Sunday, November 1, 2009

Endurance-not-speed links

Coretta Scott is a new biography-in-verse written for children by Ntozake Shange. It's earning rave reviews.

New literary magazine Mythium describes itself as "a miscegenation of indigenous and diasporic voices ... This is our way of reinforcing those strong storytelling elements that often refuse to endorse or be endorsed by traditional, european perspectives, refusing to fit into some easily marketed literary niche." More on why this is such an exciting development from Honoree Fanonne Jeffers, one of the writers with work in the first issue.

It's National Novel Writing Month. Who cares? I agree with Tayari Jones, who says, "NaNoWriMo--Count Me Out," and offers succinct reasons why.

Ms. Jones also recently saw the new documentary "Being Billie," a "fascinating and empowering" reconsideration of the live of the jazz singer Billie Holiday. The filmmakers are trying to raise the final funds they need; info here.

Author and reviewer Jessica Mann's observation about murder mysteries and crime fiction that "dead, brutalised women sell books" is no great revelation but it's probably a good thing that she made it and it's been getting a lot of attention.

This looks like an interesting exhibit so I'll add it to my already unrealistically long list of art shows I'd like to get to. (I personify the famous truism about New Yorkers, that we never get ourselves to the many cultural riches on offer, or only when out-of-town visitors force us to.) At the Whitney, it's painter/sculptor Steve Wolfe's paintings and drawings of books. I know, it sounds silly or boring when you boil it down that way, but read the Times piece on it and you too might be beguiled.

Pretty freaking funny, and spot-on: the Guardian's latest digested read, this time of Superfreakonomics. "The reason it's taken us four years to come up with a second volume is that we haven't really got any interesting material."

If you've ever watched the Emmy awards, you know that the Leno/Letterman/O'Brien world is a land where testosterone reigns supreme. As does whiteness, I might add. Now a former Letterman staffer, a female who briefly hoped to break through, tells about the awfulness of working in such an atmosphere.

Speaking of misogyny, I know this story is no longer hot but Jenny Diski's piece on the Roman Polanski rape case is worth reading though also painfully hard to read. I haven't read any of Diski's books. I want to.

He's one of our martyrs, and now, finally, work has begun to find his bones and bury them with an appropriate marker. I don't feel passionate about this but I also don't understand why Federico Garcia Lorca's great-nieces and other relatives have so opposed the effort, and that's after reading various of their statements none of which had any understandable core argument. I do know that to this day strong vestiges of the Franco fascist years live on in Spain, and any action that shines a light on them and perhaps contributes to their further shriveling must be a good thing.

A few days ago Vanessa Redgrave performed in a one-time-only encore of The Year of Magical Thinking. The performance was a special benefit to aid Palestinians in Gaza. Last Sunday on the local TV station NY1's weekly theater program "On Stage," Redgrave was interviewed about this upcoming benefit, and Teresa and I commented to each other about how many times--it seemed like every other word--she managed to say the words "Gaza" and "Palestine." I respect her for her continued, unbending solidarity with the Palestinian nation over all these years and after all the calumny to which she's been subjected because of it. For those who might not have seen it, here again is a link to her courageous Oscar acceptance speech at the 1978 Academy Awards.

I've had more important things to do lately than rag on the New York Times Book Review, but a few weeks ago its review of Richard Dawkins' new book about evolution included a ludicrously wrong-headed paragraph or two asserting that evolution is a theory, not a fact. Oy. Many others besides me were pissed off at this. The NYTBR printed a couple rebuttals from scientists but it seems that there were scads so the Times literary blog Paper Cuts ran several more. The point: evolution is indeed a fact, proven over and over again; what remains in the realm of theory is exactly how evolution works.

Finally, although I probably shouldn't take this chance, here are some links to stuff that looks interesting to me but that I have not yet fully read. You're on your own in these waters:

A typo more mysterious that most--and no, that "that" is not a typo.

Michael Denning on "The Novelists' International." Via A Practical Policy.

"Bad Paper" and "literary fiction." Via Contra James Wood.

Kay Ryan on poetry at community colleges. Via Inside Higher Ed.