Voices, World and Otherwise

1. The PEN World Voices Festival begins a week from today, and I’ll be covering the various events with a gang of bloggers including Bud Parr of Chekhov’s Mistress, James Marcus of House of Mirth, Michelle Lin of NY Brain Terrain, and Michael Orthofer of the Literary Saloon. I couldn’t approve more of the basic concept behind this international-minded festival. Whether or not I will approve of any of the actual events that I attend remains to be seen, but I feel optimistic.

2. Bud Parr (who runs Metaxu Cafe along with Chekhov’s Mistress) is the mastermind behind the PEN World Voices blogging posse mentioned above. He also wrote a great piece about the new Bukowski movie, Born Into This.

3. I was sorry to read (via Bookslut) that novelist Charles Webb has fallen on hard times. Webb hit it big in the 1960’s as the author of The Graduate, and even though the novel is eclipsed by the nearly perfect movie with its nearly perfect Simon and Garfunkel soundtrack, the book offers its own rewards. The stubborn and inarticulate lead character provides the template for Dustin Hoffman’s entire persona as an actor, for one thing (The Graduate was Hoffman’s first major movie, and as far as I can tell he’s been playing Webb’s Benjamin Braddock ever since).

Charles Webb once had a thriving career in literary fiction, and when I was a kid my local library stocked all his books. I especially remember two of them: Love, Roger, a sweet fable about a shy guy who can’t come to terms with his own sexuality, and Orphans and Other Children, a book of short stories that includes a memorably ambivalent tableau set in a nudist colony. Another Webb novel, Marriage of a Young Stockbroker, was made into an unremarkable movie starring Richard Benjamin. All of these books are now out of print. Charles Webb was more than a one-hit wonder, and I hope his fortunes improve.

4. There’s a nice interview with Anne Tyler in the latest Fail Better.

5. Nasdijj isn’t going to go down quietly like Charles Webb. He hasn’t put up a new website since his ordeal earlier this year, but I’m still on his email list, and I’m glad to see he’s doing the only thing you really can do after Time Magazine calls you a liar –come clean and move on. Here’s the latest missive from the writer currently sometimes known as Tim Barrus, who still writes with the humor valve shut off but the intensity turned up to twelve (because eleven’s not enough):

Being Nasdijj was like being alone and shining in an empty room where some animal is killing itself slowly in a screaming struggle of dark set against the darkness of a hatred made visible as it crushed upon itself.

As for Tim, he returns to the world of sex work where his writing came from anyway. A landscape where the romance of bondage is not confined to the political correctness or mythologized literary persona of the reservation.

The lights came on and I walked out onto the stage. I plunged a knife into his chest again and again. Nasdijj gasped and died. But Tim is left to be guillotined like Charlotte Corday who once demanded with her note to Jean-Paul Marat that her protest be acknowledged in her objection to the blood that ran like a river through her dreams.

2 Responses

  1. PENI’m excited (and a little

    I’m excited (and a little nervous) about covering the PEN festival. Look forward to meeting you and the others!

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