Author Archives: Mike Moats

Fiction Advocates of the Day: Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer

Keith Mann?

Penelope Gazin and Kate Dwyer are the founders of online art marketplace Witchsy. They are not, to our knowledge, novelists or literary critics. They are the creators of a platform for people to sell arts and crafts that, as Fast Company reports, “eschews the ‘Live Laugh Love’ vibe of knickknacks commonly found on sites like Etsy in favor of art that is at once darkly nihilistic and lightheartedly funny, ranging in spirit from fiercely feminist to obscene just for the fun of it.”

As they worked to build their company, Gazin and Dwyer noticed that the hired help — mostly men brought on for design and development — were “slow to respond, and vaguely disrespectful in correspondence.” So they created Keith Mann, “an aptly named fictional character who could communicate with outsiders over email.”

You can read the full story of how that changed things over at Fast Company.

David Foster Wallace used to say that the point of fiction was to show what it’s like “to be a fucking human being.” Sometimes, apparently, the point of fiction is just to be treated like a fucking human being.

 

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Rebel in the Rye: Official Trailer

Just a few days after the 66th anniversary of The Catcher in the Rye, IFC Films released the official trailer for the unfortunately titled “Rebel in the Rye.” The feature-length movie covers J.D. Salinger’s early writing life and the creation of his most famous character. Starring Nicholas Hoult, who also plays X-Men’s Beast, another nerd who’s blue as hell, “Rebel” was adapted from Kenneth Slawenski’s J.D. Salinger: A Life by Danny Strong. Strong helped create the hit show “Empire,” and penned Lee Daniels’ “The Butler,” and is one of those actors you see in a lot of other shows and movies.

Previous film treatments of Salinger have all basically sucked — everything from the 2013 documentary that Slate call “No goddam good,” (the book it was based on sucked too), all the way back to 1950, when Samuel Goldwyn released “My Foolish Heart,” a film adaptation of the short story “Uncle Wiggly in Connecticut.” The movie was sappy enough to turn Salinger away from adaptations for the rest of his natural life, even though it did have a nice song in it.

Given this ignominious history, I am deeply skeptical of any and all Salinger projects. But I admit to being seduced by the polish and drama of the “Rebel” preview. Salinger would definitely hate it and Holden would probably never stop puking, and I’m confident that the storytelling tramples over the complicated history of the book in service of orchestra swells and climactic realizations. I also have my doubts that Whit Burnett, one of Salinger’s early teachers and fiction advocates, was a wryly sassy as Kevin Spacey. But at the very least, I like the idea of a novel inspiring Hollywood-level drama, and I’m still interested in seeing what Strong and team have come up with.

One early review calls the movie “watchable.” All will be revealed on September 15, when “Rebel in the Rye” hits theaters.

In the meantime, if you want to know more about the development of Holden Caulfield and Catcher, we’ve got you covered.

-Michael Moats

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Did You Hear? Radiohead OKNOTOK

 

Radiohead’s OK COMPUTER came out 20 summers ago. To mark the occasion, today the band released OKNOTOK, a remastered version of the original album, along with a lot of really good b-sides and three previously unreleased tracks. You can listen to it all on Apple Music and Spotify, or get it the old fashioned way from Radiohead’s site. I know “Paranoid Android” is considered the album’s most revolutionary track, but 20 years later I think we all understand that the better choice is the video above for “No Surprises.” It is simply extraordinary.

I won’t burden the world with two decades of feels from someone who was graduating high school the same year the greatest artwork ever made on modern sadness was produced. No one wants that, and there is already a ton to read about it over at Pitchfork. I’ll just say that listening to OK COMPUTER again today, sitting in my office, in these times, was like running into an old friend when you’re in a tough spot. A reminder.

-Mike Moats

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The Best Books to Distract You From the Dumpster Fire That Was 2016

Should 2016 be forgot and never brought to mind…

There are, no doubt, a few people who love Donald Trump, hate music, don’t like zoo animals and despise beloved actors and actresses. For the rest of us, 2016 was terrible.

This calls for distractions. We asked Fiction Advocate contributors to tell us which books they read this year that helped them forget, even for fleeting moments, that David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Gwen Ifill, Prince, and America — UPDATE: and George Michael and Carrie Fisher and her mom, Debbie Reynolds — died over the last 12 months.

In what may be the only happy coincidence of the year, the vast majority of the recommendations below come from a few people who have some of the most important things to say about 2016: Continue reading

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America This is Quite Serious: What Just Happened Was the Easy Part

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I began this series with the declaration “Politics sucks.” Boy was I right.

If you’ve been anywhere near the internet lately, you’ve already heard what others have to say about racism, sexism, coastal elite bubbles, millennials, the FBI, voter turnout, minority voter turnout, the real media, the fake news, the electoral college, etc. — basically any and every reason Hillary Clinton did not close the deal on November 8th. In the spirit of this series’ mission to recommend the best coverage, I found the most insightful and comprehensive reaction piece to be this one from Dave Roberts at Vox. For myself, I have largely stayed quiet because, as election day showed, it’s a bad idea to make decisions when you’re scared and angry.

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But a series about the 2016 election should include some response to the results. And in the time since those results came in, we’ve seen a lot of evidence for a very unpleasant truth: Continue reading

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America This is Quite Serious: The Witches

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This Halloween, just over a week before election day, I call forth the recent writings of two women who invoke history to update our understanding of the anger directed toward Hillary Clinton and, more broadly, women.

Stacy Schiff frames the vitriol aimed at Clinton with a look at the historical fear of witches. Schiff, the author of last year’s The Witches: Suspicion, Betrayal, and Hysteria in 1692 Salem, digs into the fascination with witches through the ages and why, as she says, “The idea may have evolved; the animus remains.”

Witches remain in business so long as we feel powerless: They offer the blessed relief of assigning blame; they allow us to distill spite, that heady brew of vindication and humiliation.

It would be nice if the connection to the 2016 election was only metaphorical, but it seems there is at least one right-wing “thought” leader — Trump supporter and fucking maniac Alex Jones — who thinks that Hillary is possessed by demons.

If that kind of thing sounds familiar to you, then it’s probably because of the history documented by Susan Faludi in “How Hillary Clinton Met Satan.”

One of the mysteries of 2016 is the degree to which Hillary Clinton is reviled. Not just rationally opposed but viscerally and instinctively hated… she’s cast not just as a political combatant but as a demon who, in the imaginings of Republicans like Paul D. Ryan, the speaker of the House, and Representative Trent Franks, would create an America “where passion — the very stuff of life — is extinguished” (the former) and where fetuses would be destroyed “limb from limb” (the latter).

Faludi notes the long history of this thinking, which started in the early 1990s, for reasons that appear to be an animating energy of today’s rage:

The 1990s produced a generation of men who felt (and still feel) left behind by a society redefining power and success in terms of ornament and celebrity and demoting the value of industry and brawn, while simultaneously challenging men’s value as family providers. Though women weren’t the source of men’s pain, the antagonist conjured up by aggrieved men I talked with in those years had a feminine face, and very often that face was Hillary’s.

Or as someone once said, “Witches remain in business so long as we feel powerless.” That resentment gave rise to an entire industry of anger, led by talk radio bullshit from the likes of human foot rash Rush Limbaugh. Today, it is made manifest in Donald Trump a liar, con man and abuser who is supposed to Make America Great Again because that what it says on the hat he uses to cover his freakish comb-over.

Hillary’s biggest detractors may call her a witch, but they’re the ones who are under a spell.

America, this is quite serious, and “Witchcraft on the Campaign Trail” and “How Hillary Clinton Met Satan” are worth a read.

Read more from our election year series “America This is Quite Serious.”

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