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November 18, 2006


Fimoculous is yet again aggregating "best of 2006" lists. Bookmark now and check back regularly.

The New York Times examines the art of the literary feud.

At their best, literary feuds show something at stake beyond personal vanity. At their worst, feuders can become like so many gorillas, pounding on their chests and marking their territory in the literary jungle. (Literary feuding generally seems to be a men’s sport — with the notable exception of Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman, whose longstanding feud ended only with Hellman’s death; interviewed on “The Dick Cavett Show” in the late ’70s, McCarthy said of Hellman that “every word she says is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.’ ”)

The New York Times examines what books are shoplifted the most.

At a major independent bookstore in Seattle, the senior buyer said graphic novels, as well as books about the Beats and tattoos, disappear pretty often. He added, interestingly, that the enigmatic novels of the Japanese writer Haruki Murakami (pictured) have begun to disappear at a fast clip. His explanation: “In his own way, Murakami is a subversive writer with an outlaw sensibility. His characters have this Everyman thing going on, but they are also working against the grain.”

Entertainment Weekly's Popwatch blog has a forensic drawing of what Thomas Pynchon may look like today, based on the author's 1955 high school yearbook photograph.

Today's reviews of Joanna Newsom's new album, Ys:

The Harvard Crimson:

In what amounts to an experiment with the boundaries of pop music, Newsom’s unparalleled complexity and imagination serve to weed out the casual or unadventurous while rewarding the faithful; a close parallel would be Captain Beefheart. Indeed, her virtuosic musical composition and her way with words echo that prog-rock godfather, whose songs were similarly otherworldly.


The music on Ys is vivid and melodic, with catchy tunes, and some semblance of verse-chorus structures, lurking in all the rambling songs. But Newsom's words are what really enrapture. The songs are set in rustic landscapes, and they teem with flora and fauna—with "yarrow, heather and hollyhock" that "awkwardly molt along the shore," with "the muddy mouths of baboons and sows, and the grouse, and the horse, and the hen." The overwrought literariness of Newsom's lyrics is something else: She has dared to be the most pretentious songwriter in pop history, and she's pulled it off.

The Arizona Republic:

Is Joanna Newsom this generation's Kate Bush? She certainly stakes that eccentric territory on her dramatic second CD, Ys (pronounced "ess").

In the Guardian, author Ian Rankin pays tribute to his hero, Thomas Pynchon.

NPR is streaming the Decemberists' World Cafe performance.

In the Guardian, author George Saunders explains realist fiction.

In realism, I explained, everything happens the way it actually would. The language used is what we in the trade call "normal". There is nothing weird about it, no jerking around or making odd surreal crap happen for no reason. A person writing realism writes in the plain old regular words he or she would use when talking to friends, or someone really dumb.

Chromewaves, my favorite music blog, has a gorgeous redesign.

Bullz-Eye interviews singer-songwriter and former XTC frontman Andy Partridge about his recently released box set, Fuzzy Warbles: The Collector's Edition.

BE: What led you to start going through the cupboards and pulling out the tracks for the collections in the first place?

AP: It’s such a simple thing, but…bootleggers. I hate them. Y’know? In terms of money, I never made much money out of this career of mine. In monetary terms, I’m a bum. In credentials and critique terms, I’m Bill Gates…but you can’t spend those ‘round the store, getting vegetables. I’m as rich as I could want to be with good critique and love and people saying nice things about the music, but it just hasn’t sold phenomenally well, and where it has sold, we’ve had such bad deals in the past that we’ve virtually seen no money. So anybody who’s gonna rob off of me, i.e. bootleggers, I’m gonna sort it out. It was just a case of, if anybody’s gonna bootleg me, I can do it so much better than they can. It’s my reflection. It’s gonna look great on me. They’re not going to be able to do it as nice. So I was just annoyed with people telling me that they’d bought discs of ours on eBay, or they’d bought stuff of ours in a shop that was, like, bootleg stuff. And I thought, well, I can do it so much better than a bootlegger can. I mean, I’m gonna have stuff that they can’t get hold of. I can clean up old recordings, I can remix them a little nicer, I can actually mix stuff that, to be truthful, there was never a mix of in the first place, because they were just dubbed off one at a time for members of the band, or people from the record companies to hear how the songs would go for whatever was the forthcoming album. So it was A) a chance to beat bootleggers, B) a chance to give people the things that they obvious want, in a better quality.

Sports Illustrated lists the best baseball books of 2006.

If you like comics, check out the blog, Comixpedia.

Drowned in Sound interviews the Shins' James Mercer about the band's next album, Wincing the Night Away being leaked early.

How do you feel about it being leaked so early?

I don’t really know. I’m not really sure what damage it’ll do. For a band like us I think it could be a good thing and help us. I’m not really sure what the repercussions will be. One thing I will say is that the sound quality on these leaked tracks isn’t very good. We spent a lot of time getting the production perfect so I’d prefer people heard them the way they are meant to sound.

see also:

this week's CD & DVD releases


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