February 14, 2006

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Bloglogo4.jpgBlurb Seekers Beware
Before the recent memoir brouhaha, Josh Kilmer-Purcell was anticipating the release of his memoir I Am Not Myself these Days. He received marketing gold: an endorsement blurb from a best selling author. Unfortunately the author was James Frey, who has encased the memoir industry in a froth of bad-will because of his fabrications in Million Little Pieces. Sara Ivry explains the rest in the New York Times article “Attention, Authors: Pick those Fawning Blurbs Carefully.”

In Rap’s Footsteps
Rap took off when performers exploited their street credentials, and with that posture, Gangsta rap took off, giving rap a much needed shot in the commercial arm. Apparently “literature” is following in rap’s footsteps. Corey Kiogannon explores the lucrative nature of Street Lit in “Street Lit with Publishing Cred: From Prison to a Four-Book Deal.”

Benchley Dead/
Larkin Back to Life

Jaws author, Peter Benchley, recently died in his Princeton, NJ, home from a fatal, progressive scarring of his lungs. The Guardian recalls what inspire Benchley to write the blockbuster. The paper also noted that 21 years after the death of poet Philip Larkin, tapes of him reciting nearly 30 poems were discovered in a Yorkshire garage. Martin Wainwright describes him as sounding “like a slightly miffed schoolmaster and occasionally interrupting his dry, unemotional style with bursts of good humour.”

A Conversation with Lois-Ann Yamanaka
Anderson Tepper of the Village Voice captures the writer and individual known as Lois-Ann Yamahaka in his “Trouble in Paradise” article: “She sets off sparks with every book, each one a new chapter from the life of the islands. There was the salty humor and in-your-face pidgin of Saturday Night at the Pahala Theatre and Wild Meat and the Bully Burgers; the teenage soul-ache of Blu’s Hanging and Heads by Harry; the lacerating despair of Father of the Four Passages, where abuse and abandonment, fetal alcohol syndrome and the ghosts of the unborn hound her characters and whittle her language down to a skeletal, skid row poetry of rage and terror. Is this really Hawaii?”

Drinkard Reveals the Inspiration
In a recent posting for http://www.beatrice.com, Michael Drinkard, husband of Jill Eisenstadt, tells how he found inspiration for his unusual new novel, Rebels, Turn Out Your Dead, which is about an 18th century Brooklyn hemp farmer. He writes: “My office is in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, on Wallabout Bay in the East River, just across from Manhattan. A few years ago a security guard pointed to the water and said, ‘That’s where the British tossed ten thousand dead Americans.’ Did I know that during the Revolutionary War more people died on Brooklyn prison ships than in all the battles combined? No, I did not.”

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February 6, 2006

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Young Writer Looks at Stegner
Up-and-coming writer Kyle Minor takes a look at “A Field Guide to the Western Birds,” which appeared in Wallace Stegner’s Collected Stories. The story appears in www.beatrice.com.

Writer Denied U.S. Residency
As I noted several weeks ago, Yiyun Li asked for U.S. residency on the ground of “extraordinary ability in the arts.” She wrote A Thousand Years of Good Prayers and she has won the Pushcart Prize, the Plimpton Prize for New Writers, and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. She was denied—even with support from Salman Rushdie and editor David Remnick. The Washington Post quoted her as saying that she would file an appeal.

Maddening Crowd
In Slate, Jay Dixit provides an overview of the coverage of the outrage of Muslims about cartoons published in a Danish newspaper that depicted Muhammad.

All in the Family
Vikram Seth has long established his reputation as a writer, but he is a writer walking in the footsteps of other family members. See how Somini Sengupta reveals the writer in the New York Times.

January 29, 2006

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>Why We Read and Write and Lie About the Misery Memoir
Tim Adams of The Observer was riding the subway in London and saw a woman reading the misery memoir entitled A Child Called It by Dave Pelzer. The book chronicles the “abuse, starvation, and tortured [the author suffered] at the hands of his mother.” Adams asks, “What is the attraction of reading endlessly about child torture?” In light of the Frey and JT LeRoy issue, few people have asked why we read these books, each seemingly attempting to outdo the other in terms of perdition and salvation.

Ron Hogan, editor for the blog Beatrice.com, asked John Falk to write about memoir writing. Falk’s publisher recently released his Hello to All That. He writes, “If you’re honest, you let the facts drive the story, even if it seems to be taking one off course.” That could be the advise for publishers as well. According to Timothy Noah for Slate, Nan Talese—the publisher of A Million Little Pieces and the wife of Gay Talese—had “reason to believe Frey hadn’t told the truth in his memoir well before” the Smoking Gun article appeared. Why? In 2003, Deborah Caulfield Rybak published a piece in the Minneapolis Star Turbine that noted the lies.