The Y2K Problem

In the literary world, the year 2000 problem has little to do with computers and everything to do with Listomania, i.e. the current overabundance of list-making that Arthur Schlesinger Jr., in an August 11 article in the Wall Street Journal, attributes to the fact that "the big dates looming ahead call for an accounting of the eras drawing to a close." Schlesinger was one of 10 panelists asked by the Modern Library to choose the 100 best novels written in English in the 20th century. In that article, Schlesinger writes that being a panelist "was both challenging and diverting as an assignment, a splendid parlour game. But the execution was not well thought out." The panelists met as a group twice, "at a very early stage," and were given 440 potential authors to choose from. Panelists made nominations individually, voted by mail ballot, and at the end were asked to rank in order of merit the top five novels that appeared on nearly every panelist's list. Schlesinger, then, was baffled when the list was published and he realized that the Modern Library staff had broken down the list "according to the number of times each book was mentioned in our ballots, then decided on their own the order of precedence within each category." William Styron, also a panelist, writes in the August 17 New Yorker that he, too, is "a little shocked at what the ten of us had wrought, not only in respect to the list's glaring omissions ... but in respect to its generally oppressive stodginess. The voting process was partly at fault for this quality of desuetude." As if all that business weren't enough, Citadel Press has just published Martin Seymour-Smith's The 100 Most Influential Books Ever Written: The History of Thought From Ancient Times to Today. Seymour-Smith died on July 1 at the age of 70; in a July 19 obituary, The New York Times stated that Seymour-Smith was "celebrated for his broad range of intellectual interests, his grace as a poet and his sharpness as a critic." The usual suspects like, oh, Homer, show up, but so do Simone de Beauvoir, Noam Chomsky, T.S. Kuhn, and Betty Friedan.

Departing, but Not Really

Jennifer Hill, who has worked as a publicist with MEM/Hubble since December 1996, and with Christian-Hubble-Ozmun Media & Communications Inc. since July 1, is branching out on her own, soon to open her own communications practice here in Austin. Since MEM/Hubble did pro bono PR work for both the Texas Book Festival and Texas Writers Month, Hill was (and still intends to be) an integral player in those events. At both of those firms, Hill specialized in film and literary publicity, but will also do independent PR consultation, media coordination, professional writing, and script consultations. Peggy Hubble says that "this is mutually beneficial; she has the freedom to work on some projects that we might not be able to work on. I am a big fan of Jennifer's - we are both professionally and personally very close. She brings creative ideas to a project like no one I've ever seen before."

Mere Quibbling

Tom Doyal perked up his eyebrows last week when he read in Newsweek that James Collard, the editor of Out magazine, thinks that the term "post-gay" indicates free rein to criticize gay culture. That's just the right timing considering that Doyal had allotted just about two months for worldwide media domination since his June Chronicle review of Christian McLaughlin's Sex Toys of the Gods, in which he used the term.

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More Postscripts
The last time we heard about Karla Faye Tucker, she was being executed; now, almost four years later, there's a new novel about her. Or about someone very like her. And Beverly Lowry's classic Crossed Over, a memoir about getting to know Karla Faye Tucker, gets a reissue.

Clay Smith, Jan. 18, 2002

Not one day back from vacation and the growing list of noble souls who need to be congratulated is making Books Editor Clay Smith uneasy.

Clay Smith, Jan. 11, 2002


Readings, Signings, Clay Smith

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