1. Patti Smith’s new album Twelve contains nothing but cover versions, continuing a tradition that dates back to Rage, Guns N Roses and (the earliest example I can think of) Joan Jett. It’s odd to think of poet Patti releasing an album with no original lyrics, but she gives us a marvelously personal selection of songs in exchange, including Bob Dylan’s “Changing of the Guard”, Neil Young’s “Helpless” and Paul Simon’s “The Boy in the Bubble”. If you’re looking for Patti Smith online, make sure you go to PattiSmith.net (if you’re looking for real estate in the Bellevue, Washington area, though, check out PattiSmith.com).
2. The PEN World Voices Festival is coming back to New York City this April! Last year’s happening was very satisfying, and this year’s lineup includes Don DeLillo, Kiran Desai, Neil Gaiman, Huang Xiang, Patti Smith, Pico Iyer, Saadi Youssef, Jonathan Franzen, Billy Collins and Sam Shepard. There’s never a shortage of political undertones here, and last year’s keynote speaker was Orhan Pamuk. This year, the Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture will be delivered by David Grossman, the Israeli novelist whose soldier son was killed in the Israel/Lebanon war last summer. I’m betting that many attendees will stay away from this controversial keynote, but I’ll be there.
3. The second Words Without Borders anthology is out!
4. One nice thing about the New Yorker’s lush new online environment is that I can now effortlessly link to funny pieces like Simon Rush’s The Wisdom of Children.
7. I’ve been enjoying the lively 2007 Tournament of Books at The Morning News. Well, I didn’t enjoy seeing Sam Savage’s poor Firmin getting ass-kicked by Cormac McCarthy’s The Road, but I loved watching Richard Ford’s vastly overrated The Lay of the Land get laid down flat by Kate Atkinson’s One Good Turn.
8. Want some good Beat Generation/Poetry/Alternative live DVD’s? Check out Thin Air Video‘s collection.
9. Congrats to one of the very best bloggers in the biz, Ed Champion, for scoring some major recent newspaper review assignments and now joining the National Book Critics Circle. When I see my colleagues and friends amassing on the print side of things, I wonder if I’m missing some major boat because I don’t want to write newspaper book reviews. Well, maybe I am, but for now the format doesn’t appeal to me. It’s great that a few good online literary critics are being recognized by their more established peers after getting published in print, but will book bloggers ever be recognized by their peers without getting published in print? Until that day comes, at least there’s one clique that will have me.