TJ and The TIMES

TJ Simers

We still have a subscription to the Los Angeles Times. The print edition. Seven days a week. And we read it cover-to-cover. We’re old school that way.

One of the abiding reasons to continue paying for something that can be enjoyed largely for free on the Interweb is to vote monetarily, to support some excellent writers whose talent and courage distinguishes them. The Times staff, which, like most major newspapers these days, is mostly voiceless and interchangeable, in the style of classic journalism. But it has its stars. Most of these scribes have a column of some sort, a place where their individual voice may be heard and celebrated, even when that voice is eccentric, edgy, or controversial.

Until last week, one of the truly great writers at the Times was a sports columnist named TJ Simers. His catalytic Page 2 column had been indefinitely shelved for . . . → Read More: TJ and The TIMES

Very Short Books

Very small books worth reading

Books are far too long, right? Who has time for 300-pages of blabbering on about nothing? Do you know how many tweets you can read in the amount of time it takes to slog through one stupid novel?

A lot. And they’re usually way funnier. And unlike books they’ve got hashtags, like #betterthanactuallyreading.

Still, in their own weird way books can still be useful. Especially if they’re short. Especially if they’re short and they answer some niggling question you’ve been having, a question maybe you couldn’t answer to your satisfaction just by searching the Web.

We’ve published several of the old-fashioned boring kind of books. No one is interested in that. So now we’re pledging to get with the times and start publishing modern fun kind of books. Very short books. You don’t have to download them, or pay for them or anything. You can just read . . . → Read More: Very Short Books

Heidi Julavits

Heidi Julavits, cool writer

We like our humor dark. We like our writers smart. So we’re fans of Heidi Julavits. With her husband Ben Marcus, himself another excellent writer, Julavits edits the literary-minded magazine and Website “The Believer,” where she’s published several sensational manifestos and mordantly funny stories. Among some of her brave stances: a call for the elimination of snarkiness from book reviews. Imagine that!

An Interview with Michael Konik about His Novel “Becoming Bobby”

BecomingBobbyCover

In the days preceding the publication of Michael Konik’s eighth book, a darkly satirical novel called “Becoming Bobby,” writer and Vegas Lit Managing Editor Arnold Snyder interviewed the author. Much was revealed about the creative process and Konik’s motivations for writing a book so drastically different than his previously published work. The interview originally appeared at Write-aholic.

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Michael Konik is one of those renaissance men who’s been everywhere, done everything, and somehow keeps finding new ways to make us normals envious of his talents. He’s been an actor, an improv standup comedian, a TV commentator, a jazz musician, a magazine columnist, author of seven nonfiction books (including one of the most acclaimed books of gambling stories in print, The Man With the $100,000 Breasts) and now we get his first novel, . . . → Read More: An Interview with Michael Konik about His Novel “Becoming Bobby”

In Praise of Barry Commoner

Barry Commoner for President!

He had a name that you might call Dickensian, except Barry Commoner, who died this week at 95, was anything but his nomenclature. A man of the people, yes. Common, no.

Barry Commoner was uncommon.

Today, millions of Earth’s inhabitants believe that overpopulation, increased affluence, and advanced technology are the root causes of environmental degradation. Back in 1971, when Commoner published his catalytic book, “The Closing Circle: Man, Nature, and Technology,” his ideas were considered radical, annoying, and revolutionary. Gasoline at the time cost 36-cents per gallon. Automobiles cost around $2,500. The phrases “peak oil” and “Middle Eastern jihadi” had not entered the lexicon. Many conservatives – those who liked things just the way they were – couldn’t understand why anyone would want to disrupt a fossil fuel energy model that seemed to provide human beings with a “better” . . . → Read More: In Praise of Barry Commoner

Looking Back on 2012: An Oral History of American Values

granny bomber

I was young like you once. Don’t laugh. It seems impossible, I know. An old codger like me of 77! You probably can’t picture when I was only 47 and healthy, with all my own teeth and a libido that didn’t yet require boner pills.

Sure, that was three decades ago, and I look a lot different, what with the thinning hair, sloping shoulders, and cute little pot belly. But my memory is still sharp, even with all the weed I smoked. I remember perfectly what we were like 30 years ago, back in ’12, and I’m glad your professor asked you to do this project. I’m glad you’re talking to the older generation. Folks like me know what America was like back then, back in the time of Obama. The USA was different.

How do I mean? Well, I’ll tell you. . . . → Read More: Looking Back on 2012: An Oral History of American Values

Gale Holland

gale h

Thanks to the book leave of Los Angeles Times columnist Hector Tobar, readers have been treated to a remarkable upgrade: the occasional piece by investigative reporter cum essayist Gale Holland. Whether musing on lottery hangover or Santa Ana winds, she’s simulatenously poetic and precise, with the rhythm and grace of a serious writer. The smart move would be to give her a permanent home on Page 2.

Paris on the Page

gopnick-paris-to-the-moon

For writers serious and otherwise, Paris has always been a muse, the aesthetically inspiring place-feeling-energy that sends men and women of letters to their journal (or typewriter or, more likely these days, their keypad). We all have something to say about the world’s most beautfiul city — or at least we feel as though we ought to have something to say. It requires some measure of humility and equanimity to admit that everything one wishes one might write about Paris has indeed already be written. Much of it by a man named Gopnik.

Read his book Paris to the Moon. Then go there yourself.

Then see what’s left to be said. Which is not much.

Then read the book again and be glad that writers as great as Monsiuer Gopnik share their insights and poetry with the world.

Attention All Media: I’m Doing Something Idiotic!

court_jester

I’ve been doing it all wrong, trying to get folks to talk about and desire my quirky, difficult-to-categorize books, trying to get the media’s attention.

Recent events have demonstrated the truth about how things really work. I’ve got a new book out in 4 weeks about marijuana. It’s called “Reefer Gladness,” and I want everyone to buy it and, more important, read and think about it. So, hey!, hello! Everyone! Check it out:

For Immediate Release: Author Michael Konik Pledges to Use DEA Chief’s Official Photo as Custom Toilet Paper; Says He “Won’t Stop Wiping” Until Pot is Legalized.

Friends and confidantes worry that my “irresponsible” actions could bring harm to marijuana activists working to pass the historic Proposition 19 referendum. They say there will be repercussions. But you know what? Heroes don’t worry about repercussions; they do what’s right, because, you know, it’s right.

. . . → Read More: Attention All Media: I’m Doing Something Idiotic!

A Secret I’ve Been Keeping

lyrics

Most of the people I’ve not met who recognize my name “know” me as a book writer, or as that guy who used to be on television blabbering about poker. A smaller subset might know me as the producer and proprietor of jazz records, or even as a former jazz vocalist.

Those are all cool associations. But none of them fully address what it is I really aspire to be.

For a several years I’ve had a secret. In a few weeks it will be completely out, a matter of the cultural record, and I’ll no longer be able to hide the truth: What I enjoy doing most is writing lyrics to music.

It comes naturally and easily to me, with none of the labor or anxiety one associates with the blocked and tortured artist. I don’t mean that writing lyrics is easy, exactly. I . . . → Read More: A Secret I’ve Been Keeping