Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Hmm. . . sounds vaguely familiar.

The Boston Globe recently reported on a new website, foetry.com, dedicated to shedding the light on the dark and supposedly corrupt word of poetry contests at small presses. (Thanks to Tim for the heads-up.)

What's the big deal? Well, many small presses run poetry contests where they charge $25 or so for the opportunity to have one's manuscript read and potentially selected for publication at the sponsoring press by a celebrity judge. The presses claim that the entry fees offset the judge's honorarium, as well as the costs of publishing the winner. The most common objections are raised when a judge picks a former student's work or declines to pick a winner at all. Foetry seeks to "name names," and even seems to encourage legal action against what they consider to be consumer fraud.

I think that Kevin Walzer makes a more cogent point as quoted in the Boston Globe article. "There seem to be more people willing to pay for a chance to have their own book published (i.e., contest reading fee) than there are people willing to buy a book of poetry by someone else."

Scott Kaukonen put his grievance into words in an editorial on the Missouri Review's website. "I did not spend nearly $40 so that I could purchase two books of backlist poetry books [sic]. I spent $40 to enter a contest with the expectation that it would be adjudicated fairly and commitments honored."

In all truth, in light of Walzer's comment, I think that's exactly the problem.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Those colored-picture books

Salon has an interview with Alan Moore up, and the New York Times ran an article in their magazine a few weeks ago on graphic novels (you have to pay to read it now, but it's still here), and I'm in love with comic books all over again.

Of course, I never really fell out of love with comic books. I was a big X-Men reader in the early 90s (I came in right when Chris Claremont left), and I still love what Peter David and Larry Stroman did with X-Factor, even if it didn't last. (Is Larry Stoman still working in comics? I haven seen anything from him since Image Comics took a shit on his Tribe project.)

But everyone needs a place to start, right? And as much as I love Marvel and DC, there are some really great artists and writers out there using the comics medium to produce some really great, thought-provoking, and beautiful work. Some, like Adrian Tomine and Chris Ware, I'd put up next to any "literary" writer working today. So here's my list for those looking to dive in somwhere other than their local newsstand. (Check the "graphic novel" section of your local bookstore. You'll be surprised at how big it is.)

(All titles are available at Amazon.com)

In no particular order:

Summer Blonde by Adrian Tomine

Ghost World by Daniel Clowes (Yes, the movie was based on the comic.)

David Boring by Daniel Clowes

Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware

Maus I & II by Art Spiegelman (Nonfiction, may be in the Holocaust or Jewish History section)

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Particularly good as a companion to Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi.)

From Hell by Alan Moore (Jack the Ripper plus a whole lot more.)

Watchmen by Alan Moore (A brilliant alternative take on the idea of the superhero.)

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen vols. 1 & 2 (Argues, in a roundabout sort of way, that the literature of the 19th century had its own superheroes.)

Batman: Year One by Frank Miller

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller (Almost a regression to my newstand/comic book store days, but Batman is a character with a lot of storytelling potential, and Frank Miller does a lot with him.)

Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore (Not my favorite work by Alan Moore, but since I'm listing the Frank Miller.)

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

Reinventing Comics by Scott McCloud (Companion volumes, in comic form, of an almost academic, but completely acessible argument for the history and potential of storytelling in comics.)

Friday, July 16, 2004

Hot Topix

There seem to be two major dicussions going on in the literary world right now: The National Endowment for the Arts' report on the decline in reading among U.S. adults and whether Dale Peck is a total jackass. (Actually, discussion may not be the right word. There seems to be a general consensus that the NEA report is sobering, if not unexpected, and that Mr. Peck is indeed a jackass.)

In lieu of much in the way of additional insights, here are a slew of links. (Thanks mostly to Arts & Letters Daily)

No More Reading?

Harold Bloom in the LA Times

Charles Taylor wonders what the big deal is in Salon

Dale Peck

Laura Miller's quite good essay on Dale Peck and James Wood in Salon.

Daniel Mendelsohn on Dale Peck in the New York Review of Books.

John Leonard on Dale Peck's Hatchet Jobs in the New York Times Book Review.