Pollack to wave middle finger in face of American literary establishment

Neal Pollack has announced that he’ll be updating his site a few times weekly. If you’re a fan, you’ll probably want to read the whole announcement. Otherwise, here’s the part that’s of interest:

In addition, I’ll still use this site as a platform to mock certain trends and pomposities in American literature. While the world reels from the effects of an undeclared World War III, the American literary establishment lurches forward in its inevitable plodding, clueless, inbred way, like a mastodon uninformed of Ice Age’s end. I’ll be here to wave an uninvited middle finger in its face.

(Via Bookslut.)

Update: Actually, now that I’ve read the whole thing, most of the political commentary makes good horse sense, too. Not that Pollack would care what I think. I’m one of those pompous, plodding people whom nobody could deter from speaking out against the war.

Apologies, guests, and remainders

Sorry again for the site downtime yesterday. My hosting service says it was the subject of “a major distributed denial of service attack (DDOS) aimed at one our main routers.”

If I have time, later today I’ll post excerpts from recent reader mail. Tomorrow I’m handing over the site for the day to my friend Pasha Malla of Montreal. More on that later.

For now, please read: the world’s most bewildering publisher’s press release, James Wood’s intelligent critique of John LeCarre’s latest book, Our Girl in Chicago on the new, gigantic Peanuts collection (second item), and an interview with Ana Marie Cox of Wonkette about her future plans:

I’ll definitely stay through the election, and then I’ll see. It’s really, really fun, but I think it would be nice to write things that are longer than 12 characters long. I’m able do that, by the way. I worked at The American Prospect, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Mother Jones. I wrote whole articles with many sentences and no sex jokes. But I was ready to give up journalism right before Denton called me. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I was very disillusioned. I was thinking I would go back to school and I would do something that wasn’t journalism. My relationship to journalism is like that of an abused spouse — and it may still be, but I’m one in recovery now. I still do basically consider myself a journalist.

Translating back the translation wouldn’t yield the original

Gilbert Adair opted as a student to read the first and last portions of Proust’s masterpiece in French but relied on the English translations for the middle volumes:

Very gradually, as I struggled through the poetic thickets of the English text, I realised I’d made a mistake. Scott Moncrieff was a brilliant prose writer but, as a translator, patently something of a traducer. After finishing “Du côté de chez Swann” in French, then switching to “Within a Budding Grove” in English, it became obvious to me that Proust himself, though undeniably an arduous stylist, was not at all the florid, euphuistic précieux into which Scott Moncrieff had transformed him. (It would be an amusing Borgesian exercise to get some quixotic don to translate the translation back into French just to see what it looked like — Remémoration de choses passées?) And if, as a student, I continued to wade through Scott Moncrieff, up to “Le Temps retrouvé”, on the grounds that it was easier to read even an unnecessarily ornate translation than the cleaner, leaner (not to mention, funnier) French original, for a long time thereafter I was slightly ill-at-ease whenever anyone asked me if I’d read Proust. Well, yes and no, was as near as I could give to an honest answer.

(Via Languor Management.)

Laugh of the Medusa come to life

Chinese archivists are stuggling to preserve Nushu, a language “created by, and exclusively for, women”:

Nushu, meaning women’s script, was held so securely by its speakers and writers that women used to burn manuscripts to keep them away from men, or they would bury items containing Nushu with female friends upon their deaths.

An exhibit of preserved Nushu items will occur in southern China next month. I’ll bet Hélène Cixous has been in a pleasure coma since the news was announced. (Via Arts Journal.)

The sequel: the toppings after the pizza’s been eaten

As Dana signed her new Queens lease by pencil keylight last week (and her landlord assured her the power outage was accidental), she talked with one of the real estate agents about his would-be children’s book and illustrations:

“So, ah, you’re a realtor?”

“Yup. But also I’m an illustrator.” He pointed to a framed drawing on his desk, right next to the unicorn pencil cup. “That’s a children’s book I drew.”

“Really? How … neat,” I replied, losing steam as I examined the picture closely. It was the “cover” for his “book,” a lovely little tale about anthropomorphic pizza toppings and the pizza on which they live. One of the characters was broccoli. This would not have been *my* first- or even eighth-choice topping. “They, ah, live on a pizza?” I asked.

Cheney’s Sisters doing it for themselves, again

Lynne Cheney's novelI’ve mentioned on many — maybe too many — occasions that Lynne Cheney, wife of the Vice President, who has failed to weigh in on gay marriage although her daughter is openly gay, once wrote a romance featuring lesbian characters.

Now Newsweek notes that the book, Sisters, includes “several lesbian love affairs, of which Cheney writes approvingly,” and reports that it’s being republished this summer. “A Cheney spokesperson says the reissue came as a surprise to the Second Lady,” Newsweek reported.

Empty adaptations of children’s classics

In an article that could have been published during Salon‘s glory days, Hilary Flower indicts empty, Disney-esque adaptations of classic children’s books like The Wind in the Willows. Maybe it’s just the wine, but I had to stop reading halfway through. It was too depressing.

Meanwhile, some feminists see Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat as an effort to overcome womb envy. Either they were a little too pressed for time on the thesis or I prescribe a bottle of wine. Mad Dog 20/20 works faster. (Book links via Bookninja.)

Things created or existing

Things Created or ExistingFrom the 17th-century Persian medical manuscript, Marvels of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing:

Five mythical sea creatures, including a human-headed fish and a winged fish. From a copy of ‘Aja’ib al-makhluqat wa-ghara’ib al-mawjudat (Marvels of Things Created and Miraculous Aspects of Things Existing) by al-Qazwini (d. 1283/682). Neither the copyist nor illustrator is named, and the copy is undated. The nature of paper, script, ink, illumination, and illustrations suggest that it was produced in provincial Mughal India, possibly the Punjab, in the 17th century.

(Via Incoming Signals.)

Man’s consent not essential ingredient of French marriage, Brooklyn artist hopes

A Brooklyn artist has invoked an obscure French legal provision that she believes will allow her to marry a French writer, Comte De Lautréamont (pictured to the right), who’s been dead for 134 years. The poet wrote “Les Chants De Maldoror”:

one of the masterpieces of 19th century French literature. His death at the age of 24, capped a short, controversial, and mysterious career.

She must have been talking to that fake dragon guy. No really, never mind that she emailed me unbidden and that the story is posted on a free PR wire site, I’m sure it’s true love. Nobody ever does anything in this town for attention.


Colin McAdam’s Some Great Thing, set in Ottawa, has been compared to the work of James Joyce. The author was born in Hong Kong and educated in Canada, and he divides his time between Sydney and Montreal. He talks with the Globe & Mail‘s Rebecca Caldwell about writing:

“I hate the number of literary novels that concern themselves with writers or academics,” he says. “It’s perfectly understandable, often because authors want to use a certain sort of language, but I enjoy trying to think of jobs that other people don’t usually write about and see if I can find a voice which matches, and deciding what grows naturally from that. How psychology emerges in language is really what appeals to me.”

Recent reviews of McAdam’s book have appeared in The Observer and The Independent.

Saramago (Blindness) expects new novel to generate controversy

Nobel Laureate Jose Saramago’s latest novel, Essay on Lucidity, is a “fable about a right-wing government’s violent reaction to an election in which 83% of the votes cast are blank.” The author expects the book to generate controversy but expresses hope that it will “inspire disgruntled voters around the world to cast blank votes to show their disappointment instead of just staying away from the ballot box.” (Via TEV.)

American magazines indicted

Heather Mallick is sickened by U.S. magazines:

I bought Vanity Fair to read its hatchet job on Canadian-born magazine editor Bonnie Fuller for taking American magazines downmarket and ended up admiring Ms. Fuller. Anyone who can find a way to grab a dumber market than the one she already reaches gets my vote. What horrified me was not Ms. Fuller, but Vanity Fair itself, loaded with filthy lucre-porn photo shoots of pale, loitering “actors.” They sought the languorous look; what they achieved looked more like rigor mortis. I suppose they were simply sedated. Which is nice.

(Via The Fold Drop.)