The Return of Seen and Heard

After a long hiatus, we’re back with what’s moving and shaking in the literary and publishing world. In addition to several upcoming book awards and publishing fairs here are a few items that caught my eye over the past few weeks.

— While Bob Dylan is up for a National Book Critics Circle prize (winners will be announced March 18), another music legend is making news in the publishing world. Yes, Sean “P. Diddy – Puff Daddy – Puffy – Bad Boy for Life” Combs is being sued by Random House over a dispute in which the publishing company claims Puffy decided just to keep the $300k advance it paid for his memoirs — which he never completed. I’m sure he’s been busy writing his stories of J. Lo, meeting the Bushes and flamboyant awards show arrivals and parties. I think he just didn’t want to overshadow the success of Dylan’s Chronicles, Vol. 1.

On the Road again … Earlier this month, the 120-foot long scroll of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road manuscript was again unfurled — this time at the University of Iowa Museum of Art. Fans can catch a glimpse of the yellowed and fairly tattered literary artifact in Iowa City through March 12, then the scroll will continue its four year national tour of museums and libraries.

— Possibly destined for a paper mill near you … the towering oak that was known as “Kesey’s Tree” in Menlo Park, CA fell victim to root rot last month. What would later become a local shrine to Ken Kesey, the gnarled oak reportedly shaded the cottage where Kesey began writing One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

— Speaking of rot, this just in from the “please stop making horrible movies from books” department: It seems that the screenplay adaptation of Jonathan Franzen’s novel The Corrections is floating around for review. And the reviews aren’t good — what a surprise. While I personally didn’t care for this “must-read” novel, I’m not sure I want to someday find out that one (or all) of its characters will be played by Tom Hanks.

— As many of you know, former president Bill Clinton won a spoken-word Grammy Sunday night for My Life. What you may not know … in an effort not to be outdone, the rumor is that John Ashcroft may have his eye on another national office — Poet Laureate. I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

— What are they doing in the Hemingway House? Fear of being overrun with tourists has prompted Ketchum, Idaho residents to attempt to buy and move the last home of Ernest Hemingway. In 1961, Hemingway shot and killed himself in the concrete and wood house. The Idaho Hemingway House Foundation (which boasts Tom Hanks, ahem, as a board member) hopes to open the house to the public and opposes the move.

Of course the biggest news this week was the death of playwright Arthur Miller. We’ll be posting a retrospective on his impact and career on Monday, but in the meantime — which literary news items and events are on your mind today?

35 Responses

  1. Amiri Baraka. What a
    Amiri Baraka. What a scamp.

    Found via Page Six (which demonstrates the quality stuff I read all day):

    DETHRONED New Jersey Poet Laureate Amiri Baraka proved to be his lovable blasphemous, inflammatory self at the Town Hall New Federal Theater celebration. “We cannot be tricked by the recurrent minstrel show,” the former LeRoi Jones told adoring listeners. “What kind of sleaza is Condoleezza?” Marxist Baraka called President Bush a “fascist” and urged the audience, “Put back on your militant clothes.” He also said, “The loss of Ossie Davis and Arthur Miller leaves a gap not to be filled by Hollywood and Broadway garbage.” And he reminisced about old protest days, like the time he watched Maya Angelou try to climb up a fire escape to get into the U.N.

    Yes, that time when Maya Angelou tried to climb up a fire escape to get into the U.N. was very memorable… I remember it like it was yesterday. Maybe because it was.

    Or was it? I don’t know. It’s a hell of a thing.

  2. I wonder if the militant
    I wonder if the militant clothes will go with my commie shoes? I wonder why I always miss out on the good parties? Thanks for the hot tip, Jamelah.

  3. No problem. You know me,
    No problem. You know me, always dispensing hot tips here and there, as though they were bits of Pez candy.

    And I’m sure that the militant clothes would go very nicely with the commie shoes. In fact, I hear it’s going to be the look for spring.

  4. Hey, wait a minute. The UN
    Hey, wait a minute. The UN is a flat glass skyscraper. I really don’t think there are any fire escapes.

  5. lots o’ stuffThis is my
    lots o’ stuff

    This is my favorite Seen and Heard so far. I don’t even know what to react to first. The idea of John Ashcroft as poet laureate makes me very, very annoyed … except that it’s so ludicrously funny that maybe I could almost enjoy this if it happened, the way people enjoy horrible movies, bad road trips, toothaches, etc. This just COULDN’T happen in real life — could it?

    Great catch on the Kesey and Hemingway items.

    As for Jonathan Franzen’s “Corrections” becoming a movie — well, I didn’t love the book enough to yell that the movie will ruin it. If they do a good job on it, they should easily be able to improve on the original. And, thank god, Tom Hanks is too old to play the young nerd and too young to play the doddering old man. We may do okay with this one.

    And I think Dylan’s nomination for the book award is well-deserved and I’m very happy about it. I mentioned to a group of people recently that “Chronicles” was an amazing book, and the reaction was disbelief — “Bob Dylan can write?” Well … yeah, I mean, he did write one or two memorable songs, right? If Maya Angelou can sneak up UN fire escapes, than I think Bob Dylan can write a great book. And she did (apparently), and so did he.

  6. I don’t know bout where you
    I don’t know bout where you all live but down here in the hood the school kids are wearing bullet proof vests and the army of white t-shirted gangstas is steadily growing larger, ask somebody on the street bout Marx and they know lil of Karl and even less of Groucho, Chico and Harpo these days.

    Speaking of Amiri Baraka, I saw him read a few years back at the Baltimore book festival, and it was a great show, at one point he asked the assembled, ” if Elvis was the King, what’s that make James Brown, GOD?”

  7. Well, in my hood the kids are
    Well, in my hood the kids are dressing pretty much the same, but I don’t know if that means they are ready for revolution. Hey, back in France in 1789, the big radical move was to leave the house without culottes. Nowadays, nobody wears culottes, but The Man is still running things. So I don’t think the clothes really help.

  8. You apparently haven’t been
    You apparently haven’t been paying attention to Tom Hanks’ range of ages. Do I need to mention Big? A League of Their Own? Ok then. Run, Franzen, Run.

    As far as “Dylan” is concerned, I’m sure Chronicles is a fine read if you’re into Dylan at all, but I think more importantly, this illustrates the paradigm shift that happens when the children of the 60s overtake the NBCC. I’m just not sure it deserves to beat out Greenblatt’s take on Shakespeare. In any case, neither “Dylan” nor Shakespeare are P. Diddy.

  9. but dig this Levi, if ya all
    but dig this Levi, if ya all wear long white t-shirts and baggy pants, who the hell is the “Man” gonna jump on? everybody?

  10. On the HomefrontThe “LOVE
    On the Homefront

    The “LOVE Poetry” reading I was a participant in on this past Saturday night was the “hot pick” in the Baltimore Sun’s LIVE section this past Thursday with my name featured. Starting to get a little notice after all this time reading aloud.

  11. Yes, yes … you know P.
    Yes, yes … you know P. Diddy is good with me, but when it comes to writing songs, the only thing I can specifically remember him writing is the word “missing”, when he changed the words to “Every Breath You Take”. That’s one single word, whereas Dylan has written a lot of words. I don’t doubt that Diddy’s got good stories to tell though.

  12. Call me crazy, but I think
    Call me crazy, but I think that the sartorial sense of urban youth has little to do with any level of militancy and more to do with, well, style.

  13. Of flicks and booksTwo movies
    Of flicks and books

    Two movies based on fiction seem like they could be cool. The first is Sin City based on a cool graphic novel by Frank Miller. The preview for the movie which you can find on the internet looks like a snazzy noir comic book. The second movie that I hope will be good is Invisible Monsters based on the book by Chuck Palahniuk. Anything by or based on Chuck is ok with me.

    Regarding books, I’ll finish The Beach by Alex Garland tonight. It’s ok, not great but holding my interest.

    I’ll start a new book tomorrow. Maybe The Bride Wore Black by Cornell Woolrich, one of my favorites. Or The Contortionist’s Handbook by Craig Clevenger.

    Oh yeah. I’ve also got ten bucks that says that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy movie (based on the book of the same name) will stink. Any takers?

  14. The ScrollI have a standing
    The Scroll

    I have a standing date to see the scroll manuscript at the Univ. of Iowa Museum on Friday. I will post my thoughts and send pictures when I get a chance.

  15. Excellent, Kate! You’ll have
    Excellent, Kate! You’ll have to give us the scoop — thanks in advance.

  16. If Ralph Bakshi did it with a
    If Ralph Bakshi did it with a decent screenplay, it’d surpass the novel.

  17. 2.13.05 Cerebral Cyanide
    2.13.05 Cerebral Cyanide Reading

    2.13.05 Warren Weappa gave his first reading of Cerebral Cyanide to the Jeff Holland book club at International House in the Gangnam district in Seoul. The response was warm.

  18. Well, hey, that’s
    Well, hey, that’s something.

    Can LitKicks get a review copy of this book?

  19. And then of course you both
    And then of course you both ignore the fact that when the cartoon version of Tom Hanks is unleashed, he can be anybody.

    The Corrections by Pixar. Uh huh. Just you wait.

  20. I saw this piece on the
    I saw this piece on the scroll the other day and I immediately hunted down the dates when it will be in New York – starting in September ’05 in the New York Library. Can’t wait!

  21. Insert Euphemism
    Insert Euphemism Here

    Supersize it. Size does Matter. Check out the size of the fonts on that one! The jokes write themselves. From The Guardian:

    There is a crisis in literature. Readers have stopped reading, drawn instead to other perhaps more modish forms of entertainment.
    Sales are down, authors are despondent, salons are closing and literary lunches have become drab affairs.

    But US publishers have come to the rescue. Literature’s woes, they have decided, lie in the smallness of the print.


    The answer is obvious: publishers are to make books bigger, thereby making space for larger print on the page and solving in one swoop the malaise affecting literature.


    The innovation, the publishers point out, is the first time that the mass-market paperback format has been tampered with for 50 years.


    The innovation will also come as a relief to those authors who may have mistakenly felt that people were not buying their books because of something they had written.

    Rather than being concerned about such old-fashioned literary gimmicks as plot, character and the careful choice of appropriate language, they must now recognised that the key to successful writing is to change the font size setting on their computer and to invest in some heavyweight paper at the stationers.

  22. Tom Hanks can do The
    Tom Hanks can do The Corrections, so long as they leave in the scene where the demented old man talks to his own feces. If Tom Hanks can do a convincing scene with a piece of poo, that should make up for everything else he’s ever done.

  23. does this have anything to do
    does this have anything to do with goran bregovic? he’s almost always the composer.

    kusturica is likely my favorite director. yugoslav film is astounding.

    there’s even a kusturica flick with johnny depp. arizona dream.

  24. I’m Stumped”Kesey’s Tree” is
    I’m Stumped

    “Kesey’s Tree” is gone? What now? All this death in my life and now the tree? Damn. (Although I jest just a bit, I am sorry to see that bit of news.)

    I wish I had a branch or two. I would hang babbles and bangles and perhaps a tamborine on them just for old times’ sake.

    As for Ashcroft…he can bite the dust anytime and I wouldn’t flinch.

    All news is old…

  25. LeRoi JonesI remember when
    LeRoi Jones

    I remember when Amiri Baraka was named LeRoi Jones…What is the significance of this name change thirty some years ago. Is it because he just needed a pen name or is it because he ditched his “slave name” like Stokely? Or is it some kind of religious reason?

  26. Ashcroft as Laureate?I didn’t
    Ashcroft as Laureate?

    I didn’t realize that Ashcroft was any kind of poet. However, I did realize that he sings and has cut an album. I thought one had to be a literary person to be considered for “poet laureate”. I thought that Ashcroft had a law degree. Anyone want to elaborate on the above? Is it a joke or what?

  27. Lobbying for Renewed
    Lobbying for Renewed Friendship

    “New Friends and Old Friends”

    Make new friends, but keep the old;
    Those are silver, these are gold.
    New-made friendships, like new wine,
    Age will mellow and refine.
    Friendships that have stood the test–
    Time and change–are surely best;
    Brow may wrinkle, hair grow gray,
    Friendship never knows decay.

    For ‘mid old friends tried and true,
    Once more we our youth renew.
    But old friends, alas! may die,
    New friends must their place supply.
    Cherish friendship in your breast–
    New is good, but old is best;
    Make new friends but keep the old:
    Those are silver, these are gold.

    by Joseph Parry, from tea box.

    Think of this as “tea box wisdom”. It is made of silver and gold…Old news turns into trivia and history. Sometimes urban legends are formed of factoids and such. Old news sometimes is good news. Especially when it is relevant to the moment.

  28. That whole Ashcroft
    That whole Ashcroft thing…

    …really makes me want to repeatedly bang my head off the computer desk.

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!