Don’t Want No Poor People ‘Round Here …

1. Janet Maslin doesn’t think much of William T. Vollmann’s new non-fiction book Poor People, in which he interviews and philosophizes about several specimens of downtrodden people including various real-life hobos, prostitutes and drug addicts. This book sounds almost like flame-bait, and I wonder if Vollmann is intentionally aiming to offend readers with this blunt title. Nobody likes to be categorized — am I poor? Are you poor? I’m really not sure what Vollmann’s up to with this whole thing, but I’ll reserve judgement till I read it. I’ll say one thing right now, though: a $30 price tag for a book about poverty is absolute bullshit. Let them eat cake, eh, Vollmann?

Why don’t we all just sing along with Randy Newman now …

Poor people got no money
Poor people got no money
Poor people got no money for books

They got smelly clothes and they talk real slow
Willie knows because he got a ho
They got big debts and they in too deep
They watch TV and just sleep sleep sleep
Don’t want no poor people
Don’t want no poor people
Don’t want no poor people ’round here

2. Okay, that was stupid, but I got better stuff. The Millions has some worthwhile links about writings from American soldiers in Iraq. I’ve been paying attention to this type of contemporary writing lately, and I’m finding it very fruitful.

3. GalleyCat spills the news (is that even allowed?) that one of the authors selected for the upcoming Best American Short Stories of 2007 will be Dzanc Books author Roy Kesey, and that this edition will be guest-edited by the venerable Stephen King. I expect our Bard of Maine will provide a stimulating volume.

You may have noticed that I raved about Michael Chabon’s Best American Short Stories 2005 over a year ago, but have remained eerily silent about Ann Patchett’s 2006 edition. In fact, I had trouble finding a single story to go wild over in Patchett’s selection, despite the fact that some of my favorite authors (Ann Beattie, Donna Tartt, Alice Munro) were represented. I find it very surprising that there can be such a shift in quality from one year to the next (and, by the way, I don’t even like Michael Chabon’s novels). I’m not sure if it’s Ann Patchett’s fault or if 2006 just wasn’t my kind of vintage or what, but anyway this is why I haven’t written a follow up to the 2005 series post. In case you were wondering, and you probably weren’t.

4. Time book critic Lev Grossman is now running a blog, hosted at (and presumably owned by) Time, on geek culture. It’s called Nerd-World, and it looks pretty good so far.

5. Check it: T. S. Eliot remixed (via Ready Steady). Nicely done.

One Response

  1. HoboingI just read a piece in

    I just read a piece in Harper’s by William Vollman. In it, he describes hopping freights as a middle-aged man, with some flashbacks to early adventures. The freight hopping as an older man was interesting, but I felt the piece was uneven. Imagine the guys that do this not as a kick, but as a necessity. He had some quotes from hobos, but I felt it could have been more in-depth. Maybe that’s what is in the book.

    Kerouac has some of the best riffs on hitch-hiking, riding the rails, and the lonesomeness of the road, but another good book that touches on this subject is Bound for Glory by Woody Guthrie. In reading Guthrie’s book, you get a feel for not only what it’s like to ride, but also what it’s like to be poor. You should be able to get Bound for Glory at the library, or at a used-bookstore. And save 30 dollars.

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