January 27, 2011

New Website!

As part of my never-ending effort to look more like a real writer, I put up a minimal website where you can read the first 3 chapters of my novel, and a bunch of shorter, funnier texts as well:

January 10, 2011

Minor Annoyances

So every quasi-literary person I know seems to be in an uproar over the attempt to bowdlerize Huck Finn by replacing every instance of the word "Nigger" with the word "Slave." I almost feel sorry for the guy for this public and collective flogging he's receiving, though admittedly it's a pretty dumb thing to do. But in fact I think the backlash says far more about the current literary culture than the initial event - SO many people are SO outraged and spend SO much time debating something SO stupid. If it hadn't been brought to such broad public attention, who would have even heard of this person, or seen this version of the book? But by now the public outcry has been so vocal it even reached the Israeli news.

I haven't heard a single voice defending this edit, even if they do express some understanding of the logic behind it. I'm not surprised everyone's flocking to criticize him, as Jean-Baptiste Clamence says in Albert Camus's The Fall, there's nothing sweeter than attacking someone whose guilt is verified and agreed upon:
The essential thing, after all, is being able to get angry with someone who has no right to talk back.

There was certainly no such uproar when Joseph Conrad's 1897 novella was published as The N-word of the Narcissus in 2009 (and yes, all occurrences of the word inside the book were also changed to N-word). Why? Because no one heard about the publication.

Personally, I'm more annoyed at Peter Sís, whose dreadful illustrations fill my edition of Borges's The Book of Imaginary Beings. Seriously, who exactly decided that the great writer's compendium of fantastic creatures deserved such amateurish and childish illustrations as these:
The Leveler
Just think how much better it would have looked illustrated in the style of Albertus Seba's Cabinet of Natural Curiosities or Albrecht Dürer's woodcuts:
Dürer's Rhinoceros, woodcut, 1515.
Well, I'll be sure to hire a worthy illustrator when I finally have enough entries in Cycloped to fill a book (rather than rely on my own weak illustration / photo shopping / pilfering skills).

January 6, 2011

Dream the Impossible Dream + Musical Interlude XVI

The start of a new year is always a good time to take on ridiculously ambitious tasks, since from this vantage point the year seems so long, so much of ahead of us, so much time to accomplish all the stuff we haven't accomplished this year. Well, if there's one thing my NaNoWriMo experience taught me it's that it's good to set these goals, because even in attempting to achieve them and failing, I usually get more done than I would have without said ridiculous goal.

So this year I'll set not one but two ridiculous goals, the first is to complete a full draft of the novel I started working on this past November. This might not seem that ridiculous, but considering how long it usually takes me to write (my first novel, which I admittedly did not work on constantly or exclusively, took over 3 years), and all the other stuff I'll be busy with (work, bloggings, hopefully a longish visit to NYC, maybe another trip somewhere else, my never-ending quest for love, plus my other ridiculous goal), it calls for a lot of commitment.

My second ridiculous goal is to read 100 books this year. This is about twice as much as what I usually read in a year (roughly a book a week), and on top of all the stuff I've mentioned earlier. Of course the purpose of blogging these intentions rather than keeping them to myself is the perceived public shaming I'll face if I fail to meet these goals (possibly imagined, but still a motivating force). I haven't chosen the 100 books yet, but I've decided to divide them into 10 (somewhat overlapping) categories to make them easier to handle:
  1. 10 books I haven't finished - I'm sure there are more than 10, including a lot of essay and story collections, but also some novels I have (shamefully) failed to complete and still haven't given up on.
  2. 10 novels by writers I've never read before (Philipp Meyer, Jane Bowles, Steve Erickson, Dino Buzzati...).
  3. 10 short story collections - some of these could fall under the first category as well, such as the collected stories of Malamud and Nabokov, but I'm sure there'll be enough books to fill both categories.
  4. 10 plays - admittedly these are usually not strictly book-length, but might balance out with the lengthy collected editions included in the previous category. 
  5. 10 graphic novels - this will require some research.
  6. 10 books in Hebrew - continuing my mission of reading more Israeli literature.
  7. 10 books from the Modern Library's list of the 100 best novels of the 20th century.
  8. 10 books by/on Kafka - again, a lot of partials here - diaries, letters, notebooks - plus the three novels in their new translations. If there's any room left I'll add Deleuze and Guattari's Kafka: Towards a Minor Literature.
  9. 10 books written before 1900 - Mostly 19th century, I guess, some Dostoevsky, Some French, some British, maybe some ancient Greek/Roman.
  10. 10 more novels - deliberately open category for whatever comes my way (I do plan to read Bolaño's  Nazi Literature in the Americas soon, not sure what category it would fall into).
And to make the guilt complete I'll add a little chart in the sidebar:
    And since we already have the title...
    This power pop rendition of "The Impossible Dream" by Carter USM is, in my humble opinion, the best version of the song - defiant rather than maudlin (like most stage  and talent show versions) or downright silly (like Elvis's version). The video is also clever, and shows that at least someone there actually read the book.