Author Archive

Three for the Fourth

Wednesday, July 4th, 2007

1) Turns out Independence isn’t just for dead white guys. Today is opening day for Flying: Flying_finalevite.jpgConfessions of a Free Woman, the personal-story stuffed six-hour documentary by Jennifer Fox. Flying explores Fox’s life and those of women around the world: prostitutes, activists, friends, and filmmakers. Need more encouragement? A story in the Times calls it “part personal memoir, feminist manifesto and diagnosis of the state of Global Woman” and the tough-critic semitics over at HEEB are hosting a screening on Friday.

2) faces.jpgSpeaking of dead, white, and women, few get more attention than young, pretty ones who get killed. Indignant essays asking why have become commonplace, but ABC News has done one better. A feature on their Law & Justice page tells the stories of nineteen people murdered the same day as cable news sweetheart Jessie Davis. They include a baby, a grandmother, an aspiring ballet dancer—and even a pregnant caucasian.

3) Since we all know the 4th is less about independence (or, um, murder) than about meatcake01.jpgcopious cow consumption, I direct you to the best thing on the internet: the Black Widow Bakery’s Meat Cake, and the resultant community meat cake photo gallery. God bless America!

Talk Is Cheap. What About Music?

Wednesday, June 27th, 2007

It seems like everywhere I look lately, a Friend o’ SMITH is launching an internet radio show. Bolgstein.jpgFelicia Sullivan covers books in her thoughtful and funny Writers Revealed; Romi Lassally and Rebecca Woolf address the underbelly of motherhood with a vengeance on True Mom Confessions.

Last night I got an email from Miles Beckett, the LonelyGirl15 genius I met at SXSW, about internet radio in trouble. It’s more about music than talk shows, and intellectual property issues are never easy, but it’s certainly worth checking out

Then you can enjoy netradio with Dr. Blogstein. His “radio happy hour” is a quirky take on news and culture with guests who are famous (sometimes) or weird (always) and usually plucked from interactive media. The newest show features Ryan Block from Engadget on how the iPhone will or won’t be the bestest-estest-estest invention in the history of the world. Me, I’m saving my camp-out-outside-the-store-overnight energy for
Harry Potter 7.

Girl Crush

Wednesday, June 13th, 2007

Today I got my very own copy ofchicklit.jpg Death by Chick Lit, the mystery-chicklit-satire hybrid everyone’s been a-buzzing about. It’s by Lynn Harris, who never fails to make me laugh with her popuLIST contributions about making out over Bar Mitzvah albums, crying over guacamole vessels, and achieving wispy-bang perfection for the eighth grade dance.

Read her HuffPo interview with Rachel Kramer Bussel if you want some personal stories behind the novel, or if you just value a well-mixed smart/silly cocktail as much as I do.

Dispatches from the big, big Book Expo

Thursday, June 7th, 2007

As most sentient (or at least LitBlog-reading) beings seem to know by now, last weekend was258024409_a4ed9d9b36.jpg Book Expo America. It was my first time at the annual publishing industry conference/tradeshow/extravaganza, although I was once sent to a similar event thrown by the American Library Association, which I thoroughly enjoyed. BEA was a bigger and a little slicker. There were fewer fanny packs, but also no private night at Universal Studios, so you could say it was a toss up.

In general, I was struck by two things. One, it was really, really corporate. I guess there’s no reason it shouldn’t be—it’s an industry trade show. But a tiny part of me wanted musty, dusty, charming, mahogany-paneled, latte-sipping, cigar-smoking, let’s-don-our-ascots-and-have-civilized-discourse-on-the-future-of-literature. Two, it was freaking hot in there. Shouldn’t the upside of corporate evil be impeccable heating and cooling systems?

All bitching aside, it was a great mix of big publishers and small and university presses, plus representation from kiddielit legends (There’s a sequel to Stargirl! E.L. Konigsburg is still alive!), comics, plays, art books, cooking, erotica, and a self-published ghetto in the basement.

Summer Night Storytelling

Friday, June 1st, 2007

When I met Dr. Brobson Lutz, doctor, A.D. character, and man-about-New-Orleans, he told me hedoctor.jpg knew everyone in town. I had a chance to test that assertion last night, when a NOLA-raised friend invited me to a cocktail party with her parents. Her father was full of wonderful stories, and as soon as I mentioned Dr. Lutz, he laughed out loud.

Then he recounted a story I hadn’t heard before, about Dr. Lutz at Galatoire’s. It seems he’d decided it would be hilarious to smuggle his pet turtles into the turtle soup, giving a little live soup-swimming surprise to anyone who ordered it. But after much drinking and lively conversation, no one was hungry enough for soup. The prank went forgotten, and the turtles went missing. Apparently Dr. Lutz went so far as to put an ad in the paper requesting the safe return of his lost pets. We also got to hear about Dr. Lutz’s uncanny ability to diagnose infectious diseases that stump other doctors and his pride in hosting the Playboy Girls of New Orleans.

All hearsay, of course, but there are few better ways to pass an evening than swapping stories of common acquaintances over wine and cheese in a ninety-degree fifth-floor walk up on the Lower East Side.

Our Orgasmic Moments, used, on a sidewalk $1 cart

Monday, May 28th, 2007


Some people share their stories by writing books and having them published. Other people do it by buying those people’s stories and passing them on. I’ve always liked finding old inscriptions in used bookstores; now that I work in one, each new taped-up file box is like Christmas morning. When I lend out a book, I write my name (so I’ll get it back) and the page number of my favorite passage (because I’m nerdy like that). Now some super-cool folks have created a place to revel in these public-private-mysterious messages from the past. The Book Inscriptions Project is a great Found-meets-Postsecret-meets-dusty-stacks destination, simple in design and pure in mission. Scan them. Send them. Read them. Write them. And imagine some curious bibliophile poring over them fifty years from now—on the shelf or on the internet.

The New Sunday Book Review

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2007

This week, writer/blogger/all-around-book-maven Felicia Sullivan launched Between the Sheets:Felicia.jpg Writers Revealed, a new book-themed talk show on Now Live radio. A girl after my own heart, Felicia chose memoirs for her first topic, and Maggie Nelson, Danielle Trussoni, and Janice Erlbaum have plenty to say. I especially enjoyed their focus on the story after the story’s been told—what happens when your nonfiction book faces its characters. There’s also some good discussion of how portraying yourself unflinchingly can soften the blows.

Leaving_Dirty_Jersey_cover.JPGAnd in the auto-erotic horn-tooting department, my other favorite memoir moment of the week comes from Memoirville. First-time writer and former meth addict James Salant, 23, explains how he avoids the post-Frey fear by distinguishing between honesty and truth-telling. It’s a level of subtlety and maturity that might surprise you, had you started reading the interview with the last question. Yowch!

Comic Books and Middle School go together like, well, Comic Books and Middle School

Monday, May 21st, 2007

We like comics. We like memoirs. We like comic memoirs. And we especially like comic Stuck.jpgmemoirs told in comics. On Friday night, a variety of fine folks who share these enthusiasms packed Brooklyn’s Rocketship for booze, meat on sticks, and readings from Stuck in the Middle: 17 Comics from an Unpleasant Age. Is there any personal storytelling more visceral than honest dispatches from junior high? This charming anthology covers summer camp, first periods, boyfriend-stealing, name-calling, and Doogie Howser, MD.
Before the party, I had the good fortune to share fluorescent cocktails with cartoonists Vanessa Davis, Trevor Alixopulos, and Aaron Renier, PW “The Beat” Comics blogger Heidi MacDonald, Heeb Magazine publisher Josh Neuman, and comics proselytizer (and SMITH and Heeb comics editor) Jeff Newelt. It was an insanely smart and talented crowd, even if conversation veered towards 90210, braces, and Judy Blume novels. Turns out our eighth-grade traumas are pretty funny now, so don’t forget to tell your stories—or draw them.

Toothpaste and Sex and Camus

Friday, May 11th, 2007

381275421_540cee9f1c_m.jpgIf you love true stories well told, I’m sure you have Fresh Yarn at the top of your bookmarks. Don’t forget to check this installment, where an essay by Susan Henderson (six-word memoir: “Mistakenly kills kitten. Fears anything delicate.”) will ring all kinds of bells. Compulsion to write? Check. Scraps of idea-scribbled paper? Yep. And fear of losing opportunities, and familial guilt, and toothpaste and sex and Camus.

Susan also runs the wonderful writing blog Lit Park, full of advice, inspiration, and community. She even asks a weekly question, something we know a thing or two about here at SMITH. Hey Susan: “The tiff between a MySpace user and the Obama campaign made us wonder—ever felt screwed by a social networking site?”

Magical pen>>Flickr>>Creative Commons>>jspad

From China with Love and Squalor

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

Elizabeth_eating_at_Gonpachi.JPGI guess editors shouldn’t play favorites with features any more than parents should with children. But who cares? I’m my momma’s favorite, and The World Tour Compatibility Test is mine.

An eleven-part Memoirville series, The WTCT is Elizabeth Koch’s chronicle of a journey across Asia, as well as some exotic emotional waters. As she and Todd tasted duck bills, climbed the Great Wall, got mauled by sacred deer, videotaped toilets, and bickered in strange Japanese pleasure pods, they tried to determine whether they were meant to be. The vibrant descriptions of culture-clash minutia (liquid candy bar, anyone?) kept me laughing while the cycles of love and resistance had me cringing in recognition. There’s also some blistering cruelty and some hot sex.

Last week was the final entry, a small masterpiece of tension and semi-resolution. The good news about that is newcomers can read them all at once, episodic but fluid, like a DVD box set of The West Wing or slipcased collection of Harry Potter novels (anyone who knows me knows I’ve just revealed my entire social life). The bad news is now we’ve all got to cool our jets and wait for the book.

Catch up on the World Tour Compatibility Test Here: Shanghai, Beijing, Tokyo, more Tokyo, two entries in Nara, two in Kyoto, and a return to Tokyo.

And if you’ve got a memoir-in-progress just ripe for serialization, let us know.

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