Kindle 2

So Amazon has released the new Kindle. A brand new opportunity for you/me, the cash-strapped consumer, to spend a lot of money, and then spend a lot more.

Let me say here that I am a huge fan of Amazon. I buy so much stuff per annum from Amazon that I signed up for Amazon Prime. And the kinds of stuff I buy from Amazon Continue reading

Best freakin' coffee on the planet

I’ve never been a fan of Starbucks coffee—their caffeine, yes, their coffee, no—and so herewith I offer you the chance to try the most freaking awesome coffee on the planet. I’ve never been a big fan of dark roast, and dark roast seems to have proliferated ever since the global expansion of Starbucks. But there’s way better coffee awaiting your discerning palate. Continue reading

The Bob Delusion

This is the novel I promised myself I’d have finished last year. Well, it’s now this year. I’m hanging this out there in the electronic universe just in case anyone wants to read and comment on it.

I’m using Apple’s Pages to write it, and but to put it out there using Adobe’s interesting beta, I had to convert it to Word, which doesn’t get all of the formatting exactly right, and since I use fonts that you might not have, I’ve changed some of them to more or less universal fonts.

Update: is no longer in beta, and I don’t really have any use for it. You can see pieces of TBD on Fictionaut, if you really want to by using the link.

This is a work in progress, in which on a day his wife has served him with divorce papers, his company is hinting at layoffs, and he is really in no condition for any more weirdness, the most unprecedentedly weird thing happens to him imaginable. He runs into himself, or, more literally, himself runs into him. This is not a guy who looks like him. This is him.

Even more weirdness ensues.

If you want to take a look and give me feedback, please email me and I will give you access.

Narrative is narrative

One wants to trust ones paper.

I’m probably old fashioned in the sense that I believe what I read in the paper. I grew up in a time when the newspaper and the radio new were the only sources of reliable, credible information about the world. (For whatever reason, I have always discounted television as actual news.) I was also a young adult in the Time of Reagan, so I was pretty much afraid that the world would come to an end, and, if I went camping or something, I would miss it.  

And so when I heard Malcolm Gladwell talk on This American Life about his time at The Washington Post—a paper that not only was my hometown paper but was also a significant source of income, since I had been a carrier (in those days, a paperboy, a proud moniker)—I assumed he was being pretty much entirely, though believably, facetious. Continue reading

Oscar Wao. Wow.

It’s hard to do anything but admire Junot Diaz’s prose, his incredibly facile use of language. That was the case with Drown, and it is certainly the case with his brief, wondrous novel, The Brief, Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.

I’m not entirely certain that the book holds up entirely as a novel—in some cases, it seems a bit more like interconnected short stories—but I’d rather read a flawed Diaz novel any day than a totally coherent (in the old, sticks-together sense of the word, not the makes-sense sense). Continue reading

Marcus v. Franzen

Re: Why experimental fiction threatens to destroy publishing, Jonathan Franzen, and life as we know it
A correction
by Ben Marcus in Harpers

It’s hard to figure who should be more embarrassed by Ben Marcus’s “complaint of … painful stridency” (as Jonathan Franzen himself put it, criticizing his own Harpers essay) about Franzen in the October 2005 edition of Harper’s—Harper’s or the author. Marcus willfully misreads Franzen at every turn, creating the same sort of straw man that Marcus accuses Franzen of, just so he can continually bat him down.

Nominally about the struggles of “experimental” fiction in “the literary world,” and how both are demeaned by Franzen’s criticism and his stated aversion to “unnecessary difficulty,” it is little more than a weakly reasoned ad hominem attack on Franzen. Marcus imputes to Franzen a power that—sorry, fella—the other man simply does not have. In the breathtakingly few instances when Marcus actually talks about literature and is not sniveling about Franzen, it’s hard to imagine that Franzen would much disagree with him.

Marcus could as easily have attacked Michael Chabon for lampooning the literary world in Wonder Boys. But then Chabon for the most part sticks to fiction. Franzen, however, writes criticism and nonfiction, both of which are self-referential and occasionally hand-wringing, but they are always readable. Somehow, for Marcus, this makes him the rough equivalent of Dale Peck—which somehow licenses Marcus to try to Peck him to death.

Franzen’s work is nothing if not the product—and the reflection—of a frantic, multi-tasking, ambitious, anxious, hand-wringing world. Yet Marcus doesn’t seem to get this, or to understand the irony in Franzen’s take on William Gaddis in “Mr. Difficult,” the piece that seems to cause Marcus the greatest dyspepsia. Franzen struggles with what Marcus refers to as his “anxious ideology,” his own failure to live up to his own expectations. Never does it occur to Marcus that the title may as much refer to reader as author.

It is hard to take Marcus seriously when he makes a statement like, “Nor is it clear when the audiences for mass entertainment became interested in multitasking.” Really? Has he never heard of a BlackBerry? Given the positively imbecilic tactic of trotting out readability tests (readability tests!?!), it’s hard not to stare in slack-jawed amazement (or laugh) at this irony-free accusation: “…he [Franzen] neglected to consult a wide array of established readability tests, and thus failed to mention Gaddis’s supposedly impenetrable writing could have been easily by sixth-graders.” (Well, gosh! Maybe the poor man didn’t matriculate as much as he should have!!) 

By this idiotic measure, Marcus is the better known writer because my Microsoft Word spell-checker recognizes his name but not that of his nemesis. Nor does it recognize the apparently unknown Chabon. Was there not an editor at Harper’s who could have kindly pointed out to Marcus just how much of a fool he was making of himself? Or was he just being needlessly difficult?

(Originally written as a letter to the editor to Harpers in October 2005)