1. BookExpo America is the big story in the publishing community this week, and I’m really sorry I’m not there to attend the Litblog Co-op party or watch Ed Champion heckle Sam Tanenhaus. However, Jeff “Syntax” Bryant was visiting New York for the first time this week, and Jeff and I met up to have our very own little BookExpo, consisting of two guys, some good conversation, and lots of talk about baseball. So there. We even got somebody to take a picture so we can be cool like our friends down in Washington DC.
2. Jeff and I also wandered over to the YMCA on 63rd Street where Bob Rosenthal, Jason Shinder, Eliot Katz, Vivan Gornick and Kurt Brown staged a reading from Jason Shinder’s Howl: The Poem That Changed America. Every reader was inspiring, but the bit I’ll remember best is when Bob Rosenthal pointed out that the title of the poem Howl is often misunderstood to refer to a howl of pain, when actually a howl is used by dogs or wolves to communicate any number of sentiments. Rosenthal played a recording of actual wolf howls and asked us to note the fact that when one wolf howls others join in — more than anything else, a wolf’s howl is a call for community. All of which proves that, despite what anyone might think, it is still possible to come up with something new and interesting to say about Allen Ginsberg’s much-discussed poem.
3. You may have heard that Beloved by Toni Morrison was named the best book of the last 25 years by a panel led by Sam Tanenhaus. My natural inclination when I heard this was to begin complaining, but then it occurred to me that I’ve never read Beloved (though I have read Morrison’s Tar Baby), which renders any complaint of mine rather ill-informed. I am now about 50 pages into the book and it’s better than I thought it would be (and better than Tar Baby too). I must be getting more open-minded as I grow older … the old me would have complained first and read the book later. I still think the Times Top 25 list is a creaky mess, though.
4. Want to hear the wolves howl while you work on your own fiction or poetry? Here’s a writing workshop in Idaho you might enjoy.