hold your breath boys, hold your breath

19Feb09
LOTS of shake-ups in the publishing world of late. Simon & Schuster reporting a 3% decline in last year’s profits, HarperCollins closing Collins and handing out lay-offs left and right, the senior VP of merchandising at Baker and Taylor killed in Continental’s ill-fated Newark-Buffalo flight, and a little closer to home, Source Interlink has “taken its fight against publishers’ refusal to ship magazines” to the U.S. District Court and is accusing Time, Inc. and Hachette of “trying to destroy its business” (ugh-oh!). And let’s not forget the release of Amazon’s Kindle 2, whose text-to-speech feature has the publishing world in a tizzy over whether or not it infringes on audio rights.

Not a good week for the publishing industry, all-round. (There’s even a rumor that last Tuesday, February 10, is being nick-named “Black Tuesday” because there were so many lay-offs industry wide.) So far, no shake-ups mentioned around here, for which I am tenuously relieved, but things are making us nervous across the board. (And not just across the board, either, but right here in my tiny Nashville office, certain practices are starting to look scary. If you’re wondering if I’m covering my bases, the answer is yes.)

In these bleak times, there is at least one source of joy and comfort for me: my Wednesday night dates with J.J. Abrams and the cast of ABC’s LOST. I don’t normally blog about it, but my absolute love for this show knows no bounds. I could literally spend hours raving about the wit and brilliance of Abrams and his team.

Mickey O’Connor over at TV Guide has a Thursday morning recap blog that has become a staple of my weekly internet diet. (I should warn you, his posts are rife with spoilers.) Mickey’s recaps are fabulously detailed, thoroughly researched, and usually wildly hilarious, especially when he uses lines straight from the script to make a joke of the whole episode. A minute-by-minute breakdown of last night’s episode can be found here. Funny, but not nearly as informative (or conspiracy-theory-ridden) as Mickey’s.

Though the show itself comes across very serious and dramatic, the writers are clearly not above making jokes at their own expense, and this week’s episode was no exception. The clever one-liners, most of them from Ben, do so much to lighten what could otherwise be a very heavy and overwhelming hour. “How can you sit there, reading?” Jack asks Ben on the plane. “My mother taught me!” Zing! (Except, as LOSTies know, Ben’s mother died in childbirth. Is this just a joke thrown in for good measure? Or is this another layer in Ben’s tangled web? I really think the writers do this stuff on purpose.) “What will happen to the rest of the passengers?” Jack, always trying to save everyone, asks Ben. “Who cares?” It’s just so typical, and Michael Emerson’s delivery is amazing. And Frank was back in a surprise appearance (though really, were we that surprised?) and with possibly the best line of the night, “Wait a minute, we’re not going to Guam, are we?” (That’s so the new “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”) We can’t forget about the little quip at the Lampost regarding Ben’s inability to be honest, either. Jack: “Is he telling the truth?” Eloise: “Probably not!”

The most appropriate line of the evening, however, came from an exchange between Jack and Eloise Hawking (anyone else find it interesting that she shares a last name with Stephen Hawking, arguably the most influential space-time physicist ever?). Jack says, “This is ridiculous!” And Eloise retorts, “Stop thinking how ridiculous it is…!” Those two lines pretty much summarize the entire series. The whole show is ridiculous and absurd, and yet we still try to figure out the writers’ minds week after week. We should just stop, because if we haven’t wrapped our heads around its absurdity yet, we’re never going to. This show is all about the willful suspension of disbelief. And trusting that the writers know what they’re doing.

Which brings me to my next point, the thing I love and appreciate the most about LOST. The attention to detail on this show is completely overwhelming. You almost have to assume that every single line, every single prop, every single facial expression is not just thrown in arbitrarily. Everything has meaning in the LOST mythology. Take, for instance, the book Ben was reading on Ajira Airways Flight 316 (by the way, don’t get me started on the flight number, the names John Locke and Jeremy Bentham, and/or the inherent religiosity of LOST, I don’t want to touch it). Ben was reading Ulysses by James Joyce, an overwhelmingly complicated postmodern novel loosely based on Homer’s The Odyssey. The Odyssey involves a man trying to get back to his wife (conveniently named Penelope, a nick-name for which is Penny), several stops at islands, and at least one ship wreck. Now, I could be reading far too much into the simple choice to put (the non-Hans Walter Gabler edition of) Ulysses in Ben’s hand as a prop on the plane. Or, I could assume that the writers are doing a damn good job of interjecting symbolism at every possible opportunity.

This show just continually blows my mind. Which I why I keep coming back to it every Wednesday and why I spend the majority of my Thursdays reading LOST conspiracy theories!

Speaking of wasting time at work! I recently finished I Was Told There’d Be Cake by Sloane Crosley. My sister, Katie bought it a few weeks ago and recommended it for me. It was sort of an irreverent take on New York life and being a non-practicing Jew and working for an editor at a publishing house and realizing your life has been sucked away. Okay, so the latter subject was only briefly covered in one essay, and I’m not necessarily comparing my life to hers, but I could relate.

Crosley is like a female Chuck Klosterman, only more accident prone, more awkward, and clumsier. So she pretty much reminded me of myself. Her brief stint at a New York publishing house was especially hilarious, all things considered. Though I’ve never had an unbound manuscript thrown at my head (though I wouldn’t rule this out as a future possibility in my career), or accidentally told my boss my dad was dead, I could appreciate the drudgery and paranoia she experienced on a daily basis. Her downfall, however, was deciding to make a cookie in the shape of a human head, giving it green eyes, and calling it The Ursula Cookie, in honor of her boss, and then giving said cookie to said boss. (I made my colleague Katie read that essay and we have sworn to each other, among other things, to never make a cookie resembling our respective bosses’ heads.) “The Ursula Cookie” was the kind of essay we could appreciate. However, the rest of Crosley’s essays were equally entertaining and she writes with a sort of matter-of-factness that is just dry enough to be cynical without losing her lightheartedness. You can’t help but assume that she’s being completely honest, either, and she’s all the more likable because of it.

And speaking of likable figures in literature (man, it’s like a whirlwind of segues today), I am just enough of a dweeb to subscribe to Publisher’s Weekly’s daily updates. Yesterday, they ran a cute little meme: Who Are Your Literary Crushes? They had an abundance of male characters, but they were really struggling to name any female literary characters worthy of being crushed upon. So I decided to have a go at naming my own literary crushes, both male and female.

Besides Sirius Black (but only in The Order of the Phoenix; and yes, I am serious, STFU), if I were to have a crush on any literary figure, I’d have to include Robbie Turner from Ian McEwan’s Atonement. (Apparently, I’ve got a thing for falsely-accused dead guys.) I’d like to say Gogol from Jhumpa Lahiri’s The Namesake, but he was kind of a dick, at least until the end, then he was sort of sweet. If characters in plays count as literary characters, then I think my ultimate literary crush has to be John “Jack” Worthing from Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest,” though maybe without the whole lying about the name and switching identities every other weekend thing. He’s just so hapless; I can’t help but love him.

As far as female crush-worthy characters go, Beatrice from Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing” is pretty much the wittiest female character ever written/I’m pretty sure I want to be her when I grow up. I don’t know if that counts as a crush though, so let’s see, who else? Oh! I can’t believe it took me this long to think of it (seriously, I’ve been staring at my screen for a good five minutes), but Bridget Jones from the Diary of the same name! And I will gladly hang my head in shame for this, but I will admit to having a tiny crush on Bella Swan, yes, the Bella from Twilight. She was just so unassuming.

Lis posted a meme yesterday that I wanted to have a go at, also. An all-time, Top Ten favorite songs meme. She said she found it easier than it sounds; let’s see if I can follow suit.

10. Talkin’ Shit About a Pretty Sunset – Modest Mouse
9. Carry Me Ohio – Sun Kil Moon
8. Eleanor Rigby – The Beatles
7. Name – The Goo Goo Dolls
6. New Hampshire – matt pond PA
5. Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands – Bob Dylan
4. The Trapeze Swinger – Iron & Wine
3. For Nancy – Pete Yorn
2. Red Right Ankle – The Decemberists
1. Round Eye Blues – Marah

Wow. That was, actually, significantly easier than expected. The Decemberists’s track was a bit tricky, because Red Right Ankle is tied in my heart with The Engine Driver. But Red Right Ankle is just…poetry. And I adore it for its language more so than its melody. The Bob Dylan track was a little complicated, too, because there are just so many of his that I love.

Marah was a no-brainer. Round Eye Blues has pretty much been my favorite song since the first time I heard it. Which is very strange to me because there is nothing particularly unique about it. It’s got a nice sound, and it’s a little sad, but there are no stand-out lines or anything else that would make it more meaningful to me than any other of Marah’s songs. Maybe because it reminds me a little of “Dolce et Decorum Est” by Wilfred Owen. I don’t know. It just…overwhelms me every time I hear it.

Which is why, if I hear that opening drum beat on Saturday night, I may very well have a heart attack on the spot. Seeing Marah live is one thing. Seeing Marah play my all-time, Top Ten favorite song live is a whole other thing entirely.

If I haven’t blogged about the show by Sunday afternoon, you may want to check on me and make sure I’m still alive.

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