|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:
For those who do not know, C. J. Lyons is a woman. So that's...seven out of ten.
For those who do not know, C. J. Box is a man. Galbraith, of course, is J. K. Rowling. So, five out of ten.
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.