstores in this country, including the legendary "This Ain't The Rosedale Library" in Toronto:

"We used to push William Goyen on our customers, ARCADIO was for sale for $2.99 for the longest time. It's hard to get people to read a writer's writer."

Sad, innit?

Sep 24, 2012, 10:44am Top

Bless you, Bill Nye:


God, I despise creationists (heh heh).

Sep 25, 2012, 8:19am Top

As someone else said over here: "I have no objection to creationists opening their own schools, as long as they can build them in six days."

Sep 25, 2012, 9:41am Top

Terrific line.

Sep 26, 2012, 4:28pm Top

Penguin Books suing authors to recoup hefty advances:


Don't think I've heard this tactic before...

Sep 27, 2012, 6:39am Top

I think I can use the word 'awesome' in its true meaning

Sep 27, 2012, 10:16am Top

And the James Webb telescope will look even further into space and time. Amazing, innit? Awesome, indeed.

Sep 29, 2012, 3:52am Top

Re: Penguin, they are recouping advances for books that were not delivered. That's fair play. The point of an advance is to guarantee delivery.

Sep 29, 2012, 11:51am Top

But recall Robert Gottlieb's comment: "Books are rejected for reasons other than editorially and publishers then want their money back. Publishers want to reject manuscripts for any reason after an author has put time and effort into writing them all the while paying their bills. Another reason to have strong representation. If Penguin did this to one of Trident’s authors we could cut them out of all our submissions.”

Was this suit brought against the authors because they didn't deliver their book or they didn't deliver the book Penguin was expecting (or hoping for)?

How about this scenario: I get an advance for a book, I write a terrific novel, a real ground-breaker...but Penguin wants the next FIFTY SHADES OF GRAY. So they reject my book and then sue for the advance back (which they fronted in good faith). Nothing wrong with my book, it's just not lousy enough to appeal to the moron demographic Penguin is catering to.

Just a thought.

Sep 29, 2012, 4:24pm Top

Most of the accounts seem to agree that the authors took the money and didn't deliver. Jackie Collins did the same several years ago and was taken to court. She lost. It's fair enough - you pay for someone to do something, you expect them to do it.

Sep 29, 2012, 4:51pm Top

But, Ian, what stops these fuckers from rejecting a book because it wasn't as shitty or commercial as the publishers were hoping? What if the book wasn't delivered on time because the author suffered health or personal issues? What if, unlike J.K. Rowling, the scribe in question possessed real integrity and refused to rush a book as its deadline approached?

Remember Douglas Adams' quip: "I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by."

Sep 30, 2012, 4:24am Top

The books weren't rejected though. The article makes that quite clear. And if a book is rejected or delayed, then usually the editor, agent and author sit down and discuss how to resolve it. It's in the contract. If the author admits they'll never deliver it, for whatever reason, they usually agree to repay some or all of the advance. The fact that Penguin are resorting to the courts means they've not reached an agreement on repayment.

Sep 30, 2012, 10:25am Top

Resolve it? Like with J.K. Rowling?

"Hey, guys, the book needs another year."

"Well, we have a contractual release date..."

"But the book won't be any good! It'll be rushed, a complete mess."

Editor brays with laughter, agent nudges her playfully. "Honey, it doesn't matter. You think people give a shit? It's a POTTER book."

The author snickers. "Ah, you're right. And I can always release a 'Director's Cut' later."

Editor and agent high five. "NOW you're getting it, Jo..."


I dunno, Ian. These idiots pay hefty advances and when difficulties arise, they sue to get their money back. We don't know what steps were taken to mitigate the situation and, as Robert Gottlieb indicated, the authors likely didn't have strong enough reputation. Gottlieb would've told the publishers to go screw themselves and with his heft, would have protected his clients.

The editors/publishers have a lot of power and this situation shows the possibility for abuse for just the reasons I outlined in #273. I don't trust those people, they have the morals of pit vipers. As ever, in the end it's always the writers who get screwed. And that's something I have rebelled against my entire career. EMPOWER THE AUTHOR. That's my mentality. And this situation is in stark contrast to that p.o.v.

Sep 30, 2012, 11:07am Top

You know why situations like this don't make it into the newspapers very often? Because they don't happen every often. They usually get resolved by both parties coming to an agreement. As for the authors not having strong representation, the authors were celebrities, of course they have strong representation. Gottleib is just pimping himself and his services. It doesn't matter how much clout an agent has, they're not going to protect an author who took the money and didn't deliver - that would be theft. It's an advance, not a gift. And an agent who encouraged his clients to rip off publishers would find it difficult to sell his clients' work...

Sep 30, 2012, 12:28pm Top

But do you agree that kind of power can be abused--as in the scenarios I listed in #273?

"Dear Mr. Sales: After some discussion, the editorial board has decided that your novel, despite its obvious literary merits, completely lacks the commercial appeal we were anticipating when we offered our initial advance. Therefore, we are hereby request the return of that advance and wish you all the best placing the novel elsewhere..."

And meanwhile you spent the advance trying to survive for 18 months-2 years to complete your book. AND the editor who originally championed your book has been fired or switched to another publisher or joined the priesthood.

In a word, you are fucked.

And all because you wrote a "good" book, as opposed to a book the corporates can sell like the latest widget.

Sep 30, 2012, 12:55pm Top

I think in the Jackie Collins case she delivered a book that they rejected as unpublishable. But she refused to rewrite it, so they took her to court to get the advance back. I suppose it's not unlikely that an editor receives a manuscript that either isn't what he contracted for, or he thinks is completely not commercial. But then you'd expect the editor to work with the author to produce something they're both happy with. Or the author and publisher part ways after agreeing to repay some or all of the advance.

I've certainly heard of authors who were commissioned by editors who then left, and their new editor didn't want, or had no idea how to handle, their manuscript. In those cases, the publisher just slashed the print-run, did no promotion, and then used the book's subsequent lack of sales as an excuse to end the contract.

Sep 30, 2012, 1:00pm Top

Publishing is a ruthless, nut-cutting business. Authors and readers secondary to ye olde profit line.

That's why I have nothing to do with the trads and can't wait until their "home run" business model blows up in their fat, self-satisfied faces.

Sep 30, 2012, 1:08pm Top

278: How is that possible? Then again, I've never read any of Collins's tomes.

Sep 30, 2012, 1:21pm Top

Yeah, an "unpublishable book" in the era of Stephenie Meyer, Amanda Hocking and E.L. James is an oxymoron.

Sep 30, 2012, 3:47pm Top

I've read some of Jackie Collins' novels - they are indeed shite. But, strange as it may seem, she delivered something her publishers thought unpublishable.

Sep 30, 2012, 4:24pm Top

"I've read some of Jackie Collins' novels..."

I applaud the courage of that admission, Ian. You must have a well-developed gag reflex.

Sep 30, 2012, 4:34pm Top

282: I agree with you that they are awful. At times when it was between them and the phone book I have also read Ms. Steele. I wonder how bad it had to be for her publishers to sue for return of advance. Boy, the mind reels.

Edited: Sep 30, 2012, 5:02pm Top

I've also read Judith Krantz and Shirley Conran. I'm not proud of it.

Sep 30, 2012, 6:18pm Top

The things one discovers in group therapy. Ian...you amaze me.

Oct 1, 2012, 12:29am Top

Admitting you have a problem is the first step...

Oct 1, 2012, 12:45am Top

"Hello, my name is Ian and I'm a trashaholic..."

Oct 1, 2012, 9:24am Top

"Hi Ian, I read Warhammer 40K tie-in novels. I'm a trashaholic too."

Oct 3, 2012, 7:53am Top

If you take an advance and don't deliver, you should expect to be sued.

If you take an advance for a literary novel and the publisher rejects it because of a lack of commercial appeal, and then sues, they'll lose. The details of the book were discussed prior to contract; its commercial appeal was, to borrow from the Donald Rumsfeld playbook, a known known.

Quite simple, really.

Oct 3, 2012, 8:09am Top

#288, #289 I'm also a fan of Georgette Heyer's historical novels...

Edited: Oct 3, 2012, 10:15am Top

Quoting Rumsfeld at this time of the morning is cruel and unusual punishment--now THERE'S a man who deserves a good water-boarding.

I don't trust editors and publishers, it's that simple. I would likely have little affinity for any of the authors involved in the Penguin suit--but as far as I'm concerned, in the vast majority of cases it's the writers who should be suing publishers for lousy advances, failing to support their books, contempt and bad faith, failure to fully disclose book sales (royalties), mental anguish, etc.

I started pissing back at the suits over 20 years ago and have never regretted it. A substantial proportion of the people I've dealt with in the publishing biz, as I recently wrote on my RedRoom blog, are utter swine.


Oct 3, 2012, 11:34am Top

Cliff, you see those giants everywhere, yet windmills also share the universe...

Oct 3, 2012, 11:58am Top

That's lovely, Anna.

But based on my experiences (which aren't that unique, by the way, as many writers have told me, discreetly, without wishing to blacken their names with the guys in suits), the carnivorous, brainless giants far outnumber the windmills. I couldn't hazard a guess as to how many authors have gotten in touch with me over the past 20 years, asking about independent writing, seeking advice on how to deal with a horrible editor or merely opining that they WISH they could go the indie route but lack the resources, the confidence...or still cling to the dream of breaking through with the trads. My blog serves as a lightning rod to a lot of folks disgruntled with the treatment they're receiving from editors/publishers...and that delights me to no end.

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