Thursday, June 30, 2011

Mr. Ward's Presidential Korner 6

It has been over three lonely years since our last edition of "Mr. Ward's Presidential Korner." But finally Mr. Ward is back, with a special "Presidential Korner" that doubles as "Sizzling Celebrity Gossip." You heard me right! "FYI – Jennifer Aniston is apparently dating our 20th president – James Garfield," reports Mr. Ward.

Now My Big Weird Head Is Looking At You

Hey, look! Here is a picture an artist did of my big weird head. I like it! I opened up the new Yalobusha Review and saw it and I was pretty surprised. Like, "I am almost positive that is my head looking back at me eerily from this magazine." I asked my friend Bill, who was one of the editors of the issue, "Is that my head in your magazine?" He said, "Hmm, I don't recall your head being in the magazine." So I contacted the artist directly and said, "I enjoy your work. Is that my head?" And the artist said yes! Well, it certainly was a shock. The artist said it must have been like that SIMPSONS episode when Homer saw his face on the Japanese detergent box. Yes! But I feel much better now. "Click" here for more about Jordan Speer, the artist.


There is also an article in today's New York Times about Alec Baldwin "meticulously deboning" a "deep-fried whole sea bass."

Paint Company Executive

Spent some minutes of my actual life - minutes that bring us ever closer to the grave! - reading in the New York Times about what paint company executives are naming their paint colors these days. They have colors now called "Darkening Sky" and "Tornado." As one paint company executive helpfully explains to the reporter, "These are things that exist in nature." Thanks, paint company executive!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sad Snackers

I am deeply troubled by the commercial for a new (?) product called "Hot Pockets Snackers." Several "cool" young people are sitting in an apartment just relaxing and enjoying some "Hot Pockets Snackers." You can tell they are cool because they have a guitar and a bicycle in their apartment, and one of them is wearing a knit cap indoors. The announcer suggests that the "Hot Pockets Snackers" are so much like restaurant food that they should "come with an annoying waitress." Then suddenly by magic an "annoying waitress" appears and "annoys" everyone by being cheerful and doing a little dance. The cool people look on in mute horror (we must assume) with their cool blank faces which cannot express emotion. Part of the heartbreak is thinking of the big wigs in the "Hot Pockets Snackers" corporate boardroom getting excited about how much the cool kids with guitars and bicycles are going to love their "Hot Pockets Snackers" and how they will really "relate" to this commercial that speaks their language of wearing knit caps indoors, opening up the whole "Hot Pockets Snackers" experience to a brand new demographic. The executive officers of "Hot Pockets Snackers" just want to be loved! The other sad part is about the working woman who tries to be upbeat and is implicitly mocked and scorned by the makers of the "Hot Pockets Snackers." This "annoying waitress" who has to go out and make a living probably has little time for cooking and might be forced at some point into a gruesome situation when all she has time for before heading out the door is a bag of "Hot Pockets Snackers." (Note: I couldn't find an actual image of the commercial, but I think this "beatnik" gets the feeling across.)

Poor Ice Cube

I was thinking about how much McNeil loves Ice Cube last night while I was watching a commercial in which Ice Cube has an argument with a stubborn beer bottle. An argument with a beer bottle! And he loses! Oh, Ice Cube.

Perfectly Nice Golf Club

Did I tell you I found a perfectly nice golf club in a trash can yesterday? I don't play golf or anything. But I walked down the sidewalk with the golf club slung over my shoulder just like Bob Hope. I've never felt so alive!


Welcome to "McNeilileaks," a brand new "blog" feature where I leak the contents of McNeil's emails. Here's one: "listening to 80s music...eating Lucky Charms...gettin' that vibe down."

Monday, June 27, 2011

Wild Wild McNeil

Today McNeil is showing his students the movie THE WILD, WILD PLANET... which makes him THE GREATEST TEACHER IN AMERICA!

Dr. Theresa's New Favorite Commercial

Dr. Theresa loves the commercial for the Easy Reach Plant Pulley. Its thesis is that THERE IS NO GREATER CHALLENGE YOU WILL EVER FACE AS A FRAGILE HUMAN PERSON THAN WATERING YOUR PLANTS. You might get drenched and embarrassed or fall off a ladder and die, the commercial implies. "Watering cans are heavy!" screams the announcer. But all that is in the past, thanks to the Easy Reach Plant Pulley. Dr. Theresa has not been so excited since the Magic Hands.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

For the Sad Clown Completist

An email exchange with Laura Lippman about the demise of Gene Kelly's character in WHAT A WAY TO GO! reminded me that Kelly arguably plays one of the "blog's" favorite things in that movie... a sad clown!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Citterns Are Back and Bigger Than Ever

So this Robert Jordan novel has a cittern on page 243. I thought I'd never have a reason to "blog" about citterns again. Thank God I was wrong!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

King of Retail

I know you don't want to hear about this anymore, but it turns out I don't care what you want. The recommendation shelf has sold three more books, for a total of 11. WUTHERING HEIGHTS... sold! CROW PLANET... sold! THE SHARPSHOOTER BLUES by Lewis Nordan... sold! You're welcome, Emily Brontë! You too, crows!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Holy Cow!

So I'm doing a little leprechaun research for my sprawling fantasy epic. I dug out my copy of a 1911 book called THE FAIRY-FAITH IN CELTIC COUNTRIES by W.Y. Evans-Wentz. Mr. Evans-Wentz reports, "I very well remember sitting one night four or five years ago in an hotel in Indianapolis, U.S.A., and talking to four Irishmen, one or two of them very wealthy... each man of the four had a story of his own to tell... of ghostly manifestations seen by him in Ireland. Two of these manifestations were of beings that would fall into no known category; a monstrous rabbit as big as an ass, which plunged into the sea (rabbits can swim), and a white heifer which ascended to heaven."

Busy Butterflies

As I write my 1,000-page sprawling fantasy epic (I'm on page 143 and nothing has happened yet, so I think I'm doing it right) I continue to look for inspiration in this other 1,000-page sprawling fantasy epic. That guy can really stretch a figure of speech over several pages. Of one character, it is said, "Butterflies the size of hedgehogs frolicked in her stomach." That deserves one of these: (!). Then, two pages later, "The butterflies in her belly were beating kettle drums, now." Four pages after that: "The butterflies were still gamboling in her stomach." Anyway, it seems like those butterflies were having a great time. I have to say I cannot imagine butterflies the size of hedgehogs frolicking. It seems to me they would be depressed and lethargic. I hope I do not sound too harshly critical of the author, who as I have mentioned was a very nice man and highly successful at his profession and beloved by his fans. Plus I am not sure if the kick I am getting out of his book is despite or because of the way it's written. I am reminded of when I saw this dialogue tag in Mickey Spillane: "I said observingly." I sort of thought that was the worst adverb I had ever run across. Wouldn't "I observed" be a lot better? And "I said" even better than that? Yeah, but Mickey Spillane used to sell almost as well as the Bible. So shut up, Pendarvis.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Three Minutes In Paradise

You know that the "blog" is mainly about Jerry Lewis and sad clowns. In the first three minutes of THE DAILY SHOW tonight, Jon Stewart mentioned both Jerry Lewis and (on an entirely separate topic, no kidding!) sad clowns. I think what I'm saying is clear: the "blog" has its finger on the pulse of the zeitgeist.

Brigands of the Bog

Say, are you writing a sprawling fantasy epic? Probably! Well, so am I. And I have some dreadful news for you. Thanks to self-publishing on the "internet," EVERY POSSIBLE TITLE IS TAKEN. I thought I had hit on one, finally, right there in the sweet spot between seeming real and being ludicrous: THE WIZARD'S EGG. So of course someone on the "internet" has already written a story called "The Wizard's Egg," which is about - spoiler alert! - a wizard cooking a soft-boiled egg. In case you are wondering (and you shouldn't be - it's a given), yes, there is also an "internet" story called "The Unicorn's Egg." Turns out the "internet" is rife with wizards and unicorns, but we knew that already. My brother-in-law David did send me a bunch of good title suggestions, my favorite of which is BRIGANDS OF THE BOG. That sounds almost like a real one, doesn't it? But I don't know. I think I'll know it when I hear it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mummies 'n' Monkeys

My two fave consecutive sentences in today's New York Times: "These mummies were purchased by the Mannheim museum in 1917 from heirs of the artist Gabriel von Max (1840-1915), whose collection of mummies and skulls must have been related to his fascination with parapsychology, hypnosis, somnambulism and spiritualism. His paintings combine kitsch spirituality, a fascination with the primitive and a preoccupation with his large family of pet monkeys." (One of von Max's monkey paintings is shown below.) For the whole article, "click" here. CAUTION: scary mummy pictures!

New Pictures of Monkey Cakes

According to the "stats," these are the "search phrases" that are bringing people to my "blog" RIGHT NOW: "emmett kelly clown" and "new pictures of monkey cakes." Nothing could make me happier - though a close second is the fact that this person is not going to settle for the same old, tired pictures of monkey cakes.

Recommendation Shelf Action

Another book sold from my recommendation shelf, for a total of eight. Here's a fun recommendation shelf fact for all you recommendation shelf fans, of whom there are zero: I always replace a sold book with AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT VOLUME. So if you haven't visited the recommendation shelf for a while, that means you are in for up to 80% of DAZZLING BRAND NEW SELECTIONS! Perhaps this is the time to once again assure the government that I am not employed by Square Books, nor do I get a "piece of the action." I just have a lot of time on my hands. It's sad, really. On a happier note, Michael Bible witnessed the customer who picked up RAVEL by Jean Echenoz from the recommendation shelf. "The guy was excited," he reports. Back to sad things: today at Off Square Books, there will be a "farewell reading" by John Brandon. That's right, he's leaving Oxford, a fact which fills me with vomitous rage at the cosmos. So come say goodbye to John Brandon, and to happiness. Forever!

Thursday, June 16, 2011


I see in an obituary in the New York Times that Kathryn Tucker Windham of Alabama has passed away. When I was growing up in that state, her books were your main go-to source for "real-life" ghost stories. ("Now there's another Alabama ghost," emails fellow Alabaman Tom Franklin.) According to the NYT she also wrote about "encounters with sweat bees, which land on people and lick perspiration." And she delivered a radio address entitled "Honeysuckle Blossoms Smell Wonderful." Of her radio performances, one of her producers is quoted as saying, "Her pauses were almost as long as the content." That's the way to be! But for me, she'll always mean ghosts.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Ixnay on the Dragoncloud

Well, I don't yet have a title for my sprawling fantasy epic. So what do you guys think? It has to sound "real" so I can trick people into buying it. Once I have their sweet, sweet money it will be too late! I thought of one that sounded really truly real: DRAGONCLOUD. So I checked around and there is already something called DRAGON CLOUD on "kindle." Of course there is. It has four authors! My title is better, all run together like that for extra dramatics: DRAGONCLOUD! But still. The product description calls DRAGON CLOUD "a middle-grade fantasy of 28,353 words." Ha ha! My stuff is middle-grade too but I don't go around bragging about it. I have been soliciting alternate titles on the twitter. So far the frontrunner is SWORD ISLAND. But that might have too much pirate in it. Have a better idea? Why not send along? That's "Sprawling Fantasy Epic" c/o "Writer" Oxford, MS 38655. There's nothing in it for you.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

He Really Hates That Axe

I suppose you're wondering why I haven't been "blogging" as much as usual. What? You haven't noticed? Well, that just hurts my feelings. But I've been thinking about this GAME OF THRONES business, and naturally I decided to write one of these sprawling fantasy epics. For real! Except mine's going to be "funny" and everyone will hate it. That's my trademark! I've been writing up a storm (79 pages), plus doing some research: reading one of these WHEEL OF TIME books by Robert Jordan. I've never read them before. I grabbed one at random. I don't understand it at all! It's 981 pages long, and then there's a glossary! I was on a panel with Robert Jordan once. He was wearing his hat and rings and sunglasses and brandishing an ornate cane - he really made an impression. Plus he was incredibly gracious and nice. It was one of my first panels as a "writer" and he - a million seller many times over - made me feel welcome and part of the club. I was sorry to hear he passed away not too long ago. So on page 59 of this book of his I'm reading, a guy's axe suddenly comes to life and attacks him. It flies around the room and tries to chop off his head. "'Just you and me now,' he snarled at the axe. 'Blood and ashes, how I hate you!'" That's just crazy. Everything about it is immune to parody. So you can see my problem. You've really put me in a spot, Robert Jordan.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Unassailable Owl Theory Totally Proven Again

I was just over at Square Books, rearranging and freshening my famous recommendation shelf, when I ran into my undergraduate student Andy, who was thumbing through a volume of Lewis Nordan, which is something you are always happy to see an undergrad doing. Andy volunteered that MUSIC OF THE SWAMP by Lewis Nordan is out of print. Can this be true? An unforgivable manmade calamity if so. Andy mentioned that book's wonderful epilogue, titled "Owls," which once again proves my unassailable theory that all great books have owls in them. A boy (the narrator) is riding in a car with his father, who has had some beers. The boy is nervous. They speed past a sign that the boy thinks says "SLOW" but the father insists says "OWLS." They go back. The sign says OWLS. The father cuts off the engine. "Then I heard the owls overhead. I heard the soft centrifugal buffeting of their feathers on the night air. I heard a sound from their owl-throats so soft that I believed it was their breathing." It goes on from there. I was once at a reading where Tom Franklin introduced Lewis Nordan and then Lewis Nordan read that whole epilogue. Soon enough everybody was weeping. Boy oh boy was it great!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Curse of the Recommendation Shelf

You won't believe it! I met Anya up at Square Books today and ANOTHER BOOK HAS ALREADY SOLD from my FAMOUS RECOMMENDATION SHELF, for a total of SEVEN! So that is great. BUT IT IS ALSO A LOT OF PRESSURE. For instance, Lydia Davis sold today and I looked all around the store for something to replace her with and ended up with Hunter S. Thompson. Does that seem exactly right? I am not sure! Plus now the fragile shelf groans under the cosmic burden of both Hunter S. Thompson AND Norman Mailer, and I am not sure it can abide the combo. Suddenly everything seems wrong. The shelf may need some rethinking! Maybe I should start over from scratch. That seems hard! Recommendation shelf, you are my hope and my doom.

Recommendation Shelf Triumphant!

Six books! That's how many have sold so far, all thanks to my recommendation shelf, the most efficient machine of commerce in the history of capitalism. The latest volume to fly off the shelf? MASTERS OF ATLANTIS by Charles Portis. Congratulations to the lucky buyer! Recommendation shelf! Hooray!

Thursday, June 09, 2011

G. Gordon Liddy Hates Money

Hey all you G. Gordon Liddy fans! G. Gordon Liddy is back with a new gold commercial. He straps on some goggles and kneepads (!) and blows away a huge stack of money with a leaf blower. He hates money so much! Then he walks over to a pyramid of gold bars and extols the virtues of purchasing a big old pyramid of gold bars. What he DOESN'T do is blow on the gold bars with a leaf blower. WHY NOT? That way he could have demonstrated the selling point that you CAN'T blow away a pyramid of gold bars with a leaf blower! YOU CAN'T! (Illustration of Scrooge McDuck, an alien, and some gold bars courtesy of that fantastic Danish Carl Barks site.)

Delightful Vengeance

Say, do you like things that are great? Then been sure to show up at Off Square Books today to see Ace Atkins read from his brand new novel THE RANGER. If you don't, Quinn Colson (aka THE RANGER) will spring to life and wreak a vengeance most terrible on you. That's what he does!

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Downer Time

I don't like to be a "downer"! But I do like to tell you what I watch on TV when I can't sleep! And what if that thing is a downer? So you can imagine my delicate position. Say, if you read this "blog" to enjoy my happy-go-lucky attitude, I advise you to skip this "post," which is drenched in melancholy! And exclamation points! My sleeplessness once again coincided with the wee-hour shift of Tracey from the Gem Shopping Network. Tracey had a partner on with her this time, someone called "Alan," I think, who sounded like an old gentleman, though I never saw him. There was a bejeweled pendant shaped like a cat, which got Tracey talking about the cats she used to smuggle into the jail where she lived as a girl (see my previous "post" about Tracey from the Gem Shopping Network for more details about her interesting childhood). Alan volunteered that his brother has a 20-year-old cat named Buddy who lives in the garage, and whenever Alan comes over for a visit, Buddy runs happily to see him despite his (Buddy's) advanced age. Tracey asked whether Alan owned any pets, and here comes the sad part! Alan said that "tomorrow" (that is, today) would be the ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF HIS BELOVED DOG'S DEATH! Tracey felt terrible for asking, but I have to say that she is so smooth and nice and professional, she made the transition back to selling jewelry in a very sweet way. Okay! The sad part is over. FOR NOW! So I can tell you the simply curious (to me) fact that Alan and Tracey tried selling golf clubs... golf clubs with heads (is that what you call that part? the head?) made of a precious stone called "Tiger's Eye." I couldn't have dreamt that, could I? I did not! It really happened. I didn't know that golf clubs could be made of precious stone. "Striated," noted Alan. Let us move on to the part of my insomnia that was also a downer, but in a creepy way. It involves Bob Crane, the actor whose sordid personal life and gruesome manner of death are not the kinds of things we enjoy contemplating here on the "blog"! So let's not! I will just say that when I flipped away from the Gem Shopping Network, it was to the Disney film SUPERDAD, starring Mr. Crane. I do not think that I am projecting my knowledge of his private life onto his performance! But his face was so creepy in that movie! I couldn't watch too much of it. In every shot I saw, Bob Crane's face appeared to be an expressionless mask of deadness. At the very beginning of the film, his grim sleeping face has the image of CHILDREN DANCING AROUND A MAYPOLE sumperimposed on it, a moment so very creepy it could have come straight out of David Lynch. Pretty soon some groovy teens are riding around signing a rockin' song about being free and doing what they want, in the back of a "borrowed" ambulance driven by a young and shaggy-haired Bruno Kirby (!). A traffic cop is surprised when the ambulance goes by and Kurt Russell is sticking out of the back window, lying blithely on a surfboard, shouting derisively at the "squares" he sees! Bruno Kirby tries really hard to get some back-and-forth going in his scene with the cipher that is Bob Crane. Bruno Kirby is game! He is one of those actors who does his utmost for the job. So we can take away something positive from SUPERDAD, I guess. You know, these movie channels don't EVER use the correct aspect ratio for ANYTHING, but for some reason they punctiliously letterboxed SUPERDAD.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Recommendation Shelf Controversy!

I was over at Square Books picking up my Geneva Bible - yes I was! - when I noticed something awry on my recommendation shelf. Awry, I said! The Calvino had been sold... that part is cool! But SOMEONE had replaced it with a novel by some Nobel prizewinner of whom I have never heard. Nothing against Nobel prizewinners! But I shudder to think of false recommendations being issued in my name. "Must have been a weekend worker," theorized an incensed Michael Bible (I wish he had a sister named Geneva Bible). You will be happy to know that I replaced the phony recommendation with one of my old favorites, RAVEL by Jean Echenoz. That makes FIVE books sold by my recommendation shelf, which means that I am turning the economy around for our nation! While I was loitering in Square Books I noticed that Dick Cavett has come out with a new autobiographical volume. How sad I was as I paged through the index and found nary a Jerry Lewis reference. Nor were "Pascagoula" and "UFO" among the listings, leading me to conclude that there is nothing in the book about the time Mr. Cavett interviewed the Pascagoula UFO abductees of my tender youth. So don't waste your money on that one! (Pictured, a detail from Edward De Vere's Geneva Bible, which "Blog" Buddy Lee Durkee has examined in person.)

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Crazy Magic Space Chess Time

So Lee Durkee was trying to explain the connection between John Dee and STAR TREK to me, and it had something to do with chess, but I didn't entirely get it, so I went home and "googled." Wow, you can really find yourself in some wild corners of the "internet" when you start "googling" for "star trek + john dee." Like I found this whole "web" page ("click" here) about the various board games played by characters in science fiction stories! Something called "Enochian chess" is "included for completeness." That's where ol' John Dee comes in. Sure, Enochian chess is fun and all, but IT ALSO TELLS THE FUTURE! Okay! "Internet"!

Dr. Theresa's Movie Commentary

Do you intend to see that movie X-MEN: FIRST CLASS? Then DON'T READ THIS! There is a "SPOILER" in it. Okay! So there was a moment when Dr. Theresa leaned over to me and observed, "Oliver Platt went splat!"

Friday, June 03, 2011

Frasier, Briefly

Welcome once again to "Frasier, Briefly," your spot for all the latest breaking news on the long-defunct television program FRASIER. This just in! Looks like the Frasier reruns have moved to the Hallmark channel. I watched a few episodes the other day and the Hallmark channel bleeped out the word "butt" a few times! Once, they even bleeped out "ass" in the perfectly polite sense of "donkey" or "jackass." They seemingly love to bleep things out at the Hallmark channel. "Bleep" is wrong. They removed all audio at the moment of the offensive word. And yet Frasier's penchant for farcical antics in the boudoir remained unchecked. See also.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Sizzling Celebrity Gossip

Welcome once again to "Sizzling Celebrity Gossip," your only spot on the "internet" for sizzling celebrity gossip. Here's the sizzling question on everyone's sizzling lips: WHICH Elizabethan sorcerer is the toast of Oxford, Mississippi? Why, Dr. John Dee, of course! Overheard before the Roy Blount Jr. reading: a guy named Burke telling a certain local professor about "The John Dee Memorial Theater of the Mind," which is located in... wait for it... Alabama! Natch! Where else would "The John Dee Memorial Theater of the Mind" be located? Nowhere, that's where! Unless in the beautiful environs of Oxford, Mississippi, home to the world's biggest John Dee fan club which I am making up right now. Because wait! Later, at the City Grocery Bar, novelist Lee Durkee was observed to have John Dee on the brain. Turns out he is in the midst of revising a scholarly paper about none other than Dr. John Dee. For real! Durkee was heard to make sizzling remarks such as "Faulkner comes from the King James Bible. But Shakespeare comes from the Geneva Bible." Sizzling!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011


Hey, look, they made a nifty new sign for my recommendation shelf at Square Books. I won't lie to you! Sales have been dragging! But the new sign seems to have the ball rolling again. In fact, the Robert Walser and Sam Shepard volumes seen here are GONE! Purchased by lucky readers! Plus I replaced Wacky Packages with a Lynda Barry book to keep things spruced up and attractive for the people. Go over and buy one of the books on my recommendation shelf and help me single-handedly save the printed word as we know it. So far my shelf has sold four books, a publishing industry record. Before his reading today, Roy Blount Jr. saw my shelf. He said, "You've got your own shelf." I think he was impressed! Or filled with pity! Either way, I'll take it!

Literary Matters

Time again for "Literary Matters"! And I am so sorry to tell you this, but there are lots and lots of them. I'm not even going to tell you how many, because you'll certainly stop reading. As well you should! Cursed literary matters! 1) TODAY ONLY! Roy Blount Jr. will be at Off Square Books (5 PM, the usual time) to read from his new book ALPHABETTER JUICE, some of the mighty pleasures of which have already been outlined here. Don't miss a chance to see Roy Blount Jr.! Note to the government: I bought my own copy of ALPHABETTER JUICE, so shut up! I am no publisher's shill! In fact, as far as I can tell, publishers hate me! 2) After Mr. Blount's reading, why not head over to the Kitty Snacks party conveniently located at Southside Gallery? The decent fellows at Kitty Snacks have a brand new issue out, featuring work by John Brandon and many other notables. And the gray cover screams, "Buy me! I'm entirely gray!" But I think that's one of those tricks that only the hippest of the hip can pull off, you know, like that billboard for bail bondsmen I saw once, or a club with no sign on the door. But when you get in, it's lots of wholesome fun! Kitty Snacks! 3) You know who is also reading at Off Square soon (June 9)? That's right, Ace Atkins. He has a brand new novel out called THE RANGER. I'm halfway through it and loving every minute. Yes, government, Ace gave me a free advance reading copy, so what? Though THE RANGER is set in the here and now, Ace wanted it to have the feel of those great Burt Reynolds (or Joe Don Baker, pictured) revenge pics from the 1970s, popularly known as "hixploitation." And boy did he succeed, spectacularly! Now that I have given you the code, you can read the book on dual levels, because I know how much you enjoy doing that, experiencing things on dual levels. You love that! 4) Ace also loaned me an advance copy of THE END OF EVERYTHING by Megan Abbott. I read it and think it might be her best book yet, though it is so hard to pick just one! Were I to blurb it, I would say, "Do you like great writing and being really nervous and creeped out all the time? Even when you sleep? Do you want to be pulled down into a terrible and beautiful and inexorable nightmare, no, dream, no, nightmare, no, dream, no, nightmare? Then this is the book for you!" Also, SHE is coming here to read at the end of July so we have that to look forward to. 5) Megan's book just got a starred review from my sworn enemy Publishers Weekly! So this is the one thing we can agree on, PW and I, like characters making an unholy secret alliance on GAME OF THRONES. PS: My blurb might also say, "Abbott's beloved Freud glimmers darkly from every riveting page!" Ugh, that's awful. Just read the book! I keep blurbing Megan's books in retrospect. 6) Speaking of blurbs that will never happen, Kevin Brockmeier says something really, really nice about me in the new issue of the Oxford American, something too nice for me to repeat here, something that would make a perfect blurb, but as we have seen, no book of mine is ever going to come out ever again, not even the cat book that is alarming, confounding, and distressing publishers' flunkies the world over even as we speak, but I have the blurb ready to go, thanks to the generous and gracious Kevin Brockmeier, and I will always have it, and the book will never come out, no book will ever come out, so maybe they can just carve it on my gravestone, that thing that Kevin Brockmeier said. 7) The real attraction of the new OA (well, I haven't read the whole issue yet, it's usually all good!) is a sparkling new short story by Elizabeth Kaiser, also known as "Elizabeth" of "blog" fame. 8) And another former "student," John Oliver Hodges, has a really good and bold and moving article in there, too! It's a follow-up to his piece in the previous issue, also about his (and Elizabeth's) great mentor Barry Hannah. Speaking of which, the new Kitty Snacks (see #2 above) features several never-before-published full-color photographs that John took of Barry. He is not only a fine writer, John Oliver Hodges, but an accomplished photographer, yes, where do these people get all this talent? It makes me sick. I didn't teach John or Elizabeth a thing. 9) Check out John's novella WAR OF THE CRAZIES, just out from Main Street Rag press! Now that one, I really did blurb. Blurbs! Is there anything less useful? (Note to the government: yes, I read WAR OF THE CRAZIES in manuscript, but I won my actual copy in a raffle, I really did, so that doesn't count!) 10) Yes, John Brandon and I are in the new Kitty Snacks together AND we are in the new Oxford American together, just as we were in the previous issue of McSweeney's together. In fact, we are going to get an enormous shirt with two neckholes and just walk around like that from now on. 11) Are you still reading this? Don't lie to me! 12) McNeil has found what seems to be a series of mysteries featuring members of "the Rat Pack." It is not for me to say whether on the surface they appear to be the worst books ever written. After all, haven't we been told time and time again not to judge a book by its cover? Like, didn't I tell you that earlier in this "post"? I did! But it was so long ago you have probably forgotten. Look again. Still, the titles do not inspire confidence! There is one called EVERYBODY KILLS SOMEBODY SOMETIME - this dubious assertion a "play on words" inspired by the Dean Martin hit "Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime." While I was checking to make sure this is a real mystery series (and it is, but those covers, they just don't LOOK real somehow... in fact they seem vaguely illegal to me) I ran across one not listed on McNeil's "link," one called LUCK BE A LADY, DON'T DIE. What does that EVEN MEAN? I "get" that it is supposed to be a "play on words" based on the song "Luck Be a Lady Tonight" from GUYS AND DOLLS, but it's just barely that, isn't it? And does it MEAN something? Isn't it just a string of words, I mean, isn't it? Well maybe these will turn out to be the greatest books ever written and I'm just a jerk. 13) The new "LaFa Shopper" got shoved into our mailbox yesterday, but once again John Arrechea IS MISSING! We do hear from Faylene Bryant with the breaking story "Vacation Bible School Approaching Fast," plus there's a column called "The Playhouse" in which one Camille Anding lists "Things I'd Like To Find" (dozens and dozens of them!) including "My keychain that remains hidden since last January" and "More movies as charming as 'The Sound of Music.'"

Beneficial Scientific Hot Dog Research

Mentioned in today's New York Times: The National Hot Dog and Sausage Council. According to its "web" site, the Council "conducts scientific research to benefit hot dog and sausage manufacturers."