I have an essay in the September issue of Poets & Writers on “The Social Value of MFA Programs.” Sadly, P&W deems the piece too valuable to give away for free on the Web, so if you want to read it, you’ll have to go to your local newsstand and buy a copy.
If I had been near enough to a computer and had enough time to blog over the last month, I probably would have talked about Nicholson Baker’s new book, Checkpoint. I haven’t read it, so I can only comment on the reactions that I have seen to the book. Most have been negative. The book is about two friends who are sitting in a hotel room having a conversation. One character wants to assassinate President George W. Bush, the other is trying to talk him out of it. The subject matter alone seems to come from a desire to create controversy, and though Baker and his publisher have gone out of their way to condemn violence, Baker has said that he was motivated by his own personal anger to write the book. If you ask me, controversial subject matter + short book (115 pages in this case) + rush to press = literary publicity stunt, and many, including the New York Times agree.Readers of fiction looking for a weekly dose and writers of fiction looking for an audience should check out Weekly Reader, a little website that delivers a story to your inbox every week.Poaching two great links from Arts & Letters Daily: Jonathan Yardley loves Hunter S. Thompson’s new collection of pieces from ESPN.com’s page 2, Hey Rube; and Tibor Fischer discusses the current slate of Booker hopefuls.
Who was it that came up with the idea that a million monkeys in front of a million typewriters would eventually, with their random keyboard smashing, type William Shakespeare’s complete works? Well, you can give the experiment a try here (link from the CC). And while you’re waiting for your monkeys to finish typing Love’s Labor’s Lost, check out some book excerpts I found:Heir to the Glimmering World by Cynthia Ozick — excerpt, NYT review, SF Chronicle reviewChain of Command by Seymour Hersh — excerpt, CS Monitor reviewThe Double by Jose Saramago — excerpt, NZ Herald reviewThe Fall Of Baghdad by Jon Lee Anderson — excerpt, WaPo review
Millions reader Lisa found Booker winner Line of Beauty to be “a more intellectualized, less satirical version of Stephen Fry’s The Liar.” I’m sure Lisa won’t mind if you borrow that line at the next cocktail party.The new Gabriel Garcia Marquez book (Memories of My Melancholy Whores, they’re calling it now) continues to generate headlines. This time Gabo foils the pirates. Go Gabo!At Amazon you can watch Jon Stewart make an ISBN joke whilst hawking his book America. Just click on the link and then check out the “Amazon.com Exclusives.”Spotted on the El: Truman Capote’s “unfinished novel” Answered Prayers.
Paul Auster is still getting mileage out of a short story that appeared in the New York Times on Christmas day 1990. “Auggie Wren’s Christmas Story” was subsequently released as a limited edition book illustrated by Brian Cronin. The story became the inspiration for the films Smoke and Blue in the Face. Now, Henry Holt is releasing another edition of the story. This time the book is illustrated by an Argentinean artist named, cryptically, ISOL. Here’s the story if you want to read it.The London Review of Books is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and to mark the occasion, the Guardian sits down with LRB editor, Mary-Kay Wilmers.The CS Monitor continues to provide its capsule reviews of the National Book Award nominees. Here are the reviews for the young adult category.