Definitely Connected

1. PBS is launching a new blog, Remotely Connected, and I’m proud to be one of the contributing writers, along with Alice Bradley of FinSlippy, David Gutowski of LargeHearted Boy, Kyle MacDonald of One Red Paperclip and Merlin Mann of 43 Folders. An eclectic group indeed. Here’s my first article for the site, about Eyes on the Prize.

2. We’re all catching Nobel Prize fever (the literary award will be announced on Thursday). Will Orhan Pamuk take it? Why hasn’t John Updike won a Nobel Prize yet, and how can anybody possibly imagine the prize going to Joyce Carol Oates or Philip Roth if Updike hasn’t won one yet? Finally, why does nobody ever, ever, ever mention Kurt Vonnegut as a Nobel candidate? Well, there, I just mentioned Kurt Vonnegut, so somebody finally has.

It’s literary prize season. Kiran Desai has just won the Man Booker Prize, and the National Book Critics Circle is going to present its short-list for the National Book Awards tomorrow morning.

3. HBO’s Def Poetry has begun filming for its new season! I know this for a fact because the good folks who run the show were kind enough to invite me for a taping last night. The air conditioner broke, so the room was hot in more ways than one, but based on what I saw the sixth season will be one of the best. As you already know if you’ve hung around here for a while, I have a lot of respect for this show and I’m really trying to spread the word. Not sure when the new episodes will air, but I will certainly keep you informed.

6 Responses

  1. Wow.I absolutely agree on the

    I absolutely agree on the Vonnegut front. My favorite author.

  2. Opt OutMy editor at Houghton
    Opt Out

    My editor at Houghton Mifflin became extremely irate with me when I complained on the Internet that literary prizes were stupid and demeaning.

    It was stupid to have won state-wide Booksense awards — independent bookstores sponsor this as a way to compete with chains — and then be told “you have to go to Chicago” where the national competition was handing out its awards.

    I could just see myself sitting in some stupid banquet room drinking bourbon by the gallon as stupid people gave stupid speeches about why so-and-so and such-and-such was “the best.”

    It is all so fucking subjective.

    And the commercialism that drives the machine is annoying as hell. Give me a break.

    And editors get royally pissed off if you’d rather stay home and write than attend these literary events.

    “Don’t you want to sell your books,” I was asked. Actually, interrogated is more like it.

    Usually, I just live off the advance. Why can’t selling the book be their problem. Do I look like a vacuum salesman to you. I had a mohawk at the time Houghton Mifflin got miffed.

    “I have a mohawk,” I said.

    Long silence in Boston.

    “Are we allowed to wear leather in Chicago.”

    What is wearing leather in Boston. Nada clue.

    Going to these dreary literary affairs is tedious and the food sucks.

    It was widely reported that my PEN award came with money.

    NO. It didn’t.

    The big guys with the big books get the big prizes. Ho hum. What else is new.

    My whiteness was always an issue anyway. Better to stay home.

    I only went when they promised I would win and the prize was money and the check would probably clear.

    You always have to give a speech. Fun.

    In New Mexico, I spoke about what a grinding, stupid school system they have, and how it oppresses children. I worked in it so been there done that.

    Long silence in Santa Fe.

    Do I look like a Navajo to you. Publishing books is a stupid business filled with stupid awards and stupid books.

    I only write them. Then I want to be left alone.

    I went to Flagstaff to meet Toni Morrison and I wondered what it was she might read that night. She read from the diaries of Christopher Columbus. Quite apt; perhaps she was on to something and deserved that Nobel. Maybe. I was glad she didn’t read from her work because I can’t penetrate it or keep the characters straight anymore than I can keep Pasternak organized in my head.

    The best.

    It doesn’t mean anything. What you think and what I think will be quite different. But humans seem driven to engage in this nonsense rather like sex. They can’t seem to help themselves and the hierarchal paradigm seems generic to human existence. What a sad lot of monkeys we are. Why we can’t just say something only IS and then move on to the next thing that IS escapes me. I don’t get it and I don’t want to get it. But no. It has to be THE BEST or NOT THE BEST. Fiddledeedee.

    Italian food is the best. No. Chinese. No. French. How about Findland. Eat it. And shut up.

    Prizes. Contests. Boxes. Categories. Sections in the bookstore. Niche markets. I fucking hate the Internet. I would suggest that the people who worship this cultural idiocy are not the people writing cultural idiocy; they’re only selling it. Have criticism. Will travel.

    Gunter Grass is my favorite. But I do wonder what his real name is. I would change my name to Grass but…

    I have always thought we need a PEOPLE’S CHOICE AWARDS for writers. Danielle Steel needs a prize. The poor woman never wins shit. She needs the money, too.

    I wonder how often Toni Morrison drives from the Upper East Side to Princeton where her name is on the door. Get real. We put names on book covers, doors, newspapers, prizes, resumes; anything to sell, sell, sell. We only want the best. The difference between the consumer and the creator is enormous. How vital is the last thing you wrote.

    Is the only question.

  3. Yeah, but I don’t think it’s
    Yeah, but I don’t think it’s stupid that you got a reward. You are a good writer and a number of people must believe that or someone else would have received the reward.

  4. Good Review for the Movement
    Good Review for the Movement on PBS!

    That show on PBS about civil rights sounds like one not missing!

    I may get the Levee DVD. It’s so sad what happened to New Orleans. What’s even sadder is that every US metroplex has a population that size that is that impoverished.’s definition of meliorism–the belief that the world tends to improve and that humans can aid its betterment– differs slightly from the one given in the American heritage Dictionary, i.e., the belief that improvement of society depends on human effort.

    The idea of Progressivism hasn’t been the topic of a novel since The Grapes of Wrath. Whether the topic getting written about would open up the government’s purse strings is the cliched remains-to-be-seen.
    The review on the civil rights history is well worth the read!

  5. What about Thomas Pynchon? If
    What about Thomas Pynchon? If an Absurdist like Pinter and an inscrutable writer like Beckett can both get it, why not Pynchon? I’m sorry, though, I’m not a big Updike fan. I think Roth, Pynchon and Cormac McCarthy should all get it before Updike.

    What’s funny is that this Nobel Prize is supposed to help writers who are financially strapped, who give up financial success in order to go after some elusive artistic dream. None of America’s big authors fit that description — they are all fairly well-to-do. Now, when Faulkner won the prize he was a real struggling artist, most of his best works were out of print. Contrast that with Saul Bellow or Hemingway or even Steinbeck — somehow the Nobel has become a kind of Lifetime Achievement award rather than an award for the enrichment of someone struggling in artistic obscurity and relative poverty. Are there any American authors who are truly vital and have given up wealth and fame in order to reach for some strange artistic purpose the way Faulkner did back in the 20’s and 30’s?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What we're up to ...

Litkicks is 26 years old! This website has been on a long and wonderful journey since 1994. We’re relaunching the whole site on a new platform in June 2021, and will have more updates soon. We’ve also been busy producing a couple of podcasts – please check them out.

World BEYOND War: A New Podcast
Lost Music: Exploring Literary Opera

Explore related articles ...