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Lisa Peet
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Let it never be said we ring in the new halfheartedly. It's been a terrific 3½ months for us, and I want to thank everyone for coming around, reading, commenting, contributing, and being part of the neighborhood. And now, to celebrate the new year and a whole new set of digits, we're moving to new digs. We've been big fans of Open Letters Monthly for a couple of years now, since long before Like Fire was a gleam in anyone's eye. Their reviews are consistently smart, engaging, energetic, and iconoclastic; folks there are well-read and always worth reading. So we're... Continue reading
Posted Dec 31, 2009 at Like Fire
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If, perhaps, you are up against some end-of-year deadline, whether actual or self-imposed, and are feeling vaguely frayed around the edges trying to get everything socked away before Thursday night, then perhaps you might need a gentle place to rest your eyes and mind for minutes at a time. In which case, I suggest spending a little downtime at Curious Expeditions' Librophiliac Love Letter: A Compendium of Beautiful Libraries. I see photo collections of striking libraries and bookstores posted in various places throughout the year. This one's a standout, though—not just because it's sprawling enough to truly get lost in,... Continue reading
Posted Dec 29, 2009 at Like Fire
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Changing your mind is how you know it's open, right? So this year I've decided that, after many seasons of sniffy pronouncements to the contrary, I DO in fact like all those year-end best book lists. I like them very much indeed. With qualifications, of course. But still. The old argument as to whether book blogs will eventually replace paper review sections looks like it will be up in the air for a while yet. But there are places where the bloggers have won hands down already, and this is one of them. Here is an instance where the lines... Continue reading
Posted Dec 28, 2009 at Like Fire
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Anne Ursu has two adult novels to her credit—the award-winning Spilling Clarence, and The Disapparation of James—and a young adult trilogy, the Cronus Chronicles, which is based upon Greek myths. Her latest book, and the concluding title in the series, is The Immortal Fire. (You can read an excerpt here.) I’m quite curious about what she’s going to be up to next, but for the moment, a peek into her office will have to suffice. What does your desk—the bare desk itself—look like, and how did you acquire it? It's a big white desk we got from a catalog. For... Continue reading
Posted Dec 27, 2009 at Like Fire
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Welcome back, Like Fire readers, from what I hope was a restful and/or pleasant (or if neither of those, mercifully brief) holiday hiatus. I'm assuming a lot of books, gift certificates, and eReaders changed hands, and hoping that none of your stories are quite as bad as the ones Gina Barreca shares in her Chronicle of Higher Ed piece on books as gifts: LLK told me about getting The Belly Book: A Nine Month Journal for You and Your Growing Belly from a "Secret Santa" coworker who assumed LLK was pregnant. LLK wasn't pregnant; she had simply stopped exercising. She... Continue reading
Posted Dec 26, 2009 at Like Fire
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Today is the birthday of poet Kenneth Rexroth, born in 1905 in South Bend, Indiana. He was a lifelong activist, naturalist, translator of Japanese and Chinese poetry, critic, and iconoclast. He refused to be labeled a Beat poet. And he wrote some of the sexiest love poetry around—discovering him in high school set the bar high for a certain type of literary passion I aspired to, and on looking back I very much appreciate that. From warmer climes than New York City on an icy morning: When We With Sappho “. . . about the cool water the wind sounds... Continue reading
Posted Dec 22, 2009 at Like Fire
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Out of all the ways people are succumbing to big decade pronouncements this month, the ones that interest me most aren't the Best Of or Worst Of recaps but the prognostications. I always like to hear what people think is going to happen to me... hey, I've been waiting for that jet pack since third grade. And out of all matters hanging in the balance right now—climate change, health insurance—the publishing industry is close to home, wide open, and not as scary as a lot of the others. The National Book Critics Circle is launching a series of guest posts... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2009 at Like Fire
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Last summer over at The Second Pass, John Williams' Fired From the Canon list jump-started a spirited conversation. Now with The 2110 Club he's invited contributors to add to the canon, picking books that might not have made a big splash the first time around but that deserve to be read 100 years from now. I'm privileged to be part of the project, putting in my vote for William Boyd's Any Human Heart, and I'm in some very good company. Do go check it out. Continue reading
Posted Dec 17, 2009 at Like Fire
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Today at work I was looking for images of people reading, and while trolling Wikimedia Commons I was struck by how many paintings showed women relating in a sensual or almost sexual way to books. I bookmarked the search, thinking maybe someday it would be relevant to some blog business or other. And then this evening, six hours later, I came upon this very elegant piece from Book Patrol on Winslow Homer and the Women of "The New Novel." "The New Novel" captures the moment and encapsulates its cultural context. This is a young woman languidly lying down on her... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2009 at Like Fire
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A good literary hoax is only worth the thickness of the wool pulled over the readers' eyes. The more counts we're fooled on, the juicier the trick, and the inverse holds as well. Witness the Modernism/Modernity review of David Foster Wallace's Oblivion, written by one Jay Murray Siskind: The fact that he didn't exist, and was in fact a character from Don DeLillo's White Noise, wasn't discovered for a good five years. On the other hand, cross enough lines—gender, class, race, age, and intent make for a good combination—and throw in an actor, and you've got something to talk about.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 15, 2009 at Like Fire
Lola and Jazzlyn, 50 paces with stiletto heels, at dawn. Ouch!
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I'm not generally big on end-of-year Best Of lists. Most of them are on the predictable side, although there are a few standouts—the B&N Review has some well-thought out categories; The Millions' Year in Reading series, with guest writers talking about the books that moved them in 2009, is personal and interesting; and I liked Conversational Reading's list in general. But what I really want? Is a list with balls. It's OK to overlap with any number of other people—once you stop picking obscure work just for the sake of being the first person to tout it, there's a finite... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2009 at Like Fire
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He did not know what it was because he had never heard it before and he would never be expected to hear such again since it is not given to every man to hear such at all and to none to hear it more than once in his life. And he was not alarmed now either because there was not time, for although the visibility ahead, for all its clarity, did not extend very far, yet in the next instant to the hearing he was also seeing something such as he had never seen before. This was that the sharp... Continue reading
Posted Dec 10, 2009 at Like Fire
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Now that the weather is really starting to bite—at least here on the east coast—we're looking at the dismaying prospect of lunch hours spent indoors. Those nice head-clearing walks are only beneficial when you don't come back with wet socks. There are ways to make it less depressing, but you have to be firm: Close every window on your computer that has anything to do with work, including email. If your lunch is supposed to be warm, make sure it's warm; room temperature is not OK for soup or mac and cheese. Drink one tall glass of water. And make... Continue reading
Posted Dec 9, 2009 at Like Fire
Aha. That's interesting, thanks -- one of those things I figured there was a reason for but never really thought out.
Toggle Commented Dec 9, 2009 on Mark Twain on YouTube at Like Fire
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Much in the way that primitive civilizations have words for the numbers "one" through "five" and then go straight to "many," my temporal perception jumps from "a long time from now" to "2-1/2 weeks." Which is, all of a sudden, how long we have until Christmas. Once again it's time to start the dance with everyone who might be on my mutual gift list: Are they going to take my request seriously that we skip presents and instead just have a good meal out, or are gifts going to abruptly turn up anyway? Will they humor me, or do I... Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2009 at Like Fire
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By T. Myers Strata is a new column in which I’ll be asking writers to dig through the archaeological layers of stuff in their offices and reveal what they find. The inimitable and gracious Faith Sullivan agreed to speak with me for this premiere column. Faith Sullivan has written a series of novels set in the fictional town of Harvester, Minnesota. The Cape Ann, originally published in 1988, is the first book in the series—and it’s still in print. Faith is the sort of master storyteller who hooks you when you least expect it. You might think you know where... Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2009 at Like Fire
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Bless those who do the work of digitization. It's exacting and unexciting, with lots of room for error, but the degree to which the rest of us benefit is incalculable. I'm not going to get into the politics of Google's Digital Book Project here, although Robert Darnton does a good job with it on this week's Review of Books. I'm thinking, for instance, of the half-ton of scanning equipment and technicians flown from Southern California to Zurich when Carl Jung's family finally busted out his Red Book. Just the fact that now anyone with a decent internet connection can look... Continue reading
Posted Dec 7, 2009 at Like Fire
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There are a few holiday traditions that I'll always be a sucker for, most of them kind of stodgy: Handel's Messiah, productions of The Nutcracker with little kids, James Brown's Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto, and Advent calendars—the ones with chocolate are nice, but any kind, really. I'm not picky. Just the act of opening one of those little doors every day of December is ridiculously fun. The Advent Book Blog is a collaboration between Sean Cranbury of Books on the Radio and the Book Madam's Julie Wilson. Every day through Christmas, they're providing what they call Digital... Continue reading
Posted Dec 4, 2009 at Like Fire
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Electric Literature's Twitter fiction grand experiment, Rick Moody's "Some Contemporary Characters," wrapped Wednesday evening. As a whole, I think it fell a bit flat. I've mostly heard complaints about the method of delivery, wherein willing Twitter followers were recruited to post the story's 153 tweets simultaneously. But because the sort of early adopter who would be on Electric Literature's mailing list and interested in taking part in such a thing tended to fall within a general demographic, what emerged was a lot of noise—the same tweet broadcast over and over in the same circle of followers. I don't check Twitter... Continue reading
Posted Dec 3, 2009 at Like Fire
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The good thing about Playboy Magazine was that even if you were a girl—and especially if you were a girl growing up in the third quarter of the 20th century—it became part of your cultural consciousness in a relatively nonthreatening way. Beyond any kind of postfeminist analysis, there was just something very... de-fanging about it. The bland well-scrubbed women with their round girlie handwriting, the just-racy-enough cartoons, the interviews and fiction that were almost always cool, and that great equalizer, the Playboy Advisor! By way of which we all learned that men were just as clueless on their end as... Continue reading
Posted Dec 1, 2009 at Like Fire
I've become so accustomed to seeing Mark Twain being done by actors, mostly Hal Holbrook, that it's somewhat strange to see the man himself caught on film—who is that walking like Charlie Chaplin? But it is indeed him, strutting around his Connecticut home and taking tea with his daughters Clara and Jean, a hundred years ago. A hundred years. And now here he is on YouTube, on the occasion of the 174th anniversary of his birth. And, in honor of the fact that the dapper figure composed of bits and bytes is really truly him, in a manner of speaking,... Continue reading
Posted Nov 30, 2009 at Like Fire
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Twitter's staccato bursts always give the impression of being spontaneous, no matter how well plotted-out or scheduled in advance. It's their brevity, coupled with a lack of adjectives, I guess, along with the impluse-friendly format. Dan Baum's tweeting the story of his New Yorker hiring and firing over a few days last May felt a bit like guerilla journalism, even if was crafted down to the last ampersand. But tomorrow morning Rick Moody will begin tweeting a short story, "Some Contemporary Characters." Brought to you by the always innovative guys at Electric Literature, this is not flash fiction, or a... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2009 at Like Fire
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Ah, the letdown. The tail end of November is upon us; the fun holiday is over and the next one is in our faces full-blast. I'm neither religious nor much of a consumer, so Christmas/Hanukah/Kwanzaa doesn't do much for me personally. But I realize that faithful Like Fire readers might be primed to spend some money over the next few weeks, and I'll try to point out some interesting items accordingly. The Emerging Writers Network's Holiday Shopping Guide is very worth bookmarking. They have an ongoing series of guests suggesting bookish gifts for friends and family, and so far they're... Continue reading
Posted Nov 29, 2009 at Like Fire
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Whether in addition to or instead of saying Grace, you can't go wrong with a good poem at the Thanksgiving table. It's one of those few occasions when declaiming isn't totally inappropriate, so go for it! Wendell Berry or Mary Oliver would not be out of place, and the Poetry Foundation has been kind enough put together a fine Thanksgiving poem collection for any table you might be declaiming at. May you all have good ones wherever you go, and pie if you want it, dear readers. Then thanks for thy present! none sweeter or better E'er smoked from an... Continue reading
Posted Nov 25, 2009 at Like Fire