Literature

Speed Reading

Waiter Rant: thanks for the tip, cynical
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By Steve Dublanica

Ecco

320 pages

$24.97


Lately publishers seem to be following two rough guidelines: first, anyone can write a memoir; second, if it's a blog, it might as well also be a book.

Waiter Rant, based on (you guessed it) a blog of the same name, does plenty to refute both unspoken rules. Author Steve Dublanica may have some pithy anecdotes, but he fails to compile them in any cohesive or thoughtful way. At best, his book is a series of blog posts stretched out to chapter length. At worst, it's plain dull. Read more »

Better the devil you know

A look at The Complete Kylie
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Kylie Minogue (born 1968) isn't the world's greatest star, but she is for me and for Simon Sheridan, the Bristol-based pop culture journalist best known for his biographical work on Britain's sauciest birds of the 1970s — including its porn actresses. Oh my, that's a far cry from Kylie's innocent sexiness! But what Sheridan's The Complete Kylie (Reynolds & Hearn, 272 pages, $29.95) suggests is that Kylie would not have attained her present fame had she maintained the innocent, Dakota Fanning-like presence of a child star. Read more »

Wow wow wow wow

Unapologetic collaborator Kevin Killian on Pepsi, Joe Jonas' eyebrows, and Action Kylie
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Kevin Killian is an inveterate and unapologetic collaborator: even when writing solo, there's always another presence. Whether he ventriloquizes through this other, or assimilates or deconstructs it is the reader's call, and it's a difficult one to make. The poems in Killian's most recent book of poetry, Action Kylie (In Girum Imus Nocte et Consumimur Igni, 128 pages, $15) are places where T.S. Eliot's cats LOL, Antonio Banderas anagrams to "no brains on a date," and Kylie Minogue's derivativeness is more compelling than genius. Read more »

'Barf Manifesto'

So great you'll wanna puke
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Maybe it's the urge to purge months of presidential campaign propaganda or eight years of George W. Bush. Maybe it's the holiday season. All I know is this: barf is in. The evidence is all around us. On TV, you'll find Hurl, "an eating competition with an extreme sports chaser" that couples tunnel rides in steel balls with mac 'n' cheese gorge-fests in an attempt to make contestants vomit. Read more »

In the American tree

Camp out with Bernadette Mayer's Poetry State Forest
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REVIEW I'll remain calm while reviewing Bernadette Mayer's new collection of poems, Poetry State Forest (New Directions, 128 pages, $17.95). It's sort of a B-sides-and-rarities collection. I first heard "Easy Puddings" through a recording of a reading-interview Mayer gave with Susan Howe on KPFA-FM in the 1970s. While not all of the poems are new, all of them might be new to you.

This dense forest is, first and foremost, public property. Read more »

Speed reading

Russian Criminal Tattoo Encylopaedia Volume III, The Haunted Screen, and Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
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History is written on the skin. For proof, look no further than Russian Criminal Tattoo Encylopaedia Volume III (Fuel, 400 pages, $32.95), the final chapter in Danzig Baldaev's epic, KGB-approved, ethnographic study. Alexander Sidorov's excellent introduction traces the travels of tattoos from sailors to criminals. Then begins the parade of harshly imaginatively iconography (via Baldaev's drawings) and grave faces (within Sergei Vasiliev's photos). Read more »

Armed love

Up Against the Wall looks back
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REVIEW The struggle of young, white activists aspiring to the authenticity, confrontational stance, and street credibility of groups like the Black Panthers has generated some of the most enduring myths and storylines of the 1960s. Read more »

Read states

Matt Weiland and Sean Wilsey's State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America
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ISBN REAL America has just ended its quadrennial psychoanalysis of every state in the union, ultimately prescribing a mood enhancer. I'm glad that appointment is over, of course.

But I have to say I'm gonna miss watching the candidates participate in their grueling dance marathon with vain, neurotic America, a contest that involved gliding from state to state at breakneck speeds in a perversion of the open-road mythology. I'm gonna miss those blow-up maps of the nation, so detailed that CNN will have to team up with Google Earth to outyell the competition again in 2012. Read more »

The American imagination

Rose Aguilar looks for change on Red Highways
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REVIEW If you're one of the 200,000 San Franciscans who voted for Barack Obama, maybe you're staring at that map of red and blue states wondering, "How could 56 million people vote for John McCain? Why is there still this incredible swath of crimson belting our country?"

Similar questions have been burning in the minds of liberals since the 2000 election. Read more »

Bill Berkson

GOLDIES 2008 winner: Fifty years of slow-dawning epiphany
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Bill Berkson's poetry is a tortoise-and-hare countryside — no one's watching the clock, although it's lunchtime in early fall. When you read his poems, you say, "They're doing it for me, I'll do it for them." His life in art (first as a self-described "kid on the scene of the first New York School," later as a sleeper cell in the New York–Bolinas "axis of poetry evil") could be signified by a freshly minted tarot card: Collaboration. Read more »