The beginning of the slog.

I have a number of looming hurdles to clear in the last weeks of summer, and none of them are brush boxes — a little hunter/jumper reference for the two or so of you who might get it (hey, Charlotte). That is to say, not easy. So there may be some outages between now and mid-September. Be advised. And be advised we’re going to be a little jangly today because: See above.

On the other hand, I learned that one of my colleagues was working at a farmers’ market last week, and there was a shooting just across the parking lot. If anyone ever tells you think-tank work is boring? They don’t work in Michigan.

Did you know Apple, as part of the promotion for “Straight Outta Compton,” is making it possible to do things like this?

StraighOutta

Is that not awesome? Even though I hate that Beats stuff.

Neal Rubin is a columnist for the Detroit News I should include here more often, because he’s frequently wonderful. This piece, about a 71-year-old couple who accidentally wandered into a thrash-metal concert at a local amphitheater, is particularly so:

Jeff, whose goal was to take his wife to the nearest show to her birthday, thought maybe he’d bought tickets to an oldies revue. But The Shirelles weren’t on the bill, either.

Instead, there was an Australian metalcore band called Feed Her to the Sharks. At the Rockstar Energy Drink Mayhem Festival, the Pardees were most definitely fish out of water.

Finally, it’s a function of how out of it I’ve been lately that I saw these Serena Williams photos earlier this week and didn’t think I should blog this. Fortunately, LA Mary sent them along and nudged me out of my torpor. Check ’em out. She’s amazing.

So forward we go into a big month or so.

Posted at 12:24 am in Housekeeping, Popculch | 62 Comments
 

And we’re wrapped.

Well, we made it back. You get in the car in the crystalline, low-humidity loveliness of the north woods, and you stop for gas somewhere around Saginaw, where the air is smudgy and your hair immediately plasters itself to your skull like a wet towel.

(“I’m going to miss this place,” I said on our last day. “My hair looks the same in the evening as when I dried it in the morning.” Alan: “I’m not sure what you’re talking about.” Only women notice hair.)

It was a nice time. We didn’t do much, by design. Alan fished every night and some days, and I read “Missoula,” by Jon Krakauer; “The Drop” by Dennis Lehane; and “Between the World and Me,” Ta’Nehisi Coates, as well as some rereading — an old Travis McGee pulper I found in the cottage, and Laura Lippman’s “When She Was Good.” And a kinky romance about a woman with rape fantasies, because I read an interesting story about this market niche somewhere, and wanted to see what it was about. They’re all e-books and as cheap as candy bars. (Noted some details, including this: While women notice hair, when they write erotic fiction, they don’t spend a lot of time describing the women involved, for obvious reasons. The reader is free to imagine herself in the starring role. Sex scenes written by men are the opposite. I gave up on one popular crime novelist 20 pages into my first try, when he described his main character, a woman with the usual high, firm breasts and tight, round ass and long, long legs, etc. The real eye-roller — and book-closer — was her smooth olive skin and violet eyes. I’m like, pick one, dude. You don’t get both in the same gene pool.)

“Missoula” was a rare Krakauer disappointment for me, strong out of the gate and mired around the halfway point with courtroom procedural passages begging for a chainsaw edit. It was also about rape, the real, non-fantasy kind, but it was really about alcohol. And “Between the World and Me” is a heartbreaker, but an absolutely necessary one, and I highly recommend it.

At night, when I wasn’t reading and Alan was fishing, I watched movies. The house we were in didn’t have cable or an antenna, so I couldn’t watch the Republican debate, but it did have a DVD player and an uneven selection of movies. First were the good ones I’d already seen (“Michael Clayton,” “The Departed”) and then some fun crap (“Dirty Harry”), before finishing with ones I’d only heard about and never got around to seeing, like “The Green Mile.” Sixteen years after its release, I offer this review: P-U. (Alan suggested an alternate title: “Mr. Jingles and the Magical Negro.”) Last up was “The Grey,” which I turned off 30 minutes in while contemplating forming a Wolf Anti-Defamation League. Not just bad, offensively so.

And that was about it. We lost power in the big storm for a day and change, popped over to Traverse City for an afternoon and watched Wendy excavate the outside woodpile for two solid hours, trying to get the red squirrel squeaking inside. No cell service, no internet unless we drove through a coverage zone. And we floated a few miles of the Au Sable, and it looked like this:

wendyandme

Pure Michigan.

It looks like y’all had a good week. I still have a few pages to go in the Coates book, mainly because on the way home, as soon as we drove into cell coverage, my phone exploded with this story, about the Tea Party legislator I wrote about in April. Turns out he was sleeping with his legislative ally, and — you can read all the tawdry details at the link. The rumors about them started flying after my story ran, and I wondered whether they might be true, then decided such a hookup would be too Hollywood for words, like Frank Burns and Hot Lips Houlihan getting it on in “M*A*S*H.” It turns out that sometimes reality is just that — Hollywood. I keep looking at my notes, and the story, wondering if it was in front of me all along. Maybe it was:

Just yesterday, Courser posted, on his website and Facebook, a 3,300-word defense of Gamrat, referring to “the forces of tyranny” that are “attempting to silence a huge voice for liberty,” i.e. Gamrat, and calling on Speaker Cotter to reinstate her. He chides Cotter repeatedly and implies the Speaker – the leader of his own party’s caucus – lied about Gamrat to justify her ejection.

New rule: When a man tops 3K words defending a female colleague, look harder.

Anyway, I’m doing a Michigan Radio interview this morning, along with the reporter who broke the story. Should be fun. I’ll pop into the comments with a listen-live link when I get it.

I see you guys kept the bloggage going in my absence, so I don’t have a whole lot to offer, as I’m just catching up myself. This profile of an uncooperative Chelsea Clinton was very good, I thought. I found it via Hank Stuever, who commented on his Facebook that perhaps his parents had taken Jacqueline Onassis’ advice about raising their daughter in the White House to a fault: “When Caroline Kennedy sort of ran for office a few years ago, one single interview with the NYT made it clear that a lifetime of being sheltered from challenging questions had not done her any favors at all. She was in no way ready for real politics or much of anything that wasn’t ceremonial and scripted. Ergo, her current job — ambassador to Japan.” Chelsea is the same, I fear. Much posing and smiling, not much else.

Oh, and Coozledad sent along this wonderful piece from his local alt-weekly. Speaking of atrocious writing.

So the week begins anew, and I’m tanned (a little), rested (mostly) and ready (better be). Hope you are, too.

Posted at 12:06 am in Current events, Movies, Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 39 Comments
 

God bless the Jumbotron.

No blogging today, alas. I accepted a friend’s invitation to see Elvis Costello and Steely Dan last night at the venue once and forever known as Pine Knob. It was a hot night and only got hotter when the main act came on. A woman seated in the row ahead of us barfed all over the floor — I honestly don’t think she was drunk, as she seemed to be ralphing mainly gouts of clear liquid. The crew got it cleaned up between acts and a different couple sat down in the adjacent seats. Dustin and I looked at each other and said? Nothing, of course.

The barfer and her husband returned, the barfer’s hair tied up in a ponytail. Maybe she was just overheated.

Anyway, the acts were in good voice and Donald Fagen is still one of my favorite lyricists in pop music. Fortunately, there were visual enhancements:

steelydan

I’m told the kids don’t like Steely Dan, and in fact consider the band the absolute epitome of boomer narcissism, all jazzy pretentiousness and grad-school navel-gazing. Their fans are assholes, they play “music to put your sleazy moves on a drunk woman in a ski lodge to,” they’re for snobs only.

OK. Whatever. I have very specific and generational memories linked to most of their hits, and as for “Aja,” well, let’s just call it a foundational text in my pop-music memory. So the hell with you haters. We all know what you gotta do.

So not much bloggage today, except for this, my old colleague Dave Jones on the poisoning of youth sports. By their parents, of course:

As Hall of Fame acceptance speeches go, John Smoltz’s was not terribly entertaining. He was too careful to mention each and every person who affected his life, growing up as the son of accordion teachers in Michigan, to reach any sort of real connection with the audience during a rather lengthy half-hour.

Until, that is, the last five minutes. The loudest and longest ovation Smoltz received was for the most passionate point he made near the end of his time on the podium at Cooperstown on Sunday.

It was when he tried to talk some sense into all the parents who are relentlessly driving their kids through the nonstop treadmill that is travel baseball. He was speaking of all the kids whose arms are worn out and even damaged by their mid-teens. Whose passion for the game has long since been replaced by a hollow expression, whose onetime thrill in competition has dissolved into some vague sense of duty to their parents’ commitment.

‘Til Tuesday, and beyond.

Posted at 8:59 am in Detroit life, Popculch | 46 Comments
 

Not what you think it is.

My comments on “Go Set a Watchman” come from a place of near-total ignorance of the text itself. I read the reviews and the first chapter online, and that’s it. So that’s your serving of salt grains with this, and here goes:

The only reason to read this book is as a case study in the power of a good editor. It’s not a lesson every reader wants to learn, or even cares about. Of all the movie fans in the world, how many want to learn about depth of field, how different lenses and film stocks work, the director’s art, or the color timer’s? They just want to enjoy the story unfolding in the dark. But in the case of these two books, all the evidence points to a single truth: This publication is an object lesson in the need for rock-solid estate planning and the need to appoint trustworthy guardians who will carry out your wishes, wishes you express when you still have the vigor to do so.

So when I hear Jeff say that lots of older people grow rigid and crabbed in their beliefs, and this is not a ridiculous turn of events for Atticus Finch, it makes me sad. Of course it’s true. But the Atticus of Watchman is not the same man of Mockingbird, for a very good reason: He’s a fictional character, and in her rewrite, Lee essentially crumpled up the paper she was sketching him on and started from scratch. Just because he has the same name doesn’t make him the same person, because he isn’t a person at all.

Although I will admit chuckling over a tweet I saw earlier today (and didn’t note the provenance of, sorry) something about of course Atticus is a bitter old racist 20 years after Mockingbird, because he’s been watching Fox News.

Speaking of estate planning… or rather, not speaking of it, because this story has nothing to do with it. Rather, it’s one of those stories we should all read from time to time, because it drives home just what real poverty is, how many poor families live in Detroit. And everywhere:

Oscar Edwards was born mentally disabled. He’s gentle, speaks only to his family and has the mind of a child.

For his whole life, the 68-year-old has had relatives taking care of him — feeding him, bathing him, keeping him company. And for most of that life he’s lived in an old house on Petoskey Street on the city’s west side; first with his parents, who died long ago, then with his two brothers, who both passed away recently.

Now, the house is falling apart. The warm air inside reeks of mold. The ceiling in his bedroom collapsed. The repair estimates are skyrocketing. And nobody in the family has any money to fix any of it.

So the family set up a GoFundMe site, hoping to raise enough money to make the repairs. It included a video of the interior of the house. Which is not pretty:

Evans was invited on an AM talk radio show, where the host called her a scammer and urged listeners to report the family to the state. A local TV station did a couple of stories about Uncle Oscar, and viewers posted comments online accusing the family of being negligent. A racist website stumbled on the fund-raising page and posted an unflattering photo of Uncle Oscar and mocked him and the family.

“They called us ‘silverbacks’ and ‘gorillas,’ things like that,” Evans said.

The family sought $30,000 in donations. In three months only $2,787 came in.

Another great, nuanced look by John Carlisle.

Now, back to reading the scariest article I’ve read in a long damn while. I bid farewell to our readers in Seattle, Portland and other places in the Pacific Northwest, should the big one, or the really big one, hit before we speak again.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch | 85 Comments
 

Crazy nation.

For some reason I can’t quite explain, I’m a member of a Facebook group for Grosse Pointe moms. Here’s a post from today:

We want to have our daughter baptized but my husband and I aren’t currently members at a local church. Anyone know of a church in the area that will baptize her without a waiting period (seems the ones I’ve contacted require us to become members for six months before they will baptize her)? Don’t want to wait that long because she’ll be too big then to fit into the gown I was baptized in.

I held my tongue, but on this issue I’ve been rather influenced by my brushes with the orthodox Catholics in my circle, as well as our own Jeff the mild-mannered, and am tempted to say, where do you get off, lady? Churches aren’t public utilities, and if you don’t believe enough to even join a church, why bother to baptize your child at all? It’s not just about baptismal gowns, and if it is, again, why even bother?

Religion. Go figure.

I don’t know about you, but the talker of the day, for me, was this fantastic story out of Texas, where they want to claim the state’s share of Fort Knox’ gold and repatriate it to the Lone Star state, for…well, let them explain it:

On Friday, Gov. Greg Abbott signed legislation that will create a state-run gold depository in the Lone Star State – one that will attempt to rival those operated by the U.S. government inside Fort Knox and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s vault in lower Manhattan. “The Texas Bullion Depository,” Abbott said in a statement, “will become the first state-level facility of its kind in the nation, increasing the security and stability of our gold reserves and keeping taxpayer funds from leaving Texas to pay for fees to store gold in facilities outside our state.” Soon, Abbott’s office said, the state “will repatriate $1 billion of gold bullion from the Federal Reserve in New York to Texas.” In other words, when it comes preparing for the currency collapse and financial armeggedon, Abbott’s office really seems to think Texas is a whole ‘nother country.

Someone in this readership must live in Texas. I ask you: WHAT THE EFFIN’ EFF? This country is insane. I can’t wait to read the histories of our era, when I’m old.

While we’re on the subject, here’s quite the read from New York magazine. Remember during the last election, when the Mississippi tea party tried to bring down Sen. Thad Cochran, deemed too RINO for the state that ranks 50th in most measures of excellence? They thought if they captured a photo or video of his tragically afflicted wife, in a nursing home for a decade with early-onset dementia, they’d have his scalp, since Cochran had a ladylove on the side. Things didn’t work out for them, and someone took his own life. I’ll say it again: Our country has gone mad.

On a lighter topic, then. Our own Jeff Borden, if he hadn’t been a journalist, would have made a great radio program director. He once told me his idea for a killer rock station: Great music and all-female DJs, none of whom — this was key — would ever show their faces in public. He said, “I don’t care if they weight 300 pounds and have the face of a bulldog. If they had a great, sexy voice they could work for me. But no one ever sees them. Ever.” The idea, obviously, was to create a community where the sound was awesome and the visuals were entirely up to the listener.

So, a local DJ died this week. He was gone way before I ever came here. I never heard him. But from his obit, he had the right idea. There’s a sound check embedded in the story. What a voice.

So we slide down the downslope of the week. More work to do. Do yours.

Posted at 12:30 am in Current events, Popculch | 58 Comments
 

A long sit.

If you have to have a four-hour meeting, you should have it in our Ann Arbor office, where three windows look out onto green loveliness and you can gather strength from the verdant fields stretching away into more greenness, and…excuse me, did you say something? My back hurts during a meeting that long. But there was a lunch afterward, and more meetings, and now we’re all done for another quarter.

That was Monday. Plus the drive there in the rain, and the drive back in the mugginess, and then some spaghetti carbonara, because I can’t always get it together to marinate something and otherwise plan a decent dinner. Sometimes bacon and eggs and spaghetti is the best you can do. Fortunately, it’s delicious.

Tomorrow is orientation in Ann Arbor. I still have cleaning to do before graduation. And yet here I sit. Sue me.

It’s an all-pop culture bloggage menu today, because I’m out of gas to think very deeply:

What will be the song of the summer? A few contenders.

How horrible can people be? In a Walmart shampoo aisle, pretty horrible.

“Caps lock is the Palin family’s rhetorical open-carry.”

Off to bed.

Posted at 12:39 am in Popculch, Same ol' same ol' | 29 Comments
 

All about the feet.

Despite the tsuris the usual suspects are having, this isn’t the first time I’ve read about the odd, tiny subculture of people who believe that in their core, they are really amputees, even if they have all their fingers, arms and legs, and whatever else you can cut off and still live.

It actually came up during the infamous Huntington Castrator story. My colleague Bob Caylor had an Atlantic magazine story on the phenomenon, which he found extremely weird — correctly, I guess I should add. Some people are deeply into body modification, a continuum that probably starts with eyebrow-plucking and moves on from there.

Here’s the story that’s causing the tsuris. If you follow the usual wing nut thought patterns, the concern is this: Here’s a single story where one guy says the “transabled” should be taken seriously, i.e., this is what Caitlyn Jenner wrought. Once you allow an Olympic gold medalist to decide he’s a woman, sooner or later you’re allowing people to cut off their hands in the name of…something.

It’s deeply weird, I’ll allow. I’m not sure it is at the bottom of the slippery slope.

However, at the bottom of the barrel is this email, which arrived today in my personal inbox:

Dr Suzanne Levine, Celebrity Podiatrist on Park Ave in NYC speaks out on Caitlyn Jenner’s transformation surgery. In Vanity Fair cover shot she is shown wearing fabulous stiletto heels. Dr Levine asserts the feet have not been feminized and must have been airbrushed. Is it possible the entire photo was photo shopped? Her feet look too dainty in the heels – hint, hint – it’s all about the feet.

Dr. Levine states in many male to female transitions, the feet feminizing procedure is one of the most overlooked factors in creating a feminie appearance, and can be the true defining change to create the most feminine appearance possible.

Dr Levine is available for interviews via phone or skype.

Good to know that somewhere in the world, there’s a celebrity podiatrist, and she practices on Park Avenue.

This is a good story by the AP: The FBI has small aircraft in the skies over major U.S. cities, spying on us.

I’m so glad I live in the north, and my child is done, today!, with public education.

And that’s what I have today. Happy Hump Day.

Posted at 12:31 am in Current events, Popculch | 36 Comments
 

Exit through the darkroom.

Having worked with a few headstrong photographers, I know they’re essential to telling a great story. At the same time the best ones have a way of going rogue. Many times I’ve sat back at my desk, looking over my notes and the pictures, thinking these don’t match.

I always blamed myself for failing to communicate strongly enough what the story was, but frankly, sometimes it changes as you report it. Let me put it this way: I’ve written some convoluted captions to explain why the person in the picture is beaming and blowing bubbles in a green meadow, but the story says she’s suicidally depressed about the depletion of the Oglala aquifer. (Or, y’know, whatever.)

Anyway, if I think about it, the photographer who has bugged me the most over the years is Richard Avedon. Love his celebrity portraits, love his fashion work, hated — HATED — his series set in the American West, where he took some pretty unconventional-looking people and stood them up in front of his famous seamless backdrop and turned them into freaks for his New York friends to groove on.

You may sense the depth of my feelings on this subject.

Mary Ellen Mark occupies a different place. I find many of her portraits as unsettling as Avedon’s, but without the note of mocking condescension. Although can anyone, especially a woman, look at the first photo in this series and not think, “Put down that camera and get that child to a responsible maternal figure, for God’s sake.”

Mark, who died this week, was probably best known for the “Street Wise” project, about homeless street kids in Seattle, which started as a photo feature for Life magazine — man, just writing those words feels impossibly nostalgic — and later became a documentary. It wasn’t easy to watch, listening to these kids talk about turning tricks and retrieving pizza out of dumpsters, even as you know the situations they left behind were even worse.

And then, of course, they grew up.

Photography is such an intimate medium, and it’s so easy to tip the viewer from a guest looking in through the fourth wall to a peeping tom. I think Susan Sontag may have touched on this subject a time or two.

So. Bloggage to get to.

Bob Schieffer says he’s worried about the decline of local journalism. That makes two of us:

Less than a third of all newspapers in the country assign a reporter — part time or full time — to cover statehouses, according to the Pew study. Almost nine in 10 (86 percent) of local TV stations have no part-time or full-time correspondent covering the statehouse.

I’m less concerned about TV, because most stations’ coverage of serious news has always been spotty and not the sort of thing you should rely on to be informed. Many manage to park two or three highly paid butts on a couch for an extended morning show of utter crap content, so cry me a river over that one. But on newspapers, he’s absolutely right. Fort Wayne once had a two-person Indy bureau — one for sports, one for the legislature. That dwindled to a freelancer, then a go-when-you-can staffer, then let-the-AP-handle-it. That’s no way to cover anything.

What the hell just happened in Nebraska? I’m still puzzled, although I think I get it: GOP corrections reform meets Democrats’ traditional opposition to capital punishment. Amazing.

Wednesday I was walking to lunch with my colleagues, and a large semi crossed our path, the side emblazoned, “Taylor Swift 1989 World Tour.” She plays at Ford Field on Saturday. That is one long setup. I’ve said many times I would rather see two guys play guitar in a smoky nightclub than go to your average stadium/arena show, and that stands. Tickets for “general admission standing” for her “B stage” — I expect that’s the one where she walks a plank into the audience and gives low-fives to the clamoring minions — are $200. Nosebleed is $50, most others well north of there. Yikes.

Oh, and Basset, I used Coastal for my last eyeglass purchase, but I knew what I wanted and what looks good on me. YMMV. Good luck.

Posted at 9:10 am in Current events, Popculch | 92 Comments
 

Clams on the side.

My local fish market had a cooking class last night, and I jumped in at the last minute. The theme? Grilling. The temperature? Mid-50s. We ate grilled shrimp and grilled scallops, grilled clams and grilled tuna and grilled swordfish. There were some pickled vegetables and, to top everything off, a nice fish taco, made with grilled cod. Didn’t learn too much new, but got some new flavor ideas. My cooking has been blah lately, mainly because I feed an indifferent teenager and a husband whose arrival in the evenings can range from 7 to 9 p.m., or even later, and I’m not feelin’ it, cooking-wise. There is a strong temptation to stock the fridge with cold cuts and tell the world to learn to make sandwiches.

This will help. The weekend temperatures might even get over 70! Woo.

Let’s skip to the bloggage, then. Because the weekend is something I kinda need right now.

I run hot and cold on Jezebel, but with the fallout from the UVA false-rape disaster still falling, someone there needs to take some deep breaths before publishing stuff like this, a supportive (and anonymous) piece by a friend of the girl who dragged her mattress, her RAPE MATTRESS in case you didn’t read any of the twelve million stories about it, around Columbia University, culminating with dragging it across the stage at graduation this week. Here is her gripping tale of sexual assault, by the same man who allegedly assaulted mattress girl:

The incident happened my junior year at Columbia, when Paul followed me upstairs at a party, came into a room with me uninvited, closed the door behind us, and grabbed me. I politely said, “Hey, no, come on, let’s go back downstairs.” He didn’t listen. He held me close to him as I said no, and continued to pull me against him. I pushed him off and left the room quickly. I told a few friends and my boyfriend at the time how creepy and weird it was. I tried to find excuses for his behavior. I did a decent job of pushing it out of my mind.

Look. I am not condoning this behavior, but if I were, oh, say… a woman I knew in Fort Wayne who had a man climb through a window she left open on the hottest night of a hot summer, a man who held a knife to her throat and forced her to perform oral sex? If I were that woman, and read Anonymous’ story of being forcibly hugged, I would laugh bitterly in her face. Not that rape and assault has to be a game of one-upmanship, not at all. But the encounter she describes is something virtually every woman I know experienced at least once by the age of 19, and no one called it assault.

Something else published in Jezebel this week: My hot, consensual introduction to the rape fantasy romance novel.

What a confusing world we live in.

You want assault? I’ll show you (alleged) assault, quiverfull-style.

Time to hang things up for the weekend. Maybe some photo posts in the next few days? I’ll keep you posted. Ha.

Posted at 12:37 am in Popculch | 59 Comments
 

What do you press?

You know what you need this morning. A heapin’ helpin’ of butt-kickin’ FLOTUS.

I can do all those moves except…that plyometric bench-jumping — hate that one. Not much of a rope-skipper. I bench, but not that much. Maybe I should, so I could have the Obama Guns of Awesomeness. And if I tried a roundhouse kick like that, the next movement in the sequence would be the Abdominal Crunches While Clutching Pain-Screaming Knee.

I’m going to miss the Obamas. Can you imagine a partner in the current crop of POTUS wannabes who would do this? Or this? Hardly.

A long last few days, but ahead us lies the sweet sweet weekend. Boat’s in the water, graduation is bearing down on us and the light in the evenings goes on and on. If only it would stop being so fucking cold. I keep washing my fleece pullover, promising it’s about to go into the closet until the cool days of fall. But the cold days of fall WON’T GIVE THE HELL UP.

I keep looking at a little stew pot of notes I made on accents we heard on our brief trip south, but can’t make anything of it. We stopped for lunch in Tennessee, after a long haul of not-stopping since somewhere in Ohio. That takes you past the Ma’am Line, i.e., the place where a woman of 26 is called “ma’am” by clerks and fast-food servers. We didn’t stop for fast food, but at some non-chain country-style place where I could order an item called Pulled Pork Mac ‘n’ Cheese, and did.

Some women were talking at the next table. It was a going-away lunch for someone who was retiring, and she expressed some anxiety about what was next. Her table mate told her to pray on it.

“He will nivver lead you as-try,” she said. I recalled my friend’s grandmother, who hailed from the tidewater Virginia region. She would have added some syllables: “He will ne-vuh lead you as-tray-uh.” And people think all southerners sound the same.

Some bloggage for y’all? Sure:

This was the most interesting thing I read in last Sunday’s NYT — a profile of a couple from Flint who are now the highest-earning in publishing. They write “street lit,” ie., some pretty unreadable stuff that nevertheless sells like crazy:

Over the past decade, the Colemans have published nearly 50 books, sometimes as solo writers, sometimes under pseudonyms, but usually as collaborators with a byline that has become a trusted brand: “Ashley & JaQuavis.” They are marquee stars of urban fiction, or street lit, a genre whose inner-city settings and lurid mix of crime, sex and sensationalism have earned it comparisons to gangsta rap. The emergence of street lit is one of the big stories in recent American publishing, a juggernaut that has generated huge sales by catering to a readership — young, black and, for the most part, female — that historically has been ill-served by the book business. But the genre is also widely maligned. Street lit is subject to a kind of triple snobbery: scorned by literati who look down on genre fiction generally, ignored by a white publishing establishment that remains largely indifferent to black books and disparaged by African-American intellectuals for poor writing, coarse values and trafficking in racial stereotypes.

But if a certain kind of cultural prestige is shut off to the Colemans, they have reaped other rewards. They’ve built a large and loyal fan base, which gobbles up the new Ashley & JaQuavis titles that arrive every few months. Many of those books are sold at street-corner stands and other off-the-grid venues in African-American neighborhoods, a literary gray market that doesn’t register a blip on best-seller tallies. Yet the Colemans’ most popular series now regularly crack the trade fiction best-seller lists of The New York Times and Publishers Weekly. For years, the pair had no literary agent; they sold hundreds of thousands of books without banking a penny in royalties. Still, they have earned millions of dollars, almost exclusively from cash-for-manuscript deals negotiated directly with independent publishing houses. In short, though little known outside of the world of urban fiction, the Colemans are one of America’s most successful literary couples, a distinction they’ve achieved, they insist, because of their work’s gritty authenticity and their devotion to a primal literary virtue: the power of the ripping yarn.

A confession: Years ago, I stumbled across an amateur porn site and spent an hour paging through the photos, looking at the home decorating details and items on the bookshelves. So of course I am a sucker to know what was on Osama bin Laden’s bookshelves when the SEALS pulled his card. No novels, alas, and at least one volume of the Bob Woodward oeuvre. Bummer.

Tom and Lorenzo’s final Mad Style was a great and fitting tribute to the series, and you should read it.

Today is Thursday. How’d that happen?

Posted at 12:30 am in Popculch | 46 Comments