Books Received–Darwin and Poe (Bonus: Imaginary Beings and Grandson)

A marvelous, wonderful, brilliant, amazing issue of this literary magazine, on evolution–including essays, fiction, and poetry. My favorite poet, Patiann Rogers, is included, and the cover is by Brunetti (although you can only find that out by looking at the fine print in the back). You need this volume.

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Programming Note: Process Grumble-Curmudgeoning to Begin

(You can buy related merchandise here.)

A few programming notes. First, Victoria Blake from Underland Press (and possibly some of her friends) will be guest blogging here from Feb. 1-14. Victoria is publishing my Finch as well as Brian Evenson’s Last Days and was recently profiled on NPR for some innovative online practices. Then, Feb. 15- 21, Michael Phillips, a very interesting writer and blogger, will be taking the helm. I will be popping up from time to time. Normal programming will then resume.

In the meantime, before I shove off to Australia next week, you may see some posts on process related to Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for 21st Century Writers, since I’m now in that kind of grumbling, curmudgeonly, pouty-lip mode where I’m grousing to myself, “I gotta finish what by when?! What unfair Gods, what unjust Heaven, hath put me in this position?” Well, the time remaining is just right for what I need to do, but that’s not going to make me any less bear-like for awhile.

The good news is, by the time I hit Australia I’ll be all sweetness and light.

60 in 60: #36.5 – VanderMeer Teaching at Clarion South (Non-Penguin Crazy Idea)

(Matt Cheney‘s guns, originally intended to go with my discussion of Thoreau, #37 in the Penguin Great Ideas series.)

Nothing would have pleased me more than to continue the 60 in 60 on schedule. However, life and circumstances are trumping dead philosophers. (I’m sure Marcus Aurelius would approve…or more likely be indifferent.)

I’ve accepted an offer from Clarion South in Brisbane, Australia, to teach week 6 of their workshop, from February 8 through 14. They have a sudden need for an instructor and, after weighing all of the pros and cons of accepting a gig with so little prep time, it seemed I could be of use. Week six is the last week, the students are usually exhausted, and they need not only support but strategies and approaches for the return to their “normal” lives.

Unfortunately, Ann ‘s schedule permits her from being part of it–our teaching these days is usually inextricably woven together–but she will be reading some of their manuscripts as time permits so that they also get the advantage of the careful eye of Weird Tales’ fiction editor. (I’m going to have to make it up to her big-time for missing Valentine’s Day.)

Now, the only problem is there’s only so much time in a day, and I have a deadline of early February for Booklife: Strategies and Survival Tips for 21st Century Writers. (Which turns out to be perfect timing-wise for the Clarion South students, since I’ll make the book in draft form available to them; they can even test out bits if they want.)

But the only way to meet my deadline and to make sure the book is as good as I want it to be is to get rid of the next biggest time expenditure…which is the 60 in 60.

To preserve the concept, Ann’s keeping the books in a secure location until my return. I will still be reading one a day until I finish them, but the series will resume around February 18 or 19. There will be no break this time between sets, either. Thanks for your patience. (It’s a mere speck of time compared to how long some of these texts have been around.)

That said, these three, which I’ve read in the past, are coming with me to Australia, as they’re all energizing and yet calming:

60 in 60: #36 – Soren Kierkegaard’s Fear & Trembling (Penguin’s Great Ideas)


This blog post is part of my ongoing “60 Books in 60 Days” encounter with the Penguin Great Ideas series–the Guardian’s book site of the week and mentioned on the Penguin blog. (Their latest post comments on the first 20.) From mid-December to mid-February, I will read one book in the series each night and post a blog entry about it the next morning. For more on this beautifully designed series, visit Penguin’s page about the books.

Fear & Trembling
by Soren Kierkegaard (1813 to 1855)

Memorable Line
“Not just in commerce but in the world of ideas too our age is putting on a veritable clearance sale. Everything can be had so dirt cheap that one begins to wonder whether in the end anyone will want to make a bid.”

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The Domino Men

My review of The Domino Men by Jonathan Barnes just went up at The Washington Post Book World. I really wanted to like this book more but the unevenness of tone and passivity of the narrator ultimately deep-sixed it for me (despite liking the opening and the title characters).

I thought Barnes’ first novel was great fun and felt really bad about having to write this review. I look forward to reading more by Barnes and plan to seek out whatever his third novel turns out to be, although I won’t be reviewing it unless I like it.

Finally, I’ll just note that if you don’t read the second half of the novel it becomes glaringly obvious in your review–I don’t believe reviewers for a couple of trade publications actually read the whole thing.

Everything’s Illuminated from Multiple Angles

Update 3pm-ish: I’m feeling pretty sick right now, and although about to try to finish off my Kierkegaard 60 in 60 am going to take the day off and regroup tomorrow. My abject apologies. Probably do two tomorrow to make up for it. Great, astonishingly lyrical book, though, Fear and Trembling.

The word “network” means “a complex, interconnected group or system,” but writers often forget the “interconnected” part in their zeal for self-promotion. If you build a “network” that’s all about you, then you don’t really have a network. Instead, you have a way to send people electric telegrams, and you may be perceived over time as white noise, or as always carrying a megaphone.

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Evil Monkey’s Book Vs Book Contest: The Throw Down in Squid Town


Evil Monkey’s decided to hijack the books received posts for awhile. And he’s in a competitive mood. So, look at the match-ups below and give a rationale for which book will win in two or three of them–as well as which of them will ultimately Rule Them All. Contest ends Thursday night. Evil will send the person who provides his favorite reasons a couple of the books seen below (monkey’s choice). All rights reserved, except Evil’s right to kneecap anyone he likes…All books to foreign winners sent by aquatic mule.

Without further ado, Evil presents Richard Morgan versus pirates, Shaun Tan versus Dean Koontz, and much more…

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A Tour of the Southern Isles with Payseur & Schmidt

I just got off the phone with the fabulous Jacob McMurray and Therese Littleton of Payseur & Schmidt, one of the coolest publishers out there.

I can now announce that I will be doing a somewhat Borgesian novella centered around the Southern Isles mentioned in the Ambergris books. They’ll take the form of stories and information about each island, but will have interconnectivity and form a larger story. Like Nabokov’s Pnin, reading the last story will make everything click into place, and what was fragments will become One True Story. Much like the history of the islands, which were created when an ancient continent broke apart in a cataclysm.

The current form of the project–subject to change–will include a map of the islands, and also a complete Ambergris bibliography, by Mark Wingenfeld, including foreign editions, possibly examples of foreign covers, possibly some fake covers of editions that have never existed.

I plan to finish the work before September and the tentative date of publication is early in 2010.

Meanwhile, you really should check out their current project, which is just a beautiful collaboration between Paul Di Filippo and Jim Woodring:

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60 in 60: #35 – Von Clausewitz’s On the Nature of War (Penguin’s Great Ideas)


This blog post is part of my ongoing “60 Books in 60 Days” encounter with the Penguin Great Ideas series–the Guardian’s book site of the week and mentioned on the Penguin blog. (Their latest post comments on the first 20.) From mid-December to mid-February, I will read one book in the series each night and post a blog entry about it the next morning. For more on this beautifully designed series, visit Penguin’s page about the books.

On the Nature of War
by Carl von Clausewitz (1780 to 1831)

Memorable Line
“We say therefore that War belongs not to the province of Arts and Sciences, but to the province of social life. It is a conflict of great interests which is settled by bloodshed, and only in that is it different from others. It would be better, instead of comparing it to any Art, to liken it to business competition, which is also a conflict of human interests and activities… ”

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