Monthly Archives: February 2009

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I am experiencing the usual emotions: excitement, terror

Tomorrow we fly to the land that gave us Junot Diaz, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Julia Alvarez. At least they have all written about the Dominican Republic. Everything I know about the world south of the border I have learned from novels. I’m expecting a lot of old, winged men falling from the sky and that sort of thing. I’m also expecting a Lost-type scenario, or more probably, death by plane crash. But before death, pina colada!

I will not be blogging about my trip, but here are some literary links to tide you over until my plane lands softly, angelically on Virginia tarmac next week:

The Times writes about how the Times broke Wallace Stegner’s heart.

Colin Robertson of the London Review of Books weighs in on the publishing crisis. (Thanks to MW for the link.)

Trailer for the movie adaptation of Larry Doyle’s I Love You Beth Cooper starring Hayden Panettiere as Beth Cooper.

Zadie Smith writes about race, being both genuine and multiple, language, and Obama in the New York Review of Books. (Thanks to AP for the link.)

Also, these jerks stole my gig, restaurant servers are conspiratorial about dessert, and the most bizarre experiments of all time.

The Jackson 5 are no longer my friends and business associates

A Nigerian monument to slavery/casino resort/museum of Jackson 5 memorabilia sounds like a great idea to people who are sarcastic for a living.

“Money-making and historical memory are allies in the extension of capitalism. You cry with one eye and wipe it off with cold beer, leaving the other eye open for gambling,” [said Toyin Falola].

The new and improved Simpsons couch is my favorite character on TV.

As an avid follower of trends, this would’ve been a good thing to know before I said yes. Just kidding, sweetheart!

Marriage couldn’t be more unattractive – the number of us getting hitched has slumped to the lowest level since records began, 150 years ago. By next year, it’s predicted that singletons will be in the majority.

Brothers and sisters should collaborate on storytelling more often. Read “The French Underpants” by Hal White and “The French Underpants Part Deux” by Celeste White in The Hot Air Quarterly (PDF).

You’ve read my brother Hal’s tale of the errant French underpants. This is mine: . . .

My current favorite book website: Book Beast. (Thanks to Cat Woman, my current favorite commenter, for the link.)

Portrait of the artist (and the chicken) as a young woman/young chicken.

If you’re wondering why your favorite bar smells like dirty diapers, wonder no longer:

All across the country, Baby Loves Disco is slowly but surely transforming the hippest night clubs into child proof discos as toddlers, pre-schoolers and parents looking for a break from the routine playground circuit let loose for some post naptime, pre-dinner fun.

Congratulations to my friendly correspondent Charles McLeod whose books are being published in the middle of an acquisition freeze! I will now hand the publishing crisis over to him. Good luck, soldier.

Crap in space is terrifying to me. One word: fireball. And I have to fly on Friday! As if planes don’t scare me enough.

I was actually thinking about this article this morning as I drove around listening to the significant hole in my muffler expand. Although I have over 100,000 miles on my odometer, I am comforted by knowing that my self-esteem must equally be soaring.

“By the time children reach early adolescence, and experience a decline in self-esteem, the stage is set for the use of material possessions as a coping strategy for feelings of low self-worth,” [say researchers]. . . . The paradox that findings such as these bring up, is that consumerism is good for the economy [and for the fight against terrorism! -ed.] but bad for the individual.

Salman Rushdie’s new girlfriend sure is chatty. Sigh. When am I going to get my chance?

It is 18 months since his much-publicised break-up from his most recent wife, TV hostess Padma Lakshmi. Mocked because Padma, 38, looked young enough to be his daughter and was an inch taller than him, Rushdie has now chosen a woman who is even younger and taller – and eccentrically extrovert to boot.

This article about having babies is depressing. Ladies, please don’t hate me for linking to it. My four-year-old niece (niece-in-law?) wants to “poop out” some babies right now. She and her friends sometimes play “pregnant 16-year-olds.” Maybe she’s on the right track.

The hourglass turns upside down at 30. If you get one in at 34, you’re probably not going to have another. If you are happily married at 30 you are most likely going to get 2 in but know that you JUST made it under the wire. That means you have to stop fucking around and start to care who you’re fucking right after 25.

It’s like Candace Bushnell quit writing chick lit and began pursuing a degree in apocalyptic biology.

In which I solve the publishing crisis

A few months ago I was having dinner with a friend, her billionaire husband, and some other glamorous people (sometimes I run in these circles just to shake things up). We were talking about the nation’s financial troubles. I felt more and more complacent as the conversation turned to stock losses, bankrupted companies, and subprime mortgages. I said, “I don’t mean to brag, but I haven’t lost anything in the economic crisis. You want to know my secret? I don’t have any money, nor any assets, to lose.” They were all exceedingly jealous. As I savored the creme brulee that the billionaire’s imported French chefs had just prepared in the next room, I congratulated myself on enlightening these people. And who needs money when you have rich friends?

I am reminded of this dinner when I turn my keen eye to solving  the current crisis in the publishing world. People are losing jobs in the industry left and right. Most publishing houses have implemented acquisition freezes. And in Manhattan, where literary agents and HarperCollins executives are used to three-martini lunches, the “cushy schmooze fest seems to be winding down.” But this really doesn’t concern me because no one is publishing my books anyway. I lack book deals even when the money’s there, so why should I give a shit now?

Nevertheless, on the off chance that a full financial recovery in the publishing world will mean a Random House novel for me, I will solve the crisis. Listen up, people.

(I love blogging because no one can read the time delays between when I proclaim that I have an answer to something and when I actually arrive with some semblance of an answer.)

First of all, authors should write more bestsellers. Second of all, people should read more. We can all do our part. For instance my friend Abbey and I just started our first book club. It’s really more of a drinking club, but we will definitely use the books as coasters. And look – I understand that reading isn’t necessarily as fun and social as watching TV or spending hours alone on Facebook, but just think of how lonely writing is. And people do that every day so you’ll have something to read in the bathroom. Plus there are plenty of social networking websites that focus on books, like Goodreads and Shelfari and Library Thing. You won’t feel as isolated in your reading when you’re competing sharing with other people.

But this isn’t about what we’re doing wrong; it’s about what they’re doing wrong. All those big shot Manhattan publishing people with their love for great literature and their deep pockets for brilliant writers and their hard-ons for talented, creative people. Something’s got to give. Maybe publishers should stop issuing advances and funnel their money into innovative publicity instead. Because god knows there are more ways than ever to get inside other peoples’ brains. Then the authors and their agents get 60% of ensuing book sales if they don’t starve to death in the interim. But honestly, an author who doesn’t have a day job is just being irresponsible. At least submit an article to Ladies’ Home Journal every now and then. Experiment with other media, like blogs and porn. And don’t expect a big payday unless people actually like your book. It’s only fair.

Maybe I don’t have all the answers. Maybe I just failed miserably in my attempt at winging it. The same thing happens when I’m asked about astrophysics or when I’m expected to be charming in public.

Oh! One more brainstorm – isn’t it possible that there are just more books published – most of them awful – than the industry can sustain? Shouldn’t more writers just give up so there’s more room for me? Also – hardcover? Is it really necessary? Smart people pledge to wait and read the book when it comes out in paperback, then they forget about it (in my world smart people do a lot of pledging and forgetting and failing).

Finally, what if there was a speed printer that could print and bind paperback books from your computer in a matter of minutes? You pay a minimal amount to download the book from the publisher; you buy your own paper and ink and glue, saving them the expense; you press the Future Button; and the company experiences no net loss due to unsold books because they’re operating on a one book to one reader ratio. Brilliant, right? Make it happen, American entrepreneurs! The rest of you can get back to creming and bruling my creme brulee.

The Virginia Festival of the Book is like Bonnaroo but for sexy people

Why do I say that? No reason.

I’m outrageous!

The truth is the Virginia Festival of the Book is better than any music festival you can shake a porcupine pie at and that’s because the VFB doesn’t buy into the whole concept of “cool” or even that of “music festival.” The VA Festival of the Book doesn’t try to wow you with its “Clean Vibes’ Trading Posts” or its Yoga Classes or its rock ‘n’ roll or its Yeah Yeah Yeahs. People don’t bus onto the festival grounds because they want to get a henna tattoo and smoke weed with John Grisham. They come because I’m here. In my capacity as a headlining VFB blogger, I demand that you join me for this important event, March 18-22, 2009. Here are some highlights:

Stephen L. Carter of Yale and John Grisham of My Pants are going to have a handsome contest and I don’t know who’s going to win, but I will be judging strenuously. I feel bad for the writers who aren’t given enough credit for being sex objects. I want to print their book jackets on giant posters and distribute them to teen girls.

Doctors are going to bridge the gap between medicine and writing. I am going to grow a hernia thinking of something funny to say about it. Then the doctors are going to operate on me and I’ll be cured! Haha!

Rita Dove is going to read from her new book of poetry accompanied by a member of the Dave Matthews Band, Boyd Tinsley. He will be jamming on his electric poetry violin which will plug into his poetry road amp, nicknamed Will-jam Butler Yeats. Maybe Nikki Jamiovanni. Oh god.

Dan Ariely, author of Predictably Irrational, is going to eat croutons and peanut butter sausages or perhaps something even more unexpected at his business breakfast.

I am going to have an awesome time shmoozing at the Authors’ Reception, just like last year when I met these precocious young ladies and ate my weight in hors d’oeuvres and (swoon!) got a literary agent’s e-mail address. The VFB Authors’ Reception is my Vanity Fair Oscar Party.

On second thought, maybe some of these blog drafts should stay dead

DOA posts from the back end:

Hot tips for teen moms [This one recommended that pregnant teenagers move to France or Germany where the government would pay for their babies. In retrospect, not very good advice.]

Reading on the treadmill [Challenging, but worth it, like walking on a tightrope.]

Invite me to your next party so I can determine if you’d go Nazi [Failed post was based on this bizarre 1941 Harper’s article.]

Why are women so gay? [I have no idea where this one was headed.]

India [Again, that’s all I had so far.]

Planning a wedding is no big deal

I wish you could get married on the internet

Shopping for a wedding dress on Craigslist [You can see where my mind was when I wrote these last three. They were good for venting but then they struck me as a bit self-absorbed. Unlike all my other posts.]

On being a late bloomer [I might actually try this one again if no one objects.]

Mom, I’m a porn actress [I’m not actually, but do you see now how hard I work to come up with posts for you guys? And how much of my mother’s well-being I sacrifice in the name of Internetainment? ™]

Reverse caption contest

Yesterday* my sister and I made a pit stop at the BP station to buy some snacks for the movie theater. My sister, who takes her concessions seriously, bought a turkey sandwich. But when she asked the sandwich artist for tomato fixings, the lady said, “The tomatoes have a virus.”

So in the spirit of the New Yorker caption contest, I want you to draw me a suitable picture for the punchline “The tomatoes have a virus.” Nevermind the fact that this is the internet and you can’t color directly on the monitor or on the server. Nevermind the fact that I have every intention of forgetting I proposed this contest. But note that unlike other national sweepstakes, only family and friends can win this one.

*This actually happened sometime last June, but the draft disappeared into the back end of my blog. [Cue a “That’s what she said!” Or maybe a chuckled “If you know what I mean!”] Since I’m home on a Friday night with a stomach ache, I thought I’d take the opportunity to revive some of these DOA blog posts, thus creating zombie posts that will eat your brain over the weekend. Happy Valentine’s Day!

New feature: Why I love this questionable video

I love this questionable video because it depicts my dear friend and closest French ally Bart Calendar (site semi nsfw) whipping his shirt onto the ground (“I was just whipping my shirt onto the ground. It seemed like the right thing to do.”) during La Fete de la Musique in Montpellier, France (where I once had the pleasure of trolling bars with him). Bart never fails to bring the Nouveau Jersey to all his foreign enterprises, including getting drunk. He turns 40 on Valentine’s Day and he deserves a high-flying salute from this blog.

Link corral (bookmark spring-cleaning)

The New York Times shows us 25 ways to impress others on Facebook.

How to exalt your achievements while appearing humble? How to convey your essential originality while coming off as reassuringly familiar? How to illuminate without oversharing?

Stop apologizing for your perfect breasts. Nobody’s listening because they’re too focused on your perfect breasts.

For the Charlottesville people: The Parking Lot Movie is finally here.

I Bang the Worst Dudes recently changed its URL to I must have accidentally let the domain expire after high school.

The author of this article about male lesbian sexual fantasies has obviously never attended a slasher convention.

I like this lady even though she writes for USA Today: 25 Great High-School Books.

I now feel the need to support other peoples’ weird animal photos.

Before the octuplet mom, there was Josef Mengele’s “twin town” in Brazil. If you’re wondering what these stories have in common, the answer is tainted babies.

Surprisingly endearing interview with the author of Stuff White People Like:

CNN: Where do you get your ideas?

Christian Lander: Farmers’ markets.

. . .

CNN: What are some of the things that have been rejected from the list?

Lander: The one I reject a lot is people say, “Well, you know what, ‘Stuff White People Like’ should be on the list of ‘Stuff White People Like.’ ” I’m just like, “All right, postmodern hero, you’re not the first person to send this in. I’m not putting it on the list.”

Bhutan banned smoking. But the country still lights up after a rice wine bender with Tibet. Whaa? I just turned into Jay Leno all of a sudden.

This page is the Las Vegas slot machine version of the internet.

I know the whole hipster debate is over, but let this list be its swan song.

All Top online newspaper only compiles feel-good news from around the world.

Carolyn Hax just schooled somebody.

Abusing spoiled rich people is the easy thing to do, so I’ll take the sympathy route.

Now your kidney has chlamydia.

Full online documentary about Second Life love affairs.

Weekend newsprint warriors:

More people need to review cold novelty beverages for a living.

He is why my single girlfriends (and my mother) want me to attend grad school in New York City.

I am loving The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The book lives up to the hype. A good quarter of the novel is written in Spanish, which is one of the many languages that I don’t speak, but I just assume that the gibberish parts I skip are greater than or equal to the English parts that I don’t.