Wednesday, June 29, 2011



For Sinophiles and anarcho-capitalists...

...and those who remember a certain luminous performance in a great movie , a new book called "Ghetto at the Center of the World" reviewed this morning in the Wall Street Journal will resonate:

The building is a caravansary with halal eateries, Internet cafes, Bollywood video kiosks, groceries, barber shops, a laundry, currency exchanges and an Islamic bookstore. About 70 discreet female sex workers live in the upper stories, while their more aggressive competitors can be found around the corner near the 7-Eleven. In the alleyways beside the building, you can find a magazine stand with a selection of straight and gay pornography, a makeshift bar that sells shots of Indian whiskey that the Africans refer to as "tears of the lion" and a sad community of homeless Nepalese heroin addicts.

In the ethnic mix, one nationality is conspicuously absent. Hong Kong Chinese are largely terrified of the place's reputation for violence and poverty...... The shop owners are predominantly mainland Chinese, not locals. Most of the managers are South Asian—and a majority of the illegal temporary workers are Muslims from the Calcutta neighborhood of Kidderpore.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rita Pavone - "Your Baby's Gone Surfing" (Shindig!, 1965)

I really had no idea. Posted on Facebook by Tim Lucas.

She's 20 years old in this clip. Height 150 cm. Wiki sez: "The main character in the 2000 Argentine film, "Nine Queens" tries to remember a Pavone song throughout the film. The song, "Il Ballo Del Mattone," plays as the credits roll."

UPDATE: Shame on Netflix for not having this in stock -- a Rita Pavone spaghetti western, with co-star Terrence Hill!


Hitch on Stieg

I assumed as I was reading them that Stieg Larsson had used the "Millennium" novels as vehicles for material he had uncovered as a journalist that for one reason or another he was not able to publish as non-fiction. This extract, from an essay by Christopher Hitchens reprinted in a new book, supports that view:

The Tattooed Girl: The Enigma of Stieg Larsson and the Secrets Behind the Most Compelling Thrillers of Our Time (Dan Burstein, Arne de Keijzer and John-Henri Holmberg)
- Highlight Loc. 567-83 | Added on Tuesday, June 28, 2011, 07:23 AM

A report in the mainstream newspaper Aftonbladet describes the findings of another anti-Nazi researcher, named Bosse Schön, who unraveled a plot to murder Stieg Larsson that included a Swedish SS veteran. Another scheme misfired because on the night in question, 20 years ago, he saw skinheads with bats waiting outside his office and left by the rear exit. Web sites are devoted to further speculation: one blog is preoccupied with the theory that Prime Minister Palme’s uncaught assassin was behind the death of Larsson too. Larsson’s name and other details were found when the Swedish police searched the apartment of a Fascist arrested for a political murder. Larsson’s address, telephone number, and photograph, along with threats to people identified as “enemies of the white race,” were published in a neo-Nazi magazine: the authorities took it seriously enough to prosecute the editor.

But Larsson died of an apparent coronary thrombosis, not from any mayhem. So he would have had to be poisoned, say, or somehow medically murdered. Such a hypothesis would point to some involvement “high up,” and anyone who has read the novels will know that in Larsson’s world the forces of law and order in Sweden are fetidly complicit with organized crime. So did he wind up, in effect, a character in one of his own tales?

The people who might have the most interest in keeping the speculation alive—his publishers and publicists—choose not to believe it. “Sixty cigarettes a day, plus tremendous amounts of junk food and coffee and an enormous workload,” said Christopher MacLehose, Larsson’s literary discoverer in English and by a nice coincidence a publisher of Flashman, “would be the culprit. I gather he’d even had a warning heart murmur. Still, I have attended demonstrations by these Swedish right-wing thugs, and they are truly frightening. I also know someone with excellent contacts in the Swedish police and security world who assures me that everything described in the ‘Millennium’ novels actually took place. And, apparently, Larsson planned to write as many as 10 in all. So you can see how people could think that he might not have died but been ‘stopped.’”

UPDATE: Elsewhere in the same volume, one of Larsson's oldest friends, John-Henri Holmberg (they were boy science fiction fans together), explains that the "emotion free sex" in the novels should be seen as a direct extension of his anarchist absolutism on the subject of personal liberty:
...those who believe in the equal rights and value of all individuals must never overstep the boundaries set by each individual’s right to integrity, free choice, and personal preference. This demands that all relations between individuals are based on mutual consent, choice, and desire. In such relations, there is no room to express feelings of ownership, control, or jealousy, physically or emotionally. Which means that between free agents who feel that way, sex is a value in itself, to be accepted when mutually desired, but implying no claim on any participant. To Stieg, this view was basic, and it permeates his writing.

Throughout the Millennium books, this is how the “good” characters—Lisbeth Salander, Mikael Blomkvist, Erika Berger and her husband Greger, Miriam Wu, Monica Figuerola, and many others—consistently behave. They have sex freely when they feel like it, but it involves no claims or dependencies. Whereas sex to the “bad” characters always involves submission and degradation; to them, convinced of their inherent superiority, sex is not an act of mutual pleasure, but of violence and domination, and consequently of hatred. Many passages relevant to this view of sex and relationships have been deleted [by the Swedish editors]. One example is around 270 words long, which, in Stieg’s manuscript, begins chapter 18 of book 3. Mikael Blomkvist wakes up after spending his first night with Monica Figuerola. He has slept only three hours and aches all over. Monica, on the other hand, is in great shape: “Her body was her temple.” Mikael asks her if all muscular women are as dominant. Monica says that she doesn’t know, and pays him a compliment: “I might want to do it again one of these days.”


Captain Jack and the Pirates: Davies, too

Dan Martin, of the Guardian's TV blog, writes on the new season of Torchwood and the six day wait:

There's been plenty of fuss and bother about whether Torchwood effectively being made as an American show will fundamentally change its DNA. In my view, that hasn't happened. No, the show isn't really the same beast as it was for those first two series (and an absence of sex-aliens is no great loss), instead it's more a direct continuation of Children Of Earth, just on a bigger, international scale. That's not a bad thing. But the scheduling is. Sci-fi fans are particularly tenacious when it comes to their heartland shows, and since a new episode often feels like Christmas has come round again, they don't like to be kept waiting. And it's not as if there aren't ways to watch the show that mean you don't have to wait until its UK broadcast.

Personally, having seen the music industry decimated, I have a near zero tolerance for downloading. The upshot is that not many artists now get the investment they need because the money simply isn't there. We get the culture we deserve, really. But it's hard not to think that the BBC is treating a big show – a show that it developed and established – recklessly.
Oh... RTD waxes eloquent as always here:
"I start the series and I think, I'm never doing this again." But then he relives his brilliantly theatrical response last weekend in Swansea, his hometown, when looking at an edit of the last episode of the show, which this series has lost a lot of its monsters in favour of a longer, more conceptual story arc.

"'It's so marvellous! It's so marvellous!'" he laughs again. "It's hugely exciting and I've got to do this again. I've got one more story that I can tell – just one more that has Gwen right at the centre of it – that would be fantastic. So I'm my own worst enemy."

Contextual update: Having been made aware that not everyone can be expected to follow links, I should make it clear that the problem is that Torchwood will premiere in the US six days before it will be broadcast to a much wider fan base in the UK.... I believe that it will be streamed on Netflix (which has a deal with Starz) in the US.


Monday, June 27, 2011

An extract...

...from an upcoming publication:

The fascination with Lisbeth [Salander] crosses genders, which is one reason why the film can be a commercial success. Specifically, though, the character has become a kind of women’s obsession, especially for feminists who either reject or embrace her. Many people, myself included, believe that Lisbeth is a feminist character (interestingly created by a man, clearly sprinkled with a little fairy dust by his partner of thirty years, Eva Gabrielsson, as she revealed in her recent interviews). Lisbeth is like an avenging angel for all women who have been wronged by society. How can a feminist not fall in love with a guy who has the guts to create a character that has been so screwed by the system yet retains the strength to come back and get revenge on the people who have done her wrong? On the other side of the argument are others who are adamant that a man could never have created Lisbeth and her story because they are both too feminist. Still others also believe that Lisbeth is a victim, and are very angry and disturbed by the violence depicted against women—particularly in the first novel and film (titled Men Who Hate Women in their native Sweden). True, the violence is disturbing and hard to watch. But it doesn’t mean that it isn’t feminist.

The debate about Lisbeth, the book, the films, and their relationship to feminism is one of the most exciting things about the upcoming film. 2010 might go down as the year when America—both men and women—became obsessed with books with a new feminist icon, but 2011 could go down as the year when Hollywood somehow releases a feminist film that becomes a big mainstream hit. Bring it on.


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Lagaan - Radha Kaise Na Jale

Movie: "Lagaan - Once upon a time in India"
Cast: Aamir Khan, Gracy Singh, Rachel Shelley
Music: A.R. Rahman
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Hindi Song Title: Radha Kaise Na Jale


"...inferring, deducing, concluding..."

[Adamsberg] was not in the habit of reflecting deeply. He has never been able to understand what was happening when he saw people put their hands to their foreheads and say. “Right, let’s give this some thought.” What was going on in their brains, the way they managed to organize precise ideas, inferring, deducing, concluding, all this was a complete mystery to him. He had to admit that it produced results, and that after this kind of brainstorming people took decisions, something he admired while convinced that he himself was lacking in some way. But when he tried it, when he sat down and said, “Right, I’ll give it some thought,” nothing happened in his head., It was even at moments like this that he was aware of a complete blank. Adamsberg never realized when he was thinking and the instant he became conscious of it, it stopped. As a result he was never sure where all his ideas, his intuitions and his decisions came from. (46-47)

Danglard saw that Adamsberg was preoccupied. , but that he nevertheless didn't give the impression of deep concentration. Their previous commissaire had been just the opposite. He had been completely tied up in his thoughts, a man of perpetual rumination. But Adamsberg was open to every wind, like a cabin made of rough planks, letting his brain receive fresh air, Danglard thought. Yes , it was true, you could imagine that everything that went in through his ears, eyes and nose -- smoke, colors, paper rustling -- caused a draught to whistle through his thoughts and stopped them solidifying. This man, Danglatd thought, is attentive to everything, which means he pasy attention to nothing. (57-58).
--Fred Vargas, The Chalk Circle Man (1997)



...which for people outside India is like pretend buzz, a way to play at being a fixated movie fan. (A friend who collects Cantopop recordings sees something similar at work there; some residual snobbery holds her back from becomeing a fan of Western pop that doesn't apply to the Chinese stuff.)

The Indian Film Academy Awards were handed out in Toronto over the weekend

,"Dabangg," a tale about a corrupt police officer, dominated the 12th International Indian Film Academy awards, snagging nine prizes including best picture at the star-studded event in Toronto — held on North American soil for the first time.


"Dabangg" led the awards tally, sweeping trophies in the music category in Toronto's packed Rogers Centre, filled with more than 22,000 Bollywood fans and stars. The hit took the prize for best playback singer female, playback singer male, music direction, choreography and sound re-recording. A playback singer pre-records songs so Bollywood actors can lip sync to them in their films. "Dabangg" star Sonu Sood won for best performance in a negative role.

The film also garnered the awards for best screenplay and for best female debut which went to Sonakshi Sinha for her role in the film as Sood's love interest. It also snagged the best action award.


Enjoy being part of it all?

From this morning's New York Times Book Review, something that could explain why I'm trying not to keep up with things quite so much.

Consider the view that those well-­connected people the marketing industry labels “influencers” have an outsize effect on other people’s behavior. It’s only natural to assume that certain individuals have a disproportionate impact because of their particular characteristics — charisma, intelligence, popularity. But when Watts used computer simulations to model how new behaviors might spread through social networks, he found that the most highly connected individuals were not the whole story. The spread of an idea or taste depended not only on such individuals, but also on “a critical mass of easily influenced people who influence other easy-to-­influence people. When this critical mass existed, even an average individual was capable of triggering a large cascade.”


Saturday, June 25, 2011

She's Not There

She's here.


The Battle of Life

The Wall Street Journal sent Jonathan Gold to Copenhagen to eat at the 'World's Best Restaurant', a twelve-table place called Noma. (He also ate at the 'Best Restaurant in North America', which is a place in Chicago called Alinea. There are things that Rupert Murdoch can do for you that the LA Weekly can't.)

The food is mostly unrecognizable as such -- a sort of fantasia of forest and ocean themes -- and from the description of his meal (if you can call it that), I'd pay a year's salary to eat there. Except, perhaps, this:

With a kind of reverence, a chef sets down a lidded mason jar filled with ice. Inside are tiny prawns from the fjord; after lumpfish roe, the translucent creatures are the second sign of Nordic spring. You open the jar, and the prawns stare up at you, barely moving, although when you pick one up, it wriggles like mad. You stare at it a moment, man against prawn, predator and prey, and when you pop it into your mouth you feel it go limp under your teeth all at once, its small life absorbed into your own.


Friday, June 24, 2011

"...women were worse..."

"He had heard it said that men were bastards, because once they slept with a woman they passed judgement on her. But women were worse, because they refused to sleep with you unless everything was exactly right. So not only were you weighed up and judged, you never got to sleep with anybody."

-- Fred Vargas for Adrien Danglard in The Chalk Circle Man (1997).

UPDATE: Vargas on Vargas
As a "huge fan" of classic British crime fiction, she is, she says, especially happy that the UK now counts among the 22 countries in which her books have appeared.

"When things are not going well, it's never an American or a French crime novel that I'll pick up but a British one," she says. "Conan Doyle is, of course, a master; he gives the impression of realism but in fact his is a mad, almost a surrealist world. And Agatha - Agatha mastered the fable. But she's terrifying too. She lets no one off the hook; she shows everyone could have dunnit."


Her quirky, uplifting tales have become enormously popular: Debout les Morts (1986) won the First Novel Award but sold just 1,500 copies; her latest, Sous les Vents de Neptune, was published earlier this year and has already passed the quarter-million mark, a huge success in France.

"I think it's partly because they are different from the rest of what's out there," Vargas says. "In France, the harder and tougher a book is, the more Zola or Baudelaire, the more it's literature. The amusing and the distracting don't count: Dumas still isn't on syllabuses here."


Disco Aamir

Info here.


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Just so you know...

•12 ounces beer = 153 calories and 13.9 grams alcohol

•12 ounces lite beer = 103 calories and 11 grams alcohol

•5 ounces wine (red) = 125 calories and 15.6 grams alcohol

•5 ounces wine (white) = 121 calories and 15.1 grams alcohol

•3 ounces sake = 117 calories and 14.1 grams alcohol

•1 1/2 ounces liquor (80 proof or 40% alcohol) = 97 calories and 14 grams alcohol

◦add 6 ounces carbonated beverage mix to 1 1/2 ounces liquor and the calories and carbohydrates increase:

◦cola 68 calories and 18 grams carbohydrate

◦lemon-lime soda74 calories and 19 grams carbohydrate


Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Mess of Shadows

Novelist John Connelly on The Chill:

Originally entitled "A Mess of Shadows," from a line in the W.B. Yeats poem, "Among School Children", The Chill takes some of its structure and imagery from Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner": a sad story told by a character seeking release and deliverance; a mist-shrouded environment; and the death of a bird, in this case a pigeon rather than an albatross.

Like all of [Ross] Macdonald's work, this is a novel obsessed with the impact of the past upon the present. As Archer tells Mrs. Hoffman, "History is always connected to the present." Again and again, we are reminded of the resonance of old acts. Dr. Godwin's voice is "like the whispering ghost of the past". In Alice's house, Archer thinks that he looks like "a ghost from the present haunting a bloody moment in the past". And, in a wonderful image, Archer describes the questions raised by Mrs. Delaney as sticking "in my mind like fishhooks which trailed their broken lines into the past".

I would describe this book as a 'nearly perfect' crime novel, although this implies that Macdonald erred in some way in its creation. I don't think that's true. Its imperfections are deliberate, a testament to Macdonald's courage as a writer and his absolute refusal to fall back on sentimentality. While Alex Kincaid is another of Macdonald's troubled young men, tainted by the actions of an earlier generation, he is also something of a jerk, and it's difficult to feel a great deal of sympathy for him. By contrast, Macdonald kills off one of the book's most attractive characters disturbingly early, and in doing so accentuates the horror of the murderous figure that stalks the novel.


I chose this novel to start the Book Club on my website for a number of reasons. First of all, there's Macdonald's huge influence on me as a writer, and Archer's influence on the creation of [Connelly's detective hero] Charlie Parker. I would not be the novelist that I am without the influence of Macdonald.

But I also chose it because I think it is one of the great American mystery novels, worthy to stand alongside the best of Chandler, Hammett, Highsmith, or any other mystery writer that one cares to name, with a killer twist at the end almost unequalled in the genre. Others may argue for The Galton Case, or The Underground Man, or The Doomsters as the apogee of Macdonald's work. I think they're wrong. The Chill is the finest jewel in Macdonald's crown.
Of P.I. Lew Archer, Connelly says:
In many ways, the society that he inhabits is unworthy of Archer, although he never sees himself in those terms. He is not self-interested. Instead, his interest is directed at the lives of others in an attempt both to understand their actions and undo the harm that has been done to them by others. His innate goodness may explain some of the hostility that has been directed toward him by subsequent critics and writers who mistake cynicism for realism, and confuse sentimentality with genuine emotion.


Monday, June 20, 2011

Almodovar channels Franju

One of my many hopeless dream projects back when I was doggedly writing screenplays was a remake of George Franju's great "Eyes Without a Face," a plastic surgery melodrama that I planned to relocate from Paris to Beverly Hills. At that point the rights were owned by Disney, for some reason. I knew slightly the director who was developing the Disney remake and called him up. He said he doubted the Disney version would ever happen or that the rights would ever be relinquished -- in part because Disney would never want to watch another company  succeed where they'd failed. And even if Disney had retreated, the rights were a hellish tangle; in French law, all six (or so) of the original film's screenwriters could assert authorial privilage, and probably would. His advice? "You can always rip it off."


Do you know who Amanda Hocking is?

If not, can your claim to knowing anything about pop culture fandom be sustained? Can mine?

The readers of the New York Times awoke yesterday morning to the first mention of Hocking in THAT paper (other than a name check in an earlier article).... Fascinating article about the future of no-gatekeeper publishing.

Since uploading her first book on her own last spring, she has become one of the best-selling e-authors on Amazon. In that time, she has grossed approximately $2 million. Her 10 novels include the paranormal-romance “Trylle,” a four-book vampire series that begins with “My Blood Approves” and “Hollowland,” which kicks off a zombie series whose second book will come out in the fall. Her character-driven books, which feature trolls, hobgoblins and fairy-tale elements and keep the pages turning, have generated an excitement not felt in the industry since Stephenie Meyer or perhaps even J. K. Rowling.

Given this success, it’s fair to ask why Hocking has decided to go with a so-called legacy publisher at all.

“I’d always known that if I could get the right deal, I would take it,” she said. .... Hocking wants to reach as many people as possible among the 85 percent or so of the population who don’t have e-readers yet. “For me to be a billion-dollar author,” she would tell me later, “I need to have people buying my books at Wal-Mart.”

In her office there was a framed check from Amazon for $15.75 for her first royalties, from a year ago. When we settled down in her living room, Hocking described what was, for someone who becomes a writer, a not-unfamiliar childhood. “I was seriously depressed for most of my life,” she said. She channeled her feelings into fan fiction.


Truth in criticism

The Wall Street Journal reviews the fascinating, but difficult, " The Quantum Thief" :

Conventional academic wisdom now holds that there are two kinds of book: difficult, "writerly" art-novels (for intellectuals) and simple "readerly" mass-market fiction (for the rest of us peasants). "The Quantum Thief" destroys that theory in three pages. It is mass-market entertainment but makes "Ulysses" look like a "Dick and Jane" reader. Mr. Rajaniemi sets a test of stamina, concentration and patience that not everyone will pass.


Saturday, June 18, 2011


"I don’t begin a novel with a shopping list. The novel becomes my shopping list as I write it. It’s like that joke about the violin maker who was asked how he made a violin and answered that he started with a piece of wood and removed everything that wasn’t a violin. That’s what I do when I’m writing, except somehow I’m simultaneously generating the wood as I’m carving it.

"E.M. Forster’s idea has always stuck with me – that a writer who’s fully in control of the characters hasn’t even started to do the work. …. The sort of narratives I don’t trust, as a reader, smell of homework."

-- William Gibson, Paris Review 197


"Prewar Green River"

The Chill (Ross Macdonald)
- Highlight Loc. 3257-65 | Added on Saturday, June 18, 2011, 03:17 PM

“How did it happen, Lieutenant?”

“He was cleaning his .32 automatic. He had a permit to tote it on his person—I helped him get it myself—because he used to carry large sums of money. He took the clip out all right but he must of forgot the shell that was in the chamber. It went off and shot him in the face.”


“Through the right eye.”

“I mean where did the accident occur?”

“In one of the bedrooms in his apartment. He kept the roof apartment in the Deloney building for his private use. More than once I drank with him up there. Prewar Green River, boy.” He slapped my knee, and noticed the full glass in my hand. “Drink up your drink.”

I knocked back about half of it. It wasn’t prewar Green River.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Meat overdose

Ate here last night with the offspring, after picking her up at the airport. An accidental find while looking for something else. Can think of at least one HG regular who might also enjoy it. (The pale lump in the middle is a scoop of excellent potato salad.)

Along with the barbecue, Bicycle and Gogi's menu has selections of fried items including ribbons of 'sweet' potato fries dusted with cinnamon and sugar and several Korean dishes listed under appetizers and side dishes -- like a stunningly red kimchi fried rice with a fried egg on top. On our most recent visit we ordered the Budae jjigae, listed in English as "Johnson Soup." Also known as Army stew because ingredients could be bought from the U.S. military bases throughout Korea, Bicycle and Gogi's rendition includes hot dogs, Spam, instant ramen noodles, zucchini and a slice of American cheese suspended in a thick gochujang (Korean chili paste) broth.


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Tulkinghorn favorite forsakes the printed word

I've hesitated to express my admiration of Minister Faust's superhero parody From the Notebooks of Dr. Brain: partially because the parody may not be as clever as I (a casual and lapsed fan) think it is and partially because it contains a great deal of black power/hip-hop stuff, which may not, to understate the matter, appeal to all. ("Minister" is definitely not the writer's first name...) Think a young, less crazy Ishmael Reed.

At any rate, Faust is publishing his third novel independently on Kindle alone, and discusses it here with Jeff Vandermeer, who's a fan.

The difference between self-published and indie is that the former is anyone who just wants a physical copy of a book he’s written, and will put in minimal effort with minimal comprehension of book design, cover art, content editing, proofreading, distribution, or promotion. An indie writer wants not just control over those things, but probably wants to learn how to execute as many of them as possible and as well as possible. Using a combination of e-publication and print-on-demand, I can deliver to vast numbers of people, so long as they find out about my books in the first place. Amazon Kindle and other distribution sites tilt the balance in favour of readers. Meanwhile, using the tools and skills I do have under my control, I can promote my book, and on my estore and Amazon’s and the others, I have unlimited shelf-space with my covers always facing out, and unlimited shelf-life. I can also set the prices myself.

So what do I get for going indie? Artistic and business self-determination and the chance to earn a living for writing my own fiction.


Wednesday, June 15, 2011

HG Themes a go-go

In what could be the HG mash-up of the year, Salman Rushdie has declared that "quality TV drama has taken over from film and the novel as the best way of widely communicating ideas and stories..."

He's writing a series for Showtime. It's SF.... (but of course not really)

It's a sort of paranoid science-fiction series, people disappearing and being replaced by other people," said Rushdie, 63, best known for Midnight's Children and The Satanic Verses. "It's not exactly sci-fi, in that there is not an awful lot of science behind it, but there are certainly elements which are not naturalistic."


As discussed...

Here's me quoting Adam Roberts, for a change:

[Katie Ward's "Girl reading"] is a novel, not a collection of thematically-linked short stories, howevermuch it initially appears to be so. And the quality of the individual section, though inevitably a little variable, is high; I enjoyed reading them all very much. Nevertheless it took me a long time to finish reading this book, and that was for the following reason. I bought it as an e-book, for the Kindle app in my iPhone. I have seen it suggested that since e-books don't actually lie accusingly un- or half-read on our bedside tables, they fall into an out-of-sight-and-mind hole that actual books avoid. (Have a look at this intriguing John C Abell piece in Wired, 'Five Reasons Why E-Books Aren’t There Yet', paying particular attention to reason 1). I must say, I haven't found so: I seem to have no problem keeping going right through, even with quite lengthy books (I read Tim Powers' brand-new-in-2010-honestly Declare on the same app, for instance, and its hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages long). But for some reason I kept not going back to Ward's novel. This is not because I wasn't enjoying reading it, because I was. But I think it had to do with the fact that as I reached the end of each of the seven sections, some box in my sub-brain got ticked, and I subconsciously thought 'done and done!' -- and at next reading opportunity I'd pick up something else. Which is a roundabout way of saying: it may be that reading whole short-story collections, or novels (like this one) that play formal games on the linked-short-story format, may be harder to do in e-book format than in the codex. Not Ward's fault, of course; but an interesting wrinkle in a mode of buying and reading books for which I have hitherto had only praise.
Abell makes a couple of other good points, though his number 3 is simply wrong: Kindle, at least, has a feature that saves typed comments as click-and-return footnotes.
4) E-books are positioned as disposable, but aren’t priced that way.

This one is simple, and also easy to oversimplify since people still have to get paid. But until e-books truly add new value, the way Hollywood did with DVD extras, it’s just annoying to plunk down $13 for what amounts to a rental. E-books cost virtually nothing to produce, and yet the baseline cover price, set by publishers, is only fractionally below the discount price for the print version of new releases.

E-books can’t be shared, donated to your local library shelter, or re-sold. They don’t take up space, and thus coax conflicted feelings when it is time to weed some of them out. But because they aren’t social, even in the limited way that requires some degree of human contact in the physical world, they will also never be an extension of your personality.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Will admit I have some sympathy with the views posted here:
I’ve already started to read posts about how hot Rooney is with her nipple ring on full display.  That’s enough to start my blood boiling.  Lisbeth is not supposed to be hot.  That’s one of the reasons why we love her so much.  She doesn’t play by the rules and now we have a poster that puts her right back into the girl box.
Lizbeth is just about the last person on earth who would ever want to attract sexual attention. In fact, her feral aversion to that and most other forms of human contact is pretty close to the heart of the character.

Of course people realize that this is a Hollywood ad image in a standard format. At the same time, they love Salander and are offended when, in their eyes, she isn't treated with respect. A fanboy-adjacent response, from an unusual demographic, and sympathetic as such.

This angry blast gets it right.

Discussion in progress here.


Bolaño, PKD, and Thoreau

Dwight Gardner reviews a collection of Bolaño's essays (called "Between Parentheses") in this morning's New York Times. Bolaño's genre scorecard was an interesting one: He disliked John Irving and Michael Chabon, but liked Thomas Harris: opinions that are hard to generalize from. He loved Philip K. Dick (I almost said "of course") and had contempt for the very literature professors who now lionize him. A hard-core bohemian to the last..... From the review:

He had a baroque, seriocomic scorn for Latin American professors at American universities. “To attend dinner with them and their favorites,” Bolaño wrote, “is like gazing into a creepy diorama in which the chief of a clan of cavemen gnaws on a leg while his acolytes nod and laugh.” He made plain his lack of regard for the American writers John Irving, Chuck Palahniuk and Michael Chabon.

Some of the crispest writing in “Between Parentheses,” however, is from the newspaper columns in which he appraised those American writers whose work he clutched to his chest. These included genre masters like Dick, (Walter) Mosley, James Ellroy and Thomas Harris. Mr. Harris’s Hannibal Lecter novels may be mass-market best sellers, Bolaño said, “but I wish most contemporary novelists wrote this well.” His riff on Philip K. Dick included this sentence: “Dick is Thoreau plus the death of the American dream.”


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Non-canonical Bond

A trail that I never followed: non-Fleming James Bond novels. Most of them sound horrible. This summary article is pretty funny. Kingsley Amis's Bond book got this response from Anne Fleming, Ian's posh, titled, dominatrix, widow:

"Amis will slip Lucky Jim into Bond's clothing," she wrote in a Sunday Telegraph review. "We shall have a petit bourgeois red-brick Bond [who will] end up selling his country."
The Gardner Bonds were created according to an interesting formula for hackery:
Gardner went on to write 16 Bond novels, four more than Fleming. All 16 are readable, yet all are dogged by silliness: Bond gets chummy with an unconvincing Maggie Thatcher in Win Lose Or Die; half of Scorpius takes place in the glamourous locale of Chippenham.

The novels were a three-way trade-off between Gardner, Gildrose and the American publisher Putnam. Gardner would spend six weeks writing each novel; Putnam would spend six months adjusting it to their requirements. By publication Americanisms were everywhere: a waiter wears "pants" in The Man From Barbarossa; Bond asks "what's up?" in Brokenclaw. Even worse were the titles (1987's Win Lose Or Die pales in comparison to Putnam's suggestion: Oh No, Mr Bond).


Brown '11

Eleanor Thompson Chute * Φ Σ
(* magna cum laude)


The new conventional wisdom

A line from an article in this morning's LA Times about prominent directors working in television:

DreamWorks convinced (Neil Jordan) that his concept for a movie based on the 15th century papacy would be better suited for television, with its older, more sophisticated audience.
As though the "older, more sophisticated audience" of television almost went without saying.

The new David Milch horse-racing series, starring Dustin Hoffman and produced/directed by Michael Mann looks interesting -- as does the production of "Parade's End" that David mentioned a little while ago. I liked Curtis Hanson's work on "Too Big to Fail" -- and, of course, "Game of Thrones" occupies an honored Sunday night position here chez Tulkinghorn.

I think it would be amusing if these television productions were given fake releases like documentaries to qualify as "motion pictures".... Would make the tedious Oscars a lot more interesting. (Paul Giamatti's performance as Ben Bernanke has Best Supporting Actor written all over it... And I understand there are enthusiasts for a number of the performers in "Justified.")


Saturday, June 4, 2011


1971 - Zeenat Aman

2011 - Deepika Padukone


Friday, June 3, 2011

Casting buzz...

...for Anglophiles.


Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Egan-Naipaul Smackdown

V.S. Naipaul was asked the other day whether he considered any woman writer his "literary match". His simple and typical answer was "No." Asked if that opinion included, say, Jane Austen, he said that all women writers were doomed to inferiority (compared to him) because of their "sentimentality."

Pretty amusing stuff.

Even more amusing was Jennifer Egan's (of current Goon Squad fame) response when reached by phone by the WSJ:

These comments are a reminder of what we all know. If someone is a perceptive, nuanced writer, it does not mean that the person, as a perceiver of the world, manifests the same qualities. Reading those comments you have no interest in engaging in this person’s sensibility. You wouldn’t think this person has anything to reveal. But as a writer he’s much more than that, so that contradiction is interesting. To condemn these comments gives them more weight, endows them with more authority. They just sound like one’s man cranky, outmoded point of view


A long way from the Tardis....

The Guardian reviews the West End production of "Much Ado About Nothing" starring Catherine Tate and David Tennant. A pairing for the ages? Says the review:

Down the ages people have always gone to this play to watch the verbal sparring of Beatrice and Benedick which anticipates 1930s Hollywood screwball comedy; and here Tate and Tennant give just the right suggestion that their byplay is the product of some past bruising encounter. Tennant is especially good at showing Benedick's transition from the self-conscious madcap of the officers' mess into a man capable of love......Tate gives an excellent account of Beatrice as the kind of larky, high-spirited woman who uses her wisecracking gifts as a defence against emotional engagement...

....the gaiety of the evening suggests the Tate-Tennant partnership should be pursued. Why not try their hand at Restoration comedy or Coward's Private Lives?