A lot has happened since I last posted about what’s happening on the internet. Before we get into that, though, I must mention this Saturday’s Bookswap, co-hosted by Vroman’s and Goodreads. What is a bookswap, you ask? It’s an opportunity to bring in a book you read (or several books you read) and pick up something new to read (that’s new to you; someone else will have already owned it). We’re going to have tables set up all around the outside of the store, separated into categories — fiction, non-fiction, biography, etc. Simply put your books out on the table and take what looks interesting to you. It’s also a good chance to meet some interesting fellow readers and find out what books they love. You might even find love. Books can be an aphrodisiac, and when people get to swapping em…ooh boy. And if love doesn’t do it for you, how about a hot dog or a tasty sausage? Let’s Be Frank will be on hand selling their gourmet, grass-fed dogs and sausages. Now doesn’t that sound better than that craft fair you were thinking about going to?
On to the news:
- Keith Gessen and Tom Scocca got into it over Mark Greif’s most recent essay in n+1. The essay concerns gay marriage and abortion, and it is now online, so you can read it for yourself. Scocca wrote a snarky critique of the piece, part of a series of snarky critiques he’s written (previous targets include the New Yorker, for its decision to run a Dave Eggers piece with promotional stills from the upcoming Where the Wild Things Are movie (if you haven’t already read Scocca’s take on it, you ought to)), and Gessen took issue with it. And it took off from there. I haven’t read the Greif piece yet, though I’ve read much of the rest of the current n+1 (highly recommend Marco Roth’s take on “the neuronovel”). I think what’s happening here is that you have a magazine in n+1 that aims to be very serious about things. It really doesn’t have much of a sense of humor (which isn’t to say that the people who write for it aren’t sometimes funny). And then on the other side you have The Awl, which seems, at times, to not want to admit to being very smart (even though they are). And I think Gessen rightfully called them on that, though maybe not in the best way possible. The Awl does an interesting balancing act that not a lot of sites can pull off. It runs great, fairly serious pieces like these alongside a running stream of fluffy comedy posts. Both have a lot of value, though, as l’affaire Greif shows, the humorous stuff can have a devaluing effect on the serious work. In this case, they had real objections to a controversial essay, but when they expressed them, they took extra pains to attack the magazine for being pretentious, somewhat diluting their argument, at least in my opinion. What do you think? (And please refrain from “ZOMG! Keith Gessen is pretentious! LOOK WHAT HE NAMED HIS NOVEL!!1!1. Did you read said novel? If not, what are you doing talking about it? If so, what did you think of it? I particularly enjoyed the opening. Probably one of my favorite first chapters, though I felt the book didn’t maintain that kind of brilliant prose throughout. Still, a book I enjoyed.) [Edit: Nerdshares sums it all up. Please read her excellent and measured comments on this whole mess.]
- At the Huffington Post, whose book page, busy though it may be, continues to churn out interesting essays, David Finkle writes about vook and other hybrid book-video products. In short, he’s not that into them. I think there are going to be creations like these book-video things and that eventually, but I think we’ll know we’ve found something great when we’re no longer calling them books or referencing what we think of as a book in any way. Right now, we’re still in that chocolate and peanut butter phase: “Two great tastes that taste great together!” Except they don’t always taste so great together, so I guess it’s more like chocolate and sardines.
- Much ado about Jonathan Lethem’s new novel Chronic City. At The Second Pass, John Williams is torn as to whether or not to read the book, in part because of the scathing review Michiko Kakutani gave the book in the New York Times. But as Garth Risk Halberg points out, that review might be a touch disingenuous to begin with. So there’s that. I haven’t had a chance to read it yet, but I have to give Lethem and the folks at Random House credit for coming up with a cool tour idea. Lethem and others will read every word of his new book at different locations around New York City, including his home turf bookstore of Book Court as well as indie McNally Jackson.
- For a little levity, do check out this AV Club interview with Jeff Tweedy, in which he reacts to various things that have been said about him on the Internet. Topics covered: Tweedy’s hair, his shoes, his status as a “musical genius,” and whether he is, in fact, pretentious. I think I’d like to do the same thing, but with Keith Gessen. (via Largehearted Boy)