Touché, Apple. Touché. And also William Faulkner, Barack Obama, 1995 etc.

NYC - West Village: White Horse Tavern
An actual genius bar. God bless you, Dylan Thomas. Image by wallyg via Flickr

Remember the Tom and Jerry cartoons where Tom and Jerry and a little mouse I always assumed to be Jerry’s nephew were set in 17th century France? The little mouse thinks he can beat Tom with his chivalry and ethics (and musketeer pastiche), and goes around saying “touché, le pussy cat?” at the most hilarious moments possible. The best. So that’s what I was thinking of with the title. (Also, I am finishing a paper about The Sound and the Fury, and it strikes me that Quentin Everloving Compson is not unlike that nephew-mouse).

On to the main thrust of this post so that I can get back to finishing that paper.

My power adapter died for the billionth time. We took the whole deal over to the Apple Store. Even though I knew that the only way to make an AppleCare (ha!) appointment at an Apple Store was via the internet (and since my computer wasn’t working, I had no such thing), it still bugs me. That’s gripe #1. Yeah, I actually booked my appointment via a public library computer. If Apple made an e-reader it would be even more ironic. Oh wait, right.

So we go to the Apple Store on time and are not seen for 35 minutes. I had no idea that Apple was looking into taking over cable. I mean, I know they swiped most of their early ideas from Xerox (oops, Xerox, that one’s on you), but who would have thought they were cribbing the finer points of customer service from the great approximation school of temporal theory. So then blah blah blah, and we get the computer back today.

We specifically told them not to mess with our desktop icons. They specifically did not listen. My desktop, my comfortable, messy, organized-to-me desktop, has been wiped clean by conformocrats and I don’t know where they put the stuff. Quite frankly, that’s unacceptable. There will be a visit to a manager after I finish my paper, because I’m sorry, that’s an arrogant violation of my expectations. Blah blah blah it runs faster if we do this…yeah, whatever. Fix the power cord issue, friend. You don’t have to be a hero. In fact, faceless backroom tech who I haven’t met, you’ve become a villain with your cavalier approach to my long-established and well-articulated organizational preferences. You waved them away like they were so many PC users, didn’t you? How’s the weather up there, thou ascendant Form? You know better and you have the shirt to prove it, smarty. Quite frankly, I’m embarrassed that we probably have the same glasses and iTunes library.

Yeah, those were all easy shots. I know. I actually think this is Apple’s way of messing with me because I sort of called them the devil last week for maintaining a squeaky-clean and hipster-certified ethical veneer all whilst enabling the sweatshop gristmills of Shenzhen, China.

If you’re keeping score at home, that’s:

  • Tom and Jerry
  • The Three Musketeers
  • Dylan Thomas
  • William Faulkner/The Sound and The Fury
  • Apple
  • Sweatshops
  • Xerox
  • cable companies
  • customer service
  • Hip stuff (see other items)

all in one compact post.  I just do what I do, friends.

If you think I’m being too hard on the good folks at the Apple Store, know that I have no idea who worked on my computer.  The friendly chap who processed the work order must not have written down the specific instructions to not go ahead and assume their tech dudes had the right to mess around with my stuff.  That’s so…preemptive.  Bam, I just added Obama to list of things this post is about.

Speaking of, I had a dream the other night that Barry O and I chilled over pizza for like two hours.  He did some explaining.  We solved a few world problems.  But the first thing I did was ask him how we’re going to prevent this government shutdown. He punted to John Boehner, who was not available in my dream for comment, so that kind of wasn’t fair of you, Dream President Obama. And you said you didn’t come to town for politics as usual.  By the way, I know I’m late to this party and all, but a note to the Republicans: 1995 called and it wants its epic fail back.  It doesn’t seem to matter if you’re doing what you think is right according to the kind of fiscal conservatism that got you elected in November.  Government shut downs don’t seem to spin out in your favor, fellas.  Take no solace in the fact that Obama isn’t Clinton.  Thing is, friends, he beat the Clintons.  He’s the uber-Clinton and the anti-Clinton all rolled into one.  Good thing you have one strong front-running candidate ready to get geared up for 2012.

But seriously, Apple, WTF? Touché, le corporate giant? Just wait until I dispatch Quentin Compson. Then we’re gonna dance.

Book Covers Designed to Trick Men Into Reading Classics (Scroll Down for Images)

I was reading an interesting post on Bookish Us about an article at The Guardian on tricking men into reading more books.  The Guardian post links to another Guardian post in which Ian McEwan says the novel will die when women stop reading. The degree to which this project scares or saddens you depends, I suppose, on what you think  a novel is supposed to be.  On Friday, I collapsed the differences between Jerry Lee Lewis and Grandmaster Flash because they’re collapsible, up to a point. William Faulkner and mass-market popular fiction…not as much.

Do men read less than women?  I sort of doubt it, but they do seem to buy fewer books.  Since my MFA thesis is a novel, and I have another one about 2/3 finished in manuscript form and I hope to finish and sell them both this spring (agents, feel free to use the contact form),  I think about these things.  There are probably all kinds of reasons that men don’t spend as much money on books as women do,  but it does seem to me that over the last 10 years, the commercial publishing industry has committed hundreds of millions of dollars to cutting its own demographic in half.  The devil may wear Prada, but I don’t know many men who read Lauren Weisberger. I know that reference is a bit dated, but you get the point.

Yes, most of the books geared specifically to people who enjoy mass-market fiction aren’t landing in anyone’s serious canon anytime soon.  And there are books and authors that do fit into pre-existing market for guys who like to read.  But what about making readers out of men who don’t?

I’d start with Hemingway.  Sure, it’s like that scene in High Fidelity (ahem) where Jack Black makes fun of John Cusack for going with safe choices, but Nirvana makes Rob’s Top Five for a reason.  So I’ll start with Big Papa.  If Judy Bloom can get new covers geared to today’s tween demographic, surely a marketing department can come up with some manspired covers for The Old Man and The Sea or The Sun Also Rises. I’m not saying this would transmute every non-reader, but it would be fun.  This is a good start, but we can do better. How about Edith Hamilton’s recently re-branded Mythology?  (I actually don’t like the new look, but they’re trying. What they need is Zack Snyder’s design team.) You know what I would buy the crap out of for all of my friends who hate their office jobs?  A copy of Bartleby The Scrivener with a bleak circa Fight Club office cubicle cover.

Speaking of.  I like Chuck Palahniuk.  His rhythm makes sense, sounds honest to me.   And he gets savaged by genteel critics and then  doesn’t have the good sense to not respond.  I love all of this.  (Speaking of which, I just remembered that last night I had a dream where I was hanging out with Liam Gallagher. He was delightful.) There’s nothing flowery or excessive about what Palahniuk does.  He just sort of sounds like the sad, exasperated voice most many  live with and don’t talk about.  What Updike called “quiet desperation” via Thoreau.  I don’t read his more graphic stuff, but I have to say that his nonfiction collection is great and Rant and Diary are two of my favorite recent reads.  He also writes great essays on craft.

Faulkner.  Before I read The Sound and The Fury, I thought my mission was to sort of be a more hopeful minimalist in Palahniuk’s line.  My first novel (still in draft and still in progress) is sort of like that, with some narrative flourishes that Chuck (and certainly Gordon Lish) would excise.  But then I took a vernacular class with Robert Antoni and really read The Sound and The Fury and the scope of my quarry (and thesis project) changed.  I’m going bigger.  Sometimes too big, but I’ll work all of that out by graduation.

Picking up from where Friday’s post was originally headed, I also want to say this: the publishing world doesn’t need a punk moment to reach out to men.  It doesn’t need a new rock ‘n’ roll or a new Elvis.  It just needs to stop casting the entire literary enterprise as something implicitly attractive to women or the speculative niche.  And some good books with a few cus words and nuance.  And awesome covers.  Like I said, agents should feel free to use the contact form.  You know you want to.

And also, I did these:

All base images used are in the Creative Commons on Flickr:
Edward Norton image via
Michael Phelps image via
Betty Draper/January Jones image via

Penguin and Vintage logos are fair use (satire).  Book design elements by me.

I Love You, William Faulkner

“A snake crawled out from under the house. Jason said he wasn’t afraid of snakes and Caddy said he was but she wasn’t and Versh said they both were and Caddy said to be quiet, like Father said.” – The Sound and The Fury