Friday, August 31, 2007

Once more, with substance

All right, one more thing on this Larry Craig thing before I say no more forever. Because this is a new story, there has been at least some perception that Craig's arrest is an open issue. Certainly some sources have it right, but to support my assertion I'll reference Tom DeLay on Hardball and CNN's own current headline: "Toobin: Entrapment defense rarely works in case like Craig's".

The funny thing is, in both cases, the media get it right in the end, but you have to dig through the whole piece to figure out what's actually going on. DeLay himself seems to want not to defend Craig, but to try to avoid admitting that Republicans ever do anything wrong, and Matthews rightly takes him to task for it. (In fact, DeLay's own "biased liberal media" defense seems to be so ingrained that he states that Chris Matthews is a liberal, which even Matthews seems to find ridiculous.)

Likewise, CNN's piece ends with the following information, starting in the 14th paragraph. (Emphasis mine.)

[CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin:] I don't mean to suggest that entrapment defense would have necessarily been successful, but it was not an implausible defense given the facts.

The whole issue is moot because he pled. I don't take seriously his protestations of entrapment because he pled guilty. You know, he's not innocent until proven guilty [at this point]. He's guilty.

He's an intelligent, sophisticated man with access to lawyers, and he actually told the authorities that he'd consulted a lawyer. He had weeks to reflect on whether to plead guilty.

It would have been one thing if the day of the offense, he signed a paper pleading guilty. He could have made the argument that he just panicked on the day of the offense. But there were weeks between the offense and the guilty plea. Is there any way that Craig could use entrapment as a defense to improve his case -- to work backward legally toward vindication?

TOOBIN: Out of the question. No way.


I felt a bit unsatisfied after my last post. You know, that it really ended up being a fluff post, and especially that I had kind of danced around some issues—on which I really have strong positions—in a way that could be read as implying that I don't really care that much after all. "LGBT rights and acceptance? Sure, but I can make fun of a barbershop quartet!"

It was almost enough to make me question whether my opinion was really worth expressing.

Then I read David Brooks' insipid column this morning, and it made me feel much better.

Do I really have anything to say about this? Apparently, I do.

I'm sure by now that all of my readers have heard about Larry Craig's guilty plea to a charge of disorderly conduct for soliciting in a St. Paul/Minnesota airport bathroom, so I won't bother linking. (Really, if this is news to you, Google "Larry Craig bathroom" and see what you come up with.)

There's really a lot to be said, but most of it has been said already. Personally, I'm not sure that I have any outrage left over the hypocrisy of people who try and inflict moral standards on others because of their own self-loathing or faux righteousness. Mostly I've just settled into a general state of contempt. Still, I've been surprised at my own feelings of pity for Senator Craig. If he had been able to come to terms with his own sexual impulses instead of projecting them into a belief in some external moral and political threat, I can't help feeling that he would have led a happier life. At the same time, I'm sure even when he resigns that no one will ask him to return the generous U.S. Senate salary and perks that he's been collecting for the past 16 years.

The real tragedy, though? Senator Craig's resignation would likely mean the final and irrevocable end of our friend John Ashcroft's Singing Senators.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Variation on a theme

The On the Road scroll. Click here for a high resolution version.

My bookshelf's latest acquisition is Viking's new edition of On the Road: the Original Scroll. (Viking has also released a 50th anniversary edition of the novel, but I don't see any reason why I need to replace my puke-green Penguin 20th Century Classics edition.)

I've resisted most of the "new" Kerouac books of the past several years, most of which are college-student writings or collections of throwaways which are either justly forgotten, or only of interest to an archivist or biographer. (Even Kerouac's first published novel, The Town and the City, is almost entirely ignored in favor of his much improved second try.)

This new edition of the On the Road manuscript has forced me, however, to make an exception. The NYT Book Review speaks highly of it, and the book itself seems to share a character with the Yale University Press's recent lauded edition of Tennessee Williams' Notebooks, which also graces my shelf.

Hypocritical? Perhaps, but there's so much Kerouac crap floating around out there, that I'm looking forward to having something new to peruse, even if it is just a different version of an old friend.

(I've been talking about Jack a lot lately. You can see my other posts here and here)

Friday, August 17, 2007

"Michigan is my antidote to Manhattan"

Mario Batali, clebrity chef and host of a seven-course dinner for Jim Harrison that I noted back in June, apparently owns a vacation home on the Leelanau Peninsula.

Oh, and you can find the quote from which this post gains its title in the second paragraph. Batali's wife goes on to say, “We invite friends from New York to come here, but truthfully, our friends are often too busy to get here.”

Thursday, August 16, 2007

This is what happens next

In an example of unmitigated arrogance, Australian Bookseller Angus & Robertson has demanded cash payments from small publishers and distributors who want A&R to continue to carry their books. The actual letter from A&R, along with a reply from Tower Books director Michael Rakusin, can be seen here, and really must be seen to be believed. Very slightly more of A&R's angle is provided here. (Thanks to MDD for bringing this to my attention.)

The most striking aspect of this situation, is that A&R's demand is based solely on its own profitability targets—the products of certain suppliers are not meeting A&R's internal profitability targets for the supplier's product line, and the company is asking the suppliers to make up the difference in cash. (Once again, the response letter from Michael Rakusin highlights the A&R operations issues that have likely contributed to lower-than-desired profitability.) While I can imagine some misguided MBA imagining that they are doing the suppliers a favor by offering them the opportunity to continue to do business with a major retail outlet, this letter makes no business sense whatsoever. If you find that a particular supplier's product is underperforming, you either negotiate for a better price in the future, or you end the relationship. Asking for cash payments to make up for your own business failures is ludicrous, and given A&R's market share (20% of the Australian market, according to The Brisbane Times), is tantamount to extortion.

I've complained about the coercive pressures exerted by market giants like Wal-Mart before, but this really crosses an entirely new line, in an entirely new way.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Thanks to Etta Abrahams

I have the editorial staff lists from RCR vols. 2 and 3 now posted on the EL Lit Mags blog.

As noted in this post's title, I am indebted to Etta Abrahams (RCR Fiction Editor, 1965 – 1966, Managing Editor/Associate Editor, 1967 – 1969) for this information.

Subtle changes

As a few of you know, the next couple of weeks will bring the start of my graduate studies in Literature. While this will likely lead to a dramatic increase in the number of books I read, it will also mean that I have somewhat less control over what exactly I'm reading, and that I'll be thinking about my reading in different ways.

In short, you should expect to see something of a shift in the topics I discuss on Wordwright. I have no plans to use this blog as an outlet for academic projects, but, for example, it's likely that the number of "publishing and bookselling" posts will decrease, and "libraries and archives" may receive more of my attention.

I hope that you'll stick with Wordwright as we remodel, and if there's anything that I should be talking about, please let me know. I'll keep posting one way or another, but procrastination is much more fun when it's a shared project.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Ah, the covers!

Paper Cuts posts on the UK paperback re-release of James Kelman's books.

I know nothing about Kelman, and the short write-up doesn't really catch my interest, but the books themselves are beautiful—an immediate favorite for the best matched set I've ever seen. (Rick Moody's paperbacks are bumped to second place.)

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Let's switch it up a little

Normally, I would blog about James Wood leaving The New Republic for The New Yorker, but Short-Schrift beat me to it.

So, instead, I'll put up a link related to the new, slightly redesigned iMac. Sure, the computer looks good, but that new keyboard is damn sexy.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

I can even forgive the awkward 10,000 Maniacs reference

Paper Cuts (which has quickly become essential reading for, uhm, me and people like me) has an excellent collection of links to good reading about the 50th anniversary of On the Road, including the NYT's original review. (More here, including Kerouac reading On the Road on Steve Allen's Tonight Show.)

My own thoughts on Mr. Kerouac, from back in March, are here. Oh, and they're publishing an edition of the original typed manuscript.

Monday, August 06, 2007

You thought we were gone, didn't you?

We finally have a new chapbook up over at Revelator: The Bridge and the River by Timothy Carmody.

This is one that I've been looking forward to publishing since Revelator got going, not just because Tim is a good friend of mine, but because he's been one of the strongest and most interesting poets that I've been able to read and interact with over an extended period of time. The poems in The Bridge and the River have been favorites of mine for a long time, and should be read by as many people as possible. We offer links to our authors' e-mail addresses on the Revelator posts, and I want to make a personal plea to all of my readers that if you read and enjoy Carmody's work, please get in touch with him and let him know. This is a person who should be writing, and is worth encouraging.

(I would like to make explicit that his plea for support of Mr. Carmody is not meant to be in contrast to the other Revelator writers. In fact, one of our primary goals is to provide exposure and support to our writers in a way that will encourage them to continue writing, and to continue to develop as writers. If you find yourself with things to say to any of our writers, please, please do. It's just that Mr. Carmody is a special and particular project of mine.)