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Book News for Friday, November 24, 2006

Hey, it's the day after Thanksgiving. I survived the onslaught of relatives and the abundance of food — and, if you're reading this, you must have, too. And if you managed to stay out of jail for the day, congratulations!

You could go shopping today. It's the biggest shopping day of the entire year, after all.

But we know better, don't we? We don't go wherever retailers point us to go, whenever they command it. Sure, if everyone stayed at home, we would bankrupt every retail company in the free world — and who wants a thing like that? We would have to resort to the pioneer days, when we killed and skinned and cooked our own food, carved our own furniture, and sewed our own Victoria's Secret baby-doll lingerie.

This edition of the Book News is dedicated to all of the hearty souls who resist the allure of all those sales and crowds, and instead sit at home staring at their computer screens reading blogs like this one.

  • Caitlin Flanagan is no longer on staff at the New Yorker, according to the New York Observer.

    Is that because she's ultra-controversial and writes liberally of her quasi-conservative ideas about housewives staying at home and raising the children instead of working (for instance, writing columns for major literary magazines about housewives staying at home and raising the children instead of working...)? Or is it because she's working long and hard on a new book? Or..?

    Ms. Flanagan's last New Yorker piece, the Mary Poppins article, brought her a dose of a different sort of notoriety. Valerie Lawson — who authored "the only comprehensive biography" of Travers, as Ms. Flanagan's piece put it — complained to the magazine that Ms. Flanagan had drawn over-heavily on her work, without adequate credit.

    The New Yorker then printed an opaque and somewhat stilted letter of not-quite-protest from Ms. Lawson. That note was the product of a lengthy e-mail negotiation between Ms. Lawson and Ms. McCarthy, which was subsequently published in full by the Columbia Journalism Review.

    Ms. Lawson's letter appeared in The New Yorker on Jan. 23, 2006. Ms. Flanagan sat the rest of the year out.

    Asked whether the Mary Poppins piece and Ms. Lawson's criticism had affected her decision to focus on book-writing instead of magazine work, Ms. Flanagan wrote back: "No."

    Then again, perhaps she wants to spend less time working and more time raising her kids.

  • The Guardian offers a Thanksgiving quiz about the great American novel.

    The first sentence of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick is "Call me Ishmael." What's the second?

    • Come now with me to your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs — commerce surrounds it with her surf.Come now with me to your insular city of the Manhattoes, belted round by wharves as Indian isles by coral reefs — commerce surrounds it with her surf.
    • The name will do as well as any other for a tale the like of mine.
    • Some years ago — never mind how long precisely — having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.
    • Call me anything you like, just call me.

    I should be ashamed for not knowing the answer to that. And you can help shame me! If you know it, and you're the first to email the correct answer to me, I will be so impressed that I'll mention your name in every single item of Monday's Book News.

  • Is Cyber Monday the biggest online retailing day of the year, or is it just a silly myth? There's a very lively debate depicted here.

    I stopped reading when I realized "Cyber Monday" doesn't refer to a winner-takes-all showdown between the Terminator, RoboCop, and C3PO.

  • New Yorkers think gay penguins are adorable and no one else in the world makes decent bagels. Midwesterners think bagels are doughnuts without the sugar and a book on a couple of gay penguins from Central Park, And Tango Makes Three, should be kept far from the hands of children.

    At issue, apparently, is a three-page spread in the middle of the book for young readers labeled "The Illustrated Gay Kama Sutra for Penguins." A teacher in a town called Intolerance was quoted as saying, "It's not the human children we're worried about, it's the penguins. Young, sraight penguins all over the Midwest could see this book and get gay!"

    Expect a Gay Penguin Marriage Amendment on countless ballots in the next election.

÷ ÷ ÷

Brockman is the head writer for the daily Book News posts on the Powells.com blog. In his free time he's hard at work on his fictional memoir, which changes titles daily.

The views and commentary posted by Brockman are entirely his own, and are not representative of the whole of Powell's Books, its employees, or any sane human being.


Books mentioned in this post


  1. Moby Dick Used Trade Paper $4.95




One Response to "Book News for Friday, November 24, 2006"

  1.  
    M. Cruz November 26th, 2006 at 4:54 am

    The 'gay penguin' story was funny. What is not funny is when people start comparing animals and their behavior to humans and theirs. One has absolutely no bearing on the other.

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