Thursday, February 28, 2008

The King's English in the Top 25 Online Literary Journals

As you may know, Jason Sanford of storySouth runs The Million Writers Award every year to bring attention to the best fiction being published online. The King's English has won its award for Best Online Publisher of Novella-Length Fiction three years in a row.

Recently, Jason posted an analysis of the results of the last four years of the contest -- and The King's English came in 24th on the list. Not bad, I think; proud to be in the company of so many other distinguished journals.

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Charles Bock's Novel, "Beautiful Children" - Download for Free

No idea if first-time author Charles Bock's novel, "Beautiful Children," deserves the hype it's been getting. (In fact, I've not seen any actual hype, just reports of hype -- meta-hype, if you will.) But Random House has done a very interesting thing: they're making the entire book available free for download for a short time -- the offer ends Friday.

I think this is a very smart move; indicative of a media company figuring out that sharing things for free, even for a short time, helps people try it out and recommend it to others. I can only imagine this will increase sales of the book. (Because very few people are going to read the entire thing on-screen.)

Download Beautiful Children here.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

New Essay Posted on The King's English

We're slowly accumulating material for a new issue of The King's English. Rather than do it the Old Media way, and wait for everything to come in before posting any new material, we've decided to "get with it," as the young folks say (which emoticon signifies self-deprecating irony, again?) and start publishing new fiction, essays, and poetry as we ready them for publication. Haven't decided to do away entirely with the concept of "issues" yet, but we might get there.

In the mean time, you've got a treat: James Francis' highly amusing brief essay, "Drawing Lesson." Pencils ready, class!

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Few More Bon Mots from Shirley Hazzard

As I mentioned, I've been re-reading Shirley Hazzard's The Transit of Venus. She's not note-perfect, but damned close. Her densely allusive, imagistic narrative is haunting and compelling. A few more bon mots:

Having been at someone's else's mercy suggests that mercy may matter (60-61).
The pain was an extension of experience, so new and astonishing as to have intellectual interest (207).

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Shirley Hazzard Has My Number

I don't of course fall into the category of critic described below, but all the same: Ouch!

The introduction to the exhibition catalogue had been written by a leading -- or major, or brilliant -- critic. Caro read out a sentence and asked, "What does it mean?"

Vail looked over her shoulder. "They come to think they've had something to do with painting the pictures."

--Shirley Hazzard, The Transit of Venus, p. 191.

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Shirley Hazzard on Mass Production

Been re-reading Shirley Hazzard's exquisite The Transit of Venus (1980) again, aproximately 22 years after I first read it and inexplicably shrugged it off as insufficiently impressive. (What was I thinking? All I can say is that I hadn't read enough, and certainly hadn't experienced enough. I was callow.) Here's her inimitable description of Australian children confronting mass-produced junk for the first time:

One morning a girl whose father had been in America for Munitions came to school with nibless pens that wrote both red and blue, pencils with lights attached, a machine that would emboss a name -- one's own for preference - and pencil sharpeners in clear celluloid. And much else of a similar cast. Set out on a classroom table, these silenced even Miss Holster. The girls leaned over, picking up this and that: Can I turn it on, how do you work it, I can't get it to go back again. No one could say these objects were ugly, even the crayon with the shiny red flower, for they were spread on the varnished table like flints from an age unborn, or evidence of life on Mars. A judgment on their attractiveness did not arise: their power was conclusive, and did not appeal for praise.

It was the first encounter with calculated uselessness. No one had ever wasted anything. Even the Lalique on Aunt Edie's sideboard, or Mum's Balibuntl, were utterly functional by contrast, serving an evident cause of adornment, performing the necessary, recognized role of extravagance. The natural accoutrements of their lives were now seen to have been essentials -- serviceable, workaday -- in contrast to these hard, high-coloured, unblinking objects that announced, though brittle enough, the indestructibility of infinite repetition.
--Shirley Hazzard, The Transit of Venus, p. 47.

Can you imagine a more poetic description of mass-produced objects? Counter-examples will be considered; I await your favor.

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