Category Archives: Uncategorized

David Sedaris Should Write a Book about My Mom, Mexicans

David Sedaris @ Powerhouse Arena

David Sedaris Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls

David Sedaris, a true cunt connoisseur

Amy Sedaris is a thief. Not of the applaudable Robin Hood-esque, Wynona Rider mold. No, she’s a petite Carlos Mencia with a more convincing Mexican accent. Amy Sedaris, author of my heretofore favorite insult, stole the insult word for word. This comes verified and fact-checked from an unimpeachable source: a non-fiction author.

David Sedaris had been signing books for nearly five hours when I stepped up to request an insult. My plan was to incite some sibling rivalry, show him what Amy Sedaris could do with cutting words. Your sister, I explained, penned my favorite insult to date. Plus, if we can trust page views, “I’d call you a cunt, but you lack the warmth and depth,” is the most popular insult I’ve received to date, according to Google.

The insult sounds familiar, David said. Very familiar.

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Nick Flynn’s Insult Poetry Defies Grammar, My Heart

Nick Flynn @ McNally Jackson Books

Nick Flynn The Captain Asks for a Show of Hands

Proof that Flynn should be America's next poet laureate: the Word Find insult!

I came to Nick Flynn not by his poetry, but by way of his memoir, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City. This was during the height of my obsession with Raymond Carver, emulating (poorly) his stories and reenacting (with limited success) his life, one six-pack at a time. In these halcyon days, I believed heavy drinking was one step in the short march to a meaningful and respected writing career, that admitting to your friends that you might be an alcoholic was something you reported as if you’d just seen a spectacular car wreck: falsely aghast to cover the pride you know you shouldn’t feel.

I freely admit that it takes not a small bit of mental dexterity and college kid obliviousness to examine Carver’s history and come to the conclusion that alcoholism and promiscuity are badges of successful authors. It’s a meaty chunk of shame I’ve not yet swallowed, much less passed, in the eight or nine years since I first began channeling the spirit of a dead drunken frat boy masquerading as the ghost of Raymond Carver. I like to think that Flynn’s memoir helped purge those demons from both my pen and my self.

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Guest Post: Michael Ian Black Profanes a Synagogue

Michael Ian Black Reading From You’re Not Doing It Right @ The 6th & I Synagogue, Washington DC

Michael Ian Black You're Not Doing It Right

In MIB's defense, I often dreamed I was the Anti-Christ while sleeping through Mass

Ed. note: Michael Moats is a fellow book blogger and seeker of authors’ signatures. His tale is featured on today’s blog, and with good reason: Michael Ian Black unleashed amusing profanity within the sanctity of a synagogue, stirring the jealous wrath of a spiteful god. Mike Moats recounts the harrowing events of that evening, below.

The first thing Michael Ian Black does after the standard thank-yous and glad-to-be-heres is open up his laptop and start reading a review of his new book “You’re Not Doing it Right.” Black is not upset or particularly pleased with the review; he’s sharing it because “it is truly the most terribly-written piece of crap I’ve ever read.” (This and all quotes here will be paraphrased, FYI.) The review, and I’ll spare the author attribution here, was posted on a website no one’s ever heard of (MIB: “I think this is a college paper. If it is, it’s not a very good college.”), written by someone no one’s ever heard of. And he’s right: It’s garbage.

“Michael Ian Black is one of those comedians where guys wish to high five him while some girls want slap him across the face. In the end, he is only joking…or is he?” is how review begins. The reviewer stumbles through the trite (praise for “detailed descriptions” and “witty analogies”; MIB: “I mean, I know how to use a fucking adjective.”) to the incompetent (Black’s memoir is consistently referred to as a novel) to the impolite (“It’s an easy read that entertains and exposes the real life and funny mind of a D-list celebrity.” Emphasis mine, and Black’s when he reads it to us).

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Adam Johnson Goes to Bad Korea, Lives to Write About It, Insult Me

Adam Johnson Reading from The Orphan Master’s Son @ PowerHouse Arena

Adam Johnson Orphan Master's Son

Who besides the guy in line behind me could know the correct spelling of stupefying?

Something about Adam Johnson struck me as instantly likeable. I’d tiptoed late into PowerHouse Arena, maybe halfway through the audience Q&A, and quietly purchased a copy of “The Orphan Master’s Son.” Set my dainty ass on the concrete slabs, peered out from behind my thick glasses to my first visit to PowerHouse Arena.

Standing behind a podium or, later, sitting at a table, Adam’s height was striking –- an attribute that likely turned heads in Korea. I pulled out my notebook and began taking notes as Adam continued reminiscing about the citizens of the most secluded country in the world. Overall, his assessment was of a people fully aware of the life they lived, no “people’s paradise,” despite the ban on any outside media or the 24-7 barrage of propaganda.

His government-appointed tour guide, or “minder,” as he put it, accompanied him nearly everywhere he went in North Korea. The sips of information we receive via home videos released to the internet largely corroborate Adam’s summation: a crippled, sad country whose so-paranoid-it’d-be-funny-if-it-weren’t-real government is determined to put on a rosy picture for what few Westerners make it across their border.

But that’s one of many problems in finding the truth about what really goes on behind the desperately cheerful “minders” and frowning soldiers – so much of what we hear about North Korea is an anecdote, a story, a rumor. Adam used the example of in-home propaganda, a hardwired speaker or low-fi radio found in every home, ostensibly installed to protect against an American air raid. Though nearly every emigrant confirmed their existence, there’s no video, no picture, no “official” confirmation.

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Joyce Carol Oates Is (Still) Too Nice to Insult Me

Joyce Carol Oates @ Mysterious Bookshop

Joyce Carol Oates reading

Heart-shaped knocks

Dawn. I detested dawn. The grass always looked like it’d been out all night. I woke early with an all-percussion symphony playing in my head led by the empty bottle of scotch underneath my bed. Outside, the police sirens joined in with the garbage trucks to form a backup chorus that wouldn’t quit. Only a special dame could rouse these tired clichés from my cold, stiff fingers, and that dame was Joyce Carol Oates.

This wasn’t to be my first rodeo with Mrs. Oates. Almost two years ago, about the time I began this blog, Mrs. Oates was to sign books (no reading) in a back room of The Mysterious Bookshop. Because I couldn’t ask her myself, I approached the ridiculously accommodating Mysterious Bookshop employees about asking Mrs. Oates to insult me. After a quick explanation, they agreed. I was (and still am) incredibly grateful for their willingness to help a fellow book-nut in his pursuits.

I returned later that week, hopes high — they’d already helped me land an insult from a big fish like David Mitchell. And if David Mitchell liked the idea, I figured this insult idea must’ve been the best thing since mixed metaphors. Alack, it was not to be. While she laughed at the request, they later reported, insulting a stranger was something she couldn’t do.

Shocking! An author with novels like Rape: a Love Story was almost demure in real life. Rather than an insult, she drew a nice heart for my inscription, the most cheerful rejection I’d received.

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Chad Harbach, Dopplegangers & the Near Demise of Insult-Seeking

Chad Harbach Reading @ McNally Jackson Books

Chad Harbach first novel

According to Harbach, my soul, composed of douchiness and tardiness, is both clean as a summer's eve and very often late

The night of Chad Harbach’s reading was to become for me a bizarre, painful evening, an evening whose anthropomorphic traits I, post-disaster, characterized with mildly self-flagellating images, such as nervous nose picking, mumbling, and shame. Oh, reliable old Shame! How the echoes of your approaching footfalls quicken my heart, send rivulets of battery acid to the welcoming lengths of my armpit hair, and call to standing attention on the base of my tongue the ghost of coffees past. It was an evening to remember for its inability to be forgotten.

Though anxiety and second thoughts were familiar feelings prior to asking strangers for insults, dark premonitions were not. For no particular reason I could see, I was suffering from the acute desire to skip the Q train to McNally Jackson and instead ride the L to domestic safety. But I’d humped the bricklike Art of Fielding up and down subway pee-ways and through the grimace of what was then my full-time job, so: dark thoughts circling my head or not, I set out to ask Mr. Harbach to look into my soul and laugh.

Harbach’s work on n+1 suggested he’d be happy to oblige. Happy insulters make for easy, rewarding nights. Add to that the apparent evidence that he was a fellow lover of America’s slowest, most unabashedly boringest game, and I just had to go. The Art of Fielding was a BASEBALL book, and how often can we self-identifying literati hold our heads up proudly in our favorite Brooklyn coffee shops with sports genre type books in our laps? It seemed that Harbach pulled a Chabon – genre subject, literary pedigree.

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Mark Svartz Reminds My Parents of the Failure They Raised

I Hate You, Kelly Donahue by Mark Svartz

Mark Svartz new book

Brevity is the soul of wit

In theory, well-adjusted people should be glad when friends succeed. What kind of shotgun bro wouldn’t happily cheers tallboys of Natty Light with his wheelman after pulling an awesome donut in the Wal-Mart parking lot? What golfer wouldn’t share an atta-boy high-five with a pal who just knocked in a 15-footer for birdie?

It’s when those accomplishments stack up, however, when your bro pulls the donut in front of some admiring girls (driving his brand new Ferrari) or your pal birdied his fifth hole in a row to beat you by 16 strokes (in front of some admiring girls, in front of his new Ferrari), that the sweet taste of joy curdles into a lumpy reminder of your own shortcomings. We, or maybe just I, celebrate another’s accomplishments insofar as it approaches, paces, or laps my own.

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Adam Ross, Repeat Insulter @ Bookcourt

Adam Ross Reading Ladies & Gentlemen @ BookCourt

Adam Ross reading

Sneaky, Adam. Very sneaky

Adam Ross has a bit of Mel Brooks in him (but which part? Ba-dum-pssh!). Shining eyes that look small, set underneath a gentle curling dollop of sandy blonde hair. His almost cocky smile says he’s thinking of a joke I’d probably not get, and he’s probably right. Read his books, however, and you start to imagine a David Lynch or John Carpenter. Maybe that makes sense, describing an author by way of pop culture filmmakers: humor and psychological horror, with a dash of humanity.

The author of Mr. Peanut and now Ladies & Gentlemen is no stranger to dark humor. Peanut is confounding and at times brilliant, a grim (or any of the other “dismal” synonyms various reviewers have used, like “bleak,” “dark,” or “ominous“) and often fucked-up-funny portrayal of love, marriage, and ownership set within a detective novel’s framework set within another detective novel’s framework. Or something like that. I finished Peanut thinking I’d “figured it out,” but further examination and discussion revealed that the story’s plot twists and multiple characters and even the way Ross played with the very tropes and language of murder mystery novels were often beyond my understanding. “Frustrating, but I’m probably not quick enough… very worthwhile!” would be my blurb. Plus, Adam wrote a hell of a book and was one of my first insults, back in the day, so I’m looking forward to dissecting a more manageable frog in short story form.

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Sam Lipsyte Nearly Broke My Heart

Sam Lipsyte @ McNally Jackson Books

Sam Lipsyte reading

I'd like a hug from Sam Lipsyte some day

I’m trumping my laziness and ignoring my backlog of insults. I met Sam Lipsyte at McNally Jackson last night.

He stared me down. He blankfaced me like I’d picked the dumbest fucking idea in the world out from between my teeth and flicked it on his lapels. And what was I even doing here, coughing out some stumbledrunk idea about insults. Plus, I had bad breath. Shit breath. Gargling turds and talking nonsense, why didn’t I just go home? Why didn’t I go to yoga instead? In the 20 seconds it took to mumble my usual introduction with decreasing volume and enthusiasm, I’d decided to run away on the opening lip-twitch of rejection like some frightened base runner going on the pitcher’s first twitch.

It wasn’t the reaction I’d expected, the blank look. It was theretofore inconceivable that Sam Lipsyte would be the type to spurn my insult. His books are the off-beat, dark kind of funny that’s right in my wheelhouse. This is the guy I’d loved like a literary Happy Meal during my toddler days of seeing myself as a capital-W Writer. Home Land was the book to pass along to friends I’d made in English and creative writing classes to prove my literary hipness. It proved I was the type of reader/Writer who of course read the classics and requisites fed to me but also found good books by looking. I sensed that his prose reflected back on me; by being the one to “find” his book — and it is a damn good book — it was somehow an affirmation of my taste, and by association, my skill as a writer. I got more traction in the undergrad literary scene out of Home Land, Hanif Kureshi’s Buddha of Suburbia, and my fake understanding of Barthelme than I had any right to.

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Share Your Book Collection!

1st edition book collection

I'm particularly in love with my Denis Johnson collection, though I'm still missing Jesus' Son -- if anyone wants to sell me a copy... I FOUND A COPY!

I’m guessing that Thoreau’d sneer at me, but I take great comfort in being surrounded with the beautiful things I own. I figure most people collect something — DVDs, jewelry from ex-husbands, grudges. My love is 1st edition and signed books.

This past weekend, our household of hissing cats and beautiful women made the move from Manhattan to Brooklyn. The charm of living on the sixth floor of a six-story walk-up, with its rats, cockroaches, and garbage being stored indoors under the only staircase until the zero-hour of garbage day, had worn off after three years. We’ll miss the local color: the 2nd-story prostitute who cycled through Johns quickly and loudly enough to attract the attention and ire of her octogenarian neighbor, who called the cops when she heard through the building’s notoriously thin walls a John mouthing off about a gun; the two local “troubled kids” high schools, one of whose gangs I witnessed beat a kid with a hunk of 2X4 outside of the local McDonald’s, and who supposedly died from falling off the curb, busting his head open on the asphalt and bleed onto his screaming friend’s coat; the cute, middle-aged gay couple down the street who always let me take pictures of their corgi pups to save for later when I needed a boost of cute. There was no shortage of interesting people and great food.

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