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Swinging Modern Sounds #25: 100% Nepotism, by Rick Moody. Rick Moody was the first columnist at The Rumpus. He writes about music for adults. He writes about music better than anybody writing about music (not that it’s a competition) (it’s a competition) (if it wasn’t a competition why would we give awards). His newest column is about musicians he knows personally and has played with. He is also the author of The Four Fingers of Death, which is 700 something pages, and was panned in both the weekday and Sunday New York Times.
My first thought on hearing that was that I had never been reviewed in the weekday New York Times. And then I remembered, or tried to remember, all the worthy books that were never reviewed in the Times at all. We Did Porn is the most obvious omission. Published by Tin House last year, WDP was startlingly good and original and truly deserved to be reviewed, if such a thing is possible. It was Zack Smith’s first book (well, he had an art book where he did an illustration for every page of Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow). And if there are any books that are safe to ignore it’s usually first books.
Tao Lin, whose novel Richard Yates is this month’s book club selection, is a more interesting study. It’s his sixth book and he’s never been mentioned in the New York Times despite the fact that he also publishes other people’s books, that he works in poetry, short stories, novellas and novels. And despite the fact that a healthy percentage of creative writing students, particularly in and around New York, actively, even knowingly, mimic his style. He’s certainly the most popular writer (Bed sold 10,000 copies, which is a lot more than most novels from much bigger publishers) to really grapple with the language of internet chat and the space created in online relationships.
We’ve been talking a lot about Richard Yates in the book club discussion email group. A lot of people hate it. I knew that would be the case. It’s a very divisive book. But it’s an important book. Tao Lin is having an impact. And you could say screw the New York Times. But I would say you are wrong. The New York Times is the only book review left that matters on its own; that isn’t relevant only as part of a cumulative effect.
You could say, What about the New Yorker? And I could say, Isn’t it better to be on television? But I think you know what I mean.
City officials in Gainesville have denied a burn permit for a church hoping to set fire to numerous copies of the Quran. What would be interesting is if another group showed up with copies of the bible, all of them taken from hotel rooms, and had a competing book burning across the street. And maybe, just to really turn it up a notch, there should be a third pile of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
Yesterday I went for a drive into the Richmond with Ben and he told me about Adam Carolla pushing his book on his podcast. Carolla says he’s never actually read a book. His own isn’t out yet but, after he mentioned it, it shot to the top ten on Amazon. I told Ben we’d sold forty copies of The Adderall Diaries on The Rumpus. We’d also signed up 80 members for our Jonathan Franzen Book Club.
Ben and I were picking up a special rocking chair for his girlfriend who would soon be nursing their second baby. Walking home I passed a science fiction bookstore with a copy of The Four Fingers Of Death in the window. I kept thinking about our talk, about a friend who had been on The View, catapulting her book onto the best seller list. Wasn’t that what it was about, having a conversation, communicating with people? But then I thought, no, it couldn’t just be about communicating. The sentences had to matter, the artfulness of the words on the page. The art. What’s left on the table when the every one has gone home and the ladies from the television show have retired to their dressing rooms?
But that wasn’t right either. Nor was it a mix of some sort. There was something about literature that existed beyond the lies we tell ourselves and I was getting closer to it, or my definitions were changing once again.
At the 16th Street Bart I stopped to watch an open mic that happens outside every Thursday night beginning at ten. I stopped going to open mics years ago, but that’s where the important things are happening if you’ve got the patience for them, the birthplace of what’s next. People jumped into the middle of the stage, telling stories or playing guitar. Some were very good. Many were homeless and fresh from the hospital insane.
Have a nice weekend,
p.s. Video: Jonathan Franzen on book trailers.
p.s. 2 Please take the Rumpus Survey.
p.s. 3 I spend hours crafting these emails most mornings and I can’t help but wonder if that’s a reasonable thing to do.
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