Dwayne Hoover Redux

1. The Litblog Co-op has announced its Spring 2006 READ THIS! selection: a book of surrealist short stories called Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead by Alan DeNiro. We’ll be discussing this book, as well as two other Spring 2006 nominees, Marshall Klimasewiski’s The Cottagers and Mark Binelli’s Sacco and Vanzetti Must Die in the next three weeks. THEN, I am very excited about the Summer 2006 READ THIS! nominations, because I have chosen one of the three books. You’ll have to wait in suspense for my choice to be revealed, which will occur once the Spring festivities are complete.

2. I’m looking forward to next week’s PEN World Voices festival in New York City. Here’s the very impressive schedule of events.

3. Here’s a fascinating Salon piece by Robert Marshall on the once popular and still legendary Carlos Castaneda, whose publishers are still in a bizarre state of denial over the fact that his stories were not true.

4. Scott Esposito on Cynthia Ozick on James Wood (and on the lit-crit landscape in general).

5. Via Variation, an appealing trailer for the upcoming movie version of an Ian McEwan book I liked very much, Atonement. I hope this movie is as good as it should be, and I will certainly be reviewing it in these pages come opening day.

6. Other movie news: Jindabyne is based on Raymond Carver’s story “So Much Water So Close To Home”. And there’s apparently going to be a movie about a sans-serif font, Helvetica (more about it here and here). The film’s director is Gary Hustwit, who was also the founder of the now-defunct but still memorable downtown New York publishing company Incommunicado Press.

As design-minded LitKicks readers will have noticed, I am personally very fond of Helvetica, which you can spot in numerous places on this site. In my opinion, a song needs drums and bass, an omelet needs eggs and cheese, and a webpage needs Helvetica and Trebuchet MS. Does this mean I’m going to rush out and see Hustwit’s film? No, but I’m amused that it exists.

7. Steal This Wiki.

8. Champion has a point here. Enough with these titles.

9. A whole lot of Charles Bukowski manuscripts and memorabilia are up for sale at an upcoming auction. Whether you are wont to wield a paddle or not, it’s worthwhile just looking through this extensive and well-illustrated online catalog.

10. What more can be said about Kurt Vonnegut? I’ve got a few shovelfulls more to throw.

• Here is a blogger tribute put together by Simon Owens of Bloggasm (I am one of the contributors).

• Fox News, still grumpy after being awakened from their dream of a successful Bush/Cheney presidency, has seen fit to disrespect Kurt Vonnegut at the time of his death, and both CJR Daily and Galley Cat are talking back.

• Via Syntax, here’s a site called Vonnegut’s Asshole, created by Eric Spitznagel

• As my own perverse tribute, it has occurred to me to list four bad movies that have been based on good Kurt Vonnegut novels: Slapstick, Breakfast of Champions, Slaughterhouse-Five, Mother Night. Amazingly, each of these films flopped upon release, giving Kurt Vonnegut perhaps the worst record for book-to-movie translations in all of modern literature. Somebody should really make terrible movies of Cat’s Cradle and God Bless You Mr. Rosewater to complete the set. And if we wait around long enough, I have a feeling somebody will.

• Has anybody else been thinking about Dwayne Hoover this week? This character goes on a murderous rampage at the climax of Breakfast of Champions, possessed by the belief that everybody around him is a brainless automaton, that he is the only living, feeling person in the world. Seems to be a lot of that going around these days.

5 Responses

  1. Carlos CastenedaIn Thomas
    Carlos Casteneda

    In Thomas Pynchon’s new book “Against the Day” there is a scene that evokes good old Carlos Casteneda. One of the characters, Frank Traverse, is down in Mexico, where he falls in with a Don Juan-like shaman. He eats some cactus buds, and the next thing we know he is flying through the air, having visions, and so forth. It made me smile, thinking of the Casteneda controversy. Still, I read the first two or three Don Juan books, and I thought they were good.

  2. Selective Responses1. The
    Selective Responses

    1. The DeNiro selection looks good (when I have some spare cash I’ll pick it up). But I’m really looking forward to what you’ll pick, Levi. I know it won’t be Lethem or Cormac McCarthy! 😉

    3. I thought the Salon piece on Castaneda was a thinly disguised hit piece, focused more on the man than the works or their veracity. Marshall used the factual controversy surrounding the books to launch a character assassination on a dead guy, most of it based on hearsay from axe-grinders and echoes from the rumorsphere.

    6. Helvetica (the font) rocks.

    8. Champion doesn’t have, or even make, much of a point. What’s wrong with the titles? In the case of Pessl’s book, it’s very appropriate (that is, if Ed bothered to read the book he’s ridiculing). Ed doesn’t say what he doesn’t like – although I get the distinct feeling his problem is more with the “Hot Young and Overeducated Literary Chick.” Mostly I like Ed, but snark is snark.

    10. Not enough has ever or ever will be said about Uncle Kurt.

    – Fuck Fox News.

    – I wouldn’t call Slaughterhouse Five a “bad” movie – it manages to capture the spirit, pace and structure of the novel rather well. It at least manages to preserve and present the story in a manner which pleased its author. Mother Night was a decent adaptation. You’re right about the others, though: I keep a copy of Breakfast of Champions to show my screenwriting pupils how NOT to adapt a novel to film.

    – I think of Dwayne Hoover every day, and have since I was 16 years old. Of course, I come from a family full of of Southern car salesmen, so maybe I’m a special case.

    Yeah, there does seem to be a lot of that going around. And not just in the mind of spree killers – egocentric thinking appears to plague the land, from the President all the way down to the “common man.” Too bad we can’t seem to pay much attention to these troubled shooters in life as we do in the aftermath of their destruction. But hey – nobody ever said this wasn’t a sick country!

    So it goes…

  3. That’s a good point about
    That’s a good point about Castaneda. I’ve got nothing against him, though I’ve also never bothered to finish one of his books (many of my hippie friends, however, swear by him). At least it’s an interesting article.

    About Ed’s slam on trendy “science-y” titles — well, I dunno, I guess I agreed with Ed enough that I wanted to cite it here. I mean, “A Short History of Tractors in Ukraine” was clever. “Special Topics in Calamity Physics”, okay, that too. But they’re just going to keep doing this?

    Finally, about “Slaughterhouse-Five”, well, it was certainly a serious attempt and a respectful treatment, directed by George Roy Hill (who also later tried, and failed, to turn “The World According to Garp” into a good movie). I watched it and only felt that it was Vonnegut minus the Vonnegut voice. But Vonnegut without the voice just does not work. I think that’s why all these movies have dropped off the face of the earth.

  4. Skinny-Dipping -Dead-Lake
    Skinny-Dipping -Dead-Lake Skinny

    I checked out Skinny Dipping in the Lake of the Dead and only read one story and returned the book because it just didn’t hold my interest. I’m also reading as much as I can because I have easy access to a lot of books that I haven’t read. The writing’s good but the book just didn’t grab me.

  5. Happy Birthday, Wanda
    Happy Birthday, Wanda June

    That was a movie based on a play by Kurt Vonnegut. I saw it a long time ago and don’t remember much about it, other than it starred Rod Steiger, Penelope Ryan, and William Hickey.

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