Friday, July 15, 2005

The Smug Post

Back around the time Kelly Link's new collection Magic for Beginners was announced, I was flush with financial aid and went a little nutty. (The actual word that someone used was "nutter.") I ordered the pretty autographed (by Kelly and by artist Shelley Jackson) limited edition of the collection, with the interior cover plate and the fancy paper and a ribbon for marking your page and a deck of cards with illustrations from the book. Yeah, maybe I was SWI a little bit. (That's shopping while intoxicated, something which the Internet has made a little too easy.) But I have no buyer's remorse.

It arrived yesterday. It's so damned pretty. Now I am not, it must be said, a person who collects books in the sense of going out of my way to invest in first printings, or seeking out autographs in order to increase the book's value, or any of that. Generally I'm as happy with a battered and used paperback copy with a few notes scribbled in the margins as I am with a clean white hardcover. The quality of the writing is what matters, right? But this, I wanted, because it's Kelly, and the book is gorgeous, and it's autographed. When I ask for an autograph, it's my lame-ass way of saying, "I think you are an incredible writer, and I wish to abase myself before you in the hopes that you will trouble to inscribe your name in this gift which you have given me." (Or something like that.) I can think of only a few books in my collection that are autographed, and most of them are Karen Joy Fowler books. They're in pretty good shape, but no less treasured is my copy of Terry Bisson's Bears Discover Fire, which I had signed at the 1996 ReaderCon when I and two of my Odyssey classmates Barnaby and Carl drove down to the convention from Manchester and I saw Terry Bisson in the men's room and thought that's Terry Bisson and I left the men's room before him and waited patiently for him to emerge before ambushing him and nervously asking him please to sign my copy of his collection which I loved and then when we were going to dinner it was raining hurricane leftovers and I didn't have a bag so I asked Carl to tuck the book in his jacket so it wouldn't get wet when we ran to the car but it fell out of Carl's jacket and the front cover got all wrinkled and it's a little beat up but you can still read where Terry wrote "Hope you enjoy the animals" and I love it.


My copy of Magic for Beginners will not be rained upon. It will be read, very carefully, at home, and any beverages consumed while reading will be kept carefully segregated from the nice pages. Ooh, and I can't wait to read it. I've read, I think, five of the stories already, but I will read them all again, because they are that good.

I suspect that most of the folks who read this blog already know how good Kelly is, but there are always a few. But you don't have to spend (cough) dollars to find out. You don't actually have to spend anything, because Kelly's first collection, Stranger Things Happen, is available free for download under a Creative Commons license here. The first one's free, as they say.

In all seriousness, you need to read this collection if you haven't yet. You don't need to install anything or sign anything or give anyone your email address. Just get it, and read it. I'm sure that once you do, you'll want a fancy limited edition of your very own.

You can't have mine, that's for damn sure.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

It's better to swallow pride than blood

Everyone in my family has a fair amount of attitude, but my youngest sister Mary AKA Sweet Mare got more than her share. Yesterday I emailed her to ask her how she was doing, and she responded:

"I am doing well.. I think people really think I am cool.. What do you think???"

I conducted an informal pool of the people in the office where I am temping, and the majority of the people said that while they didn't think Mare was necessarily uncool, they didn't actually know who she was. One guy did say that she was cool, and that he particularly liked her in that John Hughes movie where she played the punk drummer girl who's in love with her best friend. I told him I was pretty sure he was thinking of Mary Stuart Masterson, but he insisted that it was Mary Joan Schwartz. Now he wants her phone number.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Dear Mr. President:

So, it looks like that rascal Karl has been at it again. Remember back in '70 when he stole that letterhead from then-Illinois Democrat Alan Dixon, printed up fake campaign rally fliers promising "free beer, free food, girls and a good time for nothing," and distributed them at rock concerts and homeless shelters? What a hoot. Then there was that time in '86 when he bugged his own phone right before a big gubernatorial debate and accused the Democrats of doing it. As a fellow Norwegian-American, I sure can appreciate Karl's sense of humor. Ha ha.

But you know, it does sometimes seem like Karl goes a bit too far. Like the Intel stock deal and the drug company lobbyists and the energy policy meetings. (But then, ol' Ticker Dick didn't come out squeaky clean on that last bit either, did he?) And then this recent bit about us darned liberals in our foreign cars wanting to offer our 9/11 attackers therapy and understanding, while you scrappy and virile Republicans were oiling up your blunderbusses. (Did that sound dirty? Sorry about that, Sir. Please don't show this letter to Laura.)

Point is, it seems to this Midwestern lad that maybe there are times when Karl ought to keep his mouth shut if he wants to stay out of trouble. Like, for instance, when he got so darned mad at Joe Wilson that he decided to expose his wife's status as a CIA agent. Now Sir, I understand that if Wilson had just shut up and eaten his yellowcake like that Judith Miller, we wouldn't have had this problem. But this thing Karl appears to have done, it just doesn't sit right. Mr. Wilson's wife was serving her country as an agent of our intelligence services, the same services that you've said you're so concerned about strengthening. When she was exposed, her life and her work were both put in jeopardy.

Now they're saying Karl is the one who leaked her identity, and I don't mind telling you it bothers me. Sir, I don't know what you used to call that in Texas, but in Washington that's treason. Your position on this matter from the beginning has been that any allegation of Karl's involvement is "totally ridiculous" and "simply not true," but today you're saying you can't comment on an ongoing investigation. That seems a bit like shutting the barn door after the horse has got out. I'm guessing that means you know Karl is caught.

Now I'm sure you'd like to quickly get past this mess so we can all get a close look at that Downing Street Memo, so I'd like to offer a bit of advice. Looking back, it looks to me like Karl's been on this track for a long time. Could be he's in some pain; it's not my business, but I understand that he's had a rough time of it, family-wise. I think perhaps he feels like a part of your family, and as a brother of sorts, I think you ought to answer his call for help. It's important, finally, to hold the people we love accountable for their actions. You can keep shielding him, you can pardon him if you like, but how is any of that really going to help Karl? He can only deal with his pain if he's forced to see where it's taken him.

But heck, isn't this the sort of woolly-headed liberal therapy talk that Karl despises? I suppose, if he had his way, a person committing treason would pay for it. That doesn't mean death, of course; the minimum penalty is five years in prison and a fine of not less than $10,000, and I don't suppose you'd let him do much more than the minimum. There is the fact that anyone convicted of treason becomes incapable of holding office in the United States, but you know better than anyone that you don't need to be in office to have power, and just because you're in office doesn't mean you have power. You do know that, right? Anyway, I'm sure that if Karl does go to prison it won't be anything like that Oz place they show on the TV. Probably it'd be more like that place Martha Stewart went to. He could write a book and perfect his bridge game. Could be he'd learn a little restraint from the experience, but, whoops--there I go thinking like a liberal again. Sometimes I forget that prisons are for punishing, not rehabilitating.

Anyhow, I just wanted to write to let you know that I'm concerned about Karl, as I'm sure you are. Best to you and the family, and have fun with the fourth estate.

Too Sleepy for Content

You're Prufrock and Other Observations!

by T.S. Eliot

Though you are very short and often overshadowed, your voice is poetic and lyrical. Dark and brooding, you see the world as a hopeless effort of people trying to impress other people. Though you make reference to almost everything, you've really heard enough about Michelangelo. You measure out your life with coffee spoons.

Take the Book Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

You're Colombia!

You do a lot of drugs, and these have kind of distorted your view of reality, to the point that everyone looks like an enemy.  You keep trying to restore order over your schizophrenic world view, but you don't even know which goal is your own and which is someone else's.  You're pretty sure someone needs to be punished for all this, but who that is changes all the time.  Things would be a lot better for you if you switched to coffee, or even to decaf, but all this money would be hard to give up.

Take the Country Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

You're Tennessee!

A vibrantly musical individual, you probably know how to play multiple instruments. At the heart of your love for music is the guitar, though you have a soft spot for violins, which you refuse to call anything but fiddles. Fiddlesticks aside, you are very thin and have excellent posture. If you ever run for elected office, you won't even be able to get your hometown to support you. I guess that's why they call it the blues.

Take the State Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Fishing for Experts (Expertise Not Required)

Anyone have any knowledge or experience of the Kinshasa Highway (aka the AIDS Highway)? Any books or online sources you could point me to?

Cheerful People Make Silly Posts

You're a Scorpion!

You really enjoy weapons and like keeping as many of them at hand as possible, just in case. Most of these weapons are sharp, and you have a small collection of armor as well. You just can't be too careful these days. Maybe it's that you've always been small and feel threatened and this has prompted your elaborate collection to bloom. It's not too surprising that you've become a bit of a loner, even a hermit, with those tendencies. Or that your favorite actor is The Rock.*

Take the Animal Quiz
at the Blue Pyramid.

*For the record, my favorite actor is not the Rock. I prefer Rowdy Roddy Piper.


You'll all be happy to know I'm less cranky today.


1. Melina Marchetta's Looking for Alibrandi is almost as good as her other YA book, BCCB-award winning Saving Francesca.

2. Similarly, Joan Bauer's Best Foot Forward is a worthy sequel to the shoe sales screwball comedy of Rules of the Road.

3. Season 4 Oz! (Although I have to say, between this and Season 3 Six Feet Under, I've seen more than enough penises for the rest of my life.)

4. Marianne always comes through with cool new music, and this weekend was no exception. Sunday afternoon we went to the Empty Bottle to catch The Wilders. Marianne had seen them live at MerleFest and brought home a CD, which rocked but not nearly as much as the quartet in person. A genuine one-mike country outfit, with bass, fiddle, guitar, mandolin/banjo and serious barn-burning energy--they had the sparse crowd of thirty or so hooting and hollering like three hundred. Three Hank covers, one Jimmie Rodgers, and one Devo. They're touring non-stop (Cambridge, Mass is one of their upcoming destinations), so go see 'em. Yee-haw!

5. Also via Marianne, bluesy country guy Hayes Carll. I've been listening to his album "Flowers and Liquor" and loving it, particularly "Naked Checkers" and "Live Free or Die."

6. New desktop computer means I can play all those computer games that my laptop graphics card wouldn't run, which means I'm staying up too late and my mouse hand is sore, but I am having fun killing all the monsters and saving the world.

7. That doesn't mean I'm not getting anything done; stage two of the three-part revision process on Superpowers is done, with little pain involved. My big concern was a subplot that had gotten dropped a short way in; as it turned out, I decided that it was better for that subplot to just go away. Some chapters required sizeable rewriting, but the majority just needed line editing. Now I just need to go through and make sure that the characters that went away don't get mentioned anywhere, and look over some tonal things, and add in one scene that needs to happen somewhere or other. Soon I may be looking for beta readers (hint, hint).

8. Collaborations! You know who you are. This is fun.

9. As of the moment the contract I sent out this weekend reaches her desk, I am now represented by Shana Cohen of the Stuart Krichevsky Literary Agency. I'm very excited about this; Shana is hugely enthusiastic and had me sold on all of her past projects just chatting about them over dinner at WisCon, so I'm happy to have her powers on the side of good. That being my side, of course.

10. All of this kind of boils down to; I should know by now that reading or talking about creating art, especially when it's prescriptive, eventually drives me batty no matter who's talking about it. I'm much happier enjoying other people's creations or working on my own, so I just need to remind myself not to read or listen to such things.

Have a good day, everyone! (See how cheery I am? Isn't it nauseating?)