Twenty-eleven was a good year, one might even say a banner year, for Greg Olear.  The proverbial bouncer whisked me into the proverbial club in many instances when, in the past, I would have been left waiting behind the proverbial velvet rope.

Among the lists I’m proud to have made in 2011: American writers published in the French by Editions Gallmeister; American writers interviewed on French TV; speakers at the Quais du Polar festival in Lyon; authors in the signing booth at BEA; guests at the Authors Guild cocktail party; New Paltz homeowners (and Hudson Valley Magazine feature subjects); novelists noted on the “Hot Type” page of Vanity Fair; guys who have made out with Snooki; novelists noted on the “Full Frontal” page of Penthouse; writers interviewed on the Other People pod (you can’t spell Listi without L-I-S-T); and of course, Los Angeles Times bestsellers (Fathermucker was #15!).

Where in the World is J. Angelus Dust?

I don’t know if anyone else noticed this, but TNB’s celebrated advice columnist, the pseudonymous J. Angelus Dust, seems to have vanished from the site. It’s been many weeks since his last, somewhat erratic, post. Where could he be? Did his book ever come out? Is it called Thomas World, or something else? More importantly, is Fabian okay?

(Speaking of which: I am not The Dust, and while I have had the privilege of corresponding with him on several occasions, I not privy to his actual identity. If I had to guess at who he is among writers in the TNB Universe, my money would be on Spitznagel).

Well, we know Dust is a radical leftist. We know he’s an activist. We know he’s been increasingly sickened by the goings-on in this country, as his posts got ever more political in nature. I think he’s one of the leaders of the leaderless Occupy Wall Street movement. The timing, the politics, the nature of the beast…call it a hunch, but that’s my belief. And this recent push to “relocate the nexus” of OWS to Oakland suggests that Dust could well be in the Bay Area as I type this, perhaps huddling under a tent, perhaps handing out fliers at Berkeley.

Anyone else have any theories?

WHEN SHE FIRST burst upon the scene, with the release of The Fame in 2008, the artist formerly known as Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta was written off by some as a second-rate Christina Aguilera—probably because they had similar bleached-blonde hair-dos.

The comparison was short-lived.  By the time “Bad Romance” came out a year later,  detractors dismissed the pop star as nothing more than a two-bit Madonna impersonator, a charge she can’t seem to shake.  While there are some surface similarities between Lady Gaga and Madge—they’re both women; they’re both superstars; they both hold with the less-is-more school of couture; and, yes, “Born This Way” sounds like “Express Yourself” to a degree best described as actionable—the two are worlds apart.

The other night at Prairie Lights Bookstore in Iowa City, a few local poets read some poems aloud. The store was crowded. Those who came late had to stand, or sit on the floor.

Because I live in Iowa City, I should point out that by “local poets” I mean Dora Malech, James Galvin, Mark Levine, Cal Bedient, Robyn Schiff, Christopher Merrill and Jan Weissmiller. The event was organized to help Dean Young whose heart failed him, and who in April, thanks to a donor, received a new heart. But now it turns out that it will cost approximately $50,000 a year to keep that heart beating. $50,000 a year, out of pocket, to keep Dean Young alive.

Like everywhere else, Oslo has had movie posters up for weeks announcing “Alt Ender” for Harry Potter. One of the strangest things about traveling as an American citizen is that—as far as billboards and media are concerned—you could be in some strange town a few miles down the road rather than a strange country. As it got closer to the release date, the signs multiplied (almost magically one might say).

Awards season is upon us, that time of year when we stave off the winter blues by watching befrocked Best Actress winners weep and neglect to thank their husbands.Since the line between movies and real life has become so blurry—as D-listers everywhere vie to keep up with the Kardashians, and cable channels and tabloid magazines swim with celebrity spawn—it’s high time we recognize the famous and flawed moms who make us mortals feel better about our own parenting.

There’s been a great deal of talk lately about women writers not getting their due in important literary magazines like The New Yorker, Harper’s and The Atlantic Monthly. In this survey by VIDA, it’s pretty clear that women get short shrift in the high-brow literary world.

All this talk prompted me to count the number of book reviews I’ve written lately, and the gender of those books’ authors. I’ve reviewed four books in the past year, two by men, two by women.

“Easy, baby, you’re almost a fire hazard.”

With apologies to Jean-Paul Sartre, if Tura Satana didn’t exist someone would have to invent her. Standing 5’7”, you could easily be forgiven for imagining her towering at 6’10”. She passed away on February 4, 2010 in Reno, Nevada. The world continues without her, albeit in a severely impoverished state. Tura’s life sounds like something out of a nightmarish fairy tale designed to tell exotically beautiful young women that they can grow up to be legends.

Approximate number of uses of nigger and its derivations in Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn: 210

Approximate number of uses of nigger and its derivations in Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: 38

 

Total word count, Huckleberry Finn: 110,253

Total word count, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: 4,000

 

Usage rate of nigger in Huckleberry Finn (per thousand words): 1.9

Usage rate of nigger in My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (per thousand words): 9.5

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer was a plutonium-toting, off-key singing tailgater; a rabble-rousing, Scrabble-nabber so high on grain alcohol and greenhouses gasses that he couldn’t even parkour his way across a simple thought.

Note:  In case you’d like to watch the three-minute film version of this instead, I’m including it after the text.

45s I’ve kept wrapped in newspaper in the attic.These are all mine.Some doubling up in sleeves.Some pushing tears in the seams.Unwrapped, they slide against each other in my hands, collectively bigger than my grip.

Here is the evidence, my small thumbprints still sitting ghostly across the grooves, of the films a young me had tried to re-imagine as I went to sleep and the needle came to a stop with a click.

Here is the evidence of being a generation or two behind, of fitting in, of deep contradiction.

Throughout most of my childhood, I had vague memories of a strange film. A film featuring square-jawed protagonists, women of undying loyalty, villains beyond compare and burly, stocky men with golden wings. Over the years, I convinced myself that I imagined the whole thing. Nothing could possibly be that strange. Then one night I staggered back to a cheap motel in an “All America City” after a night of punk rock debauchery. My band mates sat in rapt attention around a tiny television. A brawny avian-man who did not fear death ordered his troops to dive. Apparently I hadn’t imagined Flash Gordon.

About two years ago, I wrote about the Facebook phenomenon that was (finally) hitting adults. My essay, “Thirty-Seven-Year-Old on Facebook,” discussed my personal experience—while laid up with a broken leg—with Facebook. It’s an amusing piece, so I’ve been told. I wrote it when I was enjoying Facebook.

I’m not really supposed to be here. On the internet, I mean, and not just right now – I’m not meant to be here at all. The problem is that I’m not greatly interested in zombies, vampires, bacon, cupcakes or socially inept cats, and a fascination with one or more of these is a basic requirement for going on the internet and doing internet things. My presence here is only tolerated because I usually exceed my daily tweet quota by over 100%, and also thanks to a nice semantic loophole; I update my blog regularly. Regularly. Twice a year. It’s not frequent, but it is, technically, regular. They had to let that one through, but it’s under investigation.

I was visiting with my friend Katie the other day. She asked me how reading Harry Potter to my eight year old boys was going, as I’d mentioned to her a month or more ago that they were growing weary of reading about the same characters night after night.

“Did you switch to something else after you finished the third book?” she asked.

“No,” I said. “It turns out that toward the end of the third book, when Sirius Black became a more prominent character, the boys became super involved with the story once again. So, we started the fourth book straight away. That Sirius Black character sure seems to be a thing that boys relate to – the teacher archetype. Not a dad, necessarily – a teacher.”

“Well sure,” Katie said. “Everybody wants his Obi-Wan Kenobi.”

“Sure,” I agreed, then paused. “I wonder what the equivalent of that for girls would be.”