Given the near constant “WTF-is-this”-itis afflicting those who comment on John Clute’s reviews—ever since that feature was added when SciFi Wire and SF Weekly merged—I thought I’d perform a public service by explaining Clute. Thus, a few sentences from his review of The Wind-Up Girl…
Archive for September, 2009
BOOOOKS! Featuring Ballard and Kiernan, BOOOOKS From Delany, Doubinsky, Biancotti, and More, Always MORE…Jeff VanderMeer • September 17th, 2009 • Book Reviews, Photos
First off, just to catch up, two new features on Amazon: an interview with Caitlin R. Kiernan about her new novel The Red Tree and a short appreciation of The Collected Stories of J.G. Ballard, complete with a selection of first lines from the book.
In addition, I’m pleased to note that I just turned in the introduction to Kiernan’s forthcoming 2010 collection The Ammonite Violin & Others, which reads in part:
Part of this authenticityâ€”part of the reason I find them disturbingâ€”comes from the simple fact that the people in these stories donâ€™t really survive their encounter with the supernatural. Whether in, among others, â€œMadonna Littoralisâ€ or the two â€œMetamorphosisâ€ stories, this inability to survive can be literal or figurative, or bothâ€”and it occurs because the supernatural isnâ€™t so much something terrifying in Kiernanâ€™s viewâ€”it can be, but thatâ€™s not the true point. The supernatural to Kiernan is also something beautiful and unknowable in intent, and often wedded to the natural world. In a sense, trying to know something unknowable will always destroy the seeker.
(Also, I must mention Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s ongoing brilliant freelancer survival guide series, this time focusing on emotional setbacks.)
Now, on to books received. You want coffee table books, I’ve got coffee table books. Comics? Check. Novels. Yep. Story collections? Yessir, including two from Ramsey Campbell and the debut from Deborah Biancotti, A Book of Endings, which is presented in a sweet design from one of my new favorite publishers, Twelfth Planet Press (watch them–they’re smart, savvy, and when you get one of their books, you just know from the look-and-feel that they’ve got that extra little something that makes a publisher special). Pull back the veil and, voila! Books, for you. (And while you look at that, it’s time for me to go hike in a thunderstorm…)
You might remember my post about the traveling morgue show that used to stop by our neighborhood…
Well, now, on the other side of our corner lot, there’s this…
â€œJeff VanderMeerâ€™s Booklife is a frank, revealing, riveting manual by a writer for writers, not simply on how to be a better wordsmith, but on how to be a better human being. Iâ€™ll be recommending it to all my writing students. I donâ€™t know how to praise a book more sincerely than that.â€ â€”Minister Faust, the BRO-Log
Fiction Writers Review has posted an entry about my forthcoming Booklife in the context of Jessa Crispin’s “non-review”, posted on the Smart Set a little while back, and comments about the book I’ve made on this blog. I’ve posted a comment at Fiction Writers Review already to clarify a few things with regard to that non-review because in actual fact Crispin and I are not at cross-purposes–Crispin’s essay expresses a perverse, almost willful misreading of the book. I hope you’ll go there and weigh in with your opinion. Let them know: Are you going to buy Booklife? Besides, it’s a cool site, and its other entries and features are well-worth your time.
Next month, booklifenow.com will go live, with excerpts and other information related to the book and the idea of sustainable creativity and sustainable careers. If possible, I’ll try to interview Jessa for the site, just in the interests of a clinical kind of fairness.
Meantime, here’s text from my book that directly contradicts Crispin’s characterization. But it’s all good–the whole point of Booklife, as stated below, is to test what it says and only use what works for you. I have made a note to refer to her non-review in revising the introduction to the second edition. I think that’ll provide even more context for anyone who mistakes the Public Booklife section of my book for what would be an illogical and inexplicable order to go out and explode your brain sacrificing your fiction to your career. I will also be talking about these issues as part of my lectures at MIT and the Library of Congress, among other venues.
I want to state without disclaimers: I WILL read your script, novel, poem, short story, or other scribblings, IF you will just leave it on your kitchen table. Put out some cookies (preferably oatmeal raisin, so I can feel like I’m eating healthy) and milk. Make sure the back door is unlocked. Go to sleep. I will creep in during the night, read your work, critique it, and slip back out again. I promise not to steal anything, unless your cookies suck.
But now, as you can see above, there’s a cover for the chapbook that accompanies the Heretic limited edition, created by John Coulthart, and it’s just lovely. Coulthart continues to inspire and amaze me. (He’s also just posted three fascinating entries about the marvelous Belgian artist FranÃ§ois Schuiten – here, here, and here.)
Here’s the full layout (front and back) of the chapbook along with an interior page from the chapbook, which contains text completely different from the finished novel from a much, much earlier imagining of the book:
(For a larger image, click here.)
Having Evil Monkey’d Lev Grossman re his article in the Wall Street Journal, and having seen a lot of serious stuff thrown around out there, I thought it was only fair to interview Grossman for Amazon–in, er, a less serious vein. I thought he was a very good sport.
Amazon.com: How would you explain James Joyce’s Ulysses to a 12-year-old child? Is there a children’s book or YA equivalent you could reference?
Lev Grossman: I guess you could get away with saying that it’s a story about an Irish teenager without a real father, who meets a lonely man who’s always wanted a son, and they get to be friends. They’re kind of like Harry Potter and Sirius Black. Wow, that sounded like the worst after-school special ever.
Note: Only open to World Fantasy Convention Attendees…
THE LAST DRINK BIRD HEAD PARTY (Thurs, Nov. 29 from 8pm to ?; check program guide for room number) – Join Guests of Honor Ann & Jeff VanderMeer in celebrating the release of Jeff’s new novel Finch, the last in the Ambergris Cycle, his writing book Booklife, and Last Drink Bird Head, a flash fiction anthology for charity that features work by over 80 writers, including Gene Wolfe, Tanith Lee, Peter Straub, Caitlin R. Kiernan, and Ellen Kushner. More than 25 contributors will be at the party to personalize copies. All proceeds on Last Drink go to ProLiteracy.org. Ten percent of all proceeds on Finch and Booklife will go to the World Fantasy Convention‘s official charity, Variety Childrens’ charity. Highlights will include Ann and Jeff giving out the first annual Last Drink Bird Head awards, plenty of food and drink, and the chance to win a limited edition of Finch. Have fun and help a good cause.
WHAT IS PROLITERACY? Help promote worldwide literacy through the ProLiteracy organization. ProLiteracy â€œchampions the power of literacy to improve the lives of adults and their families, communities, and societies. We envision a world in which everyone can read, write, compute, and use technology to lead healthy, productive, and fulfilling lives.â€ For more information, visit ProLiteracy.org.
The convention will be held at the Fairmont Hotel, 170 South Market Street, San Jose.
If you haven’t read Brian Evenson’s Last Days…you should. It’s a spectacular work of existential noir, mixed with a heaping helping of Grand Guignol and Kafka-esque dream logic. Now there’s a hardcover limited edition available, also through Underland Press. Each copy comes individually wrapped, and with a letterpress dust jacket personalized by the author. Brian’s written a different passage from the novel on each cover. You can order the limited edition here, and between now and October 1st, if you mention you read about Last Days here, you’ll also get a free copy of Underland Press’s trade paper release of The Pilo Family Circus.