Coffee and Laptops

in Zink

If you find yourself floating around a bookstore anytime soon, pick up a copy of the May issue of Zink magazine and check out the last page. There you’ll find an op-ed I wrote for the “Fresh Ink” section of the magazine. Read it to find out what I’ve been up to over the last three-four years of my productive life. (Hint: it involves coffee and laptops.)

Book Club Offer (10×10)

in Pop Apocalypse

In the interest of getting word about Pop Apocalypse out to the general public, and of meeting people with excellent taste in literature, I’ve decided to make a special offer to my readers.

Here’s the deal. If you are part of a book club and are interested in reading Pop Apocalypse, I would love to do a video conference with your group via Skype or iChat. I’m willing to do whatever your group wants (within reasonable limits): answer questions, give a talk of some sort, do a reading, dance like a chicken, whatever.

I would love to talk to every group that asks, but unfortunately my time is fairly limited this summer — I have a dissertation to finish, another novel to write, and a Stanford Continuing Studies novel-writing course to teach — so what I would propose is that the first ten book groups that can organize ten readers each to buy and read Pop Apocalypse will definitely get (at least) two hours of my time via Skype or iChat. Beyond that, I can’t make any commitments.

If you’re part of a Bay Area-based reading group, I would even forgo Internet-mediated communication and show up to your group meeting in person, as long as you live within a reasonable driving distance from San Francisco.

There are a limited number of weekends available this summer, and I’ll fill them up on a first come first serve basis, so let me know if you and your group are interested, ASAP.

Get with the program, people

in Mark McGurl, The Believer, The Program Era

Check it out:

An interview I conducted with UCLA English Professor Mark McGurl has just been released in this month’s Believer magazine. The original interview was fairly far-reaching and lively, but has here been shortened to a still-lively-even-if-slightly-less-far-reaching “micro-interview,” spread through the May issue.

When you’re done reading the interview, do also check out Mark’s excellent new book, The Program Era: Postwar Fiction and the Rise of Creative Writing, which is sure to rearrange the mental furniture of scholars and critics of postwar American fiction, perhaps even installing a new sofa couch or two.

But don’t be put off by all that. The book is also quite readable and engaging in a public intellectual sort of way. The book actually partly helped dampen some of my prejudices and stereotyped impressions about MFA programs, which I avoided, assuming falsely that they were all homogeneously dedicated to the reproduction of minimalist realism.

Not that I don’t love minimialist realism, but it’s just not what I wanted to do as a writer. Little did I know!

The End of the Beginning

in Hamsterstan, Pop Apocalypse

I feel the urge to comment here today, the release-date of Pop Apocalypse, but I don’t have anything particularly original to say about the release of the novel.

Obviously enough, I’m super-excited that the book is getting out there into the world, but I also feel pretty powerless to do anything to shape its reception. People will read the book or they won’t read the book, and they’ll like it or not, they’ll laugh or they won’t even know they’re supposed to. I’ve done my part. Time to let the little-bird-analog fly away from the nest-analog under its own wing-power-analog, whatever any of those analogs might be in this case.

I went rooting around the Palo Alto Borders this morning to see if I could find a copy of the book. No luck. I am informed by my editor that Barnes and Noble is going to be displaying Pop Apocalypse on its New Releases shelf, which is super-cool. After I’m done working for the day, I’ll drive to Redwood City and see if I can find it somewhere.

What I am coming to realize is that the book world operates at slightly slower than a snail’s pace. The day when I received the initial offer on the book, way back in September 2007, was in some ways much more meaningful and more of a drug-like head-rush than today. Whatever comes of Pop Apocalypse will come in a kind of dribble and sputter of non-events, a review here, a review there, a spike in my Amazon ranking followed by a long lull. If I’m lucky, word of mouth will lead to a strong first showing, which will pave the way for Hamsterstan (which is still in progress and going well).

All of this is not quite anticlimactic–there’s still lots of exciting stuff to come, reviews, readings, other book-related events–but today’s turning into a quiet kind of introspective day.


in Fiona Maazel, Jerry Stahl, Jim Ruland, LATfob

I had a great weekend at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books.

As promised, and thanks in large part to the expert moderation skills of Jim Ruland, my panel, “The Post-Modern World,” had almost nothing to do with postmodernism and everything to do with the End of the World. Which, I should mention, is nigh. What seemed to me to be about two-hundred people showed up.

I have to say–with all our talk of death, Armageddon, nihilism, Camus, and the utter meaninglessness of our mindless voyage through the yawning dead expanse of deep space–it was all pretty grim and morbid and ominous.

And so much fun!

Our audience was laughing with us as Todd Hasak-Lowy, Fiona Maazel, Jerry Stahl, and I mused on the question of whether there was any reason whatsoever to have hope for the future of human life and civilization. The word “swine flu” came up more times than I could count, which almost unavoidably led to a question from one member of the audience inquiring: If only Jews and Muslims survive the pending Swinocalypse (my word, not the audience member’s) what might that mean about the future of humanity?

Jerry Stahl, deadpan, suggested that some kosher variation of the swine flu would strike down whoever thought they had escaped the first round of destruction. That struck me as exactly right.

The Pop Apocalypse is very nigh, folks. Buy your copy today, before it’s too late!

Pop Apocalypse @ the LATfob

in Pop Apocalypse

Those of you who live in LA, take note: I’ll be in town for the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books this weekend, participating in a panel called “Fiction: The Post-Modern World” on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. in Franz Hall on the UCLA campus. With me on the panel: Todd Hasak-Lowy, Fiona Maazel, and Jerry Stahl, with Jim Ruland as moderator.

One thing I can promise is that the word “postmodern” is unlikely to come up. The writers involved (myself included) all seem to be more interested in creating fiction about near-future (or present day) gonzo apocalypses than in waxing philosophical about some sort of postmodern condition or any such thing. Which isn’t to say that gonzo apocalypses have nothing to do with what is called postmodernism–as any Pynchonite will quickly inform you–but don’t be put off by that.

The panel’ll be fun, apocalypses and all. Really. I’ll be signing copies of Pop Apocalypse afterward.

Reserve your free tickets today.

T-Minus One Week

in Uncategorized

With a little more than a week to go before POP APOCALYPSE is released into the world, I was pleased to read this thoughtful review of the novel by British science fiction writer Adam Roberts.  Adam writes:There’s a good deal of rattle and a certain amount of hum in this novel; rattle in the hailstorm of cool ideas, plot twists and one liners, and also (after a slightly sticky first hundred …

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Publishers Weekly on POP APOCALYPSE

in Uncategorized

This week’s Publishers Weekly mentions POP APOCALYPSE in an article on pending Apocalypse-theme books coming this summer.  Check it out.

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First Review of Pop Apocalypse

in Uncategorized

I received a note from my editor today informing me that Publishers Weekly has released its review of Pop Apocalypse.  The verdict?  Quite nice: This playful and witty novel takes our celebrity-obsessed and media-hijacked culture, mixes in geopolitics and a dash of cyberpunk dystopia to create an intelligent and blistering what-if.Intelligent and blistering were definitely in the neighborhood …

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in Uncategorized