Check-In 2.0

Posted by Lizzie on 02/20/09

I am delighted to announce that, in the past 4 years, I managed to write 14 poems — ones that my press, Caketrain, has suffered to publish in an expanded edition of Check-In, my 2005 chapbook — now with an introduction by the miraculous and beautiful Maureen McClane!

Bear with me while I post some relevant links below:

You can read some poems from Check-In and purchase the book here.

You can sign up to get updates on readings and whateverage on Check-In here.

You can join the Check-In society on Facebook here

You can read a review of Check-In from The Brooklyn Rail here.

I was lucky enough to be picked to be part of a series produced by The Poetry Foundation and Poetry Everywhere, in association with docUWM at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, in which students animate poems. Mine was animated by Neil Subel. I am going to work on my flat affect. You can watch it below (entire series here):


I think that’s it. Did I mention the Facebook page?

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Type Set

Posted by Lizzie on 01/28/09

As one of the eldest books bloggers, a critic who abandoned print for the web for (of late) the kaffee-klatch kozery of Facebook, as someone drunk on my status update and one drug tweak from Twitter, as someone who has written TWO COUNT ‘EM TWO PRIVATELY PUBLISHED ESSAYS ON THE WEB TODAAAAAAY, I am almost uniquely unjustified in objecting to this all this “buck uppushback to anyone lamenting the loss of the Book World in print.

But, you know what? I lament!

Moreover, I validate and affirm all such lamentations. 

As I just wrote to a friend, print book coverage has a lot of advantages over online. You can leave it in attractive stacks in the bathroom for visitors so everyone knows how smart you are. You can drip buttery toast on it at the kitchen table. You can clip it and send it in a letter to someone with whom you’ve had an awkward parting so they know you’re well-informed and want them to be too. You can secretly withold the better sections from incompetent lovers and then bring up whatever you know they missed at your next dinner party. 

You can read it on the subway and make the section very visible to someone across from you, or even give it away as an excuse to get your message across (“Did you want this? I’m done”=easy), or you can just leave it behind for strangers, to be nice. In short, when you’re done, you can leave it behind.

The web gets a lot of credit for sharing, but that’s because the people who invented the web have to find creative ways to make it sound amazing. But when you send someone an email with an article you think they should read, you might as well have interrupted their morning meeting in person, waving it around frantically with half a mouthful of donut. But leave your favorite pieces in your bathroom, and you have a captive audience who’s probably grateful to look at Luke Menand’s latest so you two can have something to talk about for ten minutes before moving on to Wife Swap.

I think, regarding longer informations than “Finished lasagna. Pinot?”, what we’re calling sharing is a lot more like the stack of boxes recently retrieved from storage, now sitting in your hall, filled with items of dubious value that some friend shrilly held up and made you buy two and a half years ago at some street fair. The web does not share. The web lingers, a bunch of junk unconsciously accumulated — but strangely persistent, mysterious junk that only the strong-willed can bear to throw, unseen, away.

Book World in print might be defunct, but my friends, it is not junk. It’s nice to know that the web can expand exponentially to provide 28 podcasts and 16 Q&A’s and 14 excerpts around a single work, but what am I, made of eyeballs? It’s nice to know everyone can weigh in, but you know what I don’t care about? You, weighing in. A section can be valuable for what it includes but also for what it has taken away. Reviewers–come clean: what work of yours has ever been made WORSE by needing to lose those 16 words? What truly great piece of yours ever got killed for space? What’s lost when they stop curating and start aggregating? There’s a reason they call a print column “justified.”*

I’ve already made my spill-on, read-on argument for print work and I think it’s strong (although the bathroom cuts into my sharing angle somewhat). It’s possible you could find a way to use this essay to punish a lover. (Read it through the bathroom door?). But you better believe what I’m telling you — this essay, in online form, is NEVER going to help you pick up ANYONE on the subway.

Think about it.

* Not really. But shouldn’t there be?

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Kelly Link Interview today

Posted by Lizzie on 12/06/08

If you’re around this afternoon, please feel free to come hear me interview Kelly Link at the Indie and Small Press book fair at 5 pm at the General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen at 20 West 44th Street. Here’s the Village Voice link:

Date/Time:Sat., December 6, 10:00am-6:00pm, Sun., December 7, 11:00am-5:00pm

Price: free

Contact Info: | Event Website


The return of the Indie & Small Press Book Fair

By Angela Ashman

There are plenty of great offerings at the 21st annual Indie & Small Press Book Fair, but we’ll just skip ahead to the most exciting of them all: Kelly Link! The indie publisher and author of all those brilliantly strange, unputdownable short-story collections—including her latest, Pretty Monsters—will be interviewed by blogger extraordinaire Lizzie Skurnick at 5 p.m. today. Other highlights include a potentially chilling discussion on the future of the book industry in the digital age (today at 1 p.m.); a chat with the amazing Katherine Anne Porter (Sunday at noon); the Literary Trivia Smackdown 2.0: The New York Review of Books vs. Lit Bloggers (Sunday at 4 p.m.); and the chance to buy books from more than 100 indie publishers from all over the world. We’d like to see you try that on Amazon.

Thanks to the other bloggers who posted about this, I am flake extraordinaire.

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Nobody Asked Me To, But I’m Reviewing Twilight

Posted by Lizzie on 11/21/08

Tuesday, a friend who I’ll call Q was kind enough to take me to the screening of Twilight, a cultural event that had not quite registered as such on my radar despite my plowing through the entirety of the series to pen an exigesis on it for a paper of note. Before the movie aired, a nice young lady “reminded” the crowd, a mix of mid-range critics, teen girls, and David Denby, that all reviews were embargoed until November 21. Does this apply to book critics who plowed the the entirety of the series to pen exegeses in anticipation of said cultural event? Apparently it does, if they have other things to do Still, at the risk of spoiling the movie entirely, I will note that it is based on the book.

There are three ways to take a book to the big screen: ruin the book completely, follow it to a fault, or fix it. The screenwriters of The Devil Wears Prada did it one better by adding some humility, redemption, and Emily Blunt. No such cutwork is needed on Twilight, which is merely better suited to the large screen than the large print, where within its 600 pages it was at worst, plodding, and at best, tendentious. On-screen, the director is free to pare the plot down to its best scenes, then shoot them in glorious, cheesy abandon, releasing a butterfly from the swaddling cocoon of text.

In Twilight, the director has taken the relatively unfussy Pacific Northwest of Meyer’s works and tricked it out with fairy lights, filling it with foggy crags of moss-covered, mile-high trees, rambling Victorians and glass-enclosed, planar aeiries. The vampire movie of my era was The Lost Boys, set in a dusty, California town in which Keifer Sutherland bared his teeth, Jason Patric smoldered, and Jami Gertz tossed her tumbling curls from shoulder to shoulder, accompanied always by a strange half-dead looking child. 

Twilight keeps its half-dead above age, thank god. For those who haven’t read the books, in short, it’s the story of Bella, a very very pale human who is courted by her equally pale and HOT fellow high-school student, Edward, a (SPOILER) vampire who is so overwhelmed by her particular smell (“You’re my brand of heroin”) he’s afraid he’s going to lose control and devour her every time they come near. Bella thus achieves the holy grail of high school romance–having the hot, distant ungettable guy who actually does push you away because he is just that in love with you.

And that’s as sexed-out as it gets. The movie as a whole, in fact, is admirably restrained, innocently playing both young love and violence for camp. When Edward smolders, in veryveryclose-up, angrily at Bella, unconscionably thirsty, we laugh with him, not at him, just as when he bares his chest to show his strange vampiric skin, which sparkles like the gold skirt of a wedding buffet. Even the theme is affectionately spooky, like a friend who comes up behind you and says “Boo!”, then gives you a hug.

In fact, the scariest thing about the movie is how absolutely, and I mean ABSOLUTELY, perfect the casting is. The actress who plays Bella, who is supposed to be beautiful without knowing it, looks a bit like Jenna Malone crossed with Alicia Silverstone in her Clueless era–all endless eyes on top and half-open mouth on bottom, forehead perenially knit in a quizzical, seeking scowl. Alice is the way I pictured her down to the haircut, as is the Dad. There’s a gang of hot hippie vampires who are open-shirted and SCARY. (Did Meyer approve the casting? Did I?) It’s nice to have a Brit as Edward, whose flattened boxer’s face is an anti-Efron tonic itself, and he only slips into accent once, when he asks Bella, “Where you worrit about me?”

Also: Bella — as does the rest of the cast — looks 15. I’ll never get used to this shooting with actual children. How old was Jami Gertz when they made The Lost Boys? My age? My one quibble with it: I cannot get used to this Zac Efron/Pete Wentz haircut they give everyone, which looks like how a blowout appears just BEFORE they actually blow it back. They have also, incidentally, added a diverse cast, something along the order of my hometown, Jersey City. This is not how remote towns of the Pacific Northwest looked the last time I was there, but I’m going to assume this was the work of our new administration, and look forward to seeing it across Hollywood, especially if this man is always there with his shirt off.

The acting, in the main, follows the mode patented by Neve Campbell in Party of Five — simultaneously lacking affect and overly mannered, given to meaningful pauses, deep gazes and variable tremors. Edward himself is wont to devolve into smoldering agonies reminiscent of the silent film era — the dark eye shadow may be leading me here — but Bella is truly mesmerizing. During the period where she pretends to be angry at her father to get away, secretly in agony, I acually turned to Q and said, “I’m going to cry!” which is about as close as it gets for me.

The audience needed no such encouragement. Q was worried, as the screen lit up, that the crowd might be rowdy, but I was like, “What’s the point of a movie if you’re not going to talk to the characters as if they could hear you?” I admit I was perplexed when the young girls in the front cheered ESPECIALLY at this exchange: “So the lion fell in love with lamb.” “Stupid lamb.” “Masochistic, self-hating lion.” (There’s a WHOLE COMMUNITY about it! Is it the religion? The lion? Do they think it’s FUNNY?)

My favorite crowd moment, however, occurred after the 80th time Edward informed Bella that she needed to get away from him. (Gah, shades of Freshman year.) When Bella cried, “You just can’t say stuff like that to me ever!” the woman behind me, incredulous, finally erupted, “How long she know him?”

Twilight the book had plot. Twilight the movie has heart — one alive in a body still pumping real blood. In its pure dopiness and innocence, it reminded me nothing so much of Legend, that movie that killed Mia Sara’s career and brought handsome Tom Cruise to my attention, when he was handsome. It didn’t only make me want to see the sequel. It made me want to read the book. 

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Come for the fishing, stay for the…

Posted by Lizzie on 09/23/08

Well, this is clearly the most brilliant short film of our era. I don’t know how to make it smaller, but you don’t care.

Also, terrif.

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Avast, me hearties!

Posted by Laurel on 08/28/08

Today I’m pirating (I mean, guest-blogging) the lovely Old Hag.  In a brave and glorious act of self-promotion (though maybe if I do this often enough, I’ll also  inspire Lizzie to post more often again. We miss you, Old Hag!)

And because Lizzie is a clever fancypants (don’t even try to deny it!) and because I assume her readers are also clever, and wearers of pants that are fancy,  I thought I might take this opportunity to ask you all what you think of children’s books?

Because the entire (shameless pirate-hussy that I am) reason for my visit is that I’ve just published my first book for kids, Up and Down the Scratchy Mountains, and I’m finding I have a complicated relationship with becoming a children’s author.  As opposed to being a “writer” or a “poet” or a “waitress” for that matter.

Not because I don’t think it totally rocks to write for kids.  IT TOTALLY ROCKS! But because I feel these silly twinges when I head out into the world of  clever pants.

Maybe my issues stem from the fact that a lot of MFA programs won’t count children’s books toward tenure (and I am, for better or for worse, a product of that world). Maybe my problems arise from being told by Yaddo that they cannot fund the writing of children’s books, no matter how good or literary.  Maybe it’s the lack of children’s coverage in newspapers. Maybe it’s just that poets I know insist on referring to children’s books as “genre.”

But whatever the case, I’m steamed.

And I thought that maybe I could ask you what you think…

What say you?  Are children’s books literary?  If you meet someone at a party, and they tell you they are an author, and then you find out they write for kids, does that change the way you think about them as writers?

Tell me the truth?  Or spank me and send me to bed!

And maybe… either way… when your cousin’s kid has a birthday, or your friend-with-a-baby invites you over for dinner…

You’ll buy my book!

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News, reviews, for the record

Posted by Lizzie on 07/08/08

I have been very remiss in updating this blog with some obvious big news. FYI, there is to be a book on my column, Fine Lines. (Thanks to my lovely editor Anna for the lovely collage.) FYI II, my other book, Check-In, is, god willing, to be reissued shortly!

Shelf Pleasuring, a new column on Jezebel about books you weren’t supposed to read as a teen, debuted last Wednesday on the site with Clan of the Cave Bear.

There are also some new reviews at NPR, the LAT, and the Chicago Tribune, and something else I forgot that I will post about in four months.

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Posted by Lizzie on 06/30/08

I was just opening up the New York Times WEARILY THINKING THIS EXACT THING!!! I’d coin the term “Ethangelicals,” but who can lift one’s head from despair? *

Also, my first (I mean, I hope so) review for NPR’s Books We Like is now up.

* Goddamnit, you latte drinkers!

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Happy Loving Day, Mom and Dad

Posted by Lizzie on 06/12/08


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Open letter part nineteen

Posted by Lizzie on 06/10/08

Holy hell. I have never seen so many people made apoplectic by WINNING. Two great essays by Anglachel:

The deep problem of Obama’s campaign is that he and his supporters do not want to face the political reality of their own conflicting desires. They both want to sweep to victory in November and they want to purge the party of anything connected to the Clintons, which includes all of the voting contituencies represented by that amazing and talented duo. The failure of the Unity Pony stems directly from that fantasy of majority status without majority support and the political work and compromises that go with cultivating that support. ” This is the warning in Hillary’s speech this morning – to dismiss her, Bill, their long history of service to the party and the millions of people who chose her, not Obama, to be their president is also to dismiss the coalition that can win in November.

You don’t have to be such crazed hysterics to “get” us to vote for Obama. We were going to vote for the Democratic nominee whatever happened, thankyouverymuch. BUT! Please look into not being such crazed hysterics.

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Except for how the vote would be split, cuz she’s so polarizing

Posted by Lizzie on 06/09/08

It took a few minutes — nine — to get to Barack Obama, and no doubt some were getting antsy. For some, it had been nine minutes and four days. I got one email about then, from a beat reporter saying it was “all about Clinton.” Up to that point, she’d mentioned old women, Latinos, a Marine who waited months for health care, a woman who worked three jobs but couldn’t afford insurance, 13 year-old Ann Riddle from Mayfield, Ohio, 88-year old Florence Steen from South Dakota who filled out an absentee ballot from her hospice, and “women and men, young and old, Latino and Asian, African-American and Caucasian, rich, poor and middle class, gay and straight.”

Another great essay from Rachel. Why don’t they just enact legislation giving her a two-minute MAXIMUM window to mention His name on every occasion?

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An Open Letter to the Men in My Life

Posted by Lizzie on 06/05/08

Please stop referring to me as any/all of the following*:

Sad, hurt, angry, resentful, broken, bitter, disillusioned, cynical, impassioned, despairing, disillusioned, delusional, tired, negative.

I am striving to keep health care — and the other concerns of 18 million voters — represented in the general.

I do not have my period.

* Also, since you are doing this entirely on the basis of my gchat tag — “Iron my unity!” — you are even more retarded. Plus, I make more than all of you. Plus ca change!

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Make mine a double

Posted by Lizzie on

She telegraphed her reason clearly, in the middle of her speech, when she acknowledged the big question: “What does Hillary want?” In addition to citing a Democrat-wide laundry list of goals, she said this: “I want the nearly 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected, to be heard and no longer to be invisible.”

That matters, because, well, they have been. The unrelenting calls for her to exit the race, the wondering about why Obama couldn’t close the deal (which assumes that a vote for Hillary Clinton must really be a vote against Obama), the dismissal of her supporters as racists or irrational feminists or uneducated rednecks, the dissension about how to seat Florida and Michigan, the fretting about the campaign dragging on and the damage it might do to the party, which went back to the calls for her to exit the race — all of these were tantamount to saying she had no right be there. But people had voted for her, and despite the momentum that had swelled for Obama — and, yes, despite the incredible mismanagement of her campaign and the head-bonking gaffes like Bosnia and the RFK remark and the unpredictable howlings of her husband — they continued voting for her, bringing her a surprising round of victories in the last round of primaries and breathing life into the campaign that so many people desperately wanted to be dead.

Great post by my friend Rachel Sklar at Huffington Post. Please, people — stop arguing with Straw Hillary Supporter!

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Prepare the ice floes!

Posted by Lizzie on 06/04/08

It has been a hard-fought and sometimes bitter campaign, but Obama is not, one of his senior advisers assured me Tuesday night, going to spend a lot of time in the next few months wooing Clinton supporters whose feelings may be hurting.

Wittle Bambi no have 18 million Kleenex? Wittle Bambi no call us the next day? Wittle Bambi tired of hearing about healthcare and defense? Wittle Bambi worried we’re going to show up drunk again to the Democratic Party?

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Do you know, it was never in the plan…

Posted by Lizzie on 06/01/08

….to do only teen stuff? And yet, I am allowed to regress almost every day. Thank you, teen Gods! This weekend, the Chicago Trib was nice enough to ask me to write an essay on S.E. Hinton, who has won their young adult award. You can read an interview with S.E. Hinton here. And for my latest Fine Lines column on Jezebel, go here. Whatever you do, stay gold!

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You Had Me At “The Lying, The Bitch, And the Wardrobe”

Posted by Lizzie on 05/30/08

Is this really where we have ended up—with this superannuated fantasy posing as a slice of modern life? On TV, “Sex and the City” was never as insulting as “Desperate Housewives,” which strikes me as catastrophically retrograde, but, almost sixty years after “All About Eve,” which also featured four major female roles, there is a deep sadness in the sight of Carrie and friends defining themselves not as Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, Celeste Holm, and Thelma Ritter did—by their talents, their hats, and the swordplay of their wits—but purely by their ability to snare and keep a man. Believe me, ladies, we’re not worth it.

Sometimes Anthony Lane does Anthony Lane better than he does it himself.

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Print Issues

Posted by Lizzie on 05/20/08

I have no memory of last week’s Lost, or if it was all about the fathers, because I am too doped up on cold medicine. But in any case, I’m right. Moving right along, I have some poems in the just-published 2nd issue of the New Haven Review. You can purchase a copy, or download the poems here. (FYI, it’s a PDF link. There are some spacing issues which fill me with despair, but as a poet, and an idiot, I submit, that was a couplet.)

Here’s one of the poems I can stand to read again:


It’s foolish to say I hear bells,
but I think that’s the name, “Bells.”
(“Bells 2”?) It was playing the day I met you,
informing the world that you’re mine,
you’ll come when I call, your heart lit
to the ceiling, loopy with feeling,
a brilliant cut snapped open,
snapped shut in full circle, trilling,
you want me to answer. I do.

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If you don’t watch “Lost”, read no further, but…

Posted by Lizzie on 05/15/08

…I would just like to submit that I am of the opinion tonight’s episode will reveal the show is all about FATHERHOOD, which has been dimly hinted in the cases of Jin and Claire, but this theme is actually also about the OLDER PEOPLE FOR REELS and that the wayward children of Jack, Locke and that weird black-haired guy make up the crew that is supposed to save the island, they are brought together because they are a FAMILY, that someone is Kate’s dad in that crew, that that weird black-haired guy was annoyed at Locke for choosing the knife because the knife is JACK’S, as he is the SURGEON, and that Locke is always screwing things up by wanting to be what he is not, that on “Lost”, character is destiny just as on the Sopranos, destiny is character, and I come by all this honestly as when I wrote this, I originally wanted it to be about Sidney’s Russian half-sister who was pretending to be her and of course was not allowed to do this as that wound up being the next SEASON of “Alias”, and that obviously J.J.’s mind and mine are onthesametrack.

Also, “You are not supposed to raise him,” I believe, actually refers to the raising of the dead, not Aaron.

I think the sand is Locke’s because it’s the island, and the compass because he is one of the leaders. I have no idea what that fucking book is.

Oh, Aaron is like the Golden Child of this whole thing or something. Also, Jin’s son somehow, and not only because he is Asian. AND…perhaps the only children that CAN be born on the island are those sired by those original fathers, not mere mortals.

No thoughts on polar bears; thanks for listening.

UPDATE: Also, Jacob fathers THE TWELVE TRIBES OF ISRAEL. Maybe Sun and Jin’s son and Aaron are Moses and Aaron? So much biblicity, so much need for Wikipedia!

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Better you should hear it in a normal tone of voice…

Posted by Lizzie on 05/12/08

…than at a screaming pitch, followed by a smashed anything.

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Must stop listening to election news AND

Posted by Lizzie on 05/01/08

Boldtype’s latest issue is Portraits.

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