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Archives: February 2006

For Fame, For A Mid-Six-Figure Advance, And For Yale

It’s a rare thing when Gawker is unwilling to pierce someone’s over-inflated ego before we are, but today is one of those days. The mystery young Yalie novelist appears to be one Nick Antosca. No one seems willing to confirm that he sent that charming email to the New York Daily News’ Chris Rovzar, but the facts match, and a commenter on Gawker linked to a charming story written by him.)

Current New Republic reporter-researcher Eve Fairbanks recently offered a brief history of Antosca’s nascent literary career in “Every Nation Needs a Tsar” a Wolfean wade through the Atlantic Monthly slush-pile for the Yale Daily News Magazine:

Nick is one of the best undergraduate fiction writers on the scene, according to his former professor, John Crowley, who has taught fiction at Yale for nine years. He is certainly one of the most serious: He has been widely published in online and small press forums, and he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He took the fall semester off of school to work on his second novel.

“Nick tells me he wrote his first novel in a manic burst of energy, 60,000 words in 11 days. “I was really excited about it,” he says. “Dangerously excited. I went back and read it, and thought I had gone insane.” Nick has long eyelashes that remind me of a camel’s, a five-o’clock shadow, and an aloofly seductive air. His camel eyes droop languidly to where I’ve made note of his words, and he pauses, revises. “I mean, not insane. I was just excited to find out that I could write a novel, you know?”

“…[H]e is restrained when discussing his work. When I ask him, “Why do you write?” he explains that there’s no good answer because the question is reductive and facile: It’s all about finding the balance between storytelling, character and style. His favorite author is Vladimir Nabokov, because “his evocations are so idiosyncratic. He’s just a beautiful writer.” The craft of fiction writing, the manipulation of the raw material of language, thrills him, and he’s excited because he’s beginning to master it.

But Antosca isn’t as generous with all his fellow Yalie first-time novelists as his e-mail pimping of his roommate’s book might suggest. See last year’s Yale Herald reviewof Natalie Krinsky‘s first novel Chloe Does Yale:

“Ultimately, though, what makes the book a grueling read is simply the prose. Whether Chloe is flitting around “in a crazed state of madness” or just amiably abusing her haggard stable of adverbs (“excitedly,” “sternly,” “angrily,” etc.), you can be sure she’s not wasting much thought on how to compose a decent sentence. Virtually every paragraph of Chloe contains either a leaden cliche or a glaring (and oblivious) authorial misstep. The sentences seem to cringe as you read them — they’re understandably humiliated to be seen in such penurious surroundings, dressed in such rags. Chloe, poker-faced, offers up narration like, “I swallow my tongue and smile sweetly.” The reader will be relieved to know that Chloe does not choke to death in the next paragraph, and indeed totters cheerfully off on her heels toward the book’s conclusion.

Remember that karma can be a bitch, Nick.

Otis Chandler obituary hits

It’ll be in tomorrow’s paper, obviously. Eerie to see the byline of David Shaw, who passed away at the beginning of August, on a pre-filed obituary for someone else.

L.A. Icon Otis Chandler Dies at 78 (LAT)

The Value of Rushkoff’s Books

rushkoff_shirt.2.jpgWe were lucky enough to sit in today on peripatetic media theorist Douglas Rushkoff‘s graduate seminar at NYU, “Theoretical Perspectives on Interactivity.”

Down the wood-floored halls, past the interactive “Wooden Mirror” sculpture and the <a href="laboratory where researchers were re-inventing our media future, Rushkoff held court in a projector equipped corner room for 16 students. Discussing Marxist theorist Walter Benjamin and the concept of “aura” (yes, most of what Rushkoff said was over our heads), the professor said that while the best-selling books he’s written weren’t exactly “loss leaders” they are the “entrée to live engagements, which are the money makers.” In other words, he and others now write books so people will book them for other stuff that ultimately make them more money. It’s the experience, dude, like when you go to a concert with lousy sound instead of buying the $12.99 CD that’s much cleaner and clearer and comfortable to listen to.

Rushkoff also made more pop culture, underground, academic and historical references than we could follow, such as when he held up a T-shirt (above) and talked about James Joyce and a cross and last weekend’s comics convention, and Chinese characters tattooed on basketball players necks that could actually spell out something insulting for the player, and a Greco painting that you have to see in its Spanish museum, and a building in Reykjavik that has a swastika that’s not a Nazi symbol and a few dozen other things that proves he’s as knowledgeable as he is wide-ranging, even if his students sometimes didn’t know what he was talking about, either.

What we really want to know is why his latest book is all about business, and not about the media.

UPDATE: Here’s some explanation of why.

As a media theorist, I’d been called in by dozens of CEO’s asking me to help them “think outside the box” … and help them come with new “branding ideas.” When I’d suggest that rather than rebranding, they might consider innovating from the inside-out by creating better products, they’d invariably stare at me with horror … .

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Media kibbles and bits

- David Carr says that objects in the mirror may be larger than they appear. Okay, maybe that metaphor doesn’t actually work, but he says that the current Oscar crop of smaller movies doesn’t mean that Hollywood will stop making big movies. No, really?

- I can’t believe that people trust Whoopi Goldberg more than Spike Lee.

- If only all faded celebrities were this polite when they got arrested.

Bert Fields: the hunter becomes the hunted

You saw this coming: Bert Fields is now officially “in talks” with prosecutors about his (or at least his firm’s) possible complicity with the alleged wiretapping of Anthony Pellicano, who’s done a lot of work for him over the years.

Life & Style
employees, check your phone lines.

Media Minutiae: The “They Certainly Have A Degree in B.S” Edition

  • Harvard junior and Crimson managing editor Zachary Seward is suspended from school, then snares a co-byline in The Wall Street Journal thanks to his obsessive coverage of just-ousted Harvard president Lawrence Summers. Asked by New York magazine if it was all worth it, he replies “Isn’t the media a big Ivy League reunion anyway?” (Oh yes, yes it is.) Somewhere, Rachel’s fishterns are kicking themselves for buying her cheery sales pitch over the Journal’s.
  • More Ivy shenanigans over at Gawker. Photos of Summers playing — what is that, squash? — with the author of the New York item mentioned above, editorial assistant Ben Mathis-Lilley, and scion Ben Wasserstein. In other news, young Yale alumni are shameless name-droppers. Anyone who went to state schools and have made it this far in the media business should, after reading these, give themselves a nice pat on the back. And then they should start saving up for their children.
  • Revenge Of The Sith, Episode II: A New Denial. After Friday’s revelation that the SEC was now in the habit of subpoena-ing reporters (although it reserves the right to change its mind), this morning brings a statement from Chairman Christopher Cos admitting that neither he, “the General Counsel, the Office of Public Affairs, nor any Commissioner was apprised of or consulted in connection with a decision to take such an extraordinary step.” Apparently, he didn’t hear about it until he read of the subpoenas in The New York Times. “Reassuring, isn’t it?” writes Gary Weiss. “Cox and — well, it seems pretty much everyone else at the SEC, including the spokesman’s office — weren’t aware of two journalists being subpoenaed until…. reading about it this weekend?” Christopher Byron notes in today’s New York Post that “One source in the matter said that once news of the subpoenas hit last week, the SEC’s D.C. headquarters went into something approaching “panic mode” as officials raced about to make sure that the finger of blame didn’t fall upon them.” But if CEO Patrick Byrne is somehow right about the Sith conspiracy, then the next episode will be (you guessed it) “The Empire Strikes Back.”
  • “Mayor Parsons” has a nice ring to it. But only as long as we’re treated to “Carl Icahn, Public Advocate.”

BREAKING NEWS: Hollywood movies still culturally potent (in Belarus)

postman.jpgFrom yesterday’s NYT Magazine article about political opposition in Belarus:

Kobets told me that Belarus’s democratic activists took their inspiration from the unlikeliest of sources: a Kevin Costner film. “The Postman,” adapted from a novel by David Brin in 1997 and critically panned, depicts an apocalyptic America where the remnants of civilization live in terror of a brutal army headed by a sadistic general. Costner’s character, a drifter, delivers a bag of old mail – information – and becomes a symbol of hope for those hoping to restore their American democracy.

Of course, it’s unsaid if the courageous Belarus reformers went to see ‘The Postman’ in the theaters or waited until it was out on DVD.

LAT in 90 seconds

- Michael Hiltzik goes Andy Rooney on AOL.

- Well, I’m sure there are plenty of other towns that would love to host a biker rally!

- I’ll bet anyone $10 that if the word ‘underwear’ was in the headline instead of the dek, this story would be #1 on the most-emailed list.

Forget Kabbalah: “Media agnosticism” the new Hollywood religion – and its unions’ newest Satan

I first noticed Hollywood’s newest faith in last Friday’s Daily Variety, in a story by Mike Fleming about a talent agency’s new role as matchmaker for Madison Avenue: “ICM gets into brand biz” index-img.jpg

One of the Big Five talent agencies, ICM, had just launched “a global branded entertainment division,” and hired The Weinstein Company‘s Lori Sale to run it.

“ICM will not represent brands, but the agency will work with them, creating matches for the talent and intellectual property which the agency does rep,” Sale said. “We will be agnostic, working with any brand, its talent agency or media-placement agency that represents it.”

Then it happened again today, when the former head of the WB network, Jordan Levin, announced his new venture, Generate – a content development company for TV, film and new media. AFC-Brands-Large.gif

“We’re trying to apply a platform-agnostic approach,” he said. “We’ll hear the idea first and then decide if it’s better suited for broadband, mobile, TV or movies.”

Seized by agnostiphobia, I whirled around only to see that, yes, advertising has a new-found quasi-religious skepticism about media, too.

Do I bring this all up to, William Safire-like, rail agains the misuse of “agnosticism” and demand that media types start using the more, fitting and more apt “impartiality”?

Please. Long ago, we Fishbowlers wrote off any chances that Tinstletown might adopt correct usage when it comes to language. (These are the people who gave us “ankled” after all.)

No; we mention this agency agnosticism to explore what it means when a talent agency decides to get into representing the interests of brands while simultaneously representing the interests of talent. The two interests are not necessarily at loggerheads, but are they certainly aren’t always aligned.

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Otis Chandler dies

Otis Chandler, former LAT publisher and the last member of the Chandler dynasty to play a central role at the paper, died this morning in Ojai of Lewy body disease, a Parkinson’s-like brain disorder. He was 78.