Now that his wife is being accused of being part of the great Oprah plagiarism cabal, it seems Jerry Seinfeld has put comedy aside for a while to take up literary criticism:
"So there's another woman who had another cookbook -- and it was a similar kind of thing, with the food and the vegetables in the food -- and my wife never saw the book, read the book, used the book," the 53-year-old comedian said Monday on CBS' "Late Show With David Letterman."
"But the books came out at the same time. So this woman says, 'I sense this could be my wacko moment.' So she comes out ... and she accuses my wife. She says, 'You stole my mushed-up carrots. You can't put mushed-up carrots in a casserole. I put mushed-up carrots in a casserole. It's vegetable plagiarism,' "Seinfeld joked.
"I love the term 'plagiarism' for this little event," he said. "Because it used to be you had to really take a theme from a major novel, some sort of literary narrative. Now, you're in your kitchen making brownies, you sneak a little spinach in there, your name's dragged through the mud."
I'm always a sucker for stories about good college rivalries, especially when murder and the Beats are involved:
In 1924, in one of the first Crime(s) of the Century, [University of Chicago] students Nathan Leopold and Richard Loeb misread Nietzsche and murdered (chloroform, chisel) a random boy to prove that they were supermen. It was quite a big deal because a) it was 1924, and b) they were rich, smart, Jewish, and gay.
In addition to two good films (Rope, Swoon), the murder/trial spawned the film Compulsion, which suggests that all this unpleasantness could have been avoided if they had only talked to girls once in a while. There have been no films, however, about the Columbia murder, which is, quite frankly, bullshit, because whatever the 1944 killing of David Kammerer by Lucien Carr lacks in malevolence, it more than makes up for in sordidness and famous people.
Carr was 19, rich, straight, and, by all accounts, a hot piece of ass—oh-so-hetero Jack Kerouac describes him as both a “fantastic male beauty” and “a mischievous little prick.” He had already bounced out of Andover, Bowdoin, and, obviously, the University of Chicago, where he tried to kill himself (head in the oven). Apparently none of these were deal breakers for the Columbia College admissions office, so he came to New York, with Kammerer one step behind.
Kammerer was 33 and had been—enjoy this moment, because your mind is about to be made up forever—the leader of Carr’s Boy Scout troop in St. Louis, and he had “followed” Carr to each expensive school. But he had good qualities, too. Allen Ginsberg writes of the “wonderful, perverse Kammerer.” Kerouac notes that he was “not a bad guy in himself.” If nothing else, he introduced Kerouac and Ginsberg to his hometown friend, William S. Burroughs.
If you let the title dissuade you from checking out the post, you'll be missing one of those rare moments when absurd TV becomes meta-absurd and threatens the existence of the very foundation of all we hold sacred. Actually, it's just Vanna White and Pat Sajak talking about what font they prefer, but still...
For some reason, rainy days (thankfriggingod!) reminds me of driving around the hinters of south Alabama for no other reason than to listen to my radio, and in particular bands like North Carolina's Let's Active, featured here in a Canadian TV interview. Too bad this cuts off before we get to hear all about Rick Springfield.
In a letter to the editor of the Charleston (WV) Gazette, Pat Conroy has some choice words for the school administrators who want to ban the teaching of a couple of his books:
About the novels your county just censored: “The Prince of Tides” and “Beach Music” are two of my darlings, which I would place before the altar of God and say, “Lord, this is how I found the world you made.” They contain scenes of violence, but I was the son of a Marine Corps fighter pilot who killed hundreds of men in Korea, beat my mother and his seven kids whenever he felt like it, and fought in three wars. My youngest brother, Tom, committed suicide by jumping off a fourteen-story building; my French teacher ended her life with a pistol; my aunt was brutally raped in Atlanta; eight of my classmates at The Citadel were killed in Vietnam; and my best friend was killed in a car wreck in Mississippi last summer. Violence has always been a part of my world. I write about it in my books and make no apology to anyone. In “Beach Music,” I wrote about the Holocaust and lack the literary powers to make that historical event anything other than grotesque.
People cuss in my books. People cuss in my real life. I cuss, especially at Citadel basketball games. I’m perfectly sure that Steve Shamblin and other teachers prepared their students well for any encounters with violence or profanity in my books just as Gene Norris prepared me for the profane language in “Catcher in the Rye” forty-eight years ago.
The world of literature has everything in it, and it refuses to leave anything out. I have read like a man on fire my whole life because the genius of English teachers touched me with the dazzling beauty of language. Because of them I rode with Don Quixote and danced with Anna Karenina at a ball in St. Petersburg and lassoed a steer in “Lonesome Dove” and had nightmares about slavery in “Beloved” and walked the streets of Dublin in “Ulysses” and made up a hundred stories in the Arabian nights and saw my mother killed by a baseball in “A Prayer for Owen Meany.” I’ve been in ten thousand cities and have introduced myself to a hundred thousand strangers in my exuberant reading career, all because I listened to my fabulous English teachers and soaked up every single thing those magnificent men and women had to give. I cherish and praise them and thank them for finding me when I was a boy and presenting me with the precious gift of the English language.
I've done just about enough crying the last couple of days. Time to dry off the keyboard, sift through the emails I've ignored (thanks in advance for all the kind words), and see if my feed reader still recognizes me. No matter how much one prepares for the loss of someone or something, it still happens as if it were a surprise. After all, there was that 10 percent of my brain that kept thinking she would recover, that same 10 percent that thought she would outlive me. Now I have to convince that 10 percent that it was wrong and because it is so irrational, I have to spend a little extra time letting it mourn the loss, or perhaps mourn the fact that it was wrong.
So I've spent the last two days telling lots of stories about Hannah, about how she once woke me in the middle of the night covered in what I thought was blood, only it turned out she had found a taste for my wife's paints, especially burnt sienna. Of how she hated her backyard fence so much she chewed it down. Of how she could shed two fur coats a day, every day, during the summer. Of how she lived in more states and apartments than anyone else in family save me and my brother and probably logged more miles by cars than the majority of people I know. That's just the tip of her legend. But I won't bore you. Time to see if there's been anything interesting going on in the world of books and music and whatever else.
To all of you in San Diego, my heart goes out to you. These fires take me back to that Sunday morning four years ago when what I thought was a most odd morning thunderstorm developing to our north, especially strange for October, turned out to be the genesis of a fire that would scare the hell out of me for a couple of days and render the air nearly unbreathable for days after that. I think my car still had ash on it years later when I pulled out of San Diego for the last time. I hope everyone I know there is safe. Check in and say hello.
And wouldn't you know it, there's an 80 percent chance of rain in Raleigh today. I'll believe it when I see/feel it.
I lost an amazing friend of fourteen years today. I owed her too much to try and keep her here any longer. Too much pain, too much not being the dog I remember running around like the queen of the dog park, too much suffering to be able to give the love and affection that she was known for. I speak not just as the person who fed you, watered you, bathed you, and loved you, but as a friend: Thank you for being there through all the good and especially through all the shitty times, those times when you were, it seemed, the only thing still around. Run again, Hannah. And grab the biggest piece of rawhide you can find!
I'm about as much a poet as I am a neurosurgeon but here's something I wrote for her over a decade ago:
gazes at upside down stars
through bad beer bottle glasses;
all these fences between him and them,
those toothache days of fear
when not the car wreck
or the vodka shots
or the jaunt through clean air
smiling at his dog's first swim
clears his head.
She waits tenderhearted
as peace floats close to upturned stars.
Giving sight, needing sleep.
She smiles and helps his head
Always separation, timid of commitment
like the dog's three year fear of water.
One day, he thinks,
If you live in the Triangle area of North Carolina, I know it might be tempting to sit in your yard tonight and enjoy that rarest of nature's gifts, rain. We haven't seen very much of it of late and the powers that be have now told us that we can't water our lawns or wash our dogs or chase away rogue cats, so rain is now such a precious thing that it seems wasteful to just let it go by unnoticed or unfelt. However, if you want to take a break from getting rained on, head over to Raleigh's Quail Ridge Books & Music where you can listen to SoT favorite George Singleton read from his great new novel, Work Shirts for Madmen. When he's finished, you might could talk him into standing in the rain with you.
If there's anyone who could stare death in the eyes, knee him in the nuts, and then return to write a 2,000-word rambling tome making death a sympathetic character, it would have to be good old Norman Mailer. The 84-year-old Mailer, whose latest book is about, well, God, is currently recovering from lung surgery and is said to be making a slow but steady recovery.
Sorry for the lack of content this week. Frankly, my heart and head are elsewhere. I have a very sick 14-year-old dog who I'm hoping will respond to the latest treatment offered up by the vet. I've had Hannah, a lab/Husky mix, since she was a tiny pup and I can't fathom the decision I'm probably going to have to make in the not-too-distant future. Hopefully I'll have good news and posts in the coming days.
Anita Thompson has begun the quioxtic attempt to sober up her late husband's image:
"I don't deny his lifestyle, because his lifestyle was pretty extreme," Anita Thompson told The Associated Press, but that lifestyle was made possible by his success as a reporter and writer, not the other way around.
In her new book, "The Gonzo Way: A Celebration of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson," Thompson says her husband built his career with a tireless dedication to the craft of reporting, a keen awareness of his own shortcomings and his personal blend of patriotism: loving his country while mistrusting authority.
And in a wide-ranging interview, she spoke about a rift between her and Hunter Thompson's son and the agonizing doubts that dogged her in the days after her husband's suicide.
Thompson shot himself in the kitchen of his home outside Aspen in February 2005 at age 67.
He had established himself as an original and riveting voice with "Hells Angels," published in 1966, and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" in 1972. It was Gonzo journalism -- irreverent, outlandish and unapologetically personal. The image it projected, coupled with his undisguised love of guns and explosions, gave Thompson a reputation as an unbridled outlaw surfing on a wave of drugs and excess.
After his death, Anita Thompson said, she got stacks of e-mails and letters from young people who thought they could duplicate his success by mimicking his infamous consumption.
"They wrote me these letters about drinking bottles of Wild Turkey and doing grams of cocaine," said Thompson, a tall, outgoing, slender woman with shoulder-length dirty blond hair and a ready smile who munched on a salad during an interview at a Denver hotel. "And I realized, OK, I need to correct that."
Ah, the fair, where a kid can be a Teletubby. Notice the kickbutt shirt that cool dude behind her is sporting. I got the stink-eye from one or two people whom I believe had read the quote from Howl on the back. This is the state fair, after all.
And what would a fair be without a deep fried something that shouldn't be deep fried, in this case a couple of Reese's Cups. I love how they sprinkle a little powdered sugar on top. Just in case.
It should be mentioned that Marlie's first pony ride will forever be remembered for the pony directly across from us in the circle of ponies. During a stop in the action to allow the ponycarnie to clean some ponyapples from the hay, said pony became a little agitated and nearly threw a petrified little girl. Needless to say, I grabbed Marlie and made for the exit. You can never be too careful in an enclosed space with a bunch of ponies.
Joyce Johnson speaks to the Guardian about her relationship with Jack Kerouac:
For the time they were together, it seems Kerouac leaned heavily on Johnson; both before and after the hurly-burly that proceeded On the Road's publication, she represented a rare fixed point in his life. "When I met him in the January of '57, he had absolutely no idea what awaited him," she says. "Because he'd suffered - he'd had a novel published in '49, The Town and the City, and he'd written several other novels, including On the Road, and none of them had been published. And he'd lived an impoverished life, essentially the life of a homeless person. It's all very romantic to go on the road, but it's also rather terrible not to have a place of your own. And he was always sort of searching for a place he could be, but because of the way he was, he could never find that. He'd set off for a new destination imagining it was gonna be great, and then he'd get there and bad vibes would come, and the bad vibes were inside him, of course ..."
Kerouac took, it seems, a similar attitude towards relationships. "Yes," she nods, "I think he had a grass-is-greener idea about women. I also think he was very messed up about women because of his overly intense relationship with his mother. And in a way, I think, flitting from woman to woman was his way of staying faithful to his mother - no one was ever going to supplant her as the fixed figure in his life." When Johnson and Kerouac finally split for good, it was after he had spent an evening drunkenly flirting with another woman right in front of her. "Choked with pain, I searched for the worst words I could think of. 'You're nothing but a big bag of wind!'" she writes in Minor Characters. "'Unrequited love's a bore!' he shouted back. Enraged, we stared at each other, half-weeping, half-laughing. I rushed away, hoping he'd follow. But he didn't."
Looks like HarperCollins wants to find ways to get the slushpile out of their offices while at the same time advertising to the masses:
Authonomy.com will launch in the UK early next year and the company has plans to expand the web brand globally. It aims to duplicate the music industry's use of social networking sites as a tool for discovering new talent and propelling unknown artists to success. The initiative will allow unpublished writers to upload manuscripts for readers to discuss, debate and recommend. Authors will also be able to create public profile pages for their work.
Readers will be encouraged to support manuscripts through a series of personal recommendations. The publishing house guarantees to "consider" the most popular works for publication.
HarperCollins expects many of the readers who sign up will be industry professionals looking for new talent.
We've noticed lately that the wee one is getting really good at learning mannerisms and she's quick to pick up on things that will make her mother and I laugh, or anything that will get a reaction for that matter. Elaine taught her how to give Eskimo kisses in a matter or minutes. She saw a pair of blinking eyes on the computer the other morning and spent the rest of the day imitating them. This is all well and good but it makes me realize that my days of cursing in the house are numbered. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the untranslatable words she screams when I'm trying to change her diaper might not have their origins in swearing. Have you ever tried to quit the curse words? Fucking hard, I tell ya. At least Steven Pinker can tell us why we curse and why cursing is so goddamn hard to give up:
The historical root of swearing in English and many other languages is, oddly enough, religion. We see this in the Third Commandment, in the popularity of hell, damn, God, and Jesus Christ as expletives, and in many of the terms for taboo language itself: profanity (that which is not sacred), blasphemy (literally "evil speech" but, in practice, disrespect toward a deity), and swearing, cursing, and oaths, which originally were secured by the invocation of a deity or one of his symbols.
In English-speaking countries today, religious swearing barely raises an eyebrow. Gone with the wind are the days when people could be titillated by a character in a movie saying "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn." If a character today is offended by such language, it's only to depict him as an old-fashioned prude. The defanging of religious taboo words is an obvious consequence of the secularization of Western culture. As G. K. Chesterton remarked, "Blasphemy itself could not survive religion; if anyone doubts that, let him try to blaspheme Odin." To understand religious vulgarity, then, we have to put ourselves in the shoes of our linguistic ancestors, to whom God and Hell were a real presence.
Say you need to make a promise. You may want to borrow money, and so must promise to return it. Why should the promisee believe you, knowing that it may be to your advantage to renege? The answer is that you should submit to a contingency that would impose a penalty on you if you did renege, ideally one so certain and severe that you would always do better to keep the promise than to back out. That way, your partner no longer has to take you at your word; he can rely on your self-interest. Nowadays, we secure our promises with legal contracts that make us liable if we back out. We mortgage our house, giving the bank permission to repossess it if we fail to repay the loan. But, before we could count on a commercial and legal apparatus to enforce our contracts, we had to do our own self-handicapping. Children still bind their oaths by saying, "I hope to die if I tell a lie." Adults used to do the same by invoking the wrath of God, as in May God strike me dead if I'm lying and variations like As God is my witness, Blow me down!, and God blind me!--the source of the British blimey.
As painful as it is to have anything Madonna that isn't negative associated with Syntax of Things, I have to post this video of the wee one getting her groove on to Madge. Technically, I think more credit is owed to Ellen for showing Marlie the moves, but Madonna provides the beat. As for Marlie, she may be only fifteen months old but she's already a better dancer than her dad. Witness:
If anyone is interested in how much a wee one can grow in a year, check out this video from one year ago today.
Looks like if you're planning on heading down to Milledgeville, Georgia, to visit Flannery O'Connor's old stomping grounds at Andalusia, you might want to add Savannah to your itinerary and not just for a sample of Paula Deen's cooking. It seems the home in which Flannery spent her childhood has been fully renovated and is open for all to see:
Today, the house on Lafayette Square where she lived is a museum. The Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home recently has been closely restored to the time that the O’Connor family lived there....
Today, the Flannery O’Connor Childhood Home offers a free series of readings and lectures each spring and fall. It’s staffed and operated entirely by volunteers.
The house is handsome but modest. The first floor contains a large living room, dining room, kitchen and sun room. The second floor consists of the aforementioned bathroom and the bedrooms of young Mary Flannery and her parents. The top floor and basement are used as apartments that are rented out to pay the mortgage on the house.
Visitors can peek into the back yard where Mary Flannery, as a precocious 5-year-old, taught a chicken to walk backwards. Pathe News was informed of this feat, and came to film the story, which ended up as a short shown on movie screens across the country.
The story followed O’Connor for the rest of her life. When asked about the incident, she replied, “Yes, I trained a chicken to walk backwards and my life has been downhill ever since.”
I must admit that despite my inability to correctly use them most of the time, I'm going to miss the hyphen. Now if we could just do something about the pesky little en dash:
THE Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, the scaled-down, two-volume version of the mammoth 20-volume O.E.D., just got a little shorter. With the dispatch of a waiter flicking away flyspecks, the editor, Angus Stevenson, eliminated some 16,000 hyphens from the sixth edition, published last month. “People are not confident about using hyphens anymore,” he said. “They’re not really sure what they’re for.”
The dictionary is not dropping all hyphens. The ones in certain compounds remain (“well-being,” for example), as do those indicating a word break at the right-hand margin — the use for which this versatile little punctuation mark, a variation on the slash, the all-purpose medieval punctuation, was invented in the first place.
What’s getting the heave are most hyphens linking the halves of a compound noun. Some, like “ice cream,” “fig leaf,” “hobby horse” and “water bed,” have been fractured into two words, while many others, like “ bumblebee,” “crybaby” and “pigeonhole,” have been squeezed into one.
That “ice cream” and “bumblebee” ever had hyphens to begin with suggests an excess of fussiness on the part of older lexicographers, and may explain some of Mr. Stevenson’s annoyance. The issue of proper hyphenation has always been vexing for the Brits, far more than it is for us, and occasioned perhaps the single crankiest article in Fowler’s “Dictionary of Modern English Usage,” first published in 1926.
If you're going to be in the Triangle in the next few weeks, here's something that you might want to check out:
"A Being More Intense: British Romantic Writers in the Rare Book Collection," an exhibit which will feature literature and art from the British romantic era, will give students and community members alike the chance to see rare pieces by often-anthologized authors and artists.
The exhibit, which will feature authors such as William Blake, Lord Byron and John Keats, will make its debut at the library at 6 p.m. today and remain showcased until the end of the December.
"We have an ongoing program of exhibits at the library and around campus. We work to always bring really interesting subjects into the public eye," said Judith Panitch, director of library communications. "Our libraries contain wonderful holdings. They are the real riches that we allow everyone to read, see and absorb. We're always glad to bring people in the library."
Charles McNamara, the head librarian of rare books at Wilson Library and co-curator of the exhibition, said the exhibit is vital to Wilson.
"The literature and art we are showcasing in this exhibition are a treasure trove of information and creativity. The literature is nothing less than exquisite," McNamara said.
UNC English professor Joe Viscomi will deliver a free lecture entitled "Blake's Enlightened Graphics: Illuminated Books and New Technologies" to commemorate the opening.
The Brooklyn Rail's Andrew Taylor speaks with author Arthur Nersesian about his new novel The Swing Voter of Staten Island:
Rail: Swing Voter’s cast of characters includes a number of historical counter-culture figures, like Allen Ginsburg, Timothy Leary, the Berrigan brothers and so forth.
Nersesian: Basically, I wanted to get a healthy cross-section of the anti-war movement. That’s one of the things about America today, it’s almost like the 60’s and 70s never happened. I was in my early teens when Watergate was going on, and saw a level of indignation about what Nixon had done. I feel like that’s what’s missing now.
Rail: What do you think has changed since then to make us more complacent? Has our intellectual and literary culture become more infantilized?
Nersesian: It’s difficult to make sweeping generalizations about culture, but I went by Barnes & Noble the day the new Harry Potter book came out, and I saw the lines in Union Square. The first guy that bought a book in that line came by Thursday at noon, and waited until Saturday at midnight. I mean, I’m not knocking Harry Potter—but what’s going on with our culture where you see people in their 30s and 40s buying this stuff up so that 12 million copies are sold on the first day? If the same amount of fascination occurred about China, or the war in Iraq, or Katrina, if there was any of this level of concern that there was with Harry Potter…It just says so much about the time that we’re living in and what’s wrong with it.