Monthly Archives: July 2008

At the Graphic Classroom, The Plain Janes


Read my review at The Graphic Classroom

Today, my review of Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg’s The Plain Janes – available for under $10 through MINX (DC Comics) – appeared at The Graphic Classroom where I just raved and raved and raved.

The Plain Janes deals with the fear of contemporary terrorism, what stringent regulation and isolation and unhappiness results from said fear, and the young adults’ role in so big a societal quandary. As many are on the brink of leaving their homes for colleges, for exercising their independence, such reading probably inspires at least some thought about one’s place in the bigger picture.


Today, in the Ha-ha, is an Audiobook (Mansfield Park)


I was wiling an hour and discovered a copy of Mansfield Park [audiobook] (as read by Juliet Stevenson) available for just $4 through the Barnes&Noble website. I bought my copy several months ago to keep my long drive south palatable and it kept me pretty well diverted.

Some Laureatespeak


So the new Laureate [Kay Ryan] is growing on me. I’m hard pressed not to get all cloud-nined and complimentary – but [brace for alliteration!] she said some super stuff in “America’s Busiest Poet” ; – alright, here’s the skinny: I’ve a galpal [Novelletum editor Leslie Pritchard] who’s got the most bizarre gab; thus similiarities, to me, endear even strangers:




“But I’m ready to be interrupted,” [Ryan] says. “I’m getting tired of myself, tired of inflicting myself on myself. I’m ready to inflict myself on others.”

“They wanted something that I could help them get: an understanding of the basic elements of grammar, pronouns, those pesky apostrophes. The goal was to write an effective paragraph that was coherent and well supported. We aspired to the semicolon, but that rarely happened.” …

“Poems bite,” she says. “And my poems are bitey.”

I suppose the United Kingdom’s got the Laureatedom downpacked: one’s prize is money, scenery, and some sherry. And if these days they’re anything like the Romantics, that’s inspiration enough – minus the opium.

Authors & Artistes and the Writer’s Role in a Multi-Media Market



I am mightily pissed off. … I don’t really like people tinkering with my copy for the sake of tinkering. I do not enjoy the suggestion that you have a better ear or eye for how I want my words to read than I do. … There is no length issue. This is someone thinking “I’ll just remove this indefinite article because Coren is an illiterate cunt and I know best.”

Well, you fucking don’t.

Giles Corens Letter is Great!

 So. A letter written to a Times sub from writer Giles Coren surfaced at the Guardian – and it’s just great. His main dig’s the editor’s choice to remove an indefinite article – the letter a! – from a final sentence which, well (to be frank), made sullen trash of an alright chunk of writing.

Here’s the gist –  

This was shit, shit sub-editing for three reasons.
1) ‘Nosh’, as I’m sure you fluent Yiddish speakers know, is a noun formed from a bastardisation of the German ‘naschen’. It is a verb, and can be construed into two distinct nouns. One, ‘nosh’, means simply ‘food’. You have decided that this is what i meant and removed the ‘a’. I am insulted enough that you think you have a better ear for English than me. But a better ear for Yiddish? I doubt it. Because the other noun, ‘nosh’ means “a session of eating” – in this sense you might think of its dual valency as being similar to that of ‘scoff’. you can go for a scoff. or you can buy some scoff. the sentence you left me with is shit, and is not what i meant. Why would you change a sentnece aso that it meant something i didn’t mean? I don’t know, but you risk doing it every time you change something. And the way you avoid this kind of fuck up is by not changing a word of my copy without asking me, okay? it’s easy. Not. A. Word. Ever.

2) I will now explain why your error is even more shit than it looks. You see, i was making a joke. I do that sometimes. I have set up the street as “sexually-charged”. I have described the shenanigans across the road at G.A.Y.. I have used the word ‘gaily’ as a gentle nudge. And “looking for a nosh” has a secondary meaning of looking for a blowjob. Not specifically gay, for this is soho, and there are plenty of girls there who take money for noshing boys. “looking for nosh” does not have that ambiguity. the joke is gone. I only wrote that sodding paragraph to make that joke. And you’ve fucking stripped it out like a pissed Irish plasterer restoring a renaissance fresco and thinking jesus looks shit with a bear so plastering over it. You might as well have removed the whole paragraph. I mean, fucking christ, don’t you read the copy?

– but I recommend your reading the rest. Coren ain’t off the hook; I’ve printed, cropped, and put to considerable thought cheaply framing this jihad against editorial injustice – but only the writer-by-reader-demand’s got the sway to get crude with his paycheck, and his isn’t an example to be lead by. What’s really in the undercurrent is the clash between the twentieth century Author and the twenty-first century – not editor, but – Content Strategist. And such is the central theme to the Ms. Friedman’s blog There Are No Rules, where – like a kid and a candycane and a stranger – I got real spooked at my first back-alley look at the author’s role in a multi-media market. The times, they are a-changing indeed!

Okay, okay. This isn’t completely the case, but it’s definitely pertinent to Journalists – like Coren. The Futurist‘s Patrick Tucker doesn’t undermine what writers do, but he warns against the Romanticization of Authorship wherein writers with many a stripe (like you, journalist; like me, blogger) but fill a gap with content. We’re not authors any more just like we quit being artistes some good while back.

Hm. So, if Tucker’s got it right – Coren’s blunder ain’t so much blubbering-up attitude with the folk keeping him in print – we still-bottom-rung scribblers ought best mind our manners – but it’s his moral investment into High Work boiled down to a resume line: from author to content provider. 

There is a great deal of romance, authority, and credibility tied up in this idea of being an author. And it sounds distinctly less sexy (and even less beneficial) to be a “content provider.” And while I think we should keep playing with the words until it sounds desirable for everyone involved, the sooner we can shift our thinking here, the more viable we will all remain. – Jane Friedman

The saddest thing is that the introduction of Content Provider into jargon makes it necessary to qualify what it means now to be an Author.

Daily [Heaney]: Slab Calf on a Cold & Cool Countertop

This seems a little crass!

This seems a little crass!

Because I so much enjoy the Poetry Friday blogs I weekly read by Kelly R. Fineman and the 7-Imp Folk, I reckoned I just might as well hop in. For awhile back in Djarum Jack’s Alley I wrote the “Daily [Heaney]”–well aware that it’s pronounced hee-nee–but I failed or forgot to carry it over when I upended the Bloggering Hole. It only so rarely had anything to do with Seamus, but it was with his “The Haw Lantern” when it begun, and I dug the name. Moreover, it was never daily! – but this is my blog. Occasionally I’ll make a hard and fast critique, but today I won’t [I’m at work!].

To[day]’s was lifted from 7-Imp and courteously from Ploughshares, the Lit. Mag. that published Phillis Janowitz‘s “Veal:” 

I love to watch the butcher
wipe the sharp
blade on his
apron stained
with fresh blood. I’m
going to marry him


the side of beef split open
he tenderly spreads
it like a woman’s legs
between smeared fingers
stroking the cold smoothness

from his fingertips
           bloody red
drops on the floor spotting
the sawdust there fluffs of fat
lie covered decently
the meat is red and lean. [Read More]

Saturday’s Austenolatry in Gainesville


Saturday’s Jane Austen Society in Gainesville’s Tower Branch Public Library was exciting and went well. Given the summertimeliness of it all (and I suspect the relative unpopularity of Jane’s Sanditon) the turnout was cozy, but it was as right as Baby Bear’s porridge for Me-the-Newcomer. Hosted as High Tea by University of Florida’s [graduate?] student Amy Robinson, the demographics were varied in age but predominately feminine – which was just fine for me. The other male was a gentle geriatric named Jim, and so I couldn’t help but feel a tad virile.

I was flattered by my reception and I enjoyed sweets and suffered tea (I am a coffee drinker by habit). One woman asked whether I was the guest-speaking graduate student! Gertrude (or “Gerdy”), our matriarch (but nothing like Catherine de Bourgh or Lady Denham), made me so lopsided with compliments that I was subsequently balanced through Greenish outpour in Gainesville’s Mega Comics, where I spent the last quarter of my afternoon. My only regret is that our next meeting is two[-many] months away!

Luck to you, Ms Ryan; the PL, as Byron knew, is a damning title.

Our New Laureate

Our New Laureate

I was pleased to read that Kay Ryan was Thursday appointed Poet Laureate, whose poetry–to me–sometimes gnaws (in that too-sweet way) and, well, sometimes doesn’t. But I’m not the unbiased judge; – I do no justice to poets who probably deserve it, only because I cringe when someone says to me “I am a poet.” Agh.

 In our home, something like being a poet would be thought of as putting on airs. It would be embarrassingly pretentious, and educated, and snobbish. And so that, as a writer, I’ve always been very sensitive to not being pretentious and to being sure that I didn’t put on airs. I mean, it’s all right to be intelligent and to use every possible aspect of language, but never to be pompous.

— and honestly that’s my first impression these-a-days. I spent enough time in my University’s creative writing program to gag a rat. It makes my tears water-up like onions diced. But, just sometimes, I’m really very much taken aback, and I end up liking a [contemporarily written] poem. However, I am diverted by Ms Ryan’s I Demand to Speak with God,” her review of Mr Frost’s Notebooks recently published. She writes

I have said that the notebooks don’t generally trade in darkness, but very occasionally there is a big, igneous rip: “I am not sorry but rather enlarged that through me life must stab someone,” he says, a propos of nothing. And peppering the notebooks is the phrase “Dark Darker Darkest” standing alone, as though it were a code for something he kept working at in his mind.

and it is illuminating Frostically and Ryanally; I kind of dig these little ganders.