Better than. . .

For IC local Goats and others who might be interested, Better than Ezra is playing tonight on the Pentacrest after the parade and pep rally.


Wedding Readings?

Sorry for the cross-post, but I am desperate. Anyone got any good ideas for wedding readings? Please see this on BAF for more info.


Marcus vs. Franzen

Who wants a piece of this one? I don't think there is a link for the wonderful Harper's essay in which Ben Marcus tears Franzen and all he stands for a new one. So if you don't have it, run out and read it in the magazine aisle. I don't have a lot to say about it (that's the problem with near total agreement) but am curious about the fiction response. I'm going to come down on the side of "experimentalism" almost every time. Seeing quotes from Tender Buttons anywhere tends to reaffirm my faith in man (or woman as the case may be). I find the blurring of reader and customer to be particularity troubling. It seems to be happening in the poetry world as well.

Playboy fiction

Anyone know how to submit a short story to Playboy? I don't see anything on the Web site...

Actually, does anyone have a link to a good updated list of mags and addresses -- or should I just bite the bullet and buy the latest Writer's Market?


Respect for a Goat

Mr. Ian David Froeb's "The Cosmonaut" has received an honorable mention in this year's Best American Short Stories (Michael Chabon, ed.).


I think I hit all the Babies, but I'm missing email addresses for a bunch of Goats. Thus: BBQ, my house, this Sunday, 1 pm. If you don't have my address, email me.


Sharon Olds turns down Laura Bush invite

"... So many Americans who had felt pride in our country now feel anguish and shame, for the current regime of blood, wounds and fire. I thought of the clean linens at your table, the shining knives and the flames of the candles, and I could not stomach it."

Her full letter to the First Lady is here.


Whitney Terrell Reading and Party, Weds., 9/21

Whitney Terrell, Workshop graduate, will be reading at Prairie Lights tomorrow, Weds., 9/21, at 7pm. His first novel, The Huntsman, was highly acclaimed, and now he's reading from his new novel, The King of Kings County. Come watch/hear him read and parry the usual assortment of Qs; afterward, there will be a party chez SER, B., and Mark. Hope to see you then!

If the Bush Administration’s Response to Hurricane Katrina Were Workshopped by BAF

SER posted a side-splitting dramatization of Hurricane Katrina: The Workshop over at the Babies That Do Not Ignite blog. Very funny, and she even included my favorite faculty-related joke at the end.

Jonathan Letham wins MacArthur genius grant

I mean, I loved Motherless Brooklyn and thought Fortress of Solitude was okay, but sheez!... $500,000? Good for him. He's definitely doing something right. "You probably ought to check in with me in six months," he said. "I think I can safely say it's going to give me a lot of the security and freedom that any artist craves."

btw, anyone read anything of his besides those two books that they'd recommend?

Embedded with Oprah

Good news from the battlefield. I've talked with a few of you before about how happy I am with the second iteration of Oprah's Book Club. Not that I've ever watched an episode or checked out the web content or read any of the books in conjunction with her recommendations. (Okay, I reread Light in August last month--good, but not as good as I remembered it--but I bought a beaten copy from a used bookstore, rather than the spiffy 3-book set and I didn't actually participate in any book clubs; and I'm now reading Anna Karenina, but only because the Oprah hullabaloo informed me that Pevear had turned from translating Dostoevsky to Tolstoy.) So when I was reading Light in August, I was curious just what Oprah was doing with these books, especially the more difficult Sound and the Fury and As I Lay Dying. This article, when it doesn't digress into Lit-lectures on Faulkner, gives a bit of a scoop.

I suppose I loved the rise of OBC2 because it was putting in lots of people's hands not only good books, but difficult and original and good books. But I figured that the vast majority of [insert your assumptions about Oprah viewers] would give up a few pages in, and only a minority would get anything out of it besides exposure to something Great. In my mind, a little exposure was good, and that a handful of people might fall in love with it (I remember my silly, ignorant self and how dramatically he was changed by As I Lay Dying) was marvelous. I'm pleasantly surprised to find that maybe people are more willing to work hard for good fiction than I'd thought (as long as someone they respect is prodding them to). It's interesting. And with all the talk of declining readership and lazy readership, it's nice to see something good.



Oh sure, NOW they come up with Kidsbeer. It's so not fair! My only consolation is they'll never sell it in this country. Their slogan will surely sweep every ad award: "Even kids cannot stand life unless they have a drink."

Talk Like a Pirate Day

I was just walking up Clinton Street and there was a table set up in the Pentacrest. It had a sign that read, "September 19: Talk Like a Pirate Day." A dude in full pirate regalia was ahoying and arr-ing away. I was suspicious and did not engage the pirate in piratical conversation. I just saw on DailyKos, however, that it is indeed an international initiative. Ahoy.

Jane Smiley reading tonight

She's touring for her new nonfic book Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel. She was writing page 280 of Good Faith, her latest novel, on September 11, 2001, when her book "suddenly came to seem trivial." So she set out to reexamine the art form in which she had already won a Pulitzer. She proceeded to read 100 novels, from classics to contemporaries (I'm naturally gratified by no. 79), and then write a book about the experience. The reading is at Buchanan Auditorium in the Pappajohn Bidnass Building at 7pm. I believe there is a party after. And poets, you gotta like that title!


Let's Take A Break From All This Serious Stuff

How about another excerpt from an IMDB Discussion Board. This one is a lot shorter than the famous Grendel post, and I didn't contribute at all. Just happened upon it. So without further ado, here are the entire, uncensored contents of the "Why did they cancel this show?" thread from the Wayne Brady Show Discussion Board:

I liked the show. Does anybody know why they canceled it? They should bring back Wayne Brady.

I am very mad. :(
There are 3 kinds of people:
Those who can count and those who can't.

It's obiously because more women like to watch a windbag like Tony and boy does it irritate me. Wayne was killed by Tony Danza and people like it and don't care aout Wayne Brady That's just wrong!

Because no one came to his IMDB message board.
"I'm Wayne Brady, b!itch!"

>>"I'm Wayne Brady, b!itch!"
You sidew with Tony do you pal! Go to hell with him you son of a damn BITCH!

Yes, I do! Have you seen him in A League Of Their Own?
"I'm Wayne Brady, b!itch!"

This message has been deleted by the poster.

Please remember to ensure all your postings are made in compliance with our terms and conditions. Please pay particular attention to the rules in section #2 and the punishments in section #3. In the event of a violation, IMDb may remove your entire posting history, not only the messages which are specifically in violation and your account may be permanently blocked from posting.

You are the one that started bashing at Wayne first. It's you that started it. Not me. So you are trying to outsmart me by being one of the IMDB people huh? After you sided with Tony and bashing Wayne, you throw me this? Just wondering are you part of the IMDB people? If you are, you have alot of nerve trying to frisk me. You tried to retaliate by sending this message just over your hatred of Wayne and love for Tony. Nice Job Pal! I'm sorry about saying all of the bad messages of Tony but to tell you the truth I like to watch Ellen better than Tony. I will not be ashamed of myself for having an opinion.

My posting here has remained unchanged, and you should be able to tell that you were the one, not me, who went overboard. I in no way shape or form insulted Wayne Brady! It's just that you took my quote as such. I'm a huge Wayne Brady fan, having seen his stand-up several times before he was famous. In fact, any real Wayne Brady fan should know that my Wayne Brady quote came directly from the mans mouth. I respect your opinion, but you should respect mine, even if you don't agree with it. Tony Danza, like it or not, left a TV legacy behind with his passing. We should all respect that. In a better world, Tony Danza and Wayne Brady, and even Ellen DeGeneres (SP?) would have equal ratings and would all get along. What do you say we take the first step and get along here on this board?

OK. I'm really sorry for those bad ratings. Can we both call it a truce? Thank you.

LOL the quote "I'm Wayne Brady Bitch" was from his appearance on Chappelle's show.
Anyway I was wondering why you mentioned Tony. What does he have to do with Wayne Brady's cancellation?

Tony had so much power of the fact that Wayne won an emmy the season he got cancelled! Tony worked with Disney to have deals to take Wayne's show off the air and look at his show, he didn't win any emmys nor did he win any recognitizion. Basically, he lost Ventrini, who is so obnoxious and also Wayne Brady Executive Producer John Redmann. So Tony apparently made a deal with ABC to have the power to cancel an emmy winning talk show and replace it with more mediocre madness in which Tony never even mentioned any hosting careers of Donny Osmond's work on PYRAMID like Wayne did and Tom Bergeron's work on Hollywood Squares like I said again, Tony never give a chance in the world to mention and Wayne acknowledged. SO the hell with Tony Danza and long live Wayne Brady!!! Tony killed Wayne's show so that he could have his show on the air.

You need a life seriously! All you do is post about how Tony Danza forced Wayne Brady's talk show off the air. No person no matter how famous they are and Tony Danza is not that famous can force a person off the air. Wayne's show got cancelled because the ratings sucked. Plus he never had good guests on to attract viewers. The show has been off the air over a year and you still go around everywhere complaining Tony Danza forced him off the air. Right! Why don't you look Wayne up and follow him around dressed in black crying over his long cancelled talk show? I'm sure he'll like that. Especially now that nobody gives a rat's @$$ about him. Before you argue back I'm some crazed Danza fan I'm not. Danza's an egomaniac tool!


Tom Waits sues over German sound-alike ad

And I thought such an anti-commercial attitude was long dead and gone...

"Apparently the highest compliment our culture grants artists nowadays is to be in an ad — ideally naked and purring on the hood of a new car. I have adamantly and repeatedly refused this dubious honor," Waits said in a statement. "While the court can't make me active in radio, I am asking it to make me radioactive to advertisers."

Call for submissions

I received this (I've edited it down a little) from Ted Genoways (an amazing guy, by the way, and a wonderful literary ally) at Virginia Quarterly Review and wanted to let you all know about it. They pay extremely well. Have a look see:

The VIRGINIA QUARTERLY REVIEW is putting together a special issue for 2006--based on an idea given to us by Michael Chabon. We are asking writers to contribute stories that take one of their favorite writers as a central character. It may be a straightforward biographical narrative, such as Robert Walser's "Kleist in Thon," which recounts an actual journey of
Heinreich von Kleist; an imagined (or even fantastic) approach, such as Allan Gurganus's "Reassurance," in which one of Walt Whitman's soldier friends writes from heaven; or a humorous take, such as Ian Frazier's "LGA/ORD," in which Frazier riffs on Samuel Beckett's claim that, had he not become a writer, he would have been an airline pilot. The length is also completely open.

If you haven't seen the magazine recently, I encourage you to visit our website. In the last year alone, we have published new work by Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, E. L. Doctorow, Annie Proulx, Margaret Atwood, and Carol Shields. Our current issue features new work by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Cormac McCarthy, and Isabel Allende, and our Fall issue (on stands October 1) features a short play by Tony Kushner, the first installment of a serialized graphic novel by Art Spiegelman, and a long story by Joyce Carol Oates. In the last year we have been nominated for a National Magazine Award in Fiction (and another in General Excellence), and our fiction has been reprinted in BEST AMERICAN SHORT STORIES, the PUSHCART anthology, and HARPER'S.

The deadline for this issue is relatively distant--we wouldn't need finished stories until March 1, 2006. I hope that will give you enough time to consider this idea and see what you come up with.


The Southern Review and Hurricane Relief

I received a forwarded note from Bret Lott at The Southern Review about a fundraiser they're doing for hurricane relief, posted here with his permission.

To the Community of Writers, Readers, Teachers, Students, Editors and
Anyone Else Within the Sound of This Email--

Bret Lott here, editor of The Southern Review on the campus of LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. I am writing to you and to everyone you can forward this email to with an opportunity to help victims of the hurricane. Forgive this rather long email, but it is important to the welfare of many hurricane evacuees in our area -- please read this all the way through.

No doubt you know the sorrow and hardship that has been visited on residents of our state because of Hurricane Katrina and the flooding caused by the breach of the levee in New Orleans. No doubt you know as well of the thousands of displaced persons who have lost everything because of the evacuation of that city.

As a result of so many New Orleans area universities and colleges closing down for who knows how long, LSU has taken on almost 2800 new students who were displaced by losing their homes and their schools; in addition, many students who were already enrolled at LSU have also suffered great losses. These students have experienced hardships that few of us will ever know: they have lost their homes, their personal belongings, their books, their food -- everything, including, for many, the college or university at which they were enrolled. To help meet their needs -- and these are IMMEDIATE and GENUINE needs -- the LSU Foundation has set up Hurricane Katrina Relief

Strangely and beautifully and sadly enough, the latest issue of The Southern Review -- mailed to subscribers just week before last, right as the hurricane was making way for the Gulf Coast -- has turned out to be a very special issue for the artwork on the cover and that featured inside. The artist, Billy Solitario, lives near GULFPORT (and I trust you have seen the pictures of the devastation there); as of this writing, we have not been able to contact him. The paintings themselves are of the Gulf Coast -- one of them is even titled "Spiral Cloud over Levee," another one titled "Storm Over the Mississippi"; still others in the portfolio are of barrier islands on the Gulf Coast -- places that don't even exist anymore. The artwork was selected about a year ago, and the synchronicity of this is a little too much to think about -- the issue, which went out just two weeks ago, celebrates a coastland that is, suddenly, gone. Also, and again the synchronicity of this is too much to behold, the lead poems in this issue are by Peter Cooley, poet at now-closed Tulane University; we have heard that he is safe in Houston at the time of this writing.

Here is where the community of folks to whom this email is addressed can help (and please read the following instructions CAREFULLY as they are being written this way so as to allow all of us to help each other legally!).





Please note that these two actions -- your donation, our sending you a free copy -- are MUTUALLY EXCLUSIVE (does anyone out there recognize yet the legal hoops I am having to jump through in order simply to help students in dire need of help? Sheesh!). Please note as well that it just so happens that the cover price for an issue of The Southern Review is $8 (eight dollars), BUT YOU ARE FREE TO DONATE AS MUCH AS YOU WISH.

Order as many as you want -- use them as gifts with the good knowledge that because of your generosity help is going to students in need; use them in your classes as a means to help your students rally to the aid of their comrades here at LSU; give them to anyone and everyone you know. And please forward this email to as many people as you know so that they might also be able to contribute to a worthy fund, and to enjoy the issue itself.


I know that to many out there this may sound like some sort of mercenary effort to advertise our journal and somehow to make money through the loss of others. Indeed, we will in fact be losing money in all this. But you have my word -- Bret Lott -- that we will in no way profit from these mutually exclusive actions.

I know the outpouring will be a great one, and please know that we here at The Southern Review are prepared to handle the deluge of good will you are already sending our way. Thank you for reading all the way through this email, and thank you as well for what you have already done for the hurricane relief efforts.

Sincerely, and with thanks to all --

Bret Lott
Editor and Director
The Southern Review

Fiction, poetry, reviewing, and the meaning of it all

Update: I'm promoting this post up in time so it appears closer to the top... it's going for the record in numbers of comments.

I've decided to suspend my weekly New Yorker fiction reviews indefinitely. A few reasons for this. The main one is that I had hoped they would generate discussions about contemporary fiction. They haven't. Plus the magazine routinely puts out novel excerpts without giving a heads up about it. That's lame and wreaks havoc with any attempted analysis. Also, it's starting to feel like a chore, and if you've ever seen the doghair tumbleweeds gliding through our house, you know I don't like chores. And I reckon I miss the old workshop and thought it would be like that. And finally, Nate's comment in the "What did you read this summer?" post --
Why doesn't anyone read poetry? Is it so bad? So insular and unapproachable? I thought this was a literary blog... Call me crazy, but last time I looked, literature went well beyond New Yorker fiction.
-- is still haunting me. Because he's right. Why don't I read poetry? I think because I don't feel up to understanding it properly. Because I never really learned to read it. Because it makes me impatient. It's like some exotic cheese meant to be savored morsel by small morsel, when all I've ever done is gobble up cheddar and monterrey jack and, it must be admitted, Velveeta.

Also, the world seems to be going to hell, and it feels indulgent to relentlessly keep on reading and writing about reading and writing no matter what or when.

Fiction's easy to read for pleasure. Right now I'm cruising through The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and loving it. I look forward to picking it up, as if I'm picking up a remote control for a movie in my mind. That has never happened to me with poetry, and I think that's sad, and it means something is wrong, and I've decided to try and fix it.

So I'm starting with the Norton Anthology of Poetry. I'm up to Shakespeare right now. I'm nibbling the exotic cheese a bit at a time.

I loved when Chad was enlightening all of us with his witty responses to New Yorker poetry. But again, there is more to the literary scene than the New Yorker. I had merely thought it would be a good touchstone, something we might all have in common, a starting point to launch conversations about what is working in good writing today and why. But I'm finding you can't make a blog do what you want. Instead, it stubbornly goes about its business as it pleases, occasionally shining with brilliance, often sleeping, sometimes shuffling around grumpy or confused or angry or indignant. It just is what it is, and stays that way. Like a friend.

I'll probably still post story reviews when I get excited about something, or angry or grumpy or confused or indignant about something. I'm eyeing the Ann Beattie story in this week's with hope and anticipation. And last week's was really good, in case you missed it. But now I have to go have a plantar's wart on my heel looked at.

End soliloquy.

(See? I would never had thought of that word without the recent Shakespeare infusion.)


Hee Haw - The Collection

I rented the Hee Haw Collection DVD, and found I have the same slightly sick feeling I had when I was 7 or 8 years old and watched it on Saturday nights, usually with Grendel, while a babysitter talked to her friends on a landline phone.

The sets were brashly lit and cheap, and the jokes were just... well, here are a few:

Hillbilly 1: I heard yer brother in law, Luke, up and done away with hisself last week. How’d he do it?
Hillbilly 2: Well, he laid down on the railroad tracks and he tied hisself to the rail.
Hillbilly 1: And then the train come along and ground him ta pieces, huh?
Hillbilly 2: No, he missed the train. Luke jest laid there waitin’ fer the next one and starved to death.

Junior Samples: I hate my mother in law.
Roy Clark: Well if it wasn’t fer yer mother in law, you wouldn’t have yer wife!
Junior: That’s another reason I hate ‘er.

Grandpa Jones in a doctor’s office:
Doc: Grandpa, you mean to tell me yer gonna marry a 18 year old girl? Why, don’t you know that could be fatal?
Grandpa: If she dies, she dies!

Hillbilly: Hey Junior, why you got that black eye?
Junior: I told my wife this mornin’ that her socks were wrankled and she weren’t wearin’ any.

Probably the strangest bit was Grandpa Jones washing windows, then resting his hands through the panes that weren’t there. An off-camera crowd of people yell in unison:
Grandpa: Turtle stew with onions and crackers, wild greens, stewed auger holes, and bread puddin’!!
Crowd: YUM YUM!!!

And finally, the song those two guys sang, the first part of which changes each time:

You took off your peg leg your wig and your glass eye
You were surprised at the look on my face
I wanted to kiss and hug on you darlin’
But you were scattered all over the place
Where oh where are you tonight?
Why did you leave me here all alone?
I searched the world over and thought I found true love
You met another and pfffffft you was gone

Poet in the mix.

I was just able to read the excellent discussion about reading poetry spawned by Grendel's post and I was able to respond, but I feel to late for anybody to be still checking. If anyone is still interested in talking, check it.


The Dog Paddle

Mark after Swimming
Originally uploaded by S Rogers.
The Real Grendel and Luka were much more enthusiastic about the whole Dog Paddle than was Mark. Here's a photo of the young gentleman after I finally stopped torturing him and allowed him to take it all in from the safety beneath the lifeguard chair.

At present, he is being neutered. Godspeed, young Mark.


Dog Paddle

Reminder: Dogs belonging to Goats and Babies will be convening at 6pm tonight at the Dog Paddle.

Mark went last night since B. was going to be out of town tonight and wanted to witness the spectacle. It was hilarious! Mark wasn't too pleased to be in the water, but the whole event was hysterical - and it was fun to be in a large, crowded public area where everyone was happy.

I'm hoping that if I take Mark again tonight, he'll start to get used to the water. I'm also hoping to see George and Pogue jump off the diving board - and perhaps the Real Grendel could be trained to catch a Frisbee in mid-air just before he splashes into a swimming lane?


Aimee Bender reading tonight

Just a little reminder. Prairie Lights, 7 p.m.

The News from Houston

Talked to Mom and Pop yesterday -- between bursts of my father screaming "airborne!" in the background every time a helicopter came on the news, Mom said the situation in Houston was fairly stable -- they've got enough donations of food, water, and especially clothing, so if you're thinking of donating to someone, probably the Red Cross is the way to go.

Apparently, a bunch of the local churches are taking people in. Mom and Pop are working in our church's "soup kitchen" -- they're going to be making bag meals for people stuck in hotels and whatnot, and they'll also be having some spreads at the church. Considering my father was intrigued at my ability to melt cheese and peppers into chili con queso, I'm not quite sure how that will turn out. And I'm sure my Mom (who is a wonderful cook) will also be imparting her child-rearing wisdom to the evacuees, whether they want it or not ("See, you need to nag them until you break their spirit").

But, on a note that is probably making me feel way more optimistic than I should, my Mom said "Unless they run McCain, no one's going to vote Republican next time" -- which is similar to the Pope saying, "You know, Satan had a point."


Barbara Bush, who accompanied the former presidents on a tour of the Astrodome complex Monday, said the relocation to Houston is "working very well" for some of the poor people forced out of New Orleans.

"What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality," she said during a radio interview with the American Public Media program "Marketplace." "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."

Punchline, anyone?


Learning from history

Did anyone catch Michael Brown, director of FEMA, discussing the situation in New Orleans on this morning's news show circuit? "We had all of our rescue teams, the medical teams, pre-deployed, ready to go," he said. "The lawlessness, the crime that is occurring, did surprise us." It's something "I never thought I'd see."

And he's right. The feds are doing the best they can. I mean, in all fairness, who in Washington could have anticipated this kind of thing? OK, I'll grant that New Orleans is a large city with poorly-maintained infrastructure. Anyone who's ever been there can tell you that. And sure, it's teeming with poverty and years of pent-up desperation. No secret there either. But, in all seriousness, who can really think of an example in modern history of a city like that descending into an anarchy of pillaging, shooting and rape after being physically destroyed.

I mean, sure, there was the Baghdad thing. But that's different.