Author Archives: James Warner

Books are Hard to Sell, do Texts Want to be Free?

Managing the toys-and-books stand at my daughter’s school carnival, I noticed that hardly anyone, children or adults, even looked at the books. There were many excellent books on display, and many bestsellers, all at bargain prices, and the parents at the school in question are a bohemian bunch, and most everything else on display was […]

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Stories About Jews Killing Nazis

Irwin Shaw’s “The Inhabitants of Venus” is a story mostly set in a crowded téléférique — an aerial cable-car or gondala lift — at a postwar Swiss ski resort. The hero, Robert – born a French Jew, but now a U.S. citizen — hears a German insulting some American women. He resolves to punch the […]

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Some Irwin Shaw Stories

A few years back I enjoyed reading Short Stories: Five Decades, a collection of sixty-four stories by Irwin Shaw. Shaw was a successful author of radio plays, bestselling novels, nonfiction, and much else. His parents were Russian Jews who emigrated to the Bronx, and his stories from this volume that have stayed with me tend […]

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Hazlitt and Naipaul on Drowning

William Hazlitt’s “My First Acquaintance with Poets” contains a story featured in many books about Hazlitt – Tom Paulin’s The Day-Star of Liberty being one of my favorite of these books. The incident occurred while Hazlitt and Coleridge were walking and talking together. It served to strengthen Hazlitt in his belief that men are not […]

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Writing as Engineering

Levi suggests here that all creative actions can be explained in terms of our innate preference for efficiency.

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Who You Want to be, Who You’re Afraid You Are

James Ellroy, interviewed in “Paris Review” 190 (Fall 2009), explains why he prefers Dashiell Hammett to Raymond Chandler:“Chandler wrote the kind of guy that he wanted to be, Hammett wrote the kind of guy that he was afraid he was. Chandler’s books are incoherent. Hammett’s are coherent. Chandler is all about the wisecracks, the similes, […]

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Literary Reproductive Strategies

I quoted Margaret Atwood on “aliveness” in writing — an image that ties in with Thomas Hardy’s sense of a story as an organism — and her proposal that all writing is motivated by a desire to bring something back from the dead.Hilary Mantel’s Giving up the Ghost also develops the idea of writing as […]

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Did the Lit Crawl Cause the Decline of the Roman Empire?

Tonight (Friday October 16th) at 8 p.m., “Underground Exposed: A Zine Retrospective,” at Chrome Bags, 580 4th St. Panels will feature some of the city’s best zinesters.And tomorrow (Saturday October 17th) the Crawl! Full schedule here. This year there will be food vendors. Seek street parking at your peril — it’s always impossible to park […]

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Survival of the Fittest

Surviving Litquake okay? Tonight I’ll be at Varnish Fine Art, 77 Natoma Street, at 7 p.m., listening to original short stories on the theme of “Survival of the Fittest.” Litquake brings you this event in conjunction with Evolve 2009, a celebration of Charles Darwin’s two hundredth birthday and of the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary […]

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Await Your Reply, by Dan Chaon

On my way to the Litquake Book Ball last Friday, I managed to catch the question period following Dan Chaon‘s reading at Books Inc. I learned that Dan Chaon has a laugh like an engine that won’t start properly. I heard him say that, when he was an MFA student, he was influenced by writers […]

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Where the Mind Meets the Brain

What is the relationship between mind and body? Is consciousness an accidental byproduct of neuronal complexity? Tonight (Tuesday October 13th, 2009, 6-7 p.m.), Joe Quirk will be posing questions like these, only funnier, to this impressive array of panelists — Paul Ekman, world authority on facial expressions. Robert Burton, a writer and neurologist who has […]

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Gimme Something Better

Litquake and Porchlight collaborate tonight — Monday, October 12th, 2009, 8 p.m., at Broadway Studios, 435 Broadway, San Francisco — to bring you true tales of punk-rock anarchy excess. This is a launch for the new book Gimme Something Better: The Profound, Progressive, and Occasionally Pointless History of Bay Area Punk from Dead Kennedys to […]

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LQX Begins Today!

Although the news of Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize is getting more media attention, San Francisco’s tenth annual Litquake festival kicks off today. Speaking as a Litquake committee member, I’m amazed how many meetings, e-mails, phone calls etc. it takes to make a literary festival happen.Well, the hour’s finally come… Here is 7×7’s guide […]

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Prize Artefacts

The Nobel Literature Prize went to Herta Müller today. These are the odds Ladbrokes were giving out yesterday. A fascinating cultural artefact, that list of odds, it raises so many questions — e.g. why was Bob Dylan thought four times more likely to win the Prize than were Michel Tournier or Paul Auster?M.A. Orthofer predicted […]

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What Kind of Fish is Nick Hornby?

Nick Hornby notes here, “One of my favourite literary facts is that Dickens is estimated to have created thirteen thousand characters, an astounding number – the population of Ely! – that’s always taken as evidence of his extraordinary energy and indefatigable imagination. Every now and again, though, you start to wonder whether it’s not some […]

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