February 2008 Archives

Larry McMurtry writes about the Battle of the Little Bighorn for The New York Review of Books:

No one should think that because 130 years have passed since the battle the passions between tribes and within tribes have abated. Much of Michael Elliott's book [Custerology: The Enduring Legacy of the Indian Wars and George Armstrong Custer] is devoted to explaining that people who might have been expected to calm down in that length of time in fact haven't calmed down at all. For example, as Elliott points out, all the native guides to the battlefield itself are now Crow.

Lame Deer, a Cheyenne community not very far from the battlefield, is filled with people who aren't guiding any Wasichus (whites) anywhere. The Cheyenne fought Custer, and were punished for it. Lame Deer and Hardin are towns that might as well be on opposite sides of the moon. Explaining how all this works out today is part of what Elliott's book is about. In 2003 the federal government dedicated the Little Bighorn Indian Memorial, an earthwork that leads to a stone wall with maps and a text. A slogan on the wall says: "The Indian Wars Are Not Over."

February 26, 2008 11:12 AM |

Dead body outline from murdercapers.com

The London Telegraph has published its list of the 50 crime writers you must read before you die.

Predictably, the list is sprinkled with European favorites unfamiliar to many U.S.-centric American readers. I certainly applaud the inclusion of the Scots author Denise Mina and the Dutchman Janwillem de Wetering (whose book on his stay in a Zen monastery, The Empty Mirror, is also superb). Both certainly should be better known over here. But how the editors could include those and not Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo, the creators of the terrific, pioneering Martin Beck series is a mystery. For one thing, without Beck, there'd be no Grijpstra and de Gier, de Wetering's cop duo. (Americans know the series best for The Laughing Policeman, made into a so-so 1973 film with Walter Matthau. The 1976 Swedish effort, Mannen pa taket (aka Man on the Roof), is a much better translation of Beck to the screen.)

And how anyone could overlook Martin Cruz Smith (all the Arkady Renko thrillers) or Richard Price (Clockers and his brilliant new Lush Life) is beyond me.

February 26, 2008 10:45 AM |

Quill pen from www.writerogers.comWhen the Quill Awards were announced in 2005, I wrote in The Dallas Morning News that they seemed relatively pointless. Of course, the Quills were given a high-minded purpose by Reed Business Information, the owner of Publishers Weekly and the creator of the Quills Literacy Foundation, which oversaw the awards. The Quills were intended to promote literacy in America and celebrate the best in publishing. They accomplished this by being, more or less, the book industry's late and ineffectual attempt to give authors some media splash by crashing the TV awards ceremony game. And the Quills' prize selections played out like the People's Choice Awards of books.

That's not a recommendation. Why? Because we already have a popularity contest for books -- they're called the bestseller lists. And as for the "Oscars" of books, take your pick: the Pulitzers, the American Book Awards, the National Book Awards, the National Book Critics Circle Awards, the Man Booker Prize, the Orange Prize, the various PEN Awards (Nabokov, Hemingway, Malamud) and so on and on.

So the Quills seemed perfectly unnecessary. Now they're dead. Reed has pulled the Quills.

For more on what prizes mean in publishing, follow the jump.

February 26, 2008 10:36 AM |

As previously mentioned, book/daddy has been away in LA at an integrated media conference (actual, overheard conversation between two LAX employees: "So how's it going?" "Ah, you know how it is. Just another day in Disneyland").

But he hasn't been completely idle, off sipping dirty martinis with fellow webhead wonders. His review of Yoko Ogawa's triple novella collection, The Diving Pool has run in the San Francisco Chronicle.

February 24, 2008 9:33 AM |

There's no way around it; the facts must be faced. The posting has been mighty thin on this site the past week or so. Courts of inquiry have been convened, research committees formed.

And the answer seems to be -- as strange as it seems -- that book/daddy has started a new, for-real, bank account-filling, full-time job. The shackles are back on; his time is not his own. He sends his regrets.

Just how serious this job actually is becomes plain once book/daddy explains that he's headed for LA tomorrow for several days on a business trip involving hotels and media conferences and ice in highball drinks. This means, alas, the website will continue to suffer from neglect. Flowers and condolences are currently being accepted. Charitable donations, too.

Meanwhile, the whole blogging deal is being re-worked, re-considered. Negotiations continue.

And more about the job will appear here -- anon.

February 19, 2008 3:50 PM |

The rant of a righteous printer. "Can you string your computer across a wall that says 'Happy Birthday' at a party?... Can you hand out computers explaining hepatitis at a hospital? Fuck no! Printing is alive and getting stronger!"

And no, "Steve Gutenberg did not invent the printing press."

February 13, 2008 3:12 PM |

Heed the plea.

February 8, 2008 11:19 AM |

Dipping into Jasper Ridley's biography of Henry VIII because of the Showtime series, The Tudors (see below), I came across this inspiring passage in a section about Henry's education:

The ordinary English gentleman did not approve of books. "By the body of God," said one of them to the humanist scholar, Richard Pace, in 1515, "I would sooner see my son hanged than be a bookworm. It is a gentleman's calling to be able to blow the horn, to hunt and hawk. He should leave learning to the clodchoppers."

Before we congratulate ourselves on our modern literacy, the passage actually reminded me of my first encounter 25 years ago with a date's father in Houston. We stood in his handsomely appointed study, and he asked me his surefire conversation-starter with any fellow: "So -- what's your sport?" I had trouble coming up with an answer (did he mean following one or playing one? To be honest, either way, I didn't have any good responses). As a way of deflecting this embarrasment with a bit of a joke, I countered with, "Well, have you read any good books lately?"

It was his turn to look flummoxed. I couldn't think of a team; he couldn't think of an author.

February 6, 2008 8:08 PM |
February 6, 2008 10:40 AM |


On the recently released DVD version of the first season of Showtime's historical drama, The Tudors, there's a special feature about the sumptuous costume design -- easily the most distinctive aspect of this gorgeous-looking series. On camera, designer Joan Bergin says the period costumes were consciously "updated" to suit more modern, more Hollywood tastes (in fact, one outfit was drawn directly from an Erroll Flynn costume).

It's good to keep this "updating" in mind when watching the series (the second season begins March 30). It helps explain why Jonathan Rhys Meyers, who plays Henry VIII, doesn't look a whit like Henry. This isn't (just) some know-it-all, historical quibble: Henry Tudor was a giant, a good head taller than everyone else at court. He physically dominated his contemporaries; foreign ambassadors sent back reports in awe of him. This helps explain some of his bullying, petulant character -- he was used to getting what he wanted (yet also, like many ruthless tyrants, deeply insecure about his power). It's not simply because he was king. His older brother Arthur was destined to be king; his death thrust the role on Henry when he was only 17.

In contrast to all this, Meyers is distinctly shorter than many of the other male actors. But it's also clear that The Tudors is keen on getting around the image of the unattractive side of beef with the piggy eyes that Henry became in later years, the image that still resides in our heads when we think of him. That's why the muscular Meyers is here (often bare-chested) and why he (and almost everyone else) is clean-shaven (except briefly) even though the stylin' Henry brought facial hair back into fashion. It's that lean, modern, updated look we TV viewers want. Meyers is Henry as Buff Young Frat Boy, the Irresponsible Stud who Must Learn Painful Lessons about Life (but often refuses to).

February 3, 2008 10:45 PM |


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