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Friday Quick Notes...Uh, Make That Friday LONG Notes [Sep. 13th, 2013|10:06 am]
First, in local news, a new restaurant has opened up in the death spot on Telegraph ave, making it the fourth establishment to give it a go in that space in five years. (Remarks on an earlier attempt here.) But this one, Rangoon Super Stars, might have a shot. First, it is closely related to the already popular Burma Superstar, of which there are several locations. Second, it's a bit cheaper and less flashy than previous restaurants in the location. And third, it's actually good. I'm not necessarily a fan of Burmese food—to me a car-crash of Indian and Thai food, neither of which I like all that much—but I looooved my dish of garlic pork. Literal oh-boy-I'm-chewing-and-I-can-have-another-bite-after-I-swallow love.

And the service was also excellent. Restaurant service in Berkeley ranges from disinterested to sadistic, so I was amazed. Olivia got a very hot item, and so they not only refilled her water glass but took my suggestion to bring her a larger glass. They have a small basket of chewy sugar cane for people who need the heat to cut the heat in their mouths. They asked to clear plates rather than just grabbing shit off the table. Holy shit! Anyway, just get over there if you're local. Even if Rangoon Super Stars can't beat the curse, at least you can get some good meals, served well, before they shutter.

If you weren't at the Barnes & Noble in Emeryville last night, you missed this:


Editors really need to support their writers, I think. Have you at least read Toh EnJoe's Self-Reference Engine...or are you just one of those #DiversityinSFF people who really only mean, "My work should be published more often!"? Here's an interview with EnJoe, at SFSignal, to further whet your appetite.

Speaking of readings, Greg Bossert and I will be reading at SF in SF tomorrow. I may have the new, supercheap at $7.99, paperbacks of Love is the Law to sell. Come and see me. Bring money. I'll also do some lifting, on request.

And speaking of lifting, and then dropping very hard, I cannot believe that Christophe Beha's blog post on the New York Times Book Review was picked up by Slate. It's a riot of shallow thinking and nonsensical claims, though many of the latter were simply accepted by Beha after being initially stated by best-selling novelist Jennifer Weiner. Most egregious:

It seems to be part of Weiner’s argument that the TBR systematically excludes the kinds of commercial fiction that women read and write while still including crime fiction and other kinds of male-oriented commercial fiction, that it has no rational basis for doing so, and that this practice has the practical effect of excluding female writers. This may all be true, and if it is true, it should be fixed. My fix would be to exclude crime fiction and other male-oriented commercial fiction as well as female-oriented commercial fiction.

Where to begin? Most obvious: crime fiction is not a genre of male-oriented fiction. Crime fiction is indeed sufficiently female oriented that male authors such as Joe Konrath sometimes adopt initials (e.g., J. A. Konrath) to obscure their gender, just as women do to obscure theirs. Also, here are the top-selling mass market paperback crime novels of the week, according to my fancy-dancy measurer:

Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 9.46.10 AM

For those who do not know, C. J. Lyons is a woman. So that' out of ten.


Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 9.48.32 AM

For those who do not know, C. J. Box is a man. Galbraith, of course, is J. K. Rowling. So, five out of ten.

Trade paper...

Screen Shot 2013-09-13 at 9.50.37 AM

Three out of ten. Not so good, surely, but it's also worth noting that one of these is from Ian McEwan, which would certainly qualify it as a "Holy Crap" book worthy of passing under Beha's eyes.

You see, Beha thinks that the Book Review should only review "Holy Crap" books. But how to find them? Well, by systematically excluding genre fiction, which "is designed to conform to the expectations of its genre or subgenre, and usually the best that can be said about any given example of it is that it does or does not succeed in conforming to those expectations." Of course we can all name a million exceptions. Beha even acknowledges that most literary fiction doesn't qualify as "Holy Crap" either—how could it, given the ideological hegemony of MFA programs, for one thing—but he has a solution. He is going to look at the publicity materials. Because:

I think that authors and editors and publicists usually recognize holy crap books when they see them and have become increasingly good at making sure such books don’t get dismissed by assigning editors as genre fiction even when they are trying to pitch those books to a wider readership as more conventional genre books.

Barely even a fucking sentence. Editors and authors and publicists assign editors to genres? WHAT?!*

Now, part of the problem is that Beha's debating partner is Jennifer Weiner, who has hitched her wagon to the diversity star in a bid to be taken seriously by the Times. (Weiner isn't actually all that interested in diversity—she eagerly attacked Jennifer Egan when the latter, far superior, author dared to suggest that women writers be ambitious rather than derivative). But 'Review more women, and that means reviewing more commercial fiction' is a better-sounding argument than 'Review my books! I'm rich and famous and have movies so you have to love me!'

And what it really boils down to is this: it's not that genre fiction is formulaic and unworthy of serious notice. It's not the literary fiction is any better than genre fiction in this regard—as I told one of my fellow Writing Salon teachers, "Formula? Quick, where do you tell your students to put the epiphany in their stories?"—it's that Weiner's fiction is formulaic and unworthy of serious notice, in particular. She's just dragging all the rest of us along with her, leading to Beha's nonsensical ramblings. Weiner no more needs a Times review than any random issue of any college-backed literary journal does. We already know what's in it. So the search for "Holy Crap" is a good one; it's just that Beha has no idea what he is looking for, how to look for it, or where it might be. And for this he gets a berth at Slate? Well, now we know where to find the crap on the Internet, if not the holy crap.

Finally, if I could dare mention genre-mixing work of my own, you might be interested to know that the publisher is selling Bullettime ebooks for five bucks, for the month of September. Why not buy one and see?

*Chris Barzak makes sense of the sentence here.

[User Picture]From: czakbar
2013-09-13 05:33 pm (UTC)
Agreed on all counts, but that sentence you quoted from Behar's post about assigning editors barely being a sentence? I had to read it several times to understand what he was talking about too. In this case, "assigning" isn't a verb, I believe, it's an adjective for "editor" and he's calling the editors at the Times who assign reviews to reviewers "assigning editors". When you read it that way, it makes a bit more sense--only what he means, not the logic though.
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[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2013-09-13 05:39 pm (UTC)
Aah, so what he meant was "I think that authors and editors and publicists usually recognize holy crap books when they see them and have become increasingly good at making sure these books are recognized as such by the assigning editors at book reviews, even when they are also trying to pitch those books to a wider readership by placing them in genre categories."
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[User Picture]From: czakbar
2013-09-13 05:52 pm (UTC)
Yup! That's it!
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From: (Anonymous)
2013-09-13 05:47 pm (UTC)

Scavenger says

I read that as "Restaurant service in Berkeley ranges from disinterested to Satanic"
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[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2013-09-13 06:55 pm (UTC)

Re: Scavenger says

If you include bar service...yes.
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[User Picture]From: joxn
2013-09-13 07:40 pm (UTC)
I've read Self-Reference Engine, and that interview just makes me want to read it again.
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[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2013-09-13 07:41 pm (UTC)
You should write a review of it on your blog, or amazon, or goodreads, or something!
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[User Picture]From: pantryslut
2013-09-13 07:45 pm (UTC)
I read the article you linked to and I have fallen in love with Mean Girl Jennifer Egan already.

My copy of Self-Reference Engine appears to have taken a walk. Probably it's sitting somewhere in my office with its spine pointing the wrong way. I am actually quite grumpy about this as it was up next.
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[User Picture]From: icecreamempress
2013-09-13 08:51 pm (UTC)
Jennifer Egan is a fantastic writer. Jennifer Weiner is riding the Hack Express from Sob Sister City to Cinderella Fantasy Junction.
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[User Picture]From: jetse
2013-09-14 08:38 pm (UTC)
I love, love, love that picture of you and Toh Enjoe!

(I know: I should write a review of SELF-REFERENCE ENGINE. Too crazy at the day job right now: early October.)
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[User Picture]From: Austin H. Williams
2013-09-15 12:47 am (UTC)
I've recently read and been sublimely impressed by both Egan and EnJoe recently.

And I made Goodreads reviews.

Do I win anything?
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[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2013-09-16 08:10 pm (UTC)
A larger mansion in heaven.
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From: philrm
2013-09-16 08:07 pm (UTC)
Something strange happened to me on Labor Day weekend. I walked into a bookstore (this isn't the strange part) - the Tattered Cover, in Denver - and on the shelves I found a copy of Bullettime. Was this some kind of marketing error?

I bought it, but haven't read it yet (my TBR pile is about 1000 books deep, and the last week in Colorado has been, well, kind of demanding).
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[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2013-09-16 08:10 pm (UTC)
In that it was actually available? At this point, it probably was an error! (Or did you leave out the odd shelf you found it on?)
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From: philrm
2013-09-16 11:57 pm (UTC)
Yes, that there was actually a copy available. It was in the SF/Fantasy section.
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[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2013-09-17 12:17 am (UTC)
Well, it does still sell some copies. Buy it before they throw it away!
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[User Picture]From: erikagillian
2013-09-16 09:15 pm (UTC)
So where exactly is the death spot on Telegraph? I'm guessing Haste and Telegraph, north west corner, but my info's twenty years out of date.
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[User Picture]From: nihilistic_kid
2013-09-16 09:17 pm (UTC)
Between Stuart and Oregon. Far enough from the school not to be good for the students, far enough from fancy areas not to be good for the yuppies, and it's a big place so has to have some expensive dinners.
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[User Picture]From: erikagillian
2013-09-16 09:27 pm (UTC)
Wow, yeah, you couldn't rely on foot traffic there. But on the other hand, parking!

Dark Carnival used to be at Stuart and Telegraph but that's about the only reason I ever walked down there, most of my walking was done the other direction, on College, with the 7-11 and other conveniences. I used to live at Hillegass and Stuart, the house on the south east corner belonged to my dad. He was a high school history teacher so you can guess there were apartments as well as the main house in there :)
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