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Friday, January 22, 2010

The end of an era

File this post under "bizarre literary arcanum". Apparently some dude dressed in black has been coming to Edgar Allan Poe's gravesite in Baltimore every year since 1949 on Poe's birthday and toasting the dead author with a shot of Cognac. If that isn't weird enough, the "Poe Toaster" has started generating crowds of 30+ in recent years who wait all night to see the strange rite. This year was no different...except, ole' PT didn't show, and now the crowd is ticked off.

You can read about the Poe Toaster here.

Word of the Day!

fiat [fee-uht; -at; -aht; fy-uht; -at]
1. An arbitrary or authoritative command or order.
2. Formal or official authorization or sanction.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

A menagerie of DFW links

In case you haven't been paying attention I am* obsessed with David Foster Wallace. I believe he is certainly one of the greatest authors of the second half of the 20th century, and possibly one of the greatest of all time. His magnum opus, Infinite Jest, is so multi-layered, intense, and heartfelt that it deserves every bit of the critical and academic recognition it is only now beginning to gain, over a decade after it's first publication.

When DFW died in 2008 he left a ton of finished, or partially finished, manuscripts behind, the most highly anicipated being his soon-to-be-released posthumous novel, The Pale King. In anticipation of the novel's publication long-time DFW champion The New Yorker has published a chapter from the book titled "Wiggle Room" in which one of the protagonists, Lane Dean Jr., tries his best to deal with the mind-numbing boredom of his job at the IRS. You can read the chapter by clicking here.

In addition to the chapter, The New Yorker has recently published a previously unreleased short story titled All That. The story is classic DFW, incisive, witty, and heartbreaking all at the same time. It can be read here.

Also D.T. Max does a good job of trying to demystify DFW's last days and the unthinkable horror that lead such a talented writer to commit suicide. The article is here.

Just in case you were interested, Infinite Jest can be purchsed here. I highly suggest you all get it...and then also read it.

*And will likely always be, at least marginally.

Word of the Day!

faineant [fay-nay-awn]
Doing nothing or given to doing nothing; idle; lazy.
A do-nothing; an idle fellow; a sluggard.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


On the strength of A Hard Day’s Night (both the movie and album) and Beatles For Sale The Beatles were officially household names across the globe. They were touring constantly and when they weren’t touring they were popping into the studio to quickly record their newest Top Ten single. The lads from Liverpool could seemingly do anything.

Less than two months after the release of Beatles For Sale talk of making another movie began to crop up and by the spring The Beatles were on location in England, Austria, and The Bahamas filming what would become the movie Help! On the surface the movie, and accompanying album, had all the cheeky charm of A Hard Day’s Night, but underneath there was something more insidious and desperate brewing.

Word of the Day!

flibbertigibbet [flib-ur-tee-jib-it]
A silly, flighty, or scatterbrained person, especially a pert young woman with such qualities.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The books you could never live without

The New York Times recently ran an interesting interactive feature in which six successful authors read excerpts from books that they absolutely couldn't live without. This got me thinking about what books I couldn't live without. I assumed this would be difficult, but as soon as I gave it any thought I realized it was actually a ridiculously easy question for me.

Here are the three books I couldn't live without and in all reality if every book on Earth were to be destroyed other than these three I don't think I would ever be bored, literatarily speaking.

Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
It by Stephen King

So, what are the books you couldn't live without? Comment away.

Word of the Day!

quotidian [kwoh-tid-ee-uhn]
1. Occurring or returning daily; as, a quotidian fever.
2. Of an everyday character; ordinary; commonplace.

Monday, January 18, 2010

This is the faith I go back with...

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we've come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the "unalienable Rights" of "Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked "insufficient funds."

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we've come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God's children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

Word of the Day!

draconian [dray-kohn-ee-uhn; druh-]
1. Pertaining to Draco, a lawgiver of Athens, 621 B.C.
2. Excessively harsh; severe.