A round-up of high quality tweets from people in (and around) the world of literature…

Chris Johns:


Gravy Brown of Major League Eating (MLE): How does one decide to become a competitive eater?

I think I’ve always been at peace with my inner 3rd grade fat kid. So when the notion of stuffing my face with as much food as possible in ten minutes crossed my mind, I jumped at the opportunity. Finally I was going to get close to my childhood fantasy of bathing my naked body in a buffet filled with only my favorite deep-fried delicacies. No vegetables up in that motherfucker.

Probably, they saw themselves
wearing the white heads of doves;
who knows what they imagined
before the man of steel came
to lift up those shadowy getaway cars
and toss the crooks around like dice;
maybe they dreamed they were crows
swooping in dark V’s, stopping time
in quiet, bright blue June noons;

When Pixar’s Up was released in 2009, NPR blogger Linda Holmes wrote a piece that in part argued that young Ellie – a pivotal character who nonetheless gets maybe five minutes screen-time – was just the type of girl she’d like to see as a central character.  Young Ellie is a refreshing change from the sort of girl we’re used to seeing in animated children’s films, the damsel-in-distress, overtly feminine princessy sort, that is.  But she’s only a glimpse.  Flash forward three years and along comes Pixar’s Brave to (kind of) answer the call.  Brave’s Merida is still a princess (Dear Pixar: Linda Holmes specifically requested a non-princess lead character like Ellie), though one with some big differences.  Here we have a young woman challenging gender norms and the status quo whose relationship issues are with her alive-and-well mother instead of anyone resembling a true love.  It’s just the sort of film I figured might earn the endorsement of A Mighty Girl, a new website devoted to compiling lists of books and films that offer empowering representations of female characters for young readers and viewers.  I spoke with Carolyn Danckaert, the site’s co-founder, about A Mighty Girl, literary and cinematic representations of girlhood (empowering and otherwise), and the sea change that Brave just might be a part of.

Listen, dear readers, I want to discuss the records that exist only in my mind. You know, the ones that would be perfect if you added one key component, or the ones that could never exist no matter what, but they should. Like if you poured glue all over the shitty Zeppelin record and then played it at 45 speed while the glue dried. Or if Alice Cooper scatted over Coltrane’s Ascension.

These, then, are those records.

While numbered, this order is contextual only—it can be rearranged by whim.


Next Week: Worldwide biosphere collapse, huge run on artificial lung apps.

You’ve surely seen all the fanfare on TNB lately about The Beautiful Anthology (TNB Books, June 2012), a collection of essays, stories and some poetry on the topic of beauty. Thanks to the tireless efforts of editor Elizabeth Collins the book has emerged as a very beautiful physical object full of diverse, witty, engaging pieces. There has already been a fair bit written about the essays in this volume, but given my whole-hearted insistence that poetry is the queen of all forms of writing, I decided a look at Erato’s hand on the book is in order.

The self-interview seems like a particularly appropriate form to discuss your—our—new novel, What Happened to Sophie Wilder.

How is that?


Well, the book is structured in such a way as to constitute a kind of dialogue with itself: alternating chapters from different points of view, telling different but related stories that can be understood as being in conversation with each other.

I suppose you’re right.

What is the number one thing you learned about America from your trip?

I was surprised to find out how many Americans were hesitant to define themselves as a Republican or Democrat. More people than I could have possibly anticipated defined themselves as independents and seemed almost embarrassed to claim either political party. It was shocking to me and I think says quite a lot about the extreme partisan politics in Washington right now.

Before I came to stay at the Manse I lived in an old townhouse on the north side of Washington Square, where my cousin Max and I rented rooms from a middle-aged German man named Gerhard Gottlieb, the uncle of one of Max’s old flames. I was never entirely sure what business Gerhard was in, but he was usually out of the country, and he gave us the run of the place in his absence, provided we walk his dog, a purebred boxer named Ginger, and feed the tropical fish in his enormous Victorian aquarium. Max and I were the only ones paying rent, but there were often two or three others staying on the vacant floor above us. We were all “in the arts,” as we liked to say with intense but undirected irony, which is what left us free to take Ginger out during the day and to spend our nights entertaining ourselves in that old house, drinking bourbon and smoking those thin, elegant joints that we all rolled so easily.

Six Shakespearean Tailgaters


The Comic’s Complaint

How now, you secret, black, and midnight hags!
How come you listen but won’t laugh at my gags?

Writers are by definition obsessed with words. And when it comes down to it, unless you’re really plucky, there are two or three words you’re stuck with for life: your name. Every other week I’ll ask a different writer five or so questions on the subject.

This week I talked to Paisley Rekdal. Her latest books are Animal Eye (Pitt 2012) and Intimate:  An American Family Photo Album (Tupelo 2012).