Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Be like Spock: chill-ax

If, when your friends ask you whether you've seen this, you say no, it won't be my fault.

More RCR notes

Not long ago, I posted a chronology of the publishing history of Red Cedar Review, Michigan State University's (undergraduate-run) official literary magazine. I've since (almost) completed an index, and have some notes of interest to add to the chronology.

Notable writers
Steve Almond—vol. 33
Margaret Atwood—vol. 7:1
Tom Bissell—vol. 31:2
Robert Bly—translation of Tomas Transtromer vol. 8:2/3
Jim Cash—vol. 3:1
René Char—vol. 6:4
Jim Daniels—vol. 11:2
Stuart Dybek—vol. 7:2, reprint vol. 38
Carolyn Forché—vol. 9:3
Dan Gerber—vols. 8:2/3, 11:2, 38
Gary Gildner—vols. 6:1, 6:3
Gwendolen Gross—vol. 33
Jim Harrison—vol. 8:2/3, reprint vol. 35:2
Catherine Ryan Hyde—vol. 34:1
Mark Jacobs—vol. 32:1
Lyn Lifshin—vol. 7:1, 15:1, 16:1/2, 17:1/2, 19:1, 25:1, 26, 27, 29:1, 30:1, 30:2, 36:1, 37:1, 39
Judith Minty—vols. 9:3, 38
Pablo Neruda—vol. 7:1
William Stafford—vol. 11:1
Robert Vander Molen—vols. 5:1, 6:2, 6:4
Diane Wakoski—vols. 10:2/3, 11:2, 28:1, 31:1, 33, 38

Interviews
Charles Baxter—vol. 34:1
Philip Caputo—vol. 33
Katie Davis—vol. 39
Stephen Dunn—vol. 37:1
Allen Ginsberg—vol. 17:1/2
Diane Glancy—vol 38
Jim Harrison—vol. 35:2
Robert Kroetsch—vol. 17:1/2
Elmore Leonard—vol. 36:1
Elinor Lipman—vol. 32:1
Eli Mandel—vol. 17:1/2
A. J. M. Smith—vols. 7:2/3, 14:1
Diane Wakoski—vol. 35:1

Numbering anomalies/errors
  • Vol. 7:1 is printed as “vol. 6:1.” My numbering is based on publication date.
  • Vol. 7:2 is printed as “vol. 7:1.” My numbering is based on publication date and the numbering of the July 1971 issue as “7:3/4,” which seems to count May 1969 as 7:1 and July 1970 as 7:2.
  • In spring 1988 numbering jumps from vol. 19:2 to vol. 25:1.
  • Vol. 26:1 numbering based on publication date and numbering of subsequent volumes. The volume itself contains no printed volume number.
  • Vol. 27:1 numbering based on likely publication date and numbering of subsequent volumes. The volume itself contains no printed volume number or date.
  • Vol. 37:1 is printed as “vol. 37:2.”

    Other notes
  • Walter Lockwood’s essay in vol. 25:1 lists him as RCR’s editor in 1963 and 1964. Volumes 1, 2, and 3 contain no printed staff information.
  • Vol. 7:1 contains sections on Nigerian poets and Black poets.
  • Vol. 8:1—East Lansing poets
  • Vol. 9:1 consists of ten posters in a manila envelope.
  • Billboard issue likely appeared in 1974 following vol. 9:1
  • Vol. 9:3—Women write
  • “The Post Card Mysteries is a special publication of Red Cedar Review and represents Volume 10, Issue #1 of that magazine. It was edited by James Kalmbach, designed by Dennis Pace, and illustrated by Gene Stotts. The book is part of our continuing experimentation with new forms for the small press magazine that has led us in the past to place an issue on a billboard over Grand River Avenue in East Lansing, and a small homage to Al Drake whose energy sustained RCR through many issues and changes in personnel until his resignation as advisor two years ago. Beginning with Volume 10 Issue 2/3 we will return to our regular magazine format.”
  • Vol. 10:1 is the first perfect-bound issue.
  • The 25th anniversary issue, Vol. 25:1, is fold-and-staple binding and echoes the design used in vols. 1, 2, and 3. Vol. 25:1 contains notes on RCR history by Albert Drake, Jim Cash, Peter Nye, Etta Abrahams, Maury Crane, and Walter Lockwood.
  • Vol. 38 is the first issue published by the MSU Press.
  • Friday, May 26, 2006

    Everybody shares notes

    Within a week, both Slate and the Village Voice post articles bemoaning troubled times for independent booksellers.

    Actually, neither really spends much time "bemoaning." Tyler Cowan on Slate pretty much seems to say that independent bookstores have an inflated sense of their own importance (which is probably true), and that they often make economically irrational decisions. (One indie bookstore owner is quoted saying that he doesn't discount books not because he can't but "as a way of reflecting. . . their worth as cultural artifacts.") In the Village Voice, Paul Collins points out that small bookstores have been "dying" at least since department stores added book sections at the end of the 19th century, but that in recent years the chains have done a good job of integrating the innovations of other retail outlets, large and small, into a near optimal mass book browsing experience, and that various idiosyncrasies of the bookselling business—returnability, and tax incentives that lead publishers to remainder books now rather than keep and sell them at full price later—give the megabookstores additional advantages over smaller sellers.

    Even my own beloved local "indie" bookstore, Schuler Books, is really just a privately owned mini-chain, down to the fact that they use a computerized inventory system leased from one of the big two mega-chain booksellers.

    I wish I could say that was more the wave of the future--locally owned bookstores that make use of the advantages of the large bookstores while maintaining their own personality--but I fear that Schuler is a bit of an anomaly. The mega-chain doesn't lease their inventory system anymore, and the other mega-chain seems to look forward to the day when they only sell books from their own in-house publisher.

    Monday, May 22, 2006

    It was a very good 25 years. . .

    Slate weighs in on the NYT Book Review's list of the best works of fiction of the past 25 years: "Beloved, really?" and "The neglected short novels." (titles mine)

    I've been a bit interested to read that Beloved was the presumptive favorite from the beginning. A. O. Scott, in his essay describing the process of creating this list, cites judes who provided "explanations of why [they] were not voting for Beloved, the expected winner." Stephen Metcalf, one of the judges, echoes in his article on Slate the assertion that "from the moment the solicitously hand-typed letter from the Times Book Review arrived in the mail, Beloved was the presumptive winner."

    I'm a bit surprised that it felt like such a foregone conclusion. Sure, Morrison is the most recent American Nobel winner, and Beloved is generally considered her masterpiece. (We won't consider the mediocre Oprah film version--Morrison can't be held responsible for that.) All the same, is Morrison really so far and away above Roth? Scott seems to think that the lack of a difinitive Roth omnibus cost him in the survey, since votes for his work were split between so many of his titles.

    In all fairness, I've never read Roth, and Beloved is pretty damn good. My favorite works tend to be from the first half of the 20th Century anyway. Hemingway, Faulkner, Joyce and Forster.

    Tuesday, May 16, 2006

    I'm not proud of it. . .

    . . . but it must be done.

    I'm officially changing the link on my blog from Friendster to MySpace. Yes, yes, I hate MySpace and its lousy, ugly design, and the way it encourages users to make their pages even uglier and more unreadable, and the "thanks for the add" banners, and its pedophillic tendencies. . .

    But all my friends are there. (Except for you, Robin and Brandon! Get with the times!)

    So I'm all MySpace now. Not that I ever update my page.

    Monday, May 15, 2006

    A good week for books in the NYT

    The New York Times Sunday magazine ran an interesting article this week on the issues of digitizing texts and the rather grand idea of creating a new electronic equivalent of the Library of Alexandria. Perhaps even more interesting is that while the article's author, Kevin Kelly, cites Wikipedia as one of the great examples of the potential of broad, hyperlinked digital text, Wikipedia's article on the Library of Alexandria is a great example of some its problems. (See the talk page for specifics.)

    Writing has always been a political action, even when it isn't. It is ridiculous to argue that an individual can lack a point of view. Any article on any subject in any given Encyclopaedia Britannica may contain errors and misrepresentations, intentionally or not. This is the eternal danger of the historical record and any sort of scholarship in the humanities. However, the open-source nature of Wikipedia has nurtured a new phenomenon, which I will call the electronic filibuster. Now anyone with a strong enough objection to a particular piece of information can immediately edit or remove it, and while Wikipedia maintains an archive of previous versions of an article, trying to recover information from that archive can be as challenging as digging through any uncataloged pile of dusty books, and in this particular case, the article on the Library of Alexandria has evolved into nothing more than a description of the disputes over the library's destruction. While one would hope that the discussion of an article would shape the finished piece, this discussion seems to have led to the exclusion of all other information on the library.

    I have a great deal of sensitivity to slander, libel, and malicious misrepresentation, but would we be better off if the Protocols of the Elders of Zion had never been published? As evil as that book may be, would preventing its publication have eliminated anti-semitism?

    Personally, I don't believe in burning books, or in running magnets over hard drives.

    (Oh yeah, there's also a piece on the "Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years". Apparently it's Beloved by Toni Morrison, although I'd love to hear other opinions.)

    Wednesday, May 03, 2006

    Quick updates

    Gawker now puts the tally of authors possibly plagarized by Kaavya Viswanathan at five: Megan McCafferty, Sophie Kinsella, Salman Rushdie, Meg Cabot (author of the Princess Diaries), and Tanuja Desai Hidier, whose book Born Confused also concerns an Indian-American protagonist living in New Jersey. Little, Brown has also announced that Viswanathan's book will not be reissued (at this point, to this observer, it doesn't seem like there's enough of the book left to revise into a reissuable form), and that it is canceling the second book of Viswanathan's two-book contract. (Thanks, Len.) Interestingly enough, the NY Times is reporting that Viswanathan's contract with Little, Brown was signed by Alloy, Viswanathan's book packager, and not Viswanathan herself.

    In other, unrelated news, I feel a bit better about my own self-professed semi-ignorance of Caitlin Flanagan. An ad for Flanagan's new book To Hell with All That appearing in both this week's New York Times Book Review and New Yorker leads with "Who the hell is Caitlin Flanagan and why is everybody talking about her?"

    Who indeed.

    Tuesday, May 02, 2006

    You knew it wasn't the last word

    Yet more plagarism allegations for Kaavya Viswanathan, this time that passages clustered in the last third of her book, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, strongly resemble sections of Can You Keep a Secret? by Sophie Kinsella. (Yes, that's right, the accusation is that Viswanathan has stolen work from another writer in addition to Megan McCafferty.)