Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Anya Kamenetz has been writing about "generation debt" for the Voice for over a year, and since I'm about to enter a life of debt myself (at least once I get around to applying for those student loans), I'm getting interested. Her book - Generation Debt: Why Now is a Terrible Time to Be Young - is just out, and I might need to read it. Except I'm sure it's horribly depressing, like most doses of reality. Also, she is also my age, and a columnist for the Voice, and has written a book, so it makes me feel a wee bit inadequate. But I was talking to someone a few weeks ago who said that the national debt has been shifted onto students in the form of interest on our loans... and shit, that is an important thing to think about. Anyway, in yet another accomplishment she has an editorial in today's Times about shitty internships. I'm glad to see it. I've never had an internship and don't really want to. You can do internships in my grad program ("my" grad program... weird), and are encouraged to, but um, I'd rather work. You know, for money? Kamenetz writes, "Instead of starting out in the mailroom for a pittance, this generation reports for business upstairs without pay." Nicely put, and what a crappy deal.

Hey, how'd you like to read a totally depressing feature about men dealing with life after coming back from Iraq? What if I told you it came with new photographs by Eugene Richards, my most favorite photo man?

Yesterday Audrey and I had a beautiful day hanging out in Central Park. Then we went to a random Irish pub, where we met 2 marines who were in town for Fleet Week, and proceeded to drink with them for about three hours. Aud managed the military small talk like a pro, but I had to have two drinks before I could figure out that particular kind of banter. The best moment was when Audrey said, completely straight-faced, "So, what's the most powerful weapon you've ever fired?" Now I know more than I ever wanted to about the symbolism of a marine dress uniform, along with a few other things. In case you were wondering, those shiny shoes hurt their feet a whole lot. I told them they should try stilettos (as if I ever do), and my North Carolina soldier looked down at my legs, which ended in $3 flip flops on my filthy feet and said, "Yeah, but stilettos make y'all look a lot better than we do in these." Touché.

Friday, May 26, 2006

the irony never ends...

Condaleeza Rice spoke at Boston College's graduation, where she was - surprise surprise - greeted by protest. But she didn't ignore them:

She acknowledged the protests, receiving applause after urging graduates to consider perspectives different from their own.

"There is nothing wrong with holding an opinion and holding it passionately," Ms. Rice said. "But at those times you're absolutely sure that you are right, go find somebody who disagrees. Don't allow yourself the easy course of the constant 'Amen' to everything you say."

...Because, ya know, the Bush administration is always happy to consider "perspectives different from their own." A similar thing happened when John McCain spoke at the New School graduation:

After yesterday's event, Mr. McCain told reporters he felt "fine" about his reception. "I feel sorry for people living in a dull world where they can't listen to the views of others," he said.

Yes, John, I feel real sorry for them too.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


There's nothing like some good old fashioned rage at the literary establishment to get a girl's blood pumping on a gray Thursday morning:

Early this year, the Book Review's editor, Sam Tanenhaus, sent out a short letter to a couple of hundred prominent writers, critics, editors and other literary sages, asking them to please identify "the single best work of American fiction published in the last 25 years."

According to those surveyed, the winner is Toni Morrison's Beloved. Hooray, I guess. What a huge surprise. But that's pretty much the last time a woman writer appears on the extended list. Out of 4 runners up and 17 "Books That Also Received Multiple Votes," Philip Roth is cited 6 times, Don Delillo cited 3 times and Cormac McCarthy twice (for a total of 4 books - including a trilogy). There's also John Updike and Raymond Carver and Denis Johnson et al, but the only other woman is Marilynne Robinson for Housekeeping, a "book that also received multiple votes."

Aside from this tally being pretty disgusting (but - blah blah - not surprising), a good question is, why bother? WHAT IS THE POINT of choosing one book that is the very best out of the countless numbers published in the last 25 years?

A.O. Scott has some interesting things to say about that in the accompanying essay, but he also never stops to wonder about the lack of women on the list, though he does note the lack of young(er) writers. He's usually one of my favorite critics, partly because he is so damn smart and versatile - he's the film critic, and he writes for the Book Review all the time! He was on book leave, writing, it turns out, a book about the American novel! But come on. I don't understand why people do surveys about things with such obvious and terribly boring results.

For the record, the judges consisted of 38 women and 86 men. I don't necessarily think that more women judges would have meant more women as "winners," but I do want to point out that 38 to 86 is not any kind of balance, even if it looks a lot like it when compared to the results that group came up with. Not that anything as simplistic as "balance" is the goal here anyway.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

If I could travel through time, I would go to the 50's and get people to make dresses that did not have teeny tiny waists, so that I could buy them on ebay right now.

Last Friday: Steve Almond and Julianna Baggott read from the new novel they co-wrote, Which Brings Me to You. I looooove Steve Almond, but had never heard him read before. He was just as hilarious and crass as I wanted him to be. His short stories (check out collections My Life in Heavy Metal and The Evil BB Chow) are observant, tender, funny and smutty. His nonfiction book Candyfreak is also pretty excellent. So, he and Julianna hardly knew each other but really liked each other's writing, and she had this idea for a book that consisted of two characters writing confessional letters back and forth to each other, so she asked him if he wanted to write the book with her. As he tells it, he was in a bad place with his own writing at the time, so he said no. She wrote the first chapter anyway and sent it to him, and then he said he'd do it because he loved what she'd written. In full self-deprecation mode, he writes about the process of collaborating on a book in the new issue of Poets & Writers.

Julianna read from that very first chapter, and she is tiny and manic and obnoxiously funny, and Steve, predictably, read 3 sex scenes from different parts of the book. He is so good at that shit. The reading was great, largely because they didn't treat their book like a sacred text. They interrupted themselves and made snide comments and talked to the audience, and it made hearing them read totally different than reading their work on the page, which is how I think readings should be. Afterward, a guy asked if they could record an audiobook that included all of their verbal footnotes.

Last night was T Cooper, Emily Barton and Paul LaFarge at Bluestockings. They made it "love to hate it/hate to love it" night, with each of them reading something from their own work (that they presumably loved) and then something else that they either loved to hate or hated to love. Emily read from Neuromancer by William Gibson, T read from Ethan Hawke's first novel, and Paul read some lines from an earl stage/experiment in writing what would ultimately be his seriously beautiful book The Facts of Winter. This was such a smart and entertaining way to organize a reading. It could even carry a whole reading series...

Speaking of books (um, when am I not?), here's the latest Bookslut column. It contains mention of poop. And here's my review of La Perdida. You really have to read this book. I'll even sell you a copy, when you come see Jessica Abel at the Grace Reading Series at Mo Pitkins next Tuesday, May 16th at 7pm. Deal?

Monday, May 08, 2006

the most smartest

I heart Kurt Andersen, always, but especially for his new New York magazine article:

The schadenfreude also has a righteous tint: Just as the Duke-lacrosse-team case confirms ugly stereotypes about privileged white jocks, Kaavya Viswanathan, the only child of a brain surgeon and gynecologist, confirms the invidious stereotype of privileged meritocrats gone wild. She is a flagrant example of the hard-charging freaks that our culture grooms and prods so many of its best and brightest children to become, a case study in one sociopathology of the adolescent overclass.