“The wonders of the daily newspaper” –Nov. 2, 2002

As a grade school kid, one of the few things thatI found enjoyable about my ordeal by public education was my introductionto wonders of the daily newspaper. This is a habit I have maintaineduntil only recently—my lapse being another story entirely.The best part of my daily perambulation through this school lessonwas the sports pages. Chicago, being a full-blooded town, had itsshare of sports news: 2 football teams, 2 baseball teams, a hockeyteam, seated in the center of the Big Ten conference and two localCatholic Notre Dame wannabes, Loyola and DePaul Universities. Ofcourse, none of that meant much to me at the time. What did meana lot was that I lived a few blocks from Wrigley Field, home ofthe perennially losing Chicago Cubs. My first newspaper was theChicago Sun-Times, the liberal tabloid owned by the MarshallFields family and the yin to the McCormack family’s antediluvianChicago Tribune yang. Years later the Tribune wouldend up owning the Cubs—for me, a reinforcement of the basicand obvious notion that if you live long enough you will encountersome really unlikely turns-of-events. Anyway, the sports pages inthe tabloid were the back pages and often as not it's what I readfirst, murders and fires being of marginal interest to me. Thishabit of reading about sports has continued even past my participationor even my viewing of most professional contests. I still find somesatisfaction in getting the inside info about sports for reasonsthat escape me. I would think that this kind of interest would carryover into other areas, like the literary and the publishing worldsthat I inhabit, but it doesn’t. I don’t really care ifZadie Smith is dating Eminem. Or who Jonathan Safran Foer is dating.Maybe that fact that GabeHudson is reportedly auctioning off his letter from PresidentBush is mildly amusing (The NY Observer reports Bush wroteHudson that his book Dear Mr. President was "unpatriotic,""ridiculous" and "just plain bad writing") andthe fact is whatever I think of this kind of gossip probably thereare many people that find it interesting. Far be it from me to wantto legislate the informational marketplace, except as an arbitor.Now, Dennis Loy Johnson’s website, MobyLives.com("The whale lives") seems devoted to matters of literaryimport. I say "seems" because as a new devotee of thisblog, I haven’t felt it necessary to form an opinion on itsplace in the cosmos. I am grateful that Johnson gave voice to somethingthat has been troubling me for some time. That is, why photographerMarion Ettlinger has become the darling of the book publishing artdirector crowd. I asked Johnson if he tried to sell his piece onthis photographic naked empress to NY publications. His response,"I did try to peddle that Ettlinger column around, but gotno takers because, I figure, most of the editors I was peddlingto (in NYC) all dream of having their photo taken by Ms. Ettlinger;it's a real status symbol, which is what makes it all the more interesting/repulsive,in a 'emperor has no clothes' kind of way." Actually far moresignificantly, Johnson points out a backlash brewing towards thecurrent crop of seemingly successful young writers. Dave Eggers'deals are being scrutinized for their consistency with his initialclaims about McSweeney’s books and the benefits forauthors who published with him as well as the direction of McSweeney’s(next to be guest edited by Micheal Chabon) and its commitment toyoung unpublished writers. Jonathan Franzen and Rick Moody are beingtaken to task for applying for and accepting grant money (usuallydesignated for young and penurious writers) despite their own economicgood fortunes. And it being award season, the National Book Awardfinalists are being vetted for who they are connected to and whattheir provenance is and what publishing houses have been frozenout of this year's awards. This is all seemingly interesting stuffwhile (if) you are reading it. Maybe like checking baseball boxscores in the middle of July. Interesting, but pretty much meaningless…

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