The Wow Effect

1. Welcome to Literary Kicks’s new look. This latest redesign (the previous version is above, just for old times sake) takes advantage of some cool Drupal capabilities — real-time tracking of popular and highly commented articles, a custom-built taxonomy-based “Explore Related” box on every article page — and also includes improvements I’ve been jonesing for like share boxes and a liquid layout (finally!) that takes advantage of the full browser page size. I also tweaked the design specs a bit (I’m using a custom variant of the Fervens theme), and created a new version of the Paul Verlaine logo (just for fun).

Website redesigns often trigger the “Wow Effect”, named after the word people say when a favorite website suddenly changes. This is often followed by the depressing realization that it’s the same old website with different colors and fonts. Personally, I like to avoid the whole “Wow Effect” ordeal by releasing changes gradually, and you may have noticed some of the changes leading up to this redesign going up in the past few weeks. I’m still far from done, and will also be experimenting with Semantic Web features as well as some custom database algorithms I’ve been dreaming up for the various “featured article” lists.

I’m also going to completely reinvent the Action Poetry pages, but that’ll take another month. Please bear with me as this proceeds, and please email me or post a comment if the pages do not display correctly on your browser or device — thanks.

2. J. D. Salinger. Hmm. By any rational calculation, I’d be very drawn to J. D. Salinger, a brainy New York Jew who emerged in the 1950s, became a superstar, became a Buddhist, and retreated from the world. I admire Franny and Zooey, Raise High the Roof Beam, Carpenters and most of the short stories, though I never understood the gigantic appeal of Catcher in the Rye. On the other hand, my two daughters both like the book very much, and Elizabeth even wrote about him for LitKicks when she was 15.

Still, his work never fully grabbed me. What I can’t relate to about J. D. Salinger is that joylessness, that dread of life. I can’t relate to that at all. His Buddhism is clearly very different from mine.

As far as classic writers from the 1950s and 1960s go, I’ll take the ecstatic Jack Kerouac over the morbid J. D. Salinger any day. Still, I salute an American original who certainly, if nothing else, stuck to his principles. I’ll pay some attention if unpublished manuscripts come out. Till then, the New Yorker has a nice tribute display of several of his short stories originally published in that magazine. The Onion, meanwhile, must have had this ready in advance.

3. Somebody went to an art museum and fell into a Picasso. And not one of those late period Picasso lithograph cartoons that you see all over the place — this was a serious Picasso, from the “Rose Period” just before Cubism. I always wanted to go to an art museum and do something like that.

4. Words Without Borders, which also has a new look, is highlighting Georges Perec.

5. Bookslut’s Michael Schaub on the new Patti Smith memoir, about her friendship with photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

6. Yay! The Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene, Brooklyn is doing monthly comedy readings. Great idea.

7. Sure, I got some Beat Generation links. The movie Howl is coming out soon. This is a big deal and I wish the filmmakers would let me see a preview already. Then: Ginsberg’s photographs, Gary Snyder communing with hardware, Jack Kerouac in Detroit, Ginger Eades‘s blog. Okay.

8. What the Los Angeles Lakers are reading. Nice to see 60s classics Edward Abbey and Eldridge Cleaver on this list!

9. Apple’s iPad includes a book reading device that will compete with Amazon’s Kindle (not to mention Barnes and Noble’s Nook). Chad Post adds some illumination.

10. Is somebody making money off of slush piles? Why shouldn’t they?

11. Okay, I had something cool planned for today’s redesign launch: an interview with Up In The Air novelist Walter Kirn. We talk about technology, careers, literature and how it feels to become a George Clooney movie. I decided to devote the day to Bananafish instead, so I’ll be presenting this exciting interview (really) on Monday. Friday is hiphop day again.

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What We're Up To ...

Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!