A profile on Michel Houellebecq. [The Guardian] [Books]
“It’s not my role to be responsible. I don’t feel responsible,” he says. “The role of a novel is to entertain readers, and fear is one of the most entertaining things there is.” To him, the fear in Submission comes in the dark violence at the novel’s start, before the moderate Islamist party comes to power. Was he deliberately playing on a mood of fear in France? “Yes, I plead guilty,” he says. For Houellebecq, the job of a novelist is foremost to hold a mirror up to contemporary society.[more inside]
A Passion for the Void: Understanding Clarice Lispector’s Strange and Surreal Fiction. [The New Republic]
Plenty of writers inspire fierce devotion in their readers—the David Foster Wallace acolytes, with their duct-taped copies of Infinite Jest, come to mind, as do the smug objectivists dressed in tech-world casual who owe their entire world view to Ayn Rand. But no one converts the uninitiated into devout believers as suddenly and as vertiginously as Clarice Lispector, the Latin-American visionary, Ukranian-Jewish mystic, and middle-class housewife and mother so revered by her Brazilian fans that she's known by a single name: "Clarice."[more inside]
Robert Stone, Novelist of the Vietnam Era and Beyond, Dies at 77 [New York Times]
"Robert Stone, who wrote ambitious, award-winning novels about errant Americans in dangerous circumstances or on existential quests — or both — as commentary on an unruly, wayward nation in the Vietnam era and beyond, died on Saturday at his home in Key West, Fla. He was 77.[more inside]
You Are Now Entering the Demented Kingdom of William T. Vollmann: [The New Republic] Home to goddesses, dreams, and a dangerously uncorrupted literary mind.
Claire Messud: “A woman’s rant” [National Post] "Over the last week, discussion surrounding Claire Messud’s new novel, The Woman Upstairs, has shifted from the book to an interview its author recently gave to Publishers Weekly, in which Messud took issue with the following question: “I wouldn’t want to be friends with Nora, would you? Her outlook is almost unbearably grim.” [more inside]
Cult writer Renata Adler, whose novel Speedboat has been reissued by NYRB Classics, sits down for an interview with The Believer. [more inside]
"If you’re not getting it wrong really a lot when you’re creating imaginary futures, then you’re just not doing it enough."
Wired talks to William Gibson: on Why Sci-Fi Writers Are (Thankfully) Almost Always Wrong, on Twitter, Antique Watches and Internet Obsessions, and and on Punk Rock, Internet Memes, and ‘Gangnam Style’.
We are so steeped in the tradition of railways as a single line cutting through the wilderness. But [...] there is a tradition you can tap into that completely inverts what has become the cliché, and focuses instead on branching lines, on sidings, on reversibility and on the breaching of timetables—and you end up with a notion of rails that can be an ineffable symbol of potentiality. I liked the idea of trying to honour that alternative tradition.
But that's all post-facto to the basic gag—and it is a gag—of someone shouting "there she blows!" and it's a mole, not a whale.BoingBoing interviews China Mieville on his new book, Railsea. [more inside]
A Stephen King interview: by Neil Gaiman "I interviewed Stephen King for the UK Sunday Times Magazine. The interview appeared a few weeks ago. The Times keeps its site paywalled, so I thought I'd post the original version of the interview here. (This is the raw copy, and it's somewhat longer than the interview as published.) I don't do much journalism any more, and this was mostly an excuse to drive across Florida back in February and spend a day with some very nice people I do not get to see enough. I hope you enjoy it."
Phil Collins' solo efforts seem to be more commercial and therefore more satisfying in a narrower way, especially No Jacket Required and songs like "In the Air Tonight" and "Against All Odds"
"Patrick Bateman was me. I was Patrick Bateman…" - Bret Easton Ellis interviewed.
Larry Gonick is a veteran American cartoonist best known for his delightful comic-book guides to science and history, many of which have previews online. Chief among them is his long-running Cartoon History of the Universe (later The Cartoon History of the Modern World), a sprawling multi-volume opus documenting everything from the Big Bang to the Bush administration. Published over the course of three decades, it takes a truly global view -- its time-traveling Professor thoroughly explores not only familiar topics like Rome and World War II but the oft-neglected stories of Asia and Africa, blending caricature and myth with careful scholarship (cited by fun illustrated bibliographies) and tackling even the most obscure events with intelligence and wit. This savvy satire carried over to Gonick's Zinn-by-way-of-Pogo chronicle The Cartoon History of the United States, along with a bevy of Cartoon Guides to other topics, including Genetics, Computer Science, Chemistry, Physics, Statistics, The Environment, and (yes!) Sex. Gonick has also maintained a few sideprojects, such as a webcomic look at Chinese invention, assorted math comics (previously), the Muse magazine mainstay Kokopelli & Co. (featuring the shenanigans of his "New Muses"), and more. See also these lengthy interview snippets, linked previously. Want more? Amazon links to the complete oeuvre inside! [more inside]
Stephen Biesty is an award-winning British illustrator famous for his bestselling "Incredible" series of engineering art books: Incredible Cross-Sections, Incredible Explosions, Incredible Body, and many more. A master draftsman, Biesty does not use computers or even rulers in composing his intricate and imaginative drawings, relying on nothing more than pen and ink, watercolor, and a steady hand. Over the years, he's adapted his work to many other mediums, including pop-up books, educational games (video), interactive history sites, and animation. You can view much of his work in the zoomable galleries on his professional page, or click inside for a full listing of direct links to high-resolution, desktop-quality copies from his and other sites, including several with written commentary from collaborator Richard Platt [site, .mp3 chat]. [more inside]
Urban exploration has been featured here once or twice before, but Jim Griffioen's site photo-documenting his discoveries in and around Detroit deserves a look. Griffioen was recently interviewed [direct mp3 link] on the American Public Media radio program The Story. [more inside]
An interview with Margaret Atwood. [Sometimes bad interviews are the most interesting.]
I've liked most of the things Douglas Coupland has written and although this interview at amazon about his upcoming book sounds like he's giving most of the book's plot away, I'll still pick up a copy. I wish amazon would put warnings up saying 'spoilers ahead' on links such as that interview.