Ladies and gentlemen, may I present Jonathan Ames, all a-podcast-y. In the first half of our conversation, Jonathan answers questions about his novel Wake Up, Sir!, his new book of essays I Love You More Than You Know and then tells a funny story about his non-familial relationship with George Plimpton.
He also plays some music. A little Smiths. A little Beatles. Want to know where I got the Beatles? There's more about that here.
The second half of the interview with Jonathan Ames will appear here streamophonically and I think as a podcast. I think tomorrow. Possibly the tomorrow after that.
In the 75 books challenge I am behind Megan and Ed and I'm sure many others who aren't displaying their fantastic progress. I have caught up to Kim, I think, and Cecil. Speaking of Cecil...
#6: The Queen of Cool by Cecil Castellucci In this young adult novel, Libby is one of the cool kids at school but she's bored, bored, bored with it all. She doesn't apply herself, her best friend is a superficial twit and she cares about her boyfriend as much as he cares about her (very little). So as she creates small tornados of chaos just to try to make something interesting happen, she winds up, you know, learning something unexpected. I read an early draft and I think the finished product is stripped down, in a good way, and tells its story powerfully. Cecil is a dear friend and I think she's rocking.
#7: I Love You More Than You Know by Jonathan Ames This was my first Jonathan Ames read and I think he's terrfically engaging and funny. When he talks about some edgier exploits (a tranny on the knee, say) he does it with little affect. I never felt like I was reading some tragic hipster saying "look at me! I'm so crazy!" -- I just felt like I was reading a good story. The stories, which were written over the last several years, have an increasing sweetness and melancholy. It's a fine book to take on a plane, except for the possible ball exposure on the cover.
#8: Wake Up, Sir! by Jonathan Ames Did I want to read a modernized Jeeves story? I'm not a Wodehouse purist, but I wasn't sure. And if you had told me it's a book about a hapless alcoholic writer, I probably would have declined. But that's because I can be very stupid. This is a great book, funny, with a slightly miserable protagonist who ends up being likeable despite himself. It's got slapstick that works (a rare feat), a roadtrip, late-night ponderings and even sex. And always the mysterious Jeeves. I'm one of those people who got to the end and thought ooh, will there be a sequel? Not that the story needed it; the characters totally hooked me, is all.
As this might indicate, Jonathan Ames has been interviewed and his podcast is coming toute suite. Looks like I'll have to buy The Extra Man for my Ames fiction fix, though. A Wake Up, Sir! sequel is not in the works (aw).
If you're wondering which of the 128 stories in the Million Writers Award semifinals are by Los Angeles authors, never fear. I've managed to go through the list and post on LAist.Here's the important part.
From LA to Austin and back again. En route, currently in Alamagordo, NM. I hate myself for saying this, but I wish they had a Starbucks -- those guys are giving away free coffee today nationwide from 10-noon. Click on the pic for lots o' photos.
You can stop at Eden, but then you'll never get to El Dorado.
More roadtrip updates when I have better wifi. I tend to take pictures of animals (who doesn't pull over for buffalo?) and think about how little I remember of the VS Naipaul books I've read. In other words, SXSW is behind me, and the vast lands of West Texas are ahead. There's no NPR out here, people. And the wifi is run by hamsters -- lucky for me, I downloaded the latest Bat Segundo at my last stop.
Here in Austin I sat down during the first panel yesterday on blogging and, remarkably, was right in front of the esteemed woman behind Booksquare. A real litblogger! Such a surprise, since the tech side of things at Interactive seems to beat out content. Which was definitely the case for this session, which substitued deathly dull panelizing for brainstorming.
Even more remarkably, the Association of Writing Programs annual conference overlapped with SXSWi -- in the same building here in Austin. So we ran down the hall to an AWP panel on blogging as salons that featured the man who is Beatrice, which was quite good. I sat behind Mr. Mumpsimus, that is, until I left for the book digitization panel.
Working hard? Or ADD?
I had no idea I would find such litblogger luminaries at the AWP, or that I'd be able to play hooky from SXSW for highbrow literary discussions. But now they're gone and it's time to focus on the interactive world's next big thing/s.
Here in Austin I attended a remarkable panel on book digitization. With Liz Lawley as moderator and folks from both Google Books and Microsoft's book project (plus one academic), the panel skipped over rights issues to talk about the rest of it: cost, urgency, scope. I started out with a neutral attitude toward Microsoft and ended up writing I HATE THIS WOMAN over and over in my notes. According to her, Microsoft entered the book digitization game to make the search better, because they need to make money and it's all about the bottom line. Funny, I thought Microsoft entered the game because Google got there first and Microsoft's business model is to drive competitors out of business (Netscape). On top of that, she whined about how EXPENSIVE book digitization is, at 10 center per page. Well, if it costs too much, step back and let Google have it.
But what really pissed me off was what she said in response to a smart question. Kevin Smokler noted that she had said there was incredible urgency in book digitization, but what was the hurry -- were people tapping their watches waiting for out-of-print 18th century romance novels to come on line? She answered:
Of course nobody's tapping their watches waiting for, say, Moby Dick or anything.
Surely. Because the Great American Novel wouldn't be something we'd want to access. It couldn't be useful for teachers or schools. Oh wait, it could! It wouldn't be useful for corporate tools, tho. What she thought would be much more important is, wait for it, "Finance For Dummies."