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Showing posts from March, 2011


If you're looking for some long, lost idealism to add to your working week, here's a healthy dollop served up by Queensborough Community College Professor Charles Neuman. Because he teaches physics and astronomy it is indeed tempting to suggest that this young man has his head stuck in the clouds.

But it's good to know he can at least temper his positive vibrations with a little departmental conflict, or at least tension:

"I am starting to see that idealism is a threat. My colleagues’ simple expressions of idealism invoke disproportionate responses of vitriol. There’s something primal about this hatred. I posit that idealism represents youth, and those who feel they have lost it, or never had it, are so pained they can only respond with fury. It’s sad, really."

To continue Charles's thought, I've noticed that sometimes my collegues' simple expressions of vitriol invoke disproportionate responses of idealism. It's probably just all the headache a…

rare books

Over spring break in sunny Philadelphia, I did have opportunity to drive over the glorious Ben Franklin Bridge to scenic South Jersey for a tour of the school house where Between the Covers now stashes thousands and thousands of rare books along with a dozen plus employees, functional urinals in the Boys bathroom, and memories of the second grade.

Over lunch at Five Guys, a first for me and where I winced at the fact that burgers, fries, and cokes can run over $20 for two, I learned of a letter from Melville retailing for $35,000 as well as an original copy of Walker's Appeal that sold to the University of Virginia for close to three times that amount. The history behind David Walker's early nineteenth century publishing is amazing, something we were never taught in American history as best I remember it, and yet it was the Melville letter five inches from my face that kept my attention. In it, he is writing to his publisher later in life when commercial houses have become mu…

yes, lawrence, i know i shoot myself in the foot. . .

Yes, Lawrence, I wish I could book readings in all of the hip independent bookstores all over the country, and it does seem like the natural alliance could or should be between indy publishers and indy stores. And sure, why we're at it, I could or should also wish I were you, Mr. Ferlinghetti, and I guess the lone drawback here is that you're quite a bit older than me, and so perhaps destined to leave this life sooner. Of couse, one could easily twist that into a positive as well.

But my limited experience as a "published author," so far, has shown me that the Indy bookstores in cities don't have a lot of space for a small-press title like Fight for Your Long Day. The shops are small, and they have to stock a lot of mainstream, established stuff they know they can sell, and then they already have their allegiances in place and must help their loyal local author friends and customers, too. And of course, there are just too many millions of books to choose from, so…

a lost novel

Yes, I'm reading the "lost novel" of Roberto Bolano, or at least the first quarter of it, as published and translated in The Paris Review, Number 196. Because I purchased this single copy in a bookstore along with the latest issue of Boulevard, I'm somehow reminded of Bolano's "Vagabond in France and Belgium" from Last Evenings On Earth, a story in part about searching for the only author listed in an old issue of a literary journal whose name B does not immediately recognize. It nags at him and leads to something of a quest but also the classic sad Bolano story. What is it about that man's writing that is so intoxicating?

In the issue of Boulevard, there is a scathing Anis Shivani piece about the MFA programs. He basically destroys them with ridiculous generalizations which are also at times entertaining and rather clever. Although I'm hardly an insider at AWP (I have been a member for the past few years, but I don't have an MFA, and I teac…

Virginia Festival of the Book

The Virginia Festival of the Book's Annual Vendor Fair was held in the sun-drenched lobby of the Omni Hotel in historic downtown Charlottesville. I drove all morning, sat at the Atticus Books table for a couple hours, took a walk in search of carbohydrates and caffeine, and then drove on. In the car, I listened amost exclusively to FM pop stations, so the "boom boom boom" and other dance songs have now permanently scarred my brain and left me speechless.

In Europe, sales offers of Fight for Your Long  Day expand almost exponentially (on and, at least as the optimistic quintile of my imagination allows me to believe), but for my two-hour drive stoppage, no one in Charleslottesville took me up on my signed-book offer or anything else. A number of browsers were willing to take a look, but it seems Cyrus's life was not the must-have I told the guy down the street serving espresso it ought to be seen as.

The prominently published writer Jenny White, a …

more reviews

It was a good week for reviews of Fight for Your Long Day from people I don't know. I think this solid one from Author's Exposure makes some valid points about the (mostly) pros and cons. I understand the lack of "logic" he speaks of, and yet, possibly there is some literary misfiring, so to speak, at play in the ending that is.

And then, Aaron at goodreads gave it 3 stars but called it a 3.5 star book. I noticed that he's stingier with the stars than I am, and he even has some 2-star ratings for books seen as respectable to great by just about everyone (Richard Ford's The Sportswriter, for example, although admittedly that's no Independence Day).

And finally, I got the 1-star special from a "reader" who stops on page 75, calls the author "racist," "classist," and then proves doctoral credentials by using the word "problematic" and the phrase "socially structured privilege and oppression." Well, "I&#…

Virginia Festival of the Book, Saturday afternoon

Thanks to big, bad Dan Cafaro of Atticus Books, Cyrus Duffleman will be making a surprise, guest appearance at the Annual Book Fair at the Virginia Festival of the Book. Look for Cyrus in the Omni Hotel, 235 W. Main Street in Charlottesville, Virginia. If he stays on task, he'll be pounding doughnuts and moving product off the Atticus table into your satchel, book bag, brief case, or hands. If not, who knows where he'll find himself?

shelve your debut novel now, City Lights!

Hey, if you want to help get some cool debut novels find safe harbor in San Francisco's famous City Lights Bookstore, follow this link and e-mail about a title or just write to this address:

City Lights Bookstore
Att. Book Buyer
261 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco,  CA  94133

And guess what?

I have a list of novels for you to choose from:

Andy Breslin's Mother's Milk
Steve Himmer's The Bee Loud Glade
Nadia Kalman's The Cosmopolitans
Alex Kudera's Fight for Your Long Day (never heard of it)
Kate Ledger's Remedies

Mark SaFranko's Hating Olivia (could be there already)
Ben Tanzer's You Can Make Him Like You
Charles Dodd White's Lambs of Men
Joe Zeppetello's Daring to Eat a Peach
Tommy Zurhellen's Nazareth, North Dakota

OK. Except for Ben and Charles, these are all debut novels, and they are all from new novelist-publisher partnerships. I'm sure any help is appreciated. Tap me on the keyboard if I misse…

small press librarian

I had one of those teaching days that begins with exhaustion, coffee, and thirty thesis paragraphs that could all improve, and then slowly winds its way through everything else--guilt, mozzarella, angst, various pains (most acute in the joints, brain, and lower back), active verbs (for chronological resume), dijon mustard (for, well, what else?), nuclear disaster, oatmeal raisin, more coffee, god's silence (you tell me), and staying late at work.

But then, as if rescued by the world of hope and possibility, Joel Thomas reviewed Fight for Your Long Day at Karen Lillis's Karen the Small Press Librarian blog.

Thank you!

But I'm not sure if I should tell him the "x-ray specs" double entendre was not intended. As best I remember.


Betrayal URLs

joshua spodek

And I forgot to thank Joshua Spodek (and others, and you, too, for reading this), but when he includes me in a blog with his other writer friends who just happen to be Zadie Smith, well, frankly, I feel like I'm still more of a busboy, and we're back in the flat, a seven-floor walk up near Gare du Nord, working crap jobs, eating cereal, throwing the frisbee, and wondering what we will be.

the brother k

The Sixers beat Boston, and then minutes later I learn that an Australian gentleman named Robert Tulip, a guy I don't know, gives The Betrayal of Times of Peace and Prosperityfive stars on amazon and compares my writing to Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Well, no one could ever live up to that, but by strange coincidence, the protag had plenty of buds but was short on paper, so it was mass market pages of The Brothers Karamazov that fictional John and Jake were smoking in the expurgated scenes.

Mr. Tulip wrote:

Wow, what a superb ten thousand words. I'm not sure if it just because I am reading The Brothers Karamazov at the moment, but this short story reminds me so much of Dostoyevksy in its biting social satire, its acute political insight, its ability to paint pictures in words, and its foreboding of a society that has lost its way and is on a trajectory to catastrophe. The drugs are the anaesthetic for the emotional pain of a fascistic existence in denial, enabling a crazy-brave creati…

exley is still on

So imagine how annoyed Fred Exley might be if he learned that writers in 2011 don't spend Sunday mornings reading multiple thick print newspapers--sports and book reviews on top--while properly administering the right dosage of foamy pale ale in anticipation of an afternoon spent with pro football on television. Alas, times have changed. The author as honest, smart, drunken sports enthusiast has seen some reversals. This much is true.

But we're still talking about him, at least upon occasion. Dan Cafaro of Atticus Books was kind enough to primp and polish my latest Exley interview here. In it, we meet Atticus author Joe Zeppetello, who in fact grew up near Exley's hometown of Watertown, New York. Although Daring to Eat a Peach is his first published novel, Joe is a seasoned literary veteran, so our exchange nicely complements the first Exley interview with Eleanor Henderson.

And, soon, folks, John Warner, will share his take on A Fan's Notes, a book he has called one t…

back in beige

i'm back in beige and ready to take on the world in my new sartorial display! only vague, neurotic nagging doubts about looking up "sartorial" before i reveal this post. okay. don't try this at home, kids, but let's just [redacted] and "publish post." at some other time, i'll compose a short list of words i never doubt. a very short list.

and alas, i cheated, and googled, and came upon this blog for clothing enthusiasts:

i don't feel like The Only Southern Kudera, but I kind of like the O.S.K. We'll see how long this lasts.

Not very long: I edited out O.S.K. in favor of B.L.G. why, of course, for Big Lao Gu (kind of southern, kind of chinese, and what my daughter has been yelling when i get to the other apartment).

cyrus is stranded

I've been told I have low standards, but not by my students, not to my face anyway, and it's also been implied that my expectations are too high, in the worse kind of nonhallucinogenic way.

So, low or high, goofy or no, I should say I am positively peachy over the fact, that Cyrus Duffleman has infiltrated the greatest used bookstore of all (with apologies to all the other greatest used bookstores), and he rests snug on shelf, in good condition, at a rather nimble price point of $7.45.

What will be this copy's fate? Will it survive and persist at The Strand until the final disaster for all print media, whereupon the amazing store closes down and the e-world takes over?

Well, I had the good fortune to visit The Strand this past winter, a fine cold, slushy day with dirty piles of ice at every intersection and all manner of Manhattannite traipsing about. What I saw were hundreds of browsers and buyers looking for new and used and used used and other there. Truth be told, the s…

man with a manuscript

i did want to add, as a PS of sorts from my previous "content that doesn't suck" hyperlink, that to the best of my knowledge, the esteemed ghost of elberry, whose name i could provide if called upon although i hardly know the chap (as in, we've never met), is not only a transient laborer in the teaching field of Business English, but also a man with an unpublished novel.

So, hey, check out his blog, publishers, and see if this isn't the kind of intellectual morbidity that you've secretly craved despite your Harry-Potter wannabeism and power-of-positive-thinking front and back lists.

Here's an excerpt to get you started:

"i contemplate the prospect of another Kiel-like ordeal with weary resignation. If i go to X-burg i predict i will fall foul of the Director of Studies, a wizened power woman on speed, a type i have met many a time in office work – they instinctively loathe me. i will probably be fired or just given the worst jobs, teaching Business E…


I graded a lot of papers of this week. Fretted. About most of it. Yeah. And sorry I haven't written in a while, but I just don't know what to say to you anymore. And I'm censoring myself at every turn. Of course, it wasn't really worth hearing about anyway.

Alas, I'd tell you I've taken a corporate turn, but in fact, this post has no sponsorship whatsoever.

But thank you for allowing this content into your life. Have a nice day.

PS--On second thought, I thought I'd share someone else's content. Content that doesn't suck. In a best case scenario, it might get Elberry a record deal.