You're Pulitzerin' my leg

2009 Prizes announced. Anyone read Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout? How do poets feel about Merwyn nabbing a second one? (I must confess I've never been anything but bored by anything I've read by him.)


Danny MacAskill

Really, it's like riding a bike... Oh, here's another one, even more ridiculous:

h/t Gawker/Alexander Chee


Cheeni's book is out

What a great, great idea, this Web video promo. I already couldn't wait to read it.

Irish view on American writing programs

Éilís Ní Dhuibhne reviews The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing by Mark McGurl in the Irish Times, making the simultaneous points that the surprising proliferation of American writing programs were a reflection of the democratization of higher education after WWII -- and that in European universities, which enjoyed a far higher level of democratization, writing programs never took off, and still haven't to any comparable extent.

Journalist waterboarded

Okay, he writes for Playboy (does that still count?). Anyway, his goal is to last 15 seconds. Here's the video. This is the first time I've understood what it really is and how it works.


Ten rising stars of British poetry

profiled in the Times Online (UK). Their group portrait alone is worth a peek. Significantly, the article is in the Entertainment section.


Strunk & White wrong, outdated, mocked

I love linguist Geoffrey Pullum's recent takedown of the tiny tyrant. The Elements of Style was published 50 years ago.
This was most unfortunate for the field of English grammar, because both authors were grammatical incompetents. Strunk had very little analytical understanding of syntax, White even less. Certainly White was a fine writer, but he was not qualified as a grammarian. Despite the post-1957 explosion of theoretical linguistics, Elements settled in as the primary vehicle through which grammar was taught to college students and presented to the general public, and the subject was stuck in the doldrums for the rest of the 20th century.
Pullum, in a similar rant on the Language Log blog, also called the cherished little chest of chestnuts
"...a horrid little compendium of unmotivated prejudices (don't use ongoing), arbitrary stipulations (don't begin a sentence with however), and fatuous advice ("Be clear"), ridiculously out of date in its positions on appropriate choices among grammatical variants, deeply suspect in its style advice and grotesquely wrong in most of the grammatical advice it gives.... One of the things that worries me about the number of Americans who seem to treasure this little piece of trash, now in its fourth edition ... is that they just don't realize how absurdly old it is — that it is pretty much not even a work of the last century, but rather reflects ideas formed in the one before that.
Problem is, unlike most languages, English is officially unregulated and largely free floating. People are awkward and defensive about English because they don't really know the rules of English grammar -- because what are they? Who are the authorities? Strunk & White's Elements of Style became a raft one could cling to, but it's obviously time for an updated little grammar book for the 21st century. Whoever writes that book will be gleefully allowing split infinitives all the way to the bank.

And this, I can't resist (from Language Log rant):

Strunk had been born in 1869. That is, he was old enough to read the news when General Custer led his men to massacre at the Little Big Horn. Strunk was a grownup with a Ph.D. when Dracula was first published. By the time White was his student and had to buy the privately published precursor of what would become Strunk & White, the professor had reached the age of 50. It was 1919.

It's no wonder Strunk's view about a phrase like everyone in the community, whether they are a member of the Association or not was that it should be "corrected" to everyone in the community, whether he is a member of the Association or not: women still didn't have the vote in America, so who would care if this sort of use of he excluded them. Prohibition was newly adopted; the Model T Ford was on sale; the Treay of Versailles was being readied for signature to formally end the First World War.

But what I'm saying about the extreme age of the outdated nonsense in Strunk & White can perhaps best be put like this: White's formative experience in Strunk's class was so long ago that the Red Sox had just won the World Series the year before.


Amazon Fail

How long before the company reverses course on this ill-advised decision to remove rankings from gay-themed books? Hours? Days?


WriteRoom and DarkRoom

Thanks to a thread of Maud Newton's I have discovered what may be the Holy Grail of writing these days: A way to do it without checking email every five minutes and losing half an hour on Facebook.

For Windows users there's DarkRoom, (and WriteMonkey -- thanks to commenter Josips, I now prefer WriteMonkey) and for Mac-heads there's WriteRoom. The downloads are free, or at least DarkRoom was.

They do nothing but clear your screen of everything except your text -- they turn your computer into basically a typewriter. I'm pretty sure I've at least doubled the amount of time I write at a stretch using DarkRoom. For example, an hour and a half just went by as I wrote my novel, and it never even occurred to me to dick around online, because I could see nothing onscreen but my novel, which kept drawing me in, in, in.


From a Friend

"The Cradle"is pretty damn great. It's been reviewed ecstatically, and just about everywhere. And by everywhere, I mean here and here.

But maybe I also mean it literally, too!

There are more but you get the idea. A guy can only do so much cutting and pasting in the morning.


Serif don't like it?

For four years this publication has used a common sans serif -- without tail! -- font as its body font, its appearance that it puts on when someone comes to the door. They don't call them "typefaces" for nothing. I like Helvetica, frankly. It makes me feel clean and elegant. Nevertheless, I am getting older. Studies show that serif fonts are easier to read. Open a book or magazine or newspaper, except for Wired, and you will see a serif font, though not necessarily Times Roman. Times Roman is the default serif font, just as Helvetica is the default sans serif font. All this needless rubbish is my way of saying to you that... change has not just come to America... it has come to this blog's typography.

Daily Show's take on Obamas and the Queen

The Daily Show With Jon StewartM - Th 11p / 10c
The Poisonous Queen
Daily Show Full EpisodesEconomic CrisisPolitical Humor


My First Novel

People, people! I'm scrambling a bit because I thought my novel - The World in Half - came out in two weeks, but evidently it comes out TODAY! Go buy it. Tell everyone you know to buy it. Become my fan on facebook. Tell everyone you to know to become my fan on facebook. Check out my tour dates. Come to an event. Write an amazon review. Tell your good friend Oprah how much you love it. Rave to all your Hollywood pals about what a good movie it would make and how Catalina Sandino Moreno and Gael Garcia Bernal should star in it. Together, we can make this a more perfect book release!