Wednesday, June 28, 2006

South Carolina Has the Best Hammers

Image from unofficial M.S. link below.

Thanks to Sarah Weinman who seems to be everywhere at once, I've discovered the serendipitous news that the very hunk of SC where I'll be vacating for the next few days-- through which Hwy 17 is the main drag-- is going to name a stretch of that road after long-time resident Mickey Spillane.

I'll have to ask the oldest member of our family group, turning a dewy 90 and a popular resident of Murrells Inlet as it happens, which diner and or gas station the Mickey frequents. I don't stalk. I'd just like to soak up the vibes if I can sense them over the exhaust fumes, burnt coffee, and sunscreen breezes of nearby Myrtle Beach

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Bury Me with Fake Stories not Dummies

This image is from the '99 Holiday skits put on by the students of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory of the University of Arizona which has since closed up shop as unnecessary. The remaining faculty now simpy hawk Dummies books on eBay.

When it comes to any information worthwhile in human history, knows all. Los Angeles & Disneyland for Ds even has a nice- tie in article for my purposes on how the morbidly curious can meet the stars in their apres vivant estates.

I can't believe it's been since last Friday that I posted. I always have the illusion that it was just a day ago at most, and I must've thought that for three days now.

I'm getting ready to go at week's end to South Carolina's (perhaps the nation's) capitol of mini-golf: Myrtle Beach. Certainly, I must have something to say before gathering in unholy, gravy-covered congress with the grandparents and siblings and parents and cousins and aunts and uncles and nieces and nephews. Well, not really. I'm in the scrivening trench and my mind is occupied with my own inventions. Narcissistic to the end.

Still, I scraped the dirty pots in the sink and gleaned some squeezings for youse all.

1) Today, Publishers Lunch pointed me to a press release about a convention of Dummies authors from the ubiquitous Wiley's series of books covering subjects from metaphysics to DNA sequencing to carbon dating archaeological finds. Of the now thousands of Dummies titles, 150 authors will meet and... and I don't know what. If the topics represented range from acne and computer viruses to poker, what do the diverse authors have to talk about? How to pick what tips got the funny face guy and which got a block quote with a cartoon light bulb? May I assume, if so many authors are rarin' to congegate that they got paid with royalties and not a work-for-hire arrangement? If you see the point, let me know. Then again, they're all dummies, right?

2) Nathaniel Hawthorne's wife and daughter have been reburied next to him in the Sleepy Hollow cemetary in Concord, MA through the efforts of the nuns in the order he founded. He was a Catholic and loving husband, not an adulterous Puritan minister. See, The Scarlet Letter was a story. He made it all up, and it didn't suck.

3) In the just-though-glacially-slow category, the University of Colorado creeps closer to firing fake-Indian, fake-artist, fraudulent scholar Ward Churchill who will, of course, be appealing ad inifinitum.

4) Since faking isn't just for academics anymore, but now for "memoirists" everywhere, I introduce you to Wandering Scribe- who I'd meant to comment upon before- the latest spazbag to start a blog, while homeless no less, and to score a book deal in an auction between publishers. No doubt, we writers are a scrabbling, desperate bunch. So, from the first, some fellows of the pen have questioned whether WS was authentic, especially since she repeatedly declined all offers and suggestions of concrete help, although many on the streets do, too. Still, I got the whiff of "No thanks, I'd rather live in my car and follow my agent's advice to build up the post archives." Grumpy Old Bookman is similarly cynical. Glad I'm not alone.

When this fad runs its course through reader fatigue at being deceived, I hope readers will rejoice to return to fictionaires like Hawthorne who lied, without subterfuge, not to earn victim credentials but all for the reader's benefit.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Even New Jersey's Tabbycats are Enforcers

Suzanne Giovanetti and AP, please don't sue. Article link's below.

I don't think about insomnia enough to detest it when I don't have it. We could happily be members of the same club, carpool, karaoke together. I'm all smiles when I'm not afflicted.

However, when I, Olympic-caliber slumberer that I am, go without my RDA of log-sawing, I'm an embittered wreck. Like today. So here's the ultra-short form with a big thanks to April who sends crazy e-mails that I keep in a glassed emergency cabinet just for occasions like this one. She's also hosting her yearly BBQ tomorrow, several states away from here. If you're attending, "please bring a side dish or dessert, or a cool rock that's about half the size of your head." Without further ado or landscaping entreaties, here's your link:

Clawless Kitty Chases Bear Up Tree.

I hope no more need be said, 'cause I'm not gonna.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

All Beagles and Quantum Mechanics

See item 3 for image link.

1) I love that now we can accurately train dogs to alert us to the trace differences in human scent caused by dangerous health conditions, like metastasizing cancer and uncontrolled diabetes, for example. Belle the beagle not only licks her owner's nose to check his glucose, but dialed 911 when he collapsed from a seizure. This arrangement provides an undoubtedly appreciative and loving home for Belle while allowing Kevin Weaver to live a lot more independently (and longer) than he would've in other eras.

2) Via Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, I also liked this article comparing crime fiction and quantum physics. I feel so subtle and smart now. And it also reminded me, I haven't read any Dirk Gently in too long. Hie me away to The Long Dark Tea-time of The Soul.

3) An image of the Beagle 2 Mars lander would have tied the two concepts together, but it was named for Darwin's boat, not the pooch, and where's the challenge in that? However, by playing web phrase roulette, as I'm wont to do, I found the perfect image combined with a word problem, no less:

In the figure, a circus beagle of mass m = 6.0 kg runs onto the left end of a curved ramp with speed V = 7.8 m/s at the initial height of 8.5 m above the floor. It then slides to the right and comes to a momentary stop when it reaches a height y = 11.1 m from the floor. The ramp is not frictionless. What is the increase in the thermal energy of the beagle and ramp because of the sliding?

Okay, it's not quantum mechanics, but give me a break. Click here for solutions from AP Physics Chapter 6.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Romantic Robot Seeks Position of Pulp Peril

Image from DC Comics Strange Adventures #158, November 1963, The Case of the Romantic Robot.

1) Via Bookgasm's review, my favorite new novel title and cover is The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril . One great feature is that the heroes of the book are historic pulp fiction writers Lester Dent and William Gibson, although I'll have to read it to see whether author Paul Malmont's faithfully follows The Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot.

2) From Leslie Walker of the WaPo: Ladies, beware of men buying drinks in bars -- they may be retired drug dealers trying to recruit you into their life of cybercrime.

3) Galleycat reports on compadre Stanley Bing launching his book 100 Bullshit Jobs... And How to Get Them. Meanwhile, overachieveing writer/editor Jade Walker adds to her Blog of Death and NYC Writers Group online projects with a new entry, Eccentric Employment. Currently, open positions include: Kayak Guide, Skincandy Gofer, Mermaids, Roller Skaters, Big Guy, Professional Mistress, and Study Hall Manager

4) People are talking about this Times Online article describing our sexy future with Robots, Robots, Robots! My favorite response is this list from The Daily Gut, who ought to add permanent links if he wants me to be able to easily refer to and not simply regurgitate his specific brilliance:

-It is not you. It is my AI 23000 central processing unit.

-There is someone else. Actually, It is a self-guided RL-1000 Series Robomower with Docking Station. Does it matter which year? Okay fine, the 2006.

-You are just using me for a series of mundane tasks.

-Sometimes I think it is you who is repeating pre-recorded sounds.

- I would like my Kraftwerk CDs back. Here is your sweater.

- Sometimes I think it is you who has been performing tasks repeatedly in exactly the same fashion.

- How was my day? Well, I painted, welded and assembled a car for you. Thanks for asking.

- I don't ask for much. Just a little feedback to control the precise process you wish me to perform.

- I have been asked to defuse roadside bombs in Iraq. Don't wait for me.

- You are becoming less aesthetically pleasing over time. I will show myself out.

- I predict that you did not know that I have entered an art contest and took first place. That is proof of how little you know about me.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Piggies of a Different Stripe

My friend sent me these amazing pictures by e-mail a while ago, and we bantered back and forth about how such a thing might occur.

So, I did a little online searching and discovered the following heartwarming, Awwwww-inducing citations here and here and with expanded detail here.

In a zoo in California, a mother tiger gave birth to a rare set of triplet tiger cubs. Unfortunately, due to complications in the pregnancy, the cubs were born prematurely and due to their tiny size, they died shortly after birth.The mother tiger after recovering from the delivery, suddenly started to decline in health, although physically she was fine. The veterinarians felt that the loss of her litter had caused the tigress to fall into adepression. The doctors decided that if thetigress could surrogate another mother's cubs, perhaps she would improve.

After checking with many other zoos across the country, the depressing news was that there were no tiger cubs of the right age to introduce to the mourning mother. The veterinarians decided to try something that had never been tried in a zoo environment. Sometimes a mother of one species will take on the care of a different species. The only "orphans" that could be found quickly, were a litter of weaner [weaning?] pigs. The zoo keepers and vets wrapped the piglets in tiger skin and placed the babies around the mother tiger.

Of course, that story isn't true or even from freakylicious California, and tigers' keen senses aren't as easily conned as all that. It turns out that this tiger is the product of a strange Thai zoo (cited to bizarre philosophical effect here). Sriracha Zoo is an oddity where curators expect lambs to gambol happily with lions, and tiger cubs are nursed by sows for allegedly enhanced growth and to instill the perverse confusion that the porcine are of the same family as the feline.

No one has indicated that the grown tigers aren't still fed meat, although presumably not pork. And this might even seem marginally okay (if unscalable and perverse) provided the animals were otherwise well-treated. However, there seems to be some dispute about that.

Friday, June 16, 2006

In Case You Didn't Know About Modern Art-

- that most of it's become absolute shinola, here's proof.

A sculptor submitted this laughing head mounted on a pedestal, or plinth. The pieces somehow became separated, and while the head was rejected for admittance to the Royal Academy of Art's summer exhibition, the plinth was accepted and put on display.

Very minimalist and edgy. Everyone's having a good laugh, it's reported, as if this didn't betray the vacuity of their perceptions, and the completely insubstantial nature of much modern "work." The part requiring technical skill: sh**canned. The unusual conceptual "assemblage": effin' brilliant!

What an irrational bunch of retards rule the art world.

If I could raise some real artists from the dead, you'd see outraged Dutch and Italian zombies scaling the walls of the Royal Academy with palette knives in their teeth.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Flaming Ambrose Redux

For image link, see item 3.

1) If you didn't follow yesterday's Wikipedia link to the life of Ambrose Bierce, shame on you. And here's one fascinating nugget you missed, his ultimate disappearance:

In October 1913, the septuagenarian Bierce departed Washington on a tour to revisit his old Civil War battlefields. By December, he had proceeded on through Louisiana and Texas, crossing by way of El Paso into Mexico, which was then in the throes of revolution. In Ciudad Juárez, he joined the army of Pancho Villa as an observer, in which role he participated in the battle of Tierra Blanca. He is known to have accompanied Villa's army as far as the city of Chihuahua, Chihuahua. After a last letter to a close friend, sent from that city on December 26, 1913, he vanished without a trace, becoming one of the most famous disappearances in American literary history. Subsequent investigations to ascertain his fate were fruitless and, despite many decades of speculation, his disappearance remains a mystery.

In one of his last letters, Bierce wrote:
"Good-by — if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico — ah, that is euthanasia".

2) The Straight Dope on what happens when those declared dead turn up alive.

3) My latest review, Shelly Reuben's The Skirt Man, is up at mysterybookspot. I thought it was a terrific read.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Girthy Ambrose Bierce Would Like My Steamboat

Pardon the strange angling. I was photographing a tabletop without a crane.

I had been feeling terribly guilty about my intermittent posting when I started to notice the same trend amongst other blogs I read regularly. Days between updates due to vacations or just senioritis as the summer starts swinging. I'd love to lie like a rug and say I've been consumed with producing kilos of words on my two big projects and sundry small ones, but actually, I've been whipping around examining alternate apartamenting options.

1) I did attend the MoCCA (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) 5th annual festival on Sunday. I've got a couple pictures to post and a little to say about that, so I'll save it for tomorrow except for my awesome steamboat print by Brendan Burford , which will- when augmented with text- become the cover of a future Syncopated Comics. The website is still developing, I was informed, so I'm sure they meant ought-six not '05, but you'll get the idea of this group reportage and essay comic. I just liked the feel and look, and think it'll be a nice companion to an old Fortune magazine cover illustration of an ocean liner that I already have up.

2) Pal Elgin Tyrell, on the occasion of his daughter's wedding, noticed that he has joined auspicious company as a man of girth. Add Sebastian Cabot (Mr. French of Family Affair) and Nero Wolfe, not to mention Hercule Poirot, and you'll see how often the nattily dressed girthed ones rise above classifications of slovenliness to shine as men of elegance and erudition. If you want to shrink for health and/or comfort, do. But if not, be sure to turn yourself out in better than a giveaway T-shirt and frayed shorts if you wish to convey the agile and keen sensibility within.

3) Apropos of my most recent literary post, I've been referred to a 1909 Ambrose Bierce treatise that makes similar points. If you sample his blacklist, you'll find an enormous number of the sloppy usages he berates have indeed slunk into common parlance , literary and otherwise. Was this slackening into populist naturalism and lazy language the beginning of idealizing "realism"-whose momentum has carried it finally to falsely tragic memoirs and wearying gutter travelogues- as the acme of literary expression? I don't condemn commonness of subject matter, but commoness of storytelling. Even when the subject is depravity or hardship, part of valuing humanity and the richness of life means seeing depths within the horrible, so I think realistically awful stories especially deserve a writer who works like an artist, not the usual poet of the bathroom stall. Thanks to Project Gutenberg for making such goodies available. Here's the link to Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults and an introductory excerpt:

The author's main purpose in this book is to teach precision in writing; and of good writing (which, essentially, is clear thinking made visible) precision is the point of capital concern. It is attained by choice of the word that accurately and adequately expresses what the writer has in mind, and by exclusion of that which either denotes or connotes something else. As Quintilian puts it, the writer should so write that his reader not only may, but must, understand.

Friday, June 09, 2006

All In a Name?

From my pal April. Hope you can read it. Does the name confer stud powers?! Soitainly, nyuk nyuk!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Goodbye Policeman, Hello Precision

In the RP's honor, this image of Dali Camels by Pixelmasher done for a Worth 1000 photoshop contest.

Editor's NOTE: This post was ready way earlier, but Blogger vomited and I couldn't post it until now.

I am going to miss The Religious Policeman, the Saudi ex-pat living in the UK and giving the poop on life in the kingdom. I found his posts as heartbreaking as funny when I came to realize how little he has to embellish to create what sounds like the broadest satire. However, he's quitting his blog, which he notes has 400 posts one may yet read at leisure daily until 2007, in order to clear the time to write a novel with a collaborator he met in the blogosphere. Good for him.

Sure, I could quit blogging to get all disciplined about noveling, too, but I think it sends the wrong message... to the kids.

As apostropher kindly sent me the full text pdf of B.R. Myers' 2001 article in The Atlantic Online that I referenced here (item 5), I went ahead and read the darn thing, 21 pages which were pointed, concrete, and demand another reading, unlike his subject matter, IMHO.

The dualism of literary versus genre has all but routed the old trinity of highbrow, middlebrow, and lowbrow, which was always invoked tongue-in-cheek anyway. Writers who would once have been called middlebrow are now assigned, depending solely on their degree of verbal affectation, to either the literary or the genre camp. David Guterson is thus granted Serious Writer status for having buried a murder mystery under sonorous tautologies (Snow Falling on Cedars, 1994), while Stephen King, whose Bag of Bones (1998) is a more intellectual but less pretentious novel, is still considered to be just a very talented genre storyteller.

It was refreshing to read Myers castigating the stylistic blecchs of Don DeLillo and Cormac McCarthy, but first, Annie Proulx:

Like so much modern prose, this demands to be read quickly, with just enough attention to register the bold use of words. Slow down and things fall apart..."Furious dabs of tulips stuttering in gardens." "An apron of sound lapped out of each dive." ... In one brief paragraph in The Shipping News a man's body is likened to a loaf of bread, his flesh to a casement, his head to a melon, his facial features to fingertips, his eyes to the color of plastic, and his chin to a shelf... Today anything longer than two or three lines is likely to be a simple list of attributes or images. Proulx relies heavily on such sentences, which often call to mind a bad photographer hurrying through a slide show.

Myers identifes the overwording and illogic, the use of the laziest of descriptions in quantity to draw a perimeter around an idea. Evocative, perhaps, and that's a term I often lazily use myself, but it isn't at all the same as communicating, hitting it between the eyes on the first shot. Instead, it's a gesture-drawing style of writing or like playing charades with concepts, miming several inapt fascimiles in succession until the reader nods and says, "I got it."

A more concise syntax would show up the poverty of this description at once, but by stringing a dozen attributes together she ensures that each is seen only in the context of a dazzlingly "pyrotechnic" whole.

Myers identifies the same tendencies in the "muscular" prose of Cormac McCarthy.

The reader is meant to be carried along on the stream of language. In the New York Times review of The Crossing, Robert Hass praised the effect: "It is a matter of straight-on writing, a veering accumulation of compound sentences, stinginess with commas, and a witching repetition of words ... Once this style is established, firm, faintly hypnotic, the crispness and sinuousness of the sentences ... gather to a magic." The key word here is "accumulation." Like Proulx and so many others today, McCarthy relies more on barrages of hit-and-miss verbiage than on careful use of just the right words.

Further, Myers criticizes the vague allusions to big ideas without elaboration and the shorthand description by brand names he finds questionable in Don DeLillo's work and which I've harangued upon in less critically adored writers like James Patterson. He extracts examples of the "sluggishness" of David Guterson's prose in Snow Falling on Cedars. Throughout, Myers highlights what's imprecise, pointless, indulgent, bulky, and repetitive. And the article might remain a parsing of excerpts by an attentive contrarian unless such characteristics were indeed the fundament (you may decide how I mean this) of modern writers and writing's most-lauded style.

I've always found incautious repetition boring as well as slightly insulting, but I hadn't bothered to read these darlings closely enough to realize how much that's what makes my eyes roll back in my head when considering "modern literary fiction." It reminds me of conversations with people whom I meet at parties, and I'm a terrible attendee because of my habitual failing. When people bring up subjects that seem important, they often expect to toss off a popular-consensus phrase and move on while all smile knowingly, the high-five of the non-athletic.

I always fall for it though. I make the mistake of thinking they actually care about the subject and begin unintentionally bringing up facts or arguments that reveal how thin their knowledge and interest really is. Then, we both feel like jerks, because I didn't realize it was just a time-waster meant to convey a personal image without substance, a display of plumage not passion. That's how I find much of modern writing. By the time I dig in, I'm disappointed, and I think the authors would find me a poor reader who doesn't fathom that I'm not supposed to expect the well-crafted, unpatronizing, or recognizably human. Still, I am not bereft. Myers, too, considers how different this current crop is compared to past masters like Nabokov, who never wasted a reader's time with fuzzy inaccuracy and glib throwaways (emphasis mine):

When DeLillo describes a man's walk as a "sort of explanatory shuffle ... a comment on the literature of shuffles" (Underworld), I feel nothing; the wordplay is just too insincere, too patently meaningless. But when Vladimir Nabokov talks of midges "continuously darning the air in one spot," or the "square echo" of a car door slamming, I feel what Philip Larkin wanted readers of his poetry to feel: "Yes, I've never thought of it that way, but that's how it is." The pleasure that accompanies this sensation is almost addictive; for many, myself included, it's the most important reason to read both poetry and prose.

Is saying "Ditto" too lowbrow?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Bait and Switch: Florida style

For 20 years, teacher Sue Messenger has been setting out fake skeletons and personal objects for her high school classes in criminal forensics. But this time, her shocked summer school class found a real corpse.

I've got to begin my ablutions for tonight's Book Party at Partners & Crime bookstore in Greenwich Village. The affable Chris Grabenstein is signing his second mystery, Mad Mouse, about former-MP and Springsteen fanatic John Ceepak's adventures as a summertime cop on the Jersey shore. The books are narrated by Ceepak's partner, a local young slacker who's in the job for the beer money.

Chris' first, Tilt-A-Whirl, was quite good entertainment, and I mean that in the complimentary, not dismissive, sense. I look forward to his newest which Kirkus starred. Buy it from your most deserving purveyor.

An awesome story about an especially busy day on the road to Hell. My best friend could've told you it was in Michigan.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Six in the Box

Mod Jack in the Box courtesy of high-school cartoonist Bert.

1) I've been sitting on this Straight Dope report for months, waiting for the run-up to 06/06/06 (don't mention the two thousand, killjoy), and cranking my crazy calliope music while waiting for the perfect moment to SPRING it upon you. Pop Goes the Weasel- Boo!

Cecil covers all the hype about 666.

2) The Chicago Sun-Times' new book editor dsplays a refreshing lack of contempt- of not downright enthusiasm for- "good storytelling" and "books that enthrall and captivate." She'll also be focusing more on Midwest authors, a wonderful thing since these writers often get short shrift even in their hometowns, and also a shame since the last book I set in Chicago before I moved is a fallen souffle of a thing. I've got to recombine the ingredients and bake the whole thing again, if you know what I mean.

3) Have enough food extortionists finally been busted to stop the flood of rodents and fingers?

4) By September, I'll not only have to go to the counter, but will have to provide my vitals just to stop a runny nose. Is it going to work? Heck, no. The megameth labs are already expanding in Mexico. Once again, government regulation harshes the consumer and the small, local American entrepreneur.

5) As part of the laudable Crime Lab Project, an initiative by writers and media producers to direct attention and, hopefully, support for public forensic testing resources nationwide, crime writer Jan Burke has begun the CLP Forum blog. Unlike CSI on TV, where DNA testing takes all of the commercial break, in the real world, you might wait half a year - perhaps in custody- for the exonerating evidence to be tested. For the innocent, justice delayed is devastating.

6) What would a Monday be without a video of a rollerskating monkey? Visit apostropher for links to related monkeyshine.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Ebay Justice Delayed, Undeniable

Amir says, "I'm one hot playa!"

If you've ever had an unfortunate incident with an auction site or online classified, you'll love this story (via Tim Blair) of a buyer who had to wait two months to receive his misrepresented purchase.

However, the computer- which was not only underspecified but broken- still had a hard drive that the buyer was able to mine for the personals and photos of the seller, one Amir Massoud Tofangsazan who apparently has a fetish for cell phone pics of ladies' legs on public transport and a highly inflated CV.

No court resolution would amount to the kind of payback spanking administered in The Broken Laptop I Sold on eBay (not totally work-safe, but blacked-out nethers) set up by our hero, the intrepid buyer who refused to be victimized.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Mini Carny of the Bookish

Will the swanky cover of the dude in the mankini make you slaver for my review?

1) My latest review of J Milligan's Jack Fish is up at the Bookspot cavalcade. Do read and comment if you get the chance.

2) As part of Slate's Pulp Fiction Week, John Banville salutes Donald Westlake. The Jugger, mentioned here, is a permament resident of my bookshelf. It's a model, so fast and spare and breathtakingly cruel without bogging down in the graphic. It's the art of the well-placed blood daub, not grindhouse. Further, The Ax, a standalone, is one of the finest, most suprising and real novels I've read about an ordinary man pushed to extraordinary remedies. Westlake is both funny and chilling with such a clean style and sure touch that I think people forget how good he really is. Like a gifted butcher. Westlake's website has stale news, but a good interview, bio, and several different excerpts if you'd like a taste of what I mean.

3) Also from Slate, the busily-discussed article asking what are independent bookstores really good for. Do you buy the premise that they're a sop to the selves we wish we were?

4) John Sandford, a writer of "page-turners" (the new naming vessel for the pinch-nosed dismissal that used to be indicated by the term "pot-boilers") has confessed how much his latest book has changed since he began it, what major lines weren't working, and how real life intruded on the process. Reading how established authors still have to retrench projects and occasionally scrap them is useful and comforting. I like the candor, too, in sharing it as a bonus for readers online.

5) As I don't subscribe to The Atlantic Monthly, I can only read this article from the eyebrows up. Nevertheless, five years later, it holds true. I enjoyed as much of B.R. Myers' analysis as I could read:

Nothing gives me the feeling of having been born several decades too late quite like the modern "literary" best seller. Give me a time-tested masterpiece or what critics patronizingly call a fun read—Sister Carrie or just plain Carrie. Give me anything, in fact, as long as it doesn't have a recent prize jury's seal of approval on the front and a clutch of precious raves on the back...

More than half a century ago popular storytellers like Christopher Isherwood and Somerset Maugham were ranked among the finest novelists of their time, and were considered no less literary, in their own way, than Virginia Woolf and James Joyce. Today any accessible, fast-moving story written in unaffected prose is deemed to be "genre fiction"—at best an excellent "read" or a "page turner," but never literature with a capital L.

That's why Westlake isn't just one of my favorite crime writers, but one of my favorite writers and an authorial inspiration, full stop.

Now I must fill up the pots and pans before they turn off the water supply for the day. Luxury highrise, ya'll.