Friday, December 21, 2007
ALSO NOTE: The music poetry feature will appear in our Fall/Winter 2008-9 issue (due out in December 2008), not in the Spring 08 issue.
Monday, December 17, 2007
Thursday, December 13, 2007
You may also send your submissions via snail mail to:
(Poetry/Fiction/Creative Nonfiction) Editor
University of Illinois
Department of English
608 South Wright St.
Urbana, IL 61801
AND, for the poets, THIS JUST IN!
Ninth Letter will reading in the Spring of 08' for a Special Section in the Fall/Winter '08 issue featuring poems about music. All music. Jazz, Blues, Classical, Reggae, Funk, Country, etc., etc., etc.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Illinois is well represented tonight in our nation's capital. The Woodbox Gang, Southern Illinois' very own "caustic acoustic trashcan americana" band will perform at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts at 6pm on the Millenium Stage, admission is free and no ticket required. If you are in the area try and get a seat. This group never disappoints with their eclectic instrumentation, vocal depth and lyrical genius - plainly said these boys bring down the house.
For more information on upcoming Woodbox Gang shows, mp3's and cds check out http://www.woodboxgang.homestead.com/index.html
Monday, November 26, 2007
What are you waiting for? Read these books!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
LeAnne will read from her new novel Miko Kings. A book that Rigoberto González describes as “an incredible act of recovery: baseball, a sport jealously guarded by mainstream Anglo culture, is also rooted in Native American history and territory. The irony behind its status as "the all-American pastime" is not lost on Howe as she weaves these compelling stories and narratives to expose the political games of the 20th century that Native Americans learned to play for resistance and survival."
LeAnne Howe, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, is the author of three books, including the novel Shell Shaker (Aunt Lute 2001), winner of the 2002 American Book Award. In 2006-2007 she was the John and Renee Grisham Writer-in-Residence at the University of Mississippi at Oxford. Howe wrote the screenplay for Indian Country Diaries: Spiral of Fire, a 90-minute PBS documentary released in November 2006. Her poetry collection Evidence of Red (Salt Publishing, UK; 2005) was awarded the 2006 Oklahoma Book Award. Currently, Howe is Associate Professor and Interim Director of American Indian Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and teaches in the M.F.A. program there. She divides her time between her home in Ada, Oklahoma, and her academic life in Illinois.
Booksigning to follow the reading
Monday, November 12, 2007
Wait! It gets better... Jodee participated in a couple of panels and Ninth Letter was lucky enough to be situated between two great collegues, John Bullock (managing editor) from New Ohio Review premiering his second issue...
and M. Scott Douglass, editor and publisher of Main Street Rag.
Now, here's something you'll really like (as if the previous were not enough) we met a Michigan fan cheering for Illinois to win the big game. Yes, Illini Fans, there is a Santa Claus...Illinois 28-Ohio 21.
Congratulations to Kenyon Review for hosting such a successful event.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Thursday, November 01, 2007
Thursday, October 25, 2007
Recipient of a 2007 Eric Hoffer Book Award: Notable for Art Category, and nominated for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Poetry.
The collection is a free verse exploration of one American woman's experience in the past and present of Greece.
Booksigning will follow the reading.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
We should have posted this sooner. We have been overwhelmed by page proofs. The new issue is coming in just a few weeks!
Sunday, October 14, 2007
A. Van Jordan's first book, Rise, won the PEN/Oakland Josephine Miles Award and was a selection of the Academy of American Poets book club. He is an assistant professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Tyehimba Jess' first book, leadbelly, was a winner of the 2004 National Poetry Series. Jess received a 2006 Whiting Award, a Literature Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 2004, and was a 2004-5 Winter Fellow at Provincetown 's Fine Arts Work Center. He won an Illinois Arts Council Artist Fellowship in Poetry for 2000 - 2001, and the 2001 Chicago Sun-Times Poetry Award
The event is $10 for public, $8 for students, and free for members and SAIC students, faculty and staff.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Thursday, October 11, 2007
The 87-year-old Lessing is only the 11th woman to be awarded a Nobel Prize in Literature since the award's inception in 1901. She is the author of nearly 50 books of fiction and nonfiction.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Transtrommer (Sweden) 2:1
Achebe (Nigeria) 4:1
Adonis (Syria) 8:1
Magris (Italy) 8:1
Roth (United States) 12:1
Munro (Canada) 20:1
Murray (Australia) 50:1
Houellebecq (France) 100:1
Tuesday, October 09, 2007
Are you The Normal School material? Send your work to: The Normal School 5245 N. Backer Ave. M/S PB 98California State University, FresnoFresno, CA 93740-8001OR as an attachment in .doc or .rtf format only to email@example.com
Please include an email address in your contact information and indicate genre to the best of your ability.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Hobart is going to be there too.
Dig our gracious host, Amy Guth.
We'll be reading selections from the last issue or two, hooking up the crowd with specials on subscriptions, t-shirts, some free stuff, and a few other surprises!
See you there!
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Thursday, September 20, 2007
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Monday, September 17, 2007
The Create Awards (www.thecreateawards.com) is produced by Create Communications, publishers of Create Magazine. The intense creative competition included 40 categories and 300 subcategories in eight major creative industries including: advertising and art direction, film and video, motion graphics, graphic communication, photography, printing and packaging, interactive, copy writing, self promotion, and student work from creatives all over the world.
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
If you're on the east or west coast, here are some of Brock's other upcoming readings:
9/18—SAN FRANCISCO, CA—Books Inc., 7:00 pm
9/20—PORTLAND, OR—Powell’s Books, 7:00 pm
9/21—SEATTLE, WA—Elliott Bay Book Company, 7:00 pm
9/25—BUFFALO, NY—Contemporary Writers Series at Canisius College, 7:00 pm
9/26—BRATTLEBORO, VT—The Book Cellar, 5:30 pm
9/29–PROVIDENCE, RI–Brown University Bookstore, 4:00 pm
9/30—CONCORD, MA—The Concord Bookshop, 3:00 pm
10/1—SOUTH HADLEY, MA—Odyssey Bookshop, 7:00 pm
10/2—NEWTON, MA (Boston area)—Newtonville Books, 7:00 pm
10/3—MANCHESTER CENTER, VT—Northshire Bookstore, 7 pm
10/5—NEW YORK, NY—One Story Reading Series at Pianos, 6:30 pm
10/10—WASHINGTON, DC—Olsson’s, Dupont Circle, 7:00 pm
10/25—WICHITA, KS—Wichita State University, Time TBA
10/30—WICHITA, KS—Watermark Books, 7:00 pm
11/3—CINCINNATI, OH—Books by the Banks, Time TBA
Saturday, September 08, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Thursday, August 23, 2007
Let's face it--you'll be lucky no matter what he reads. He's that good.
The Fixx Coffee Bar
3053 N Sheffield Ave.
C. I. O.
Monday, August 13, 2007
Do you tend to make short video projects? We're open to submission of those too!
We can hardly wait to see everything you've been waiting thru summer heat to send off to into where we're at. Need a fix? Get cozy with the archive of podcasts! Or order your copy of the latest issue!
See you soon!
Friday, August 03, 2007
Thursday, July 26, 2007
Just because it's summer between reading periods doesn't mean we've got our feet upon the desks. Check back and see what we're up to and where we're going to be this Fall.
It's because we love you--especially as a friend. Especially if you're on myspace. Click on over!
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Roy Kesey's forthcoming collection All Over is now available for pre-order through Dzanc Books. All Over won't be out until October but it's going to be such an amazing book you know you want to get your hands on a copy as soon as possible, so why not get your order in early?
Want to sample some of Roy's work ahead of time? Check out 9L's Fall 2004 issue, which features his story "Fontanel," or pick up our Fall 2006 issue, which includes another great Kesey story, "Nipparpoq."
Monday, June 25, 2007
Of course, we agree!
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
FROZEN TEARS III
Thursday, June 21, 2007
Launch of John Russell's FROZEN TEARS III – THE TRINITY
A two-part event:
7.30-9pm installation and book launch
at Dexter Sinister
38 Ludlow St. (at Hester St.)
organized by Mark Beasley for Creative Time
205 Chrystie St. (at Stanton St.)
INCLUDING READINGS/PERFORMANCE BY:
GENESIS P ORRIDGE
Book published by Article Press; info
With support from the British Council
More about Dexter Sinister
Vs. is an ongoing monthly series curated by Creative Time at 205 Club.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Cool! International TV stars!
I don't know his feelings on small cupcakes with single candles, but you can check out his National Book Award-winning novel, The Echo Maker, and see if the answer isn't between the lines.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Tuesday, June 12, 2007
Loyalist that he is, Drew represented 9L well on his recent sojourn in Budapest:
Monday, June 11, 2007
Just back from New York and the Magathon--great reading on Saturday at the New York Public Library, where a bunch of editors of journals old and new read terrific selections from their publications. Highlights included Tom Roberge of A Public Space reading from an essay by Delia Falconer; Caroline Lord from Short Story reading a story by David Wright (not our David Wright, though), and Hannah Tinti reading from Austin Bunn's story "The Ledge" which appeared in One Story.
On Sunday, Housing Works Used Book Café hosted a big crowd of lit lovers looking for bargains among the racks and stacks of literary journals all on sale for only $2 a copy. All proceeds went to benefit Housing Works. It was great to meet new people (shout out to Pei-Ling at One Story, Caroline at Short Story, and Whitney S. and Kristin at Pindeldyboz) and it was super-iffic to see old friends like Jed from jubilat and of course especially my boy Jason, shown here modelling the latest in designer litmags.
To see more pics of the weekend's festivities, go to flickr. I took them with my blackberry, so apologies in advance for the quality.
Wednesday, June 06, 2007
Tuesday, June 05, 2007
Thursday, May 31, 2007
Words addresssing evil won't turn evil back
but they can give heart.
The cheer is hidden in right words.
(from "The Cheer" by William Meredith)
A great statesman of American poetry took his leave of us today at the venerable age of 88. R.I.P. William Meredith.
It's okay, baby. We'll be there too!
June 9th & 10th (10a - 6p both Saturday & Sunday)
Table 301 near Clark & Polk in Chicago
Come by, get free ones, and save some dough on your subscription by getting it at a Special Book Fair Rate!
We'll see you there!
LIT MAG MARATHON WEEKEND
June 9th and 10th
All events are free and open to the public
New York, NY—The magazines may be little, but the weekend is big, big, big! It’s time once again for CLMP’s annual Lit Mag Marathon Weekend, a massive showcase of America’s diverse literary magazines and journals.
New York Public Library's DeWitt Wallace Periodicals Room, 5th Ave. at 42nd St.
Saturday, June 9th from 4–6:30 PM
The Magathon kicks off the weekend with a celebratory “marathon” reading. Over a dozen readers—editors representing journals of every size and style, from promising upstarts to the oldest, most established—will present favorite selections from their latest issues.
BARGAINS! BARGAINS! BARGAINS!
8th Annual Literary Magazine Fair at Housing Works
Housing Works Used Book Café, 126 Crosby Street in Soho
Sunday, June 10th from 12–5PM
Lit fiends can take home armfuls of lit mags discounted more than 50% at only $2 a copy! Choose from hundreds of magazines from all over the country and hobnob with many of the editors who’ll be there in person to meet and greet. Proceeds go to Housing Works, a nonprofit organization serving homeless people living with AIDS, and to The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses, a nonprofit organization serving independent literary publishers.
The fair was founded in 2000 by editors Jenine Gordon Bockman of Literal Latte and Rebecca Wolff of Fence, and has connected thousands of readers and writers by raising the profile of exceptional literary publishers.
The Council of Literary Magazines and Presses (CLMP) was founded in 1967 to serve independent publishers of exceptional fiction, poetry and prose through technical assistance and advocacy. This program is made possible with support from the NEA, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs -- and is co-sponsored by the Humanities and Social Sciences Library of The New York Public Library, Housing Works Used Book Café, Fence and Literal Latte.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
Monday, May 28, 2007
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Monday, May 21, 2007
Friday, May 18, 2007
Monday, April 30, 2007
Barnard College has announced that Pulitzer Prize-nominated author Joyce Carol Oates has selected Lisa Williams and her collection of poems, Woman Reading to the Sea, as the winner of the 2007 Barnard Women Poets Prize. The prize, which is awarded annually to a female poet for her second book of poetry, means Williams' manuscript will be published in the spring of 2008 by W.W. Norton & Co. Lisa Williams' poetry appeared in the Spring 2005 issue of the Ninth Letter.
Of Williams' forthcoming collection, Oates notes that it contains "poems of arresting intelligence, precision and beauty....Lisa Williams takes us into eerily imagined worlds--the interior of a jellyfish and the interior of a glacier. She beguiles us with the most seductive of poetic possibilities."
To read more about Williams and her work, visit here
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
On a day of sadness, it's good, if bittersweet, to honor those who bring beauty to the world.
(P.S. I just have to note here also that UI's own Richard Powers, beloved teacher and friend, was a Pulitzer finalist this year for his National Book Award-winning novel The Echomaker.)
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Yes, they did, Mr. Vonnegut, and so did you. RIP Billy Pilgrim.
Monday, April 09, 2007
In addition to the "30 Ways to Celebrate," you can keep up with the most recently published poetry by taking advantage of the Academy’s “Poem-A-Day” and “Spring Books List.” Poem-A-Day offers readers the chance to receive one poem from a new book each day via e-mail during NPM while the Spring Books List details all the latest books of poetry. The list notes anthologies, such as Cave Canem’s just released The Ringing Ear: Black Poets Lean South, as well as translated work, including new translations of Baudelaire and Lorca. We see new volumes of work from established poets such as John Ashbery, Donald Hall, Galway Kinnell, Mark Strand, and Charles Wright on the list, as well as many first books and new books from younger voices.
On my personal list of recommendations is Against Which by Ross Gay, Quantum Lyrics: Poems by A.Van Jordan, and Bucolics by Maurice Manning. I would also like to give shout outs to poets with new books whose work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Ninth Letter: Janice N. Harrington, whose first book Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone was selected from over 900 manuscripts to win BOA’s A. Poulin, Jr. Poetry Prize; and Philip White, whose book The Clearing received the Walt McDonald First Book in Poetry Prize and is forthcoming from Texas Tech University Press; Bob Hicok, This Clumsy Living, (U. Pittsburgh); Susah Hahn, The Scarlet Ibis (Northwestern UP); David Kirby The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems (LSU); and James Hoch, Miscreants: Poems (W. W. Norton).
Finally, the Academy web site offers something called “Life Lines,” a section giving readers the opportunity to share their favorite line(s) of poetry. So, in this same spirit, I would like to invite you to post your favorites here on the Ninth Letter site. What better way to celebrate than to fill up the comments section with poetry.
For more information and additional resources for teachers, librarians and booksellers, visit the Academy’s NPM section here.
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
Can't get enough of living in Lisbon vicariously? Visit McSweeney's Internet Tendency to read PG's regular reports from his year abroad.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
This is when I made my faux pas: “Oh,” I said. You mean the one that goes ‘I guess it rains down in Africa,’ right?”
“What?” Justin turned his whole body. “Those are not the words to that song. It’s ‘I bless the rains down in Africa’ not ‘I guess it rains down in Africa,’ dummy.” It was, Justin continued, clearly a guy singing about his lover. Such songs of heartbreak and loss have no time for asides concerning the general state of the weather down in Africa.
“It’s the chorus, for Christ’s sake,” he sighed. Clearly, I was hopeless.
“Maybe he didn’t know what to say, so he decided to ‘talk about the weather,’ right?” My comment did not justify a response. What Justin didn’t understand was that, in my version of the song, which was clearly the more interesting one, it wasn’t about the remark about the weather itself, but rather what it was concealing with its casual facade.
Besides all this, I’m not sure how long I intend to entertain thoughts about a song whose lyrics also include the line “Her moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me toward salvation.” That, I heard, and heard as the sound of two abrasive somethings being scraped together near my ear.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve misheard lyrics. In my world, there is a “Secret Asian Man” and a family of feet about which one declares “Six Feet Home Tonight” rather than “Take Me Home Tonight.”
And then there are the lyrics that you wish you’d misheard but didn’t, i.e. a pained Patrick Swayze really does whisper the troubling simile, “she’s like the wind through my trees.” This is a simile that no one can ever quite work out –what are his “trees?”–but which still manages to sound vaguely unsavory. Unless, of course, we know it’s being sung by a lovelorn apple picker.
I was still hanging around my playpen in ‘83 when “Africa” topped the charts, but, lucky for me, the radio exists so that we might continue to celebrate the accomplishment of such great musical feats as the release of Taco’s “Puttin’ on the Ritz” and “Mr. Roboto” by Styx. “Africa” is, in fact, number 24 on the list of the top 100 songs of ‘83, sandwiched between Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me With Science” and Prince’s “Little Red Corvette.”
I like to imagine that all of the songs on the list refer to the same two people, one male and one female, who are entangled in a passionate and sometimes sordid love affair. That is, I like to think the “she” of “She Blinded Me With Science” is the same “she” who “works hard for the money,” and who is “Sexy + Seventeen.” She goes by the name of “Billie Jean,” but not exclusively. Her many aliases include “Gloria,” “Eileen” (most often uttered in conjunction with the phrase “Come on!”), and, behind her back, folks have been known to whisper “Maneater,” offering the foreboding phrase “Watch out, boy! She’ll chew you up!” to her would-be suitors.
But, as one half of the couple commemorated in such breathtaking duets as Eddie Rabbitt and Crystal Gayle’s “You and I,” and “We’ve Got Tonight” by Kenny Rogers and Sheena Easton, she will prevail, and the two of them will stroll on down “Electric Avenue,” kissing and strutting in their Members Only jackets.
Yet what to do with Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney floating out in the ether somewhere, serenading one another with “The Girl is Mine” or Don Henley lamenting the loss of his washing machine whilst breathing only through his mouth in that catchy little number “Dirty Laundry.”
Stranger still is something called “Pass the Dutchie” by Musical Youth, which seems to suggest a group of musically inclined schoolchildren passing around a tiny Dutch man. Interestingly, it goes something like this:
Music happen to be the food of love
Sounds to really make you rub and scrub
I say: Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side
Pass the Dutchie on the left hand side
It a gonna burn, give me music make me jump and prance
It a go done, give me the music make me rock in the dance
Ah, 1983, a time with a particular affection for love, loss, feathered hair and the hightop sneaker.
It was also the year that Boy George opined, “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me?”, a query which can be resolved most succinctly by posing a second question: “Do You Really Have To Ask?”
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
The second half the video, which was made entirely by Amanda herself, is titled “Translation.” Through the use of a special computer which vocalizes what she types, Amanda shares the following insight with respect to her behavior: “Far from being meaningless, the way that I move is an ongoing response to what is around me." Ironically, others describe this constant dialogue with the external world as being in a world of her own.. She explains that if she limits herself to responding to fewer stimuli, presumably other human beings and spoken language as is customary or “normal,” only then do people feel she is opening herself up to "true interaction with the world." Her thinking is only taken seriously if she learns the language of others. Only then is she said to be communicating, is she thought to be aware, intelligent, a person.
The video occurs to the viewer as something like performance art, a conceptual piece done by some member of the avant-garde. Yet what it offers is a rare glimpse into the austistic mind, and for many, it is simply life. Watch and be moved.
Tuesday, February 27, 2007
Quoth NEA Chair Dana Gioia: "Translation provides Americans with as direct a connection as possible to both the individual voice of the author and the heart of a culture." Ninth Letter agrees. Good on the NEA for supporting these fine presses in their efforts to promote international literature to American audiences.
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
But who is Barack Obama, and what’s with the funny name?
The child of a black Kenyan father and a white American mother, Barack Hussein Obama was born in Hawaii on August 4th, 1961 and lived part of his childhood in Indonesia. He attended Columbia and Harvard universities, serving as the first black president of the Harvard Law Review. He went on to practice civil rights law in Illinois and to teach at the University of Chicago Law School.
Elected to the Illinois state senate in 1996, he served four years before campaigning unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives. After being reelected to the state senate in 2002, Obama participated in a television interview in which he criticized a possible war in Iraq and noted that he would have voted against the Iraq Resolution. Two years later, Obama ran for an open seat in the U.S. Senate, winning by a landslide vote of 70% in November of 2004. His visibility during the campaign was assisted by the keynote address he delivered at the Democratic National Convention. He has since garnered further national attention with the publication of two best-selling books, “Dreams From My Father” and “The Audacity Hope.”
Ever-ambitious, Obama has talked relentlessly about hope and the possibility of change. Since announcing his decision to seek the Democratic nomination for president, he has expressed his desire to “take our country back and change the fundamental nature of our politics.” If elected, Obama has pledged to address difficulties such as poor schools, economic instability, oil dependence, and to seek universal health care for Americans.
And there’s the war. While Obama was not yet elected to the Senate when Congress granted President Bush the power to go to war, he delivered a speech in 2002 in which he noted that Saddam Hussein was in fact not an immediate threat and that any invasion would result in an occupation plagued by unforeseeable costs and ramifications. He has since proposed a bill that would prevent Bush from increasing troop levels in Iraq and would bring U.S. forces home by March 31, 2008. Of course, such legislation will never become law while Bush is president.
Yet it is perhaps Obama’s ambition, more than anything, that has caused many to identify him as Senator Hillary Clinton’s chief rival. Clinton makes one tough adversary; in addition to the name-recognition factor, Clinton, who has been campaigning for years, begins with $11 million at her disposal and is attempting to raise $75 by 2008. Conversely, Obama is asking the Federal Election Committee to consider letting him take money from donors now and give it back later in order to keep his options open in terms of using the public financing system to support his campaign if he becomes the Democratic nominee.
However, one area where Obama may come out ahead of Clinton is the war. Clinton has not recanted her 2002 vote with which she authorized the invasion of Iraq, much to the skepticism of potential supporters. However, if she does recant her vote, she will likely be charged with indecisiveness, meaning she is generally between a rock and a hard place. She has likewise never proposed a specific plan for removing troops from Iraq.
Obama, commenting upon this, said “I know she’s stated that she thinks the war should end by the start of the next president’s first term. Beyond that, though, how she wants to accomplish that I’m not clear on.”
While only time will tell who has the right stuff to win the Democratic nomination, the possibility of the first African-American president and the first female president is certain to make for an exciting and potentially inspiring race.
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Jones, who is a professor of English at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, is an Alabama native who was also a finalist for the 2000 Pulitzer Prize for his collection Elegy for the Southern Drawl (Houghton Mifflin). The author of six other books, Jones has been the recipient of a Guggenheim fellowship and a National Book Critics Circle Award, among other honors.
We love our Carbondale neighbors and colleagues. Congratulations, Professor Jones.
Sunday, February 11, 2007
She was born Vickie Lynn Hogan on November 28, 1967 in Houston, Texas. Her mother, Virgie Mae Tabers, married her father, Donald Eugene Hogan, February 22, 1967; she was 15, he was 19. Her father then drifted off, leaving young Vickie Lynn to be raised by her mother and maternal aunt, Elaine. Virgie Mae would marry four more times between 1971 and 2000, setting an unfortunate precedent for her daughter.
The parallels between Vickie Lynn’s early life and her mother’s are apparent. Vickie was just 15 when she dropped out of her sophomore year at Mexia High School and got a job as a waitress at Jim’s Krispy Fried Chicken in Mexia, Texas. There she met Billy Wayne Smith, the restaurant’s cook and her future husband. They were married April 4, 1985, when she was 17 and he was 16. Their son, Daniel Wayne Smith, was born the following year.
One imagines their Chicken House Romance as the stuff of a forgotten Lifetime movie, or Tarantino-like strange at best, she casting enticing glances over the fryer and he grinning sheepishly. “He was sweet and he was so cute back there, cookin’ chicken,” she remarked in a 1993 interview for People magazine. A promising start, to be sure; but, like her parent’s tenuous union, the marriage wouldn’t last. The couple separated in 1987 and, just as Vickie Lynn’s own father had done, Billy Wayne disappeared, leaving Daniel fatherless. Determined to support her son, Vickie Lynn moved to Houston where she found work as a Wal-Mart check out girl and as a Red Lobster waitress before finally settling on a career as a stripper.
Yet even Vickie Lynn’s life pre-Anna Nicole is not without controversy, as her mother has implied that the facts may have been exaggerated and romanticized by Vickie in an effort to receive greater publicity. Virgie maintains that Vickie actually spent most of her young life in Houston, where she was born, rather than the much smaller town of Mexia, and that they were not “dirt poor” but rather middle-class.
Despite such discrepancies, it is clear that Vickie Lynn’s desire to provide for her son was not only very real but life-changing as well; her decision to become a stripper marked the beginning of her transformation to “Anna Nicole.” Taking off her clothes meant she would use her voluptuous body, all 5'11" 155 pounds of it, and striking features to get her where she wanted to go. Thus began her love affair with the camera and with one J. Howard Marshall, an elderly Texas oil tycoon and billionaire.
Marshall, born in 1905, graduated from Yale Law School where he later took a job as assistant professor. He worked briefly for the government during WWII before finally entering into the oil business. Although Marshall was business savvy, he was somewhat less cautious in his romantic endeavors. Married twice (his second wife died in 1991), Marshall carried on a decade-long affair with an eccentric Houston socialite, Jewell Diane “Lady” Walker, a woman best known for her gold nails (painted with real gold) and her stock of Rolls-Royces, with which she coordinated her attire. “Lady” died in 1992 at the age of 48, and Marshall began the process of trying to retrieve the nearly 6 million dollars worth of assets he had given to her as gifts over the years after learning she had been with other men during their courtship.
It was in 1991, shortly before his previous mistress died, that Marshall met Vickie Lynn in a Houston strip club and began a relationship. They would marry in June of 1994, amid much controversy. In the meantime, however, she sent pictures of herself to Playboy in response to a search launched by the magazine and was subsequently chosen by Hugh Hefner to grace the March 1992 cover (under the name Vickie Smith). A centerfold followed in May, and in 1993 she was named “Playmate of the Year,” at which time she finally became “Anna Nicole.”
Anna’s photos in Playboy garnered the attention of Guess? jeans advertisement executives who hired her to replace Claudia Schiffer in their ad campaign. The ads were black-and-white throwbacks to old Hollywood glamour and highlighted Anna Nicole’s resemblance to sex symbol Jane Mansfield. In short, they were absolutely stunning.
Smith herself commented at the time, “"I didn't know what Guess jeans were. I just shopped at Wal-Mart and Kmart and stuff like that."
But following this perhaps long-deserved run of good luck, Anna found herself embroiled in a 5 million dollar lawsuit against New York magazine in October of 1994. According to Smith, the magazine told her she was being photographed to represent an all-American-woman look. However, what they ultimately used was a photo which Smith claimed was taken for fun during a break from the actual shoot. The image ran as the cover and featured Smith in an unflattering pose, squatting in a short skirt and gnoshing on Cheez Doodles, under the headline “WHITE TRASH NATION.”
On the heels of this came the death of her second husband, J.Howard Marshall in August of 1995, and thus began her lengthy battle with Marshall’s son over his estate. To put it bluntly, he claimed she was a gold digger and deserved nothing, while Smith maintained that she loved her husband and that he had promised to look after her. Naturally, from the outside, it is hard to imagine what Anna saw in a man 62 years her senior, if not his billions. Yet Anna never wavered from her declaration of true love; it seemed she had convinced herself, if no one else, that she really did love Marshall. When he died, she celebrated his life with a memorial service that can only be described as a three ring circus. People magazine reported the following at the time:
“To begin with, the widow wore white – a dress with a plunging back and a neckline that plunged further. She also wore the white veil from her wedding. Her son, Daniel, 9 – from a brief teenage marriage to Billy Smith, a coworker at Jim's Krispy Fried Chicken – wore a white tuxedo and matching patent-leather shoes and carried a small black dog. J. Howard Marshall II lay in a burnished wooden casket draped in white roses and lilies, and adorned with a gold – glitter banner reading "From Your Lady Love." Nearby decorations included two white teddy bears and a framed picture with a label identifying it as Mr. and Mrs. J. Howard Marshall II. As harp music played, some 30 mourners gathered. Conspicuously absent was anyone who appeared to have known Marshall during his first 89 years of life. “
A staffer further commented of Anna’s wishes that the service might have been even stranger:
“She wanted to take the coffin out to her ranch and set him up on the patio deck. I had to talk her out of it – I could just see him sliding into the swimming pool."
The year before her second husband died, Anna appeared in such well known films as The Hudsucker Proxy and Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, but her film career nevertheless failed. In 2002 she launched her own reality television series, The Anna Nicole Show, which was received poorly by critics but achieved a cult following among fans. But the show did nothing to reveal the person who was Anna Nicole (or was she Vickie Lynn?) in her private life, when the camera wasn’t rolling, because the camera was always rolling, and Anna was always acting, seeking attention for her often bizarre antics.
One imagines that if there is anyone who might have known Vickie/Anna (perhaps even better than she knew herself), it was her son, Daniel. He was, by all accounts, the love of her life and the person to whom she was closest. Known to be fiercely protective of his mother, Daniel Smith was perhaps the only individual who wasn’t with Anna Nicole because he wanted her money, and was thus the only person she felt she could trust.
Those who knew her best feel Anna Nicole never recovered from her son’s death, which itself is surrounded by nearly as much controversy as her own. Daniel was not known to have a problem with drugs. But why, then, was he taking two antidepressants in combination with methadone, a drug commonly used to ween heroin addicts? This is not a cocktail any doctor would in good conscience prescribe.
Furthermore, why did Anna Nicole commit herself to her lawyer and longtime friend Howard K. Stern in a ceremony just days after her son’s death? The relationship came as a surprise to many and has likewise produced suspicion that Stern took advantage of Smith during a time in which she was incredibly vulnerable. Some of these allegations stem from Smith’s family, from whom it should be noted she was estranged, and in particular from her mother, a woman Stern claims Anna “despised.” Anna herself claimed that she pursued Stern and that he was “the shy one.” Nevertheless, it seems Virgie Arthur made an eerie prediction regarding her daughter’s death. In an interview that took place immediately following Daniel’s death, Arthur told CNN’s Nancy Grace:
"There was only three people in that [hospital] room. ... Now if Howard Stern marries [Anna] and she ends up dead, then who does the money go [to]?"
On the other hand, the commitment ceremony that Smith and Stern held last September 28th is reportedly non-binding. This means that, barring any other arrangements that may have been made in a will (if said will even exists), Stern will not receive any inheritance, making Anna’s daughter her sole heir. Yet little Danielynn is currently in the care of Stern and his family and is at the center of a paternity dispute involving Smith’s former boyfriend, photographer Larry Birkhead, as well as Zsa Zsa Gabor’s husband, Prince Frederick von Anhalt, who now claims to have had a 10 year affair with Smith. Smith’s mother has reportedly joined forces with Birkhead, allegedly fearing for the safety of the child as long as she remains with Stern. However, despite the suspicion and “conspiracy theories,” the fact remains that foul play is not suspected in the death of Anna Nicole or her son.
What is clear here is that the death of Daniel changed Anna Nicole, and the pictures taken during her commitment ceremony illustrate her transformation. Ever-conscious of the camera, Anna Nicole rarely turned her gaze from the lens. Yet on her wedding day, she never faces the camera. Excessively tan rather than trademark porcelain, she hides behind giant false lashes and heavy makeup, looking further and further from herself.
Whether or not one loved Anna Nicole in life doesn’t seem to matter much now; I’m not sure I thought of her at all, yet I find myself haunted by the pictures that resonate with something I can’t quite place, like a word I’ve never heard, a name none of us ever knew.
R.I.P. Anna Nicole Smith, November 28, 1967 - February 8, 2007
Saturday, February 10, 2007
“It’s no wonder Americans are heavily invested in a culture of consumption. As targets of ubiquitous corporate branding campaigns and marketing mania, we are bombarded 24/7 on all fronts – through every conceivable form of mass media and product packaging, at sporting and entertainment venues, and even lobbied by the apparel of friends and family.”
Hesitant, I nevertheless read on, expecting to be informed that it is also no wonder American children who spend hours in front of the television are growing fatter, lazier, and more ill-read by the day.
While the article itself leaves something to be desired, one hypothesizes that the exhibit it describes aims not to simply tell us what we already know, but to show us what we might otherwise miss. The beauty of art, in the words of novelist David Lodge, is that it is able “to overcome the deadening effects of habit by representing familiar things in unfamiliar ways.”
“Branded and on Display,” an exhibit at the U of I's Krannert Art Museum that might be termed a socio-economic commentary regarding our “culture of consumption,” features the work of UIUC’s own School of Art and Design faculty members Conrad Bakker and Laurie Hogin, along with the work of some 20 other artists from around the globe. The progressive showcase encompasses various forms of media, including photography, painting, sculpture, but also video, sound and installation.
“Branded” will remain on display through April 1st and “Commerce and Consumption” through May 13th. For more information, visit
If you need a little impetus to make the trip, consider this quote from Victor Shklovsky, who himself coined the term "defamiliarization:" "Habitualization devours work, clothes, furniture, one's wife, and the fear of war...And art exists that one may recover the sensation of life."
From the exhibit, Hank Willis Thomas’ “Branded Head,” a digital C-print mounted to Plexiglas.
Friday, February 02, 2007
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
(PS: You can also read Philip's dispatches from Lisbon at McSweeney's Internet Tendency)
Sunday, January 21, 2007
Threadless screen prints its shirts primarily on American Apparel tees. In fact, although I have not researched the matter extensively, one could easily hypothesize that the Los Angeles-based American Apparel, a company that prides itself on being sweatshop-free, and on providing superb benefits and excellent working conditions for its employees (the web site notes that the company pays "the highest wages in the garment industry"), is seemingly the primary provider of tees for internet-based screen printing companies, particularly those of the more artistic variety ( you can read the American Apparel mission statement here: http://www.americanapparel.net/mission/).
In addition to the American Apparel web site, storefronts are now in place in more than 25 states. But the best part is, while a bit pricier than non-American tees, the shirts and other items are, in my experience, well-made and able to withstand significant washing and wearing (never mind the fact that buying American Apparel means you can feel good about supporting a fair-minded and ethical company). Among my personal favorites are the basic tees and, for women, the cotton spandex jersey bandeau dress (which can be worn in a variety of ways and also doubles as a skirt), and the totally adorable boy brief, which comes in an assortment of fabrics and colors.
However, be warned that despite the site’s models, which are both exotic and "real" in the sense that their bodies are average in size, the clothing itself caters to the fit and trim. This means that you will likely need to order items at least one size larger than you normally would.
Much of the merchandise offered by American Apparel, particularly the t-shirts, screen prints beautifully, which is why companies like Threadless have found such success with the tees. For those unfamiliar with Threadless, a large part of the appeal is the ability for anyone to submit an original t-shirt design to the site. Registered users can then vote for their favorite entries, with the winning designs then manufactured by and available for purchase through Threadless. Most of the designs are eventually retired, although the more popular the tee, the greater the likelihood that it will stay in print. The shirts are first and foremost aesthetically pleasing, but additionally, many convey some sort of message through the illustration, whether it be a light and clever pun or a political or environmental commentary.
While Waffo offers far fewer designs than Threadless, with the designs themselves stemming from Waffo employees rather than customers, the t-shirts, while not American Apparel, are unbelievably soft and comfy. The designs themselves range from playful skeleton and tuxedo-printed tees to a black tee emblazoned with a large white "8 ½," an obvious nod to Fellini’s classic film of the same name.
I myself am the proud owner of the now discontinued "Fuck Heineken Drink Pabst Blue Ribbon" tee. The best part of the web site itself is the "arcade" section, which offers browsers the opportunity to play such classic video games as "Space Invaders," "Donkey Kong," and "PAC-MAN" on-site, with no downloads.
Check out www.threadless.com and www.waffo.com for killer tees and more information, such as select storefront locations.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Ideally, excess moisture leaves the body in significant amounts when we sweat or urinate, or more gradually as we exhale carbon dioxide and small amounts of moisture into the atmosphere. Yet when water is consumed more quickly than it can be removed, a potentially fatal electrolyte imbalance within the body’s fluids results. This imbalance is due primarily to the dilution of sodium compounds (a particular kind of electrolyte), which must be kept within a very small window of concentration.
Hyponatremia, the most common cause of water intoxication, results when this overdilution of sodium occurs within the blood plasma, causing an osmotic-type reaction in which the water outside of the cell filters into the cell. The cell will then swell and likely shut down. When hyponatremia occurs within the cells of the central nervous system and brain, it causes water intoxication. Thus, it would seem that water poisoning is every bit as possible as alcohol poisoning; but does it ever actually happen?
As unlikely as it sounds, less than one week ago, CNN reported that twenty-eight year old Jennifer Strange of Sacramento, California was found dead after participating in KDND radio station’s "Hold Your Wee for a Wii" contest. The contestants, competing for a Nintendo Wii, were to drink vast quantities of water without urinating. The contestants were reportedly told not to continue if they felt their health to be at risk.
This truly bizarre occurrence comes on the heels of another death by water intoxication that took place in February of 2005 at California State University in Chico. As part of a Chi Tau fraternity hazing, twenty-one year old Matthew Carrington was to drink large amounts of water while completing various physical tasks when he collapsed and died due to water intoxication.
But, before all of us hypochondriacs go freaking out and boycotting Evian, let us note that while dehydration is fairly common, hyperhydration is incredibly rare; hydration, then, is more important than fretting over hyperhydration.
Water intoxication occurs more frequently in infants, presumably because of their relatively small stature, and in those who both sweat excessively and consume large amounts of water, such as long-distance runners or workers functioning in extreme heat and humidity. Obviously, to avoid water intoxication, you want to keep your body’s intake of electrolytes and water at pace with your losses. Avoiding inane contests, or any contest, really, that contains the phrase "Hold Your Wee," is advised.
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