Archive for April, 2010


Radio slam

April 25, 2010

Because it’s National Poetry Month, Steve Scher and the team at KUOW’s Weekday brought us last week a radio poetry slam.

Learn why there is no “slam poetry”, and marvel at the fact that there is a Seattle National Poetry Slam Team.

I should mention that the 2010 Seattle Grand Slam is tonight, at Town Hall. Not like that means much to y’all down south, but, you know, it would be pretty silly if I didn’t say anything.

But, yeah. Cliff Mass is featured in a later segment, but that means even less to you than a Seattle poetry slam that I won’t be covering in any first-person context because it’s just not going to work out.

But I’ll see what I can come up with for results. Later. You know. Because it hasn’t happened yet.

Right. Yeah. You know. Later. We down? Cool, we down. A’ight.


(Are you a poet? Want everyone to know it? Need a place to show it? Come on, poets … Newport Beach … September 24-26, 2010. Eighth Annual Los Angeles conference. Save $75 by registering before June 1! Right. Decker, sad, all that, too. Come on … stand up and represent!)


Something about bad writing ….

April 23, 2010

Okay, okay, I know it involves politics, but who and what Solicitor General Elena Kagan actually does is beyond my purpose here.

Rather, grab your red pencil. No, don’t actually write on your monitor, but you know what I mean, right?

The Huffington Post explains:

In a post for CBS written by Ben Domenech, who is also editor of The New Ledger, Kagan is described as President Barack Obama’s most likely choice. She’s also described as potentially the “first openly gay justice.”

Domenech later added an addendum stating, “I have to correct my text here to say that Kagan is apparently still closeted—odd, because her female partner is rather well known in Harvard circles.”

Bob Englehart - Hartford Courant - April 13, 2010Anyone? Anyone?

I’m not surprised that the post is unsigned.

Anyway, I had a composition teacher in high school who forbade us the phrase, “due to”. I still have a hard time writing it. She wasn’t the worst, either. Apparently, my friend’s teacher would not let her students start two sentences in the same paper with the same word. Not consecutive. Throughout. I think it was her way of making sure nobody got the perfect mark for a paper.

The late Jack Cady once explained that he told his writing students at Pacific Lutheran University to ignore everything their writing teachers ever taught them. Yes, there’s a paradox in there, but, nothing can destroy a good young writer like an ambitious writing teacher. I had a band teacher once who pretty much did that for me and music. Not that I don’t like music. I do. Just, not performing it. Then again, I’m a coward, anyway, so we cannot actually convict the bald guy with the ugly mustache and the breath that reeked of coffee and menthol cigarettes. Nor can I say he was particularly ambitious. At least he didn’t seem that way. And in later years, a friend described him as a “bad” teacher, which made a certain amount of sense.

Oh, right. Where as I? Sorry.

Yeah, I don’t think you need to be a fascist composition teacher to forbid certain basic, obvious notions in writing. One should be able to show their own internal restraint. Speak nothing of the editing at Huffington Post.

I’m just sayin’ ….

Alright, so … as long as we’re at it, can we strike the word “robust”, unless we’re referring to a quality of food? And banish forever the use of “transition” as a verb? I’m pretty sure I’ve complained about it before, but everyone has certain peeves. I will not “transition” that box to the other office. I will transfer it. I will send it. I will even transport it if I must. But I will not “transition” the bleepin’, blankety-blank, (expletive) box!

Right. Sorry.


Cartoon by Bob Englehart, Hartford Courant, April 13, 2010.

(Are you afraid of bad writing? That is, are you afraid of your own … er … damn it. Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know where this goes. Newport Beach, September 26, SCWC LA 8 … all that. Register before June 1, and save $75 as we help you to suck less. Oh, God! Did I just …. Oh, no, not like that. I didn’t mean to imply you actually suck, or anything. Damn it. I’m sorry. Really. Please. I’m sorry. It’s … I don’t know, it’s just something about this thing MSG says from time to time. About sucking less. It’s supposed to be funny, I guess. I’m not sure; I don’t remember. I mean … yeah. Er … or maybe it’s Wes. Ffff— …. That’s what I get for ignoring them. How freakin’ embarrassing.)


Did you know it’s National Poetry Month?

April 22, 2010

I would be remiss if I somehow passed the whole month of April without noting that it is National Poetry Month. Or maybe I should clear my throat and look around deliberately, muttering, “Where’s Decker?”

Blue Dragonfly, by Miroslaw SwietekOver at The Rumpus, they are celebrating with original poetry every day.

Today’s contribution is “Guaranteed to Work Throughout Its Useful Life“, what could justly be called innovative free verse, by Steven D. Schroeder. In truth, and it’s probably just me, none of them are rattling my bellhammer, so to speak. I mean, it’s ten-thirty in the morning, I’m sober as a rock in the parking lot, and (fill in the excuse here).

You know, just one of those days.

So … try “English Sonnet, by Dan Albergotti, if for no other reason than to learn why “ghoti” is pronounced “fish“.

If anyone would like to contribute some of their own poetry, post in the comments. Far be it from me to stop you. Indeed, we welcome your efforts, and much appreciate your words.


Photo by Miroslaw Swietek, via The Daily Mail.

(I would also be remiss if I did not remind our poets that the 8th Annual Los Angeles gathering of the Southern California Writers’ Conference is coming to Newport Beach in September. Nor would I be faithful to duty if I didn’t keep pointing out that you can save $75—that’s a 19.8% discount, folks—if you sign up before June 1. Rally up, poets! Decker would be sad if we didn’t hear from you. And you don’t want that, do you? Do you?)


Two special guest speakers announced

April 21, 2010

While LA8 (actually, in Newport Beach) is still many months out, two of our special guest speakers have been confirmed. Described as Water for Elephants meets Geek Love, Ellen Bryson’s highly anticipated debut novel The Transformation of Bartholomew Furtuno (Henry Holt and Co.) is out June and she’ll be joining us to discuss her path to publication success. Also aboard, internationally bestselling author Gregg Hurwitz, whose novels include Do No Harm, The Kill Clause, The Program, Troubleshooter, Last Shot, The Crime Writer, and Trust No One, as well as comic book titles The Punisher, Wolverine and Moon Night and current hit television sensation V.

Be sure to check out to stay up to speed with all the latest SCWC news, or join in on the discussion on our Facebook group.



Psychopathology of proofreading?

April 20, 2010

Penguin Books’ Australian contingent is confused.

“We’re mortified that this has become an issue of any kind,” explained publishing head Bob Sessions, “and why anyone would be offended, we don’t know.”

Of course, what do we expect him to say? Rachel Olding explains for the Sydney Morning Herald:

Penguin Group Australia turns over $120 million a year from printing words but a one-word misprint has cost it dearly.

The publishing company was forced to pulp and reprint 7000 copies of Pasta Bible last week after a recipe called for “salt and freshly ground black people” – instead of pepper – to be added to the spelt tagliatelle with sardines and prosciutto.

The exercise will cost Penguin $20,000, the head of publishing, Bob Sessions, said. At $3300 a letter, it’s a pricey typo.

Stock will not be recalled from bookshops because it would be “extremely hard” to do so, Mr Sessions said. Copies remained on the shelves in city bookshops yesterday, selling for $20.

Mr Sessions could not understand why some readers had found the slip offensive.

Really? Is it so hard to understand, Mr. Sessions? Australia is a nation known worldwide, in part, for its racial and ethnic tensions. Many around the world view the island continent as exceptionally racist. So let’s think for a moment, shall we? Or not, because it’s really very simple. Professionally or psychologically, this just doesn’t speak well of Penguin’s Australian proofreaders. Yes, we understand that these things just happen, but some things that just happen have more severe implications than others. And blaming it on the software—

“It’s called the Pasta Bible, almost every recipe has ground black pepper in it, mostly in the same place [on each page].

“In one particular recipe [a] misprint occurs which obviously came from a spell checker. When it comes to the proofreader, of course they should have picked it up, but proofreading a cookbook is an extremely difficult task. I find that quite forgivable.

“We’ve said to bookstores that if anyone is small minded enough to complain about this very … silly mistake then we will happily replace [the book] for them.”

—and then insulting people who might be offended at the suggestion of racist cannibalism in a cookbook doesn’t help, either.



The novel lives, or so says Ian McEwan

April 20, 2010

The folks over at The Daily Beast dabble in realms near paradox with what strikes me, at the outset, as good news:

Not long ago, Philip Roth told Tina Brown that the novel will die out in the face of competition from “screens”—television, movies, computers. [Ian] McEwan is more optimistic: “I think we will still need to examine the fine print of human behavior, human relationships,” he says. “So whether people are reading it on an iPad or an old-fashioned book doesn’t seem to be the real issue.”

But to find a detal—and here’s the catch—they want you to watch video of McEwan explaining his perspective.

No, it’s not properly paradoxical, but something strikes me askew about the idea of watching someone explain that the novel is not a dying art form. So much so that I haven’t actually watched it. Let me know if it’s any good.

Nor have I explored the discussion of the frozen phallus. Never mind; you’ll find out.


(Do your part to keep the novel alive. The Southern California Writers’ Conference has scheduled its 8th Annual Los Angeles gathering for September 24-26 in Newport Beach. We’ve already got some great talent aboard, with more updates coming soon. Register before June 1, and get a $75 discount on your conference fees! So keep on writing, come on out, and we’ll see you in Newport Beach.)


Worst Book of the Decade? Already?

April 19, 2010

Ed Champion on Yann MartelWow. Talk about bad reviews. Edward Champion has crowned Booker Prize-winner Yann Martel’s latest novel, Beatrice and Virgil, the Worst Book of the Decade. Which, of course, is impressive, since the decade is all of three and a half months old, with some hundred sixteen and change to go.

It’s a little hard to explain how vicious this review is, except to say I might look for a copy at my local library because something allegedly this bad must be witnessed.

There comes a rare time — perhaps once every ten or fifteen years — when you read a book with such dreadful syntax, without even a fiber of merit, so libertine in the manner it insults the audience, and so producing the literary equivalent to being completely submerged into a vat of shit, that the reader, having embarked on the fetid journey, begins to pine for a brutal throng of vigilantes to chop off the author’s hands and prevent the hopeless hack from ever holding a pen or setting foot near a laptop again.

I mean, come on. Isn’t that something of an invitation? Like when I was a kid, and heard about the Faces of Death videos. And then one day, as an adult in the age of the internet, I ventured out onto the information superhighway, watched a couple of scenes of human life evacuating bodies, held myself satisfied, and wished I had never seen such horrible things.

You know. Fascination with disaster. Rubbernecking. Slowing down on the highway to look for blood or body parts.

Judging by the examples Champion includes, one might wonder if maybe Martel is trying to prove some obscure point, and the reviewer simply missed it. Because the alternative is, well, that the book really is just that bad. As in, “I’d rather be in the Kilgore Trout Reading Club” kind of bad.



Inspiration and other notes

April 14, 2010

Seed Cathedral, via DezeenIn case you need something to help you pass the time on a Wednesday afternoon:

And now, just because it hides the stitches (boring story), a picture of me with a beard:

BD in b/w

And I wasn't even drunk ... when I fell, at least.



Random Silly Question of the Day: Bubble Gum

April 9, 2010

To the one, perhaps it is a writer’s duty to drag other people through the long thought processes that often result in exceptionally useless questions. To the other, it’s late as I write this, and I am admittedly tired, so I will spare us all and skip to the point.

Today’s question, for anyone who wants to have a go at it:

    What, exactly, is the flavor of bubble gum?

It’s not exactly a unique flavor, except it is. Every once in a while, in something sweet, I’ll detect a subtle hint of bubble gum flavor. So, yeah, it got me thinking. What components make up the flavor of bubble gum? And what, in 1928, was Walter Diemer thinking when he decided, “This is what we’re going with”? Knowing the invention was an accident isn’t exactly helpful. Was this the only flavor he could manage? Is all of that grape, orange, or cherry-flavored bubble gum I chewed as a kid somehow inferior?



Busted: Will fake interviews be the new trend in literary fraud?

April 8, 2010

Okay, so it’s been a while since we covered that befuddling phenomenon known as the fake memoir. And, no, I’m not about to bring you another, althoguh I’m sure I could if I tried. (Maybe I should write one.)

Today we might wish to consider the proverbial next level. That is, the next level in fraud, intellectual myopia, and general stupidity, also known as fake interviews:

Last month, Paola Zanuttini, a journalist from La Repubblica, the progressive Roman newspaper, interviewed Philip Roth about his latest novel, “The Humbling,” which has recently been published in Italian. “We had a lively and intelligent conversation about my fiction,” Roth said. The Q. & A. ran on February 26th, as the cover story of Il VenerdìLa Repubblica‘s Friday magazine—with a fierce-looking closeup portrait of Roth, and the title “Sex and Me.” Zanuttini focussed on the relationships of Roth’s aging protagonists with their much younger inamoratas, the feminist response to them, and his own marriages and romances. “Your descriptions of sex are ruthless,” she asserted. “Ruthless?” he countered. She backed down a little: “They describe things as they are, raw and naked.” “I am pleased by the notion that I can still be scandalous,” he said. “I thought I had lost that magic.”

The real scandal revealed by the interview, however, came at the end, when Zanuttini asked Roth why he was so “disappointed” with Barack Obama. She translated, aloud, remarks attributed to him in an article by a freelance journalist, Tommaso Debenedetti, that was published last November in Libero, a tabloid notably sympathetic to Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister of Italy (who is embroiled in his own sex scandals with much younger women). “It appears that you find him nasty, vacillating, and mired in the mechanics of power,” Zanuttini said. “But I have never said anything of the kind!” Roth objected. “It is completely contrary to what I think. Obama, in my opinion, is fantastic.” He had never heard of Debenedetti, or of Libero. The interview, with its bitter judgment of Obama’s banality, failure, and empty rhetoric about hope and change, was a complete fabrication.

According to Judith Thurman, of The New Yorker, Mr. Debenedetti also faked an interview with John Grisham. Read the rest of this entry ?