Thursday, April 24, 2008

I'm sure everyone has read this already, but The Original of Laura will be saved! See more details here (The Guardian).

In other news, I'm proud to say I will soon be contributing to the venerable Tarpaulin Sky. Also, one of my Foghorn pieces is upcoming in the excellent comedy magazine Monkeybicycle.

Lastly, I have been transfixed by this story I caught in the news the other day: a Catholic priest in San Paolo is missing after being carried away by hundreds of helium balloons. I mean the utmost respect to the priest and hope he will be recovered safely, but I also find this story has so many elements of magical realism, it's mesmerizing. I am working on a short story about it now...


Monday, April 21, 2008

Return of Unlikely Animal Friends!

Everyone's favorite feature is back - click here [video link] to see a dog and a sheep who are friends.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Congratulations to frequent Foghorn contributor Ritija Gupta! Chicago's Metromix voted her one-act comedy "Engaging" as a top pick this week.

If you live near Chicago, check it out at Gorilla Tango Theater's night of one acts, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Through April 30. $15. Tickets:

See more here.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"I've never travelled in a bus and I've never addressed a stranger on a train."

"The prospect of just being introduced to somebody as just a person, a man as you might say in the street, is entirely repugnant."

Evelyn Waugh undergoes "the most ill-natured
interview ever" with the BBC, 1953.

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This is just too priceless - A former Lonely Planet writer assigned to cover Columbia admits he just hung around San Francisco and made stuff up.

"I got the information from a chick I was dating - an intern in the Colombian Consulate."

See The Foghorn's Lonely Planet Master Guide for our take on this fine organization.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

I don't read Russian (unfortunately), but I still enjoyed this Languagehat post on Pushkin, Nabokov, and translation.


Saturday, April 12, 2008

Two articles in the new that's Shanghai (at their new Urbanatomy site) - an interview with prize-winning Australian author Gail Jones (Sorry, Sixty Lights) and my foray into burlesque dancing.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

If You Only Buy 110 Books This Year, Buy These

(I just posted this on The Foghorn. Also up this week, an excerpt from Duelism.)

Last Sunday, the Telegraph released the inexplicable "110 Best Books: The Perfect Library," an exercise intended, I suppose, for budding autodidacts in possession of a generous Amazon gift card. The list is divided into categories, including Poetry, Children's Books, History, and the presumptuously-titled Books that Changed Your World—though I would like to meet the person whose world was changed by Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, The Tipping Point, and A Year in Provence. Once.

The list is a combination of the obvious (Homer, Shakespeare) with some safe if unremarkable choices (Trollope, Thackeray, Flaubert) and a few real curve balls (Eats Shoots and Leaves? The Day of the Triffids?) It also rests on the assumption that if you only had 110 books, 19 of them would be listed under Crime or Romance. Not to mention Science Fiction, a category whose laudatory introduction to Asimov begins, "It is not for literary brilliance that one approaches the first in the Foundation series . . . " Well, no. In this context, the judges' assurance that "Once you've finished this, 14 novels and countless more short stories await" seems more like a threat than a promise.

Not to mention the eerie arbitrariness of having exactly 110 books. What does it say about a person when they own just 110 books, among them A History of the English-Speaking Peoples, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and St. Augustine's Confessions?

Meanwhile, the New York Times kick-started their own literary argument with a recent blog post on the most overrated books. If you want to avoid apoplexy, do yourself a favor and don't read the comments. Suffice it to say that readers were quick to judge hefty stand-outs like Proust, Tolstoy, and Joyce as "unbearable;" perhaps they were using the word to mean "difficult to lift" and not "difficult to read." Meanwhile, the same aggrieved commentators bemoaned the exclusion of Ayn Rand (Books To Hide When Guests Come Over).

In this spirit I present my own reorganization of the Telegraph's picks into new categories:

Best Books That Appear, Mildewed and Worn, at Every Flea Market and Library Sale

Anthony Trollope, The Barchester Chronicles

William Makepeace Thackery, Vanity Fair

Best Books That Like Totally Changed Your World When You Were in High School

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
George Orwell, 1984
Philip K. Dick, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
William Gibson, Neuromancer

Best Book By A Serious Author Who Nonetheless Use Character Names Like "Fanny Assingham"

Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

Best All-Time Book To Whose Protagonist You Nevertheless Want to Give a Sound Beating

Marcel Proust, A la recherché du temps perdu

Best Books That You Read Again and Again While Wearing Stretch Pants and Eating Leftover Birthday Cake

Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre

Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca

Naomi Wolf, The Beauty Myth

Best Books Most Often Cited by Earnest Bloggers

Tom Paine, The Rights of Man

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, The Social Contract

Best Books Tailor-Made for Tedious Five-Paragraph Essays

Jonathan Swift, Gulliver's Travels

Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary

Earnest Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls

Toni Morrison, Beloved

Best History Book Featuring Magical Dolphins

Herodotus, The Histories

Best Children's Book About The Colonial Experience From the Point of View of an Elephant

Jean de Brunhoff, Babar

Best Children's Books With Homoerotic Subtexts

J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings

A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

Kenneth Grahame, The Wind in the Willows

Best Seldom-Read Books About Which People Nonetheless Enjoy Having Opinions

James Joyce, Ulysses

Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince

Sigmund Freud, On the Interpretation of Dreams

Charles Darwin, On the Origin of the Species

Best Books Whose Gist Is Easily Absorbed Without Bothering to Read Them

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein

H.G. Wells, The Time Machine

Thomas Malory, Le Morte D'Arthur

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Complete Sherlock Holmes

Robert Louis Stevenson, Treasure Island

Best Books Of Which You Saw the Movie Version

Choderios de Laclos, Les Liaisons Dangereuses

Robert Graves, I, Claudius

Patrick O'Brian, Master and Commander

Margaret Mitchell, Gone with the Wind

Boris Pasternak, Dr. Zhivago

Arthur C. Clarke, 2001: A Space Odyssey

Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon

Thomas Harris, Red Dragon

Best Books of Which You Saw the Coen Brothers Movie Version

Homer, The Odyssey

Raymond Carver, The Big Sleep

Best Books Currently Being Used to Prop Up Your Futon

Karl Marx, Das Kapital

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

Edward Gibbon, The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire

Best Book This Author Admits She's Never Actually Read

George Eliot, Middlemarch

Best Books That, Let's Face It, Even the Judges Haven't Read

Diderot, L'Encyclopédie

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

My new favorite time-waster is the UnSuggester on Library Thing. Suggest a title and it will suggest some books you are sure not to like. Some examples:

Did you like The Critique of Pure Reason?

You will not like Confessions of a Shopaholic. (I did, in fact, like both.)

Did you like
The Confessions of St. Augustine?
You will not like Night Pleasures.

Did you like ANSI Common LISP?
You will not like Wuthering Heights.

Did you like The Road to Serfdom?
You will not like The Devil Wears Prada.

Did you like Bitch?
You will not like The Visual Display of Quantitative Information.

Did you like Real Sex?
You will not like The Unbearable Lightness of Being.


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Distinguished University of Chicago professor and perennial undergrad favorite Wendy Doniger has an interesting piece in the London Review of Books on Indo-European reconstructions and "The Land East of the Asterisk."


Sunday, April 06, 2008

Congratulations to my friend Linara Washington for her film "Kings of the Evening," which will be featured in the Atlanta Film Festival this month.

Read more about the film here and here, and if you live in the Atlanta area, make sure to see "Kings of the Evening," screening April 17th & 18th.

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Yesterday Dev and I took a three-and-a-half hour train trip to Yiwu, Zhejiang Province, about two hundred miles south of Shanghai. Yiwu is the capital of China's export market. Our hotel was next door to the International Trade City, a ten-million-square-foot center with more than 30,000 stalls displaying wholesale trade samples of almost every imaginable consumer good. The Trade City, in turn, anchors a wider selection of smaller markets and stalls, plus freight companies, customs consults, and other affiliated businesses.

This is the place to find Indian mehndi (henna tattoo) patterns, scissors, inflatable novelty hammers, flashlights, plastic back braces, statues of the Virgin Mary, rain coats, LED signs, hookah pipes, Native American handicrafts, push brooms, fake flowers, Christmas wreaths, and children's backpacks. Yes, and more.

Then we spent a romantic Saturday night at the Aegean Sea Bar in the lobby of the Best Western Hotel in Yiwu, China. Classy.

Check out our
photos here.

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On our trip to Yiwu this weekend, Dev enjoyed a refreshing beer, now "Free From Formaldehyde"!

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

I was pleased to see my recent CRAFT article was mentioned today on parenting site as a recommended craft project for kids.

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