Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Shaken, but certainly not stirred

Last night I saw Quantum of Solace, the latest James Bond movie. But I didn't leave the theater feeling solace at all, instead I felt nothing but confusion. So confused that I often forgot to be entertained. I wondered: whatever happened to story, whatever happened to plot? Sure, the creators held to some resemblance of narrative by having Bond deal with the loss of his beloved Vesper from Casino Royale, but even that part of the storyline was difficult to follow. It was as if the writers said, "Wouldn't it be cool if..." and then stuck it all in a movie without connecting the dots. There was no cause and effect in the film--people got shot and buildings exploded and Bond flew from Italy to London to Haiti to Italy to Bolivia to Italy and back to Bolivia without any clear explanation. Even the steamy romances the Bond films are known for are subpar in this latest installment. I know, I know, you're saying, "Chad, if you wanted a movie that told a story, you should've gone to see The Secret Life of Bees (already saw it, and at least it pulled the heartstrings a bit). Yet, even the most explosion-riddled action films--The Matrix, Die Hard, the Bourne trilogy-- actually tell the audience a somewhat comprehensible story. Maybe it's the writer and editor in me that expects the same qualities from movies that I expect from good fiction. Am I asking too much? Maybe. Anyway, I don't want to spoil Quantum for anyone, so don't take my word for it--go see the movie for yourself.

You can, however, take my word about this: We'll be out of the office celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday starting Friday, so you won't hear anything from us until December 1. Have a safe and restful Thanksgiving. We hope you all have a lot to be thankful for.


Monday, November 17, 2008

Congratulations Tayari Jones!

Indiana Review extends its congratulations to our 2008 Fiction Prize judge, Tayari Jones, for being chosen as a member of the United States Artists Foundation! She and 49 other artists received $50,000 unrestricted grants. Other writers honored included IR contributors Joy Harjo and Laura Kasischke.

For more information, check out Tayari's webpage at:

Thanks to everyone who submitted to the Fiction Prize, and we hope to have the results within the next month and a half.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Favorite Words, Revisited

I recently learned that one of my favorite words, dingbat, has even more meanings than previously discussed. In addition to being found on the page, a dingbat can also be found on the street. In the world of architecture, a dingbat refers to the wood and stucco apartment buildings most often found in Southern California. They are boxy two or three story buildings built on narrow stilts with sheltered parking underneath and were popular in the 1950s and 60s.

But why the word "dingbat"? Some say it is because of their quick and shoddy construction and dingbat is used as "a general term of disparagement" (as in a dingbat is a silly or stupid person). However, others site that dingbat is actually used in its traditional typographic sense, and refers to the stylistic flourishes (metal stars, asterisks, diamonds etc) that grace those stucco facades.

* * *
Now when I come to a break in the text, instead of moving straight on through to the next scene, I'll be thinking of my far away hometown, Los Angeles, home to many a dingbat. And perhaps I'll get even more distracted and start thinking of other favorite words, like the dingbat's cousin: the googie, a.k.a the doo-wop.


Monday, November 10, 2008

Minor obsessions: "no ideas but in things"

I love poetry. And nonfiction. And fiction. And I love the artifacts those (in many ways) bodiless entities inhabit. Oh, books. There's such a pleasure in the object. The texture of paper, whether the edges are deckled or gilded, and then down to details of typeface and layout. Then there are the things that haven't yet been designed, such as scent, which most often seems to be affected by age. Going into a used book store is like a wine tasting sometimes.

Don't look at me like that. I know you're into books, too.

These days, though, I've found myself indulging in a minor obsession: interior design. And you know what I've discovered in my recent dalliance? Designers are so much like us. Collectors, lovers of exquisite objects. And they, too--almost invariably--have a soft spot for books. Because books tell stories both on the inside and the outside.

Since yesterday, when I saw the lovelies pictured here on DesignSponge, I have been coveting them. It's a major thou-shalt-not, but you're with me, right? Too bad this ten-title set of Penguin Classics is only available in the UK right now, and only through Waterstone's. Darn the shipping.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Forgive my sentimentality.

No matter your political party, no matter who you are or where you come from, you must agree that last night we made and lived history. Yesterday will be a story we tell our children. My friends and I watched the coverage on television for hours. When the Obama and Biden families stepped on stage in Chicago to greet their supporters, a soaring musical score playing in the background, one of my friends commented that it was like watching a movie with a happy ending. It was, someone else said, like a fairytale. And as Barack Obama walked off stage, I swear I saw him grab one of the American flags standing by the exit, and he let the stars and stripes run through his fingers. That, for me, was a moment better than fiction, because if it had been fiction I probably wouldn't have believed it. But, of course, that's why we read and write fiction (and poetry too), for those moments that surprise us and change us and haunt us, for the moments--big and small--that render us breathless.


Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Hey everyone. It's election day. You should go vote (if you haven't done so already).

Here at Indiana Review, we love voting. We do it all the time. We vote on which pieces will go in the journal, we vote on artwork, we even vote on when we should hold meetings. (One time we voted on what pizza we should order.) We're that into it.

Sure, there're going to be long lines today. That's what books are for. Bring your favorite copy of IR, or, if you're in a highly contested swing state, try Team of Rivals, that 950-page back-breaker of a history on Lincoln and his cabinet (It's quite good, actually). 

So yeah, get out there and vote. What else are you going to do? Read literary magazine blogs all day?