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Archives: June 2006

That Must’ve Been Some English Class!

elizabeth-benedict.jpgNovelist Elizabeth Benedict (left) dropped us a line saying she’d been turned on to GalleyCat by fellow author M.J. Rose, who turns out to be “my long lost but recently found high school pal.” She also wanted to let us know about how an assignment to review The Last of Her Kind for the NYTBR back in January led to a new friendship with Sigrid Nunez, who like Benedict went to Barnard. During a recent conversation at McNally Robinson, Benedict reports, “we talked about our writing teacher at Barnard, literary luminary Elizabeth Hardwick, about writing workshops back in the day when students brought in a single paragraph to be critiqued, about surviving the writer’s life, about editors, publishers, beginnings, middles, and despair.” An MP3 of that talk is available on Benedict’s website; she’s also looking for other former students of Hardwick with memories to share.

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Should Slate Lay Off Bush Already?

Last week at the linguistics blog Language Log, Mark Liberman raised a compelling criticism of Bushisms, the Slate feature created by Jacob Weisberg to call attention to what the liberal intelligentsia views as some of George W. Bush’s more dim-witted utterances. Weisberg was able to turn all those web pages into a real book as early as 2001; now he’s got a whole string of books as well as other ancillary products. There’s just one problem, says Liberman: The column’s been stretched thin for years, including a lot of alleged malapropisms that are actually fairly common usage in certain parts of the country (notably the south). Liberman delves into one such recent case, involving the phrase “let’s dont,” then steps up to the broad theme:

“The individual cases are just like any disagreement over usage: we argue over what linguistic norms really are, what they should be, and why. But there’s a broader pattern here, and it’s not just that many people dislike President George W. Bush and are happy to find a linguistic focus for their feelings. That’s the demand side of the industry, and it’s obvious. However, there’s something to say about the supply side as well: the Bushisms industry apparently accounts for a significant portion of Jacob Weisberg’s income, and he’s the editor of Slate, who gets to decide which ‘Bushisms’ to print and how often to print them.”

“Isn’t there something wrong when a magazine editor, whose job is making judgments about what is and is not worthy of publication, makes much of his income from re-publication of collections of a feature whose instances are so often so spectacularly superfluous?” Liberman asks. I tried emailing Weisberg to solicit a defense of the column and clarify some of the financial issues (like Liberman’s guess that the royalties from all that Bush-mocking are “in the same range as what he makes at his day job”), but a week’s gone by with no answer.

More Scenes from Eisner’s Spirited Life

You may dimly recall our item from early May on Bob Andelman, the author who looks like a terrorist. Well, we’ve got slightly happier news about Andelman this time around: He’s promoting Will Eisner: A Spirited Life, his biography of the legendary comics artist, by posting supplementary interviews with other comics professionals to his blog, one a week, every week. So far, he’s gotten Drew Friedman to clear the record about what really happened in the classes he took with Eisner at the School of Visual Arts back in 1980, and dug up the facts about another dispute Eisner had with Howard Chaykin. Admittedly, the details are probably of utmost interest to comics fanboys of a certain age, but the principle of putting more info about your book’s subject to guide readers to the book? That’s a fairly interesting development…

Satanic Fashion Film Opens Nationwide

Wait, The Devil Wears Prada isn’t a horror flick? OK, let’s try that again… It’s interesting to see how much of the initial reaction to the film echoes the thoughts of Fashion Wire Daily’s Lauren David Peden, who dismisses the source material (Lauren Weisberger’s novel) as “as badly written as they come.” (Funnily enough, FWD seems to have some sort of rule against saying the word “hell,” leaving Peden to work her way through “h-e-double hockey sticks” and “you-know-where”.) Charting the film’s development for Hollywood Reporter, Anne Thompson describes how “a succession of writers took a whack at wrestling this anecdotal account of life in the New York fashion fast lane into a shootable, commercial screenplay.” (Including “two funny gay writers” to deliver the “juicy bon mots,” presumably because they’re so good at that.) My favorite un-ironic Hollywood line from that piece belongs to one of the final scripters, Aline Brosh McKenna: “You don’t often tinge a coming-of-age story with moral choices.” Oh, gosh no, hardly ever.

Meanwhile, A.O. Scott observes in his NYT review that the story’s meaning has done a 180-degree turn, as Meryl Streep turns a character who was once “the incarnation of evil” into “a vision of aristocratic, purposeful and surprisingly human grace.” He also, quite politely, never mentions Anna Wintour’s name, which is more than Roger Ebert did—although Ebert cushions the blow by describing the character as “a cross between Anna Wintour, Graydon Carter and a dominatrix.”

Well, That Clears That Up

mblogo.jpgisobella-jade.jpgRemember yesterday, when I skeptically asked where the model who wrote her memoirs at the Apple Store was saving the documents? My colleague Dylan Stableford at FishbowlNY put the question directly to Isobella Jade, and she told him: “I saved it to my yahoo account.” She also took the opportunity to set the record straight about Almost 5’4″:

“please understand that my book is not a -show show- of my resume, it is my experiences working as an amatuer nude model for 2 years and then turning to a business women and learning how to sell myself without an agent to legit companies and jobs. It is about the struggles of being a model in a business of giraffes and how I manage to survive working with or without assistance[...]

As we noted yesterday, Apple has arranged for Jade to give readings of her unpublished (unsold, even) manuscript at two of its West Coast branches. We’ll take a moment now to pause while the creative writing MFAs among you in the audience clean the coffee off your monitor.

Digging into The God Factor

cathleen-falsani.jpgWhen I met with Chicago Sun-Times religion columnist Cathleen Falsani (left) earlier this week to chat about The God Factor, her collection of interviews with celebrities about spirituality, we started out by discussing some of the similarities in our backgrounds—born just three months apart, we grew up in New England and wound up at religious colleges in the midwest—and wound up bonding over our mutual admiration for Johnny Cash. In between, I asked how she’d started trying to get celebs to talk about faith. The project grew out of a series of Sun-Times columns she’d written about Illinois politicians (the Barack Obama interview is still one of the top two hits on her name in a Google search). She did a few more similar columns for the paper, but quickly realized she had the makings of a book, and took time off to put it together.

“I tried very hard, very consciously, not to bring a lot of baggage to the interviews,” she recalled of her celebrity encounters. “That said, when you drive up to the Playboy Mansion and Hef comes down in his silk pajamas, it’s hard to let go of your preconceived notions.” She was also totally caught off guard by her meeting with Anne Rice (and, she adds, “humbled by the experience”), and surprised in general by the candidness and vulnerability of everyone she met.

Tonight, at the Union Square Barnes & Noble, she’ll be sitting down with Moby for an all-new conversation; she’d tried to speak to him for the book, and it hadn’t worked out then, but it’s come together now and she couldn’t be happier. “I could’ve done the whole book with musicians,” she enthused, “but Sarah Crichton wouldn’t let me.” (Crichton’s her FSG editor; The God Factor is one of the first books in her eponymous line at the house.) Finally landing this interview is a small example of something Falsani says she’s seen happen a lot lately, as spiritual and emotional themes of her life increasingly come full circle. “All these things that seemed to be disparate and eclectic suddenly all made sense to me,” she said, joking that friends have told her that this sort of convergence is supposed to happen much later in life: “I’m being really careful now not to step in front of any oncoming cars.”

SF Publisher Jim Baen, 1943-2006

jimbaen.jpgIn a sad update to our story a few weeks ago about Jim Baen’s stroke, the founding editor and publisher of Baen Books (left) died yesterday, reports author David Drake, who pays tribute to Baen on his website. “Jim had the advantage over some editors in that he knew what a story is,” Drake recalls. “He had the advantage over most editors in being able to spot talent before somebody else had published it…Furthermore, he never stopped developing new writers. The week before his stroke, Jim bought a first novel from a writer whom Baen Books had been grooming through short stories over the past year.”

Apple Store Replacing Starbucksas Writers’ Grazing Spot?

mblogo.jpgWhen our colleagues at FishbowlNY forwarded us a press release yesterday about a model who wrote her memoir at the Apple Store, my first reaction was that it was an update of Harlan Ellison’s old gimmick of cranking out short stories from a bookstore’s display window. But no—turns out that Isobella Jadeco (below) just claims she wrote the entire book “while standing in heels infront of an Imac 17inch computer [sic]” in Soho’s Apple Store because she’s living out of her suitcase and doesn’t have an Internet connection, let alone a computer. And yet she managed to scrape together an elaborate online portfolio and a MySpace page, where she’s announced readings of the unpublished Almost 5’4″ at Apple stores in Los Angeles and San Francisco later in July. My first reaction: “Where’s she been saving the document all this time?”


Coming in 2008: Chabon Film Festival?

From Romancing the Tome, a blog that specializes in news about upcoming movies based on books, comes the news that Michael Chabon’s first novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, is going to be made into a movie starring Max Minghella, competing wtih Peter Sarsgaard for the affections of Sienna Miller. The film is scheduled to start shooting in August, with Rawson Thurber writing and directing, just like he did on Dodgeball and the short film Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. (You will now be forgiven for singing “one of these things is not like the other.”)

Last week, Romancing got the word from Chabon’s own blog that Natalie Portman may star in the film of The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, which is being directed by Stephen Daldry, the helmsman of Billy Elliot and The Hours. Which is also a bit of an unusual triptych, but not quite as discordant. Chabon’s website also tells of what may be his coolest film project yet: scripting duties on Yuen Wo Ping’s Snow and the Seven, described on the IMDb as “a retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs set in British colonial China, where Shaolin monks take in a refuge girl.” Now that’s a movie idea right there, that is!

Greenberg Succeeds in Recovering After Tumble

mblogo.jpgherb-greenberg.jpgMonday afternoon, FishbowlNY alerted us to Herb Greenberg’s collapse during a speech that morning where he was discussing his latest book, Succeed on Your Own Terms. It certainly sounded as if Greenberg (right) recovered quickly, but we wanted to make sure before we mentioned it to you.

So I connected with Greenberg’s publicists this afternoon, and they assure me the incident was “dramatic but not serious,” brought on primarily by exhaustion and possibly low blood sugar. He went to the hospital for tests, but was already recovering well enough to be conducting interviews in the emergency room, and they expect him to be back in full action long before he’s scheduled to speak again in New York at the end of July.