Monthly Archives: June 2010

an author in need…

Via Neil Himself (@neilhimself), an author can use some assistance. You could get a free book out of it too.

weird twitter projects and vuvuzelas

Of the numerous weird yet useful yet interesting things I’ve been exploring on Twitter is the potential for collaborative projects/thinking.  Especially in the realm of libraries/books, there seems to be ample innovation for imaginative brainstorming.  Here are two projects that I’ve come across.

Jeff VanderMeer (@jeffvandermeer), extraordinary author of le nouveau weird, has come up with an interesting project based on the World Cup.  His World Cup of Fiction is a chance to display your hysteria for the tournament by reviewing works from those countries that are participating.  So far I’ve chosen Brasil’s Rubem Fonseca and his work The Taker and Other Stories, which certainly made an impression.  Hopefully I’ll make another submission soon enough.  At any rate, it’s a good way to generate more interest in what we consider ‘the foreign’ and reading in general.

Another interesting project is Lee Barnett’s Fast Fiction Challenge.  Budgie (@budgie) asks his troupe of followers for a title, consisting of a maximum of four words, and if he’s keen on your idea he’ll compose a 200 word virtual scribble of literary frenzy. Anything to keep the creative juices flowing.  See, it’s not just a virtual vuvuzela, though there are sites for that.


I’ve finally been sucked into the supermassive vortex of Twitter.  I suppose it was inevitable, but I’ve actually become intrigued by its potential, rather than simply skeptical and fearsome of the thing.  There’s a bit of a learning curve in terms of familiarizing oneself with what replies actually are, retweets, hash tags and the like, but it is an enchanting RSS type of device.

One reason I see for its popularity is how personal it can make the user feel.  Receiving updates to your device directly from types like Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself), Brent Spiner (@BrentSpiner) or Stephen Fry (@stephenfry) or whomever else you follow is beyond cool, almost as if the messages were sent with you in mind (which often can be).

Downsides can include the uberspam if you follow too many users and the certain time suck if you continually carry and monitor your device.  The main realization I’m getting is that it’s useful if you have specific people you’d like follow, but takes more effort to build a following with a consistent stream of updates.

ghostwriting is transparent

Came across a disconcerting tweet about the rise and acceptance of ghostwriting.  Makes me wonder whether it’s a product of sheer laziness and the digital age we live in:

It is possible to argue with that sentiment, but there’s no denying its broad appeal and growing acceptance.  In such a fluid climate – and in a culture that’s pie-eyed drunk on celebrity in its glitziest and tawdriest forms – it’s not surprising that ghostwriting has won acceptance as just one of many legitimate ways to produce books.  Including novels.  Brand-name author James Patterson has a stable of writers helping him churn out his best-selling thrillers.  The rapper 50 Cent, who must be a very busy man, pays someone to ghostwrite his 140-character tweets for Twitter.  A reading public inured to fabricated journalism, fake memoirs and bald acts of plagiarism barely shrugged when word got out that Ted Kennedy had quietly worked with a ghostwriter whose name did not appear on the cover of his posthumous memoir, True Compass.  The publisher insisted that the late senator was deeply involved in the writing.  Such is not always the case.  Some subjects’ brazen lack of involvement in their own books has become the source of loopy publishing lore.  When Ronald Reagan’s memoir, An American Life, appeared, the Gipper gave high praise to his ghostwriter, Robert Lindsey.  “I hear it’s a terrific book,” Reagan said.  “One of these days I’m going to read it myself.”  Long gone are the days when the likes of Ulysses S. Grant, Charles de Gaulle and John F. Kennedy shouted down any suggestion that they’d relied on ghostwriters to help them produce their memoirs.  Such authorial integrity now seems so 19th- and 20th-century, so quaintly pre-digital.

(emphasis from article)

I understand that there are those among us who are both wildly popular and need assistance in all areas of their selof-important lives, but I’m not sure what makes me want to virtually vomit more, the cult of celebrity morons in this country or the publishing industry that caters to them and with a shit-eating grin markets to equally moronic readers, likely to spend money on books they’ll never read.

skimmers and scanners

Sayeth David Carr:

What changes our brains is, on the one hand, repetition and, on the other hand, neglect. That’s why I believe the Net is having such far-reaching intellectual consequences. When we’re online, we tend to perform the same physical and mental actions over and over again, at a high rate of speed and in a state of perpetual distractedness. The more we go through those motions, the more we train ourselves to be skimmers and scanners and surfers. But the Net provides no opportunity or encouragement for more placid, attentive thought. What we’re losing, through neglect, is our capacity for contemplation, introspection, reflection — all those ways of thinking that require attentiveness and deep concentration.

Granted, graduate students of all types are often forced into being “skimmers and scanners” but they are graduate students…research is central their raison d’etre, whereas for undergrads…not so much. And while certain sites do encourage attentive thought, I suspect that the groupthink will outweigh the introspection and contemplation for  which Carr longs.  Hence people will be seeking out their suppositions, rather than actually slog through the process of learning. The Internet magnifies the potential for dumb aggregation of information, not the coherent synthesis of it.

review – a confederacy of dunces

I suppose it is no coincidence that as I decide to read John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces that the horrendous Louisiana oil gush would erupt in the Gulf of Mexico.  Both are perfect indictments of the incompetence performed by those around us who would have us believe that they should be in charge and know what they are doing. Like the wreckage of the oil gush, this work by John Kennedy Toole is an ingenious novel that illustrates the incompetence and corruption that will ceaselessly flow when initiated from a broken valve.

Toole’s work is a masterpiece of language and satire, centering, or perhaps orbiting around Ignatius J. Reilly, one of the more interestingly conceived characters I’ve ever read. A semi-educated giant of a slob in every sense imaginable and with no redeeming qualities, Ignatius waddles throughout the work, influencing typically for the worse anyone and everyone coming within his obese sphere of decay with his unfocused intellect. Unable to relate to anyone in New Orleans or society in general, Ignatius latently creates an intricate path of destruction in his avoidance of any type of employment while plotting social revolution on various fronts. That is, only after finding change for the movie theater. Ignatius is a contradiction of sloth and intellect, using his education to further his avoidance of reality. Whether forced to file the most menial of papers or selling hot dogs on the street, Ignatius would rather stage a worker revolt to have an afternoon off at the movies. Eerily similar in character to W.C. Fields, he is a bumbling spark that ignites the lesser incompetence and avarice all around him.

A Confederacy of Dunces is a work of slapstick in dialogue, where the patois of the New Orleans cops, office workers, exotic dancers, hot dog vendors and “vagrants” found throughout the city clashes with that of the “learned”.  Where whispers of lurking perverts or “comuniss” can get one arrested, the novel is a commentary on irrelevant intellectualism versus the reality of class struggle in the American South. As hilarious as the work is, it is a brilliant yet skewering glimpse at the plight of the so-called educated in everyday life, where people manipulate others into obeisance, even if they themselves don’t know to what end.