October 2008 Archives

two clips and a bit of DFW ephemera


I had a review of three books by Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez in last weekend’s New York Times Book Review! (I didn’t come up with the headline, but I approve of it.)

I also went to Iceland last week for the Iceland Airwaves festival, and wrote a bit about it for Spinner.

And, on my way back home to Portland (where I’ll be for the next week before I head off to San Francisco for APE), I dug up a little promotional pamphlet for W.W. Norton’s “Great Discoveries” series from 2003 that includes paragraphs by each of the series’ authors about their books. The one by David Foster Wallace (concerning “Everything and More”) has never otherwise been collected, to my knowledge—well, I assume it’s by him, or else it’s by someone doing a really good job of imitating his style (and note that the peculiar characters should just be pilcrows):

This is apparently a little promotional ¶ where we’re supposed to explain “how and why we came to” the subject of our GD series book (the stuff in quotations is the editor’s words). The overall idea is to humanize the series and make the books and their subjects seem warmer and more accessible. So that people will be more apt to buy the books. I’m pretty sure this is how it works. The obvious objection to such promotional ¶s is that, if the books are any good at all, then the writers’ interest and investment in their subjects will be so resoundingly obvious in the texts themselves that these little pseudo-intimate Why I Cared Enough About Transfinite Math and Where It Came From to Spend a Year Writing a Book About It blurblets are unnecessary; whereas, if the books aren’t any good, it’s hard to see how my telling somebody that as a child I used to cook up what amounted to simplistic versions of Zeno’s Dichotomy and ruminate on them until I literally made myself sick, or that I once almost flunked a basic calc course and have seethed with dislike for conventional higher-math education ever since, or that the ontology and grammar of abstractions have always struck me as one of the most breathtaking problems in human consciousness—how any such stuff will help. The logic of this objection seems airtight to me. In fact, the only way the objection doesn’t apply is if these ¶s are really nothing more than disguised ad copy, in which case I don’t see why anyone reading them should even necessarily believe that the books’ authors actually wrote them—I mean, maybe somebody in the ad-copy department wrote them and all we did was sort of sign off on them. There’d be a kind of twisted integrity about that, though—at least no one would be pretending to pretend.

the roundness of the square


I’m in the middle of one of the travel-intensive periods of the year—just got back from Montreal a few days ago (I wrote about Pop Montreal for Pitchfork), and I’m about to head off to Reykjavik for Iceland Airwaves—so when I am at home, I tend to cocoon, pretty much. Every so often, I can be spotted darting over to the grocery store for some Brussels sprouts, or heading to the comic book store for my weekly fix. But mostly I stay at home with my family and my deadlines. Oh, who’m I kidding? I stay at home obsessively reloading FiveThirtyEight.com.

Still, I’ll be appearing here in Portland on Saturday, November 8 at the Wordstock festival: at 1:00, I’m moderating a panel on “Comics and Politics” with Alison Bechdel, Spain Rodriguez and Patrick Rosenkranz, and at 4:30, I’m teaching a workshop called “Everyone’s a Critic.”

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my contributions to The Pitchfork 500, too!

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