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Virtual word of mouth: from my keyboard to your eyeballs

Word of Mouth

Read more Aaron on Sweet With Fall and Fish, OK? Cool.

Before Dan Brown wrote the The DaVinci Code, he was a midlist author that only a small collective of fans knew about. If rumors are to be believed, Random House was thinking of not renewing his contract.

I worked at a chain bookstore when The DaVinci Code came out. In keeping with our merchandising policy, it spent its allotted time in the front-of-store displays and had moved to a table in the mystery section. The next step would have been a face-out on the shelf, followed by one or two spine-out copies, and ultimately deletion when the paperback came out.

But something happened with The DaVinci Code that brought it off the mystery table and back to the front of store. Readers loved it, and started telling other readers. For sure, the book has its weaknesses. Booksellers heap disdain on this book like no other in recent memory. It’s 80% exposition and not well-written (linguist Geoffrey Pullum called Brown one of the worst prose stylists in the history of literature, saying his “writing is not just bad; it is staggeringly, clumsily, thoughtlessly, almost ingeniously bad”) but the story is compelling from cover-to-cover. The Da Vinci Code has sold 80 million copies and counting, and it’s a wonderful example of how important face-to-face interactions are for the life of a book, and always will be.

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Lection without prejudice: volume III

All Will Be Revealed
If you’re a completionist, I’ve been forcing you to read about books I was forced to read. Sorry about that. First, there was Light Years. Then, there was The Forever War. Then, there was this post. Let’s hold hands and get through it together.

I was scheduled to have dinner with Robert Anthony Siegel at the Book Expo America’s Winter Institute in Portland, so I fetl obligated to read All Will Be Revealed. I didn’t want to be the chucklehead at the table who hadn’t read the book. It was my first BEA, and I didn’t know I could fake it.

Macadam-Cage sent me a Review Copy before there was any artwork chosen, simple red paper with black print. I looked at the back cover. Pornography? Yes! Oh, it’s a period piece. Reading about pornography, then. Reading about late 19th century, still-photograph pornography. And explorers. And mediums. Please, just punch me in the face. Hard.

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Lection without prejudice: volume 1

Light Years

After graduation we assume we’ll never be forced to read another book for the rest of our lives. We tell ourselves, if I want to read nothing but erotic manga, cookbooks, and memoirs from reality show members until I die, that’s the way it will be. I’ve got a newsflash for would-be booksellers, book bloggers, and reading group aficionados out there – you’ll be forced to read all the time.

Most people join book clubs because they like to read but can’t seem to find the time (i.e., there’s a House Hunters marathon on HGTV and my book is all the way in the other room) or have difficulty finishing a book they’ve started (i.e., it gets harder to concentrate on the printed word the more I drink). She knows reading is good for her and would like to do more. She believes the public shame of a reading group – more specifically, the idea of gathering to discuss a book she hasn’t read – will overcome her tendency to read “when she gets around to it” (i.e., never).

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Klosterweek: a recap

chuck klosterman to the heat lightning

Tired about hearing about Chuck Klosterman? We’re not. I think THL proved to the universe that we could never, ever grow fatigued with one of our favorite writers.

I consider the week before last’s homage to one of my favorite contemporary thinkers and writers a great success. Not only did those of us who love him have the opportunity to speak their admiration to the web-world, but the man himself actually heard about us, and hopefully read some of the sweet nothings we typed so softly and sincerely for him.

Pictured here is the note Mr. Klosterman gave to Lila, dedicated to THL, at a reading in Manhattan We remain thrilled, flattered, and filled with joy.

The week was an experiment. We wanted to see what it was like to focus all of our energy on one topic. We hope to continue in this vein and to spread the love of good things to THL readers.


Miami Squares, get it? Squares

miami squares

THL loves poetry.

Hell, I even took an Adrienne Rich and Sylvia Plath poetry class in college. It was a summer class, and because that’s when it was offered, that’s when I took it. It produced a dark and broody sunny season in South Florida for me. That is love.

We want you to get psyched about lyrical verse too with tomorrow night’s Miami Squares, a non-traditional sort of poetry reading. The audience will do more than just snap, nod, and cry. Miami Poetry Collective and University of Wynwood will allow the crowd to decide what poems will be read based on titles alone and which poet will read which poem. Play favorites, much? We are hoping for a poetry clusterfuck.

The event takes place at Sweat Records on Wednesday at 8 p.m.


Klosterweek: something to believe in

we love u

Chuck Klosterman is one of my favorite authors of all time. He ranks right up there with David Sedaris in terms of the writers whose work makes me laugh out loud in quiet places at inappropriate times. I find myself reading his books on airplanes a lot and I can’t help but pepper the flight with deep chuckles from the diaphragm. But his appeal for me goes beyond his quick wit and humor and accessible, conversational writing style.

When I first sat down to devour Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs during my senior year in college, I immediately knew that I had found a kindred spirit. His quirky observational essays and the way he broke down and tied complex issues to seemingly worthless pieces of pop culture resonated with me.

For someone like myself who feels like an outsider most of the time with what’s popular today or a person that constantly looks for a deeper, alternative motive or cause for the way we view pop culture, Klosterman’s work is a constant breath of fresh air. He became a reminder that there are like-minded people out there that have a similar world view.

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Klosterweek: an evening with Chuck
he knows we exist!!!

we love u

Editor’s note: as you read to the end, possibly the single most exciting thing that has happened to Liz Tracy in the past five years will be revealed. Lila Dominguez rulez.

klosterman signing small

I get to Barnes and Nobles an hour and a half before Chuck Klosterman’s reading is scheduled to begin. By then, half the seats of the fourth floor event area are already taken. I begin thumbing through the new softcover edition of Eating the Dinosaur, which was just released. It includes two additional chapters, which I find to be quite a marketing ploy to sell the same book twice. Within the next half hour all the seats fill up and a standing line has formed in the back of the room. The crowd is mostly 20 and 30 year olds with a few older folks peppered throughout.

He arrives on time. While a Barnes and Nobles manager introduces him to the audience and gives a brief run down of his accomplishments, Chuck awkwardly shuffles on the side of the room. He’s taller than I expected, fairly lean with a small, middle aged “paunch” around the belly. He’s dressed casually and looks a little— nervous? “I’d like to now welcome to the stage the most attractive person to grow up in North Dakota- Chuck Klosterman,” the Barnes and Nobles manager announces. “Thanks so much” he says, once he makes it to the mic. “But I’m not the most attractive person to come out of North Dakota—I mean, there’s Ed Schultz.” I look this up later and discover Mr. Schultz is neither attractive nor was raised in North Dakota—although he moved to Fargo as an adult later.

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Klosterweek: a reader's guide

we love u

By now, you have no doubt been convinced that you should be reading more Chuck Klosterman. You also probably believe that this entails buying the man’s books, because that’s what he does, right? Write books. He must, because I have a few of them on my shelf right over there. Except that he doesn’t, actually. Not really. Guy writes essays for magazines, okay? Most of the books are assemblies of these essays, with other stuff thrown in. (Fargo Rock City is an exception, but even that one started as a Spin article, and I’m passing on his novel because I thought the fiction thing in IV was sort of boring.) Mostly they are essays about stupid shit, made interesting by Klosterman’s perverse/bizarre opinions/beliefs, for which he argues so persuasively that you are left feeling not quite sure about whether your leg has been pulled. Does he actually believe that, for example, “teenage girls are the new teenage boys, which is why the Dixie Chicks are the new Van Halen, which is why country music is awesome”?

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Klosterweek: Chuck, talk dirty to me (anytime)
too much too soon?

we love u

July 21, 2010

Dear Mr. Klosterman:

I hope you’re enjoying a lovely summer. Please excuse and/or accept any formality here. I spend the bulk of my days writing letters to people, soliciting them for money. Sounds like a genuine hoot, right?! Really cool, no? Snort, groan, ugh! I’m sorry. I’m a little nervous, makes my jokes bad. It’s just that… it’s just that I like you so much!

I don’t know where to start. I know you’re not perfect, even though I feel like you are. Sometimes, I even think you can be a bit corny, overly introspective, and that time in IV when you didn’t get Bono’s joke, it was pretty straight forward, I thought. But there I go again. My mom always says you catch more bees with honey than vinegar, or maybe it’s don’t cut off your nose to spite your face?
I’m never nice to guys I like. I’m very difficult. You should know that now, you know, at this point in the relationship? I do want you to like me, so I’ll start again.

Chuck Klosterman, you are admired by me. I think you really are the tops. It’s like you are the ideal me, but a man. That’s a huge compliment! If we were friends, you’d know this, but since I think you’re the ideal me, you just might just get the gist of how cool I think that is. Now it’s my turn to be corny, it’s like you’re writing what I’m thinking, or how I used to think when I was in school and smarter, or when I was emotional and younger, or how I used to be inspired before I drank all the time. You seem untainted entirely by the mental malaise of “adulthood,” of the monotony of office work, though not untouched by heartbreak.

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Klosterweek: the Chuck Klosterman I know

we love u

I know very little about Chuck Klosterman and there’s a good reason why I never will. While recounting epiphanies made during conversations, it seems as though he has the uncanny ability to concoct a subtle opinion about deep shit in a matter of split seconds (i.e. “but that’s not really valid,” etc.). This makes me terrified of ever talking to him about anything deeper than the weather.

Of course, he may (a) indeed possess a lightning-fast wit, (b) meditate over every possible viewpoint before initiating a conversation, or © boil down entire conversations so it appears that a moment of cocktail-party banter unearthed a nugget good enough for publication. (Fresh from reading Eating the Dinosaur, I had to ape him at least once – too bad it’s not a humorous footnote). I like to think it’s one of the first two, because they would be one or two awesome things to know about Chuck without having to stop trembling, pat-dry the pee on my pants, and then introduce myself.

In this light, the first essay in Dinosaur is the most intimidating but also the best in the book. It’s vintage Chuck, an examination of his experiences as an interviewer explained by interviews with other interviewers.

In a certain state of intoxication, I opened the book in front of the MLB All-Star game in Anaheim. Softly in the background, four innings flew by as the pitchers made mincemeat of hapless sluggers squinting into the late afternoon glare. Meanwhile, Little Jimmy, curled up in his tattered undies with beer warming on the table, read totally transfixed, feeling like he stumbled into the candlelit sanctum of the Smart People Club.

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Klosterweek: helping hands

we love u

Dear Mr. Klosterman,

While the conviviality of your writing style invites me to call you Chuck, I’ll resist the temptation; my impulse is to dislike people who use my first name on first correspondence, so I’ll not do the same to you.

Then again, perhaps you find my use of your last name off-putting and impersonal. Or worse, the unnecessarily formal address of a snob. Well, etiquette – if such a thing even matters or still exists – demands I err on the side of caution and use your surname.

I think you understand; you lived in Ohio, after all.

A friend bought me a copy of Killing Yourself to Live to keep me company during a period of convalescence three years ago. My pelvis, sacrum, and ribs were fractured. I spent my days in a haze of Oxycodone. Securing a drink was a walker-laden exercise which ate up an hour and left me sweaty and exhausted. My three clearest memories of this time are reading Terri Jentz’s Strange Piece of Paradise and wondering if reading was always going to be this difficult or if it was just the Oxycodone, the opening theme song of Futurama kicking in right when the meds hit my bloodstream and thinking broken bones were the greatest thing that ever happened to me, and becoming a fan of yours from page one of Killing Yourself to Live.

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Klosterweek: an introduction

The Heat Lightning shows Chuck Klosterman love: KLOSTERWEEK, July 19-23, 2010

Dear THL readers:

For no reason in particular, we decided that this week THL will share its love of music writer, philosopher, journalist, and genius Chuck Klosterman with you.

Chuck Klosterman has made us swoon, he has made us laugh, he has made us money, for fuck’s sake, he has made us blush, and in fact, he has also made us pee our pants a little. Even more than all of that, he has actually managed to made us think.

So, for the next few days, we at The Heat Lightning are finding little ways to tell Mr. Klosterman that:

we love u

Hearts, hugs, and wet kisses,


George Orwell has a blog?

george orwell

Of course George Orwell has a blog. Duh, Mom. He’s always all like; @Sn00ki Luv ur new l00k! #newspeak

Apparently this blog has been around for years, updating every few days with Orwell’s journal entries. But hold onto your elbow patches History & Literature Buffs, he just got to WWII!

Actually, you should check this blog out even if you don’t get your internet from a modified Underwood that types your search results onto sheets of gently burnt parchment.

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Pick and You'll Leave a Mark


Book lovers, let’s talk about the best moment. Not the moment you finally finished that classic which thwarted you the first few times you tried it, not when you’ve closed a book so sweetly perfect it’s like you’ll never need another book again, not even the moment you find a writer who makes you feel like they’re speaking to you alone. These are certainly top five in a book lover’s reading life, but I mean the ultimate moment. . .

When it’s time to choose your next read.

Many times, the next book you pick will be a pleasant diversion, nothing more or less. But before you’ve made your choice, you might find hidden gold. You could be brought to tears, or be struck dumb by brilliance. You could laugh out loud on the Metrorail, helpless to stop yourself. You could find the story you’ll be urging your friends to read for the next five years. Wandering the aisles, head tilted to read the spines, eyes caught by a unique cover or a table stack, anything seems possible.

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What’s wrong with you, Miami?
Buy David Mitchell’s new book, for God’s sake

david mitchell autumns

What’s wrong with you, Miami?

I don’t mean The Heat Lightning readers. You are the culture vultures, the exception proving the rule, the cool knot of folks who unwittingly find themselves discussing Kieslowski at a kegger.

Nothing against keggers per se, but the revelry makes it difficult for anyone to see how capable we Miamians are of literary appreciation. Cool elusive wordsmiths like Neil Gaiman and Amy Hempel breeze through San Francisco, New York, and Seattle, yet they pass on the Magic City.

Los Angeles is also a favored stop for touring authors, but I think it’s more in the hopes of a fat movie deal than because of Book Soup. LA-LA Land deserves more author play than Miami? Please. Salman Rushdie loves us. Ondaatje, McInerney, Sontag. We can name drop until the next Man Booker Prize is awarded, but it won’t give us the literary cache we deserve. The big New York publishers see Miami as that fun-loving friend it’s great to party with, but whom they’d be horrified to see date their sister.

David Mitchell, arguably the greatest living fiction novelist, and easily the greatest fiction novelist under fifty, has also toured the usual suspects – San Francisco, New York, Seattle, Boston, Portland. For his next book, a luminous work coming out (in the US, anyway) on June 29 titled, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell is visiting Minneapolis.

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Beatriz Monteavaro’s Quiet Village, reviewed on ArtNet. I have a copy of this book that I need to get around to writing about, but suffice it to say that it’s gorgeous.

by , posted Jun 8, 09:24 PM


Mellifluous: William Faulkner reading from As I Lay Dying (plus a link to the Google Books scan, so you can read along). One of my favorites. (Via)

by , posted Jun 8, 01:19 PM

One book-slinger's opinion: the early summer edition

meg ryan mail

Local book enthusiast, Hillary keeps up with the quality reads. That’s why she’s going to tell you what you WILL be reading this summer. And you WILL like it.

The biggest news of the summer is the release of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the final installment of Swedish writer Steig Larsson’s thrilling and wildly popular Millennium Trilogy. Starring tattooed computer hacker Lisbeth Salander (the most bad-ass literary heroine of all time). The entire trilogy is an addictive read and also fun to listen to on audio book format. If you’re like me and are hesitant to jump on band-wagons, you can also check out Sweden’s other prize authors Henning Mankell and my personal favorite Per Wahloo.

In the biz, we’re fond of describing important new releases as “the literary event of the season.” This really is. Imperial Bedrooms, coming June 15, is the long-awaited sequel to Bret Easton Elis’ debut novel and cult favorite, Less than Zero, which followed the lives of vapid, amoral youths of the 1980’s party scene in L.A. Twenty years later, with promising careers as high-class pimps and Hollywood screenwriters, our gang is finally reunited.

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