Literary Trivia Smackdown and Other Things

1. I’m very excited to be competing with a team of litbloggers in a Literary Trivia Smackdown against four honorable representatives of PEN America this Sunday at 4 pm at the 21st Annual Indie Press and Small Books Fair in New York City. The other members of the Litblog team are Ed Champion, Sarah Weinman and Eric Rosenfeld.

Ed, Sarah, Eric and I are competing this year as a result of a challenge we offered to MC and host Tim Brown after watching the New York Review of Books beat A Public Space in last year’s contest. Brown accepted our challenge in sporting spirit, though apparently the New York Review of Books ran when they saw us coming. We are looking forward to challenging our worthy fellow lovers of literature at PEN to see who takes the title for 2008. The subject, I understand, is “American Literature”. Please come to cheer us on if you can! Other worthwhile events at this weekend-long Indie and Small Press Book Fair include Lizzie Skurnick interviewing Kelly Link and a conversation between Arthur Nersesian and Kate Christensen.

2. It’s nice to be noticed sometimes, like when you get included on a list of ten best literary blogs by David Gutowski. Hey, everybody else on the list posted about it too, so why shouldn’t I? Other good literary blogs that should be on any list (ten just isn’t enough): Conversational Reading, Jacket Copy.

3. “The point of terror is both to terrify and to polarize“. Mainly, to polarize, and it works way too well. Look at pictures like these from and it’s hard not to get polarized.

4. From the ridiculous to the sublime, here’s a charming new cover of Wind in the Willows, drawn by a 12-year-old kid. Nice.

5. The Book Design Review’s Favorite Book Covers of 2008.

6. Stephen Fry on Oscar Wilde, the meaning of imagination, Anton Chekhov.

7. A very thorough Thoreau site, though they missed me. Doesn’t everybody.

8. I have mixed feelings about Kanye West’s new album 808s and Heartbreak. It’s his first “sad” album — his Plastic Ono Band, his Street-Legal, his Berlin. But while these albums are all masterpieces, Kanye’s mournful new work feels more frustrating on first listen. Where’s the humor? Where’s the kick? I respect Kanye West’s artistry so much, though, that I will give this album at least ten full listens before I complete my judgement. I’m on listen #5 for Axl Rose.

4 Responses

  1. Enjoyed reading Stephen Fry
    Enjoyed reading Stephen Fry on Oscar Wilde and Anton Chekov. Thanks for the link.

    So, is your book about marsupials?

  2. I’ve looked at those pictures
    I’ve looked at those pictures and don’t feel the urge to become polarized in any way. Unless you consider being opposed to terrorist violence as a “polar” position. Even if you do, it’s clearly not what Sullivan meant.

    “The legitimate rage at these barbarians must not cloud our judgment in figuring out how best to defeat them,” Sully adds. This is by far the more important and potent aspect of his post.

    “Reacting in the way the terrorists want may be morally understandable and emotionally unavoidable,” he continues. “But our goal must not be to give them what they want, or to compound the problem by over-reaction.”

    It’s not really too fine a point on it – very simple, very basic. In fact, as essential element of Judeo-Christian ethics – to whit, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Dropping Indian bombs on Pakistani civilians won’t do a damn thing to stop this, and will likely do much to increase its prevalence. An Indian attack on Pakistan will do nothing but give Pakistani thugs justification for further action.

    “If we haven’t learned that from Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s hard to know what we have learned,” Sully concludes.

    Watching & listening to Americans react to these latest attacks… listening to our current & future Presidents as they wax bellicose about this and future violence… watching as India preps itself for Yet Another War With Pakistan… waiting as all voices of leaders and followers pilot the world toward more violence… I begin to think most of us have learned little, if anything, from the last eight years.

  3. Cal, I don’t feel polarized
    Cal, I don’t feel polarized either. I just think it’s important, as Andrew Sullivan says, that we realize that polarization is actually a direct goal of most terrorist acts. Dialogue becomes impossible when bombs are exploding. That’s the point I was trying to make. I also do personally think that people all over the world — and especially in the USA, judging by the latest election — have learned a lot of hard lessons in the past several years. There’s definitive evidence that human beings are getting slightly (slightly) smarter.

  4. Part of the problem is;
    Part of the problem is; Pakistan is an artificial state created along religious lines of conflict by the British to solve their(the Brits) end of empire difficulties-likewise east Pakistan, now Bangla Desh.
    The undrelying political tensions in the region wont be resolved until the religious antagonisms are resolved.
    It is as much a question of historical theology, invasion, forced seperation,and nuclear proliferation, as it is a question of terrorism. In her entire history India has never sent her army across her borders, but has been subject to to cultural political and military invasion by Buddhism Mohammedenism and Christianity.
    If India does move across her borders, the war zone will encapsulate the globe.
    That’s what the ‘Song Celestial’ is all about.
    No one can comprehend Indian politics without being aware of the Bhagavad Gita.
    That is India, past present and future.
    It is also poetry.

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