Ottessa Moshfegh reads from her excellent ‘Homesick for Another World’ Jan. 31 at BookPeople


Ottessa Moshfegh’s excellent short story collection “Homesick for Another World” contains a darkness that feels almost cancerous in spots. Author of the breakout 2015 novel “Eileen” (which was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and picked up a Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award), Moshfegh chronicles folks who aren’t sure what rock bottom looks like because they might already be there.

Read the full story here.

“War Rocket Ajax” interviews Austin writer/artist Becky Cloonan

I am a longtime fan of “War Rocket Ajax,”the world’s most destructive comic book and pop-culture podcast.” Hosts Chris Sims and Matt D. Wilson are smart, funny guys who focus on genre comics and talk about wrestling a whole lot. I have enjoyed their show for years (though the fact that they haven’t read Tom King’s “The Vision” yet is kinda bizarre. GET IT TOGETHER, GENTS.)

southerncross_vol01-1Sims is a longtime comics blogger and critic for ComicsAlliance. who wrote the Oni Press online graphic novel “Down! Set! Fight!,” the digital comic “Dracula the Unconquered”  and just finished a run on a book called X-Men ’92 for Marvel.  Wilson is the author of the “The Supervillain Handbook: The Ultimate How-to Guide to Destruction and Mayhem” and recently completed ” Supreme Villainy: the memoir of King Oblivion Ph.D.”

Anyway, this week’s podcast contains an interview with Austin’s own Becky Cloonan, whom I interviewed in September.


Moontower fest adds Chris Hardwick, Jay Pharoah and more

“Talking Dead” host Chris Hardwick, SNL alumnus Jay Pharoah and brilliant stand-up Brian Posehn are just three of the comedians added to the sixth annual Moontower Comedy and Oddity Festival, which takes place at various theaters around Austin on April 19 to 22.

Previously announced comics include Ali Wong, Patton Oswalt and Ralphie May. Also look for Matt Bellassai, who won the 2016 People’s Choice Award for “Favorite Social Media Star, ”and Morgan Murphy of “2 Broke Girls” and “Irish Goodbye” fame.

WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE WITH ANDY COHEN -- Pictured: Chris Hardwick -- (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
WATCH WHAT HAPPENS LIVE WITH ANDY COHEN — Pictured: Chris Hardwick — (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Here is the current lineup:

Adam Ray, Ali Wong, Andy Kindler, Aparna Nancherla, Arden Myrin, Barry Crimmins, Big Jay Oakerson, Brad Williams, Brendan Schaub, Brian Posehn, Bryan Callen, Caitlin Gill, Casey Wilson, Chris Cubas, Chris Garcia, Chris Hardwick, Chris Porter, Colin Quinn, Corinne Fisher, Dan Soder, Dana Gould, Daniel Koren, Danielle Schneider, Dave Smith, DJ Douggpound, Dom Irrera, Drew Michael, Eddie Pepitone, Erica Rhodes, Georgia Hardstark, Guy Branum, Ian Abramson, Ian Karmel, James Davis, Jake Weisman, Jay Pharoah, Josh Adam Meyers, Josh Johnson, Karen Kilgariff, Krystyna Hutchinson, Kurt Metzger, Kyle Ayers, Lashonda Lester, Luis J Gomez, Matt Bearden, Matt Bellassai, Matt Ingebretson, Matt Sadler, Melissa Villasenor, Michelle Collins, Michelle Wolf, Mike MacRae, Morgan Murphy, Patton Oswalt, Ralphie May, Rojo Perez, Sarah Tiana, the Sklar Brothers, Tony Hinchcliffe, Wendy Liebman

Tickets for individual shows will go on sale at noon Feb. 10 at the Paramount Theatre. To find out more or purchase badges, go to You can also get badges at the Paramount Theatre box office or by calling 512-474-1221.

This week: ‘Riverdale’ is a new spin on Archie and more

The cast of "Riverdale" (photo: The CW)
The cast of “Riverdale” (photo: The CW)

“Riverdale” (The CW). There seems to be a mantra in the world of intellectual property that started sometime in the late 1980s and has extended to now: If you have a piece of IP that was once aimed at children, there is money is in making it “grim ’n’ gritty.” So it seems with the latest “Wizard of Oz” rethink (see below) and so it seems with “Riverdale,” the latest comic-books-to-TV series from the Warner Bros. empire. This one deals with, yes, America’s perpetual teenager Archie Andrews and pals.

Over in the comic books, while there is plenty of older material aimed at G- and PG-aged kids, the horror title “Afterlife With Archie” features the cast fighting zombies, while the newer “Archie” and “Jughead” books, both of which are excellent, run slightly older. (In a fascinating development, the new “Jughead” book has posited the man with the felt crown as asexual.) In this new show, the live-action “Riverdale” sees Archie, Jughead, Betty, Veronica and the whole gang as living in “teenage Twin Peaks,” according to producers. We’ll see how this goes. (Jan. 26)

Cloud Nothings, “Life Without Sound” (Carpark). This indie rock outfit delivers its fourth full-length album. Expect a world tour (and nobody would be surprised if they play South by Southwest). (Jan. 27)

 Japandroids, “Near to the Wild Heart of Life” (ANTI-/Epitaph). Here is the new one from this explosive Vancouver duo. If you are in the mood for anthemic, catchy, fist-pumping rock music, you could do a lot worse than these two. (Jan. 27)

Tift Merritt, “Stitch of the World” (Yep Roc). Sam Beam of Iron and Wine fame guests on the new album by this perpetually under-known American singer. (Jan. 27)

Ty Segall, “Ty Segall” (Drag City). This is Segall’s second self-titled album — his 2008 debut was also called “Ty Segall.” It is also his ninth album under his own name. He has also released dozens of full-lengths, EPs, cassettes and singles with various other acts, including Fuzz, GØGGS, Party Fowl and many more. His hands don’t sleep. (Jan. 27)

“A Dog’s Purpose.” Based on W. Bruce Cameron’s novel, this is a movie about dog reincarnation. Director Lasse “Chocolat” Hallström also helmed “My Life as a Dog” and “Hachi: A Dog’s Tale,” so maybe this is a thing with him. The movie has faced some controversy over really unfortunate video of what looks like a dog performer being forced into water for a scene. The spin has begun.  (Jan. 27)

Five things we want to see in the Ransom Center’s ‘Mad Men’ archive

On Thursday, the Ransom Center announced that the archive from the smash hit AMC TV show “Mad Men” had been donated to their collection.

The archive from show creator Matthew Weiner and production company Lionsgate, includes scripts, drafts, notes, props, costumes, digital video and research materials that went into creating the show’s richly detailed presentation of the American 1960s — to the University of Texas’ Harry Ransom Center humanities library.

(L-R) Joan Harris (Christina Hendricks), Roger Sterling (John Slattery), Lane Pryce (Jared Harris), Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser), Don Draper (Jon Hamm), Bertram Cooper (Robert Morse) and Peggy Olson (Elisabeth Moss) - Mad Men - Season 5 - Gallery - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels/AMC

PHOTOS: ‘Mad Men’ archives coming to Harry Ransom Center

Here are five things we would love to see on display at the University of Texas research library (UPDATE: Jen Tisdale, director of Public Affairs for the Ransom Center, says some of Don’s suits will be there, as will be the costume Betty wore during the shooting scene.)

Don Draper’s suits: The show’s late ’50s to early ’60s style, full of thin lapels, crisp haircuts and slim ties, continues to influence menswear today.

"Inspiration board" for the character of Don Draper. Photo by Pete Smith. Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.
“Inspiration board” for the character of Don Draper. Photo by Pete Smith. Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.

The full text for the anti-smoking letter: In season 4, Draper (played by Jon Hamm) gets into trouble when he takes out a full-page ad in the New York Times expressing relief that he no longer has to work on tobacco campaigns. This does not go over all that well, but we never really got to see the full letter.

The storyboard for Peggy’s final scene, as she’s walking down the hallway, a very not-safe-for-work painting under her arm: The scene with Elisabeth Moss was memed almost instantly. Speaking of the painting, it would be great to see some of the Edo period Japanese art (and the reproduction of the Rothko) that populated Bert Cooper’s office.

Betty’s gun from season 1, episode 9: Before she became one of the most exhausting characters on television, Betty Draper (January Jones) was initially kind of a badass. In the season 1 episode “Shoot,” we see her trying to pick off pigeons in a suburban New York yard with a BB gun, cig dangling out of her mouth while wearing a pink negligee. Season one Betty Draper, we’ll never forget you.

Script revisions for the finale: The “Mad Men” finale, which sees Don Draper meditating at what is supposed to be the Esalen Institute as he dreams up the iconic “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” ad, was one of the most hotly debated series finales since everyone maybe went to heaven on “Lost.” It would be fantastic to see how Weiner and company ended up there.What would you like to see the Ransom Center put on display? Let us know in the comments.

Matthew Weiner's production binder. Photo by Pete Smith. Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.
Matthew Weiner’s production binder. Photo by Pete Smith. Courtesy Harry Ransom Center.

Kenny Rogers, Kris Kristofferson, Jaclyn Smith among Texas Medal of Arts honorees

In February, Jaclyn Smith will be honored for her work in television, Kris Kristofferson will be honored for his work in all sorts of things and Kenny Rogers, the Gambler, gets a lifetime achievement award from the Texas Cultural Trust.

They are but three of the Texans to be honored at the ninth biennial Texas Medal of Arts Awards Feb. 21-22.  The awards will take place for the first time ever at the University of Texas at Austin.

This celebration will include a Stars of Texas brunch at the Governor’s Mansion, an awards show with special musical performances and a gala dinner.

“The Texas Medal of Arts Awards recognizes those whose artistic talent and generous philanthropy have shone a spotlight on the vibrant artistic culture of our state,” said Texas Cultural Trust Executive Director Jennifer Ransom Rice.  “People from all over Texas and from all artistic disciplines are honored and celebrated as we raise awareness about how vital the arts are to our state’s economy and our children’s education.  We hope for continuing and expanding support for the arts for future generations to appreciate, embrace, and enjoy.”

October 12, 2016 - Kris Kristofferson performs during the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Induction and Celebration held at ACL Live at the Moody Theatre, in Austin, Tx., on Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016. (AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN / RODOLFO GONZALEZ)
Kris Kristofferson performs during the Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Induction and Celebration at ACL Live on Oct. 12, 2016. AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2016

The 2017 Texas Medal of Arts Awards honorees:

Corporate Patron:  John Paul & Eloise DeJoria, Paul Mitchell/Patrón Tequila, Austin — The hair care mogul is one of the state’s most enthusiastic and well-respected philanthropists.

Multimedia:  Kris Kristofferson, Brownsville — Songwriter, singer and actor. If you have never seen him in Scorsese’s “Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore,” you really should get on that.

Television: Jaclyn Smith, Houston — One of the greatest Charlie’s Angels who ever lived.

Individual Arts Patron:  Lynn Wyatt, Houston — Vanity Fair called her “the best little socialite in Texas.”

Dance:  Lauren Anderson, Houston — The brilliant ballet dancer became, in 1990, only the second African-American female dancer to be promoted to principal dancer at a major American ballet company.

Music:  Yolanda Adams, Houston — Pretty much the most popular gospel singer alive, Adams has sold more than 4 million albums in the U.S. alone.

Arts Education:  Dallas Black Dance Theatre, Dallas — The company, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, is the only predominately minority professional dance company in the five-state area of Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas and New Mexico.

Film: Janine Turner, Euless — Sure, she was in “Cliffhanger” and “Dr. T and the Women,” but she will forever live in our hearts as Maggie O’Connell on “Northern Exposure.” (She was also note-perfect as Katie McCoy on “Friday Night Lights”).

Theatre:  Renée Elise Goldsberry, Houston — She originated the role of Angelica Schuyler Church in the Broadway musical “Hamilton,” for which she won the 2016 Tony.

Foundation Patron:  The Tobin Endowment, San Antonio — One of the state’s biggest private charitable foundations.

Visual Art:  Leo Villareal, El Paso — The visionary installation artist grew up in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, and El Paso.

Architecture:  Frank Welch, Dallas — You may recognize the master Texas Modern architect from such work as a lot of homes in Highland Park and some really cool looking schools.

Literary:  John Phillip Santos, San Antonio — The poet and filmmaker was the first Mexican-American Rhodes scholar.

Journalism:  Scott Pelley, San Antonio — Pelley has been the anchor and managing editor of the “CBS Evening News” since 2011 and was the CBS News chief White House correspondent during the second Clinton administration.

Lifetime Achievement:  Kenny Rogers, Houston — Incredibly popular country singer. Actor. Chicken magnate. Extremely good sport on “Reno 911.” The man has done it all.

The Texas Medal of Arts Awards has presented 99 medals to 105 Texas luminaries. Former award winners include: Jamie Foxx, Eva Longoria, ZZ Top, Willie Nelson, Dan Rather, Neiman Marcus, Margaret McDermott, Barbara Smith Conrad, Tommy Lee Jones and more.

Texas authors decline invitation to legislature event, citing opposition to controversial bills

A number of Texas authors have declined, or are thinking about declining, an invitation from the Texas Legislature, citing opposition to controversial bills such as Senate Bill 6, a.k.a Texas’ “bathroom bill,” which would prevent the majority of transgender Texans from using public bathrooms that comport with their gender identity.

One author may have been uninvited entirely.

RELATED: Dan Patrick unveils Texas transgender bathroom bill

Ricardo B. Brazziell AMERICAN-STATESMAN 10/12/10 Rick Riordan greets and shakes hands with his fans as he makes his way through the crowd to speak about his new book " The Lost Hero" on Tuesday, October 12, 2010 at Book People book store.
Author Rick Riordan greets fans at a BookPeople event in 2010. Ricardo B. Brazziell AMERICAN-STATESMAN

On Jan. 6, Rick Riordan, author of the YA smash hit “Percy Jackson” series and a University of Texas graduate, tweeted the following:

“Just turned down an invite to be honored by TX state legislature as a Texas author. If they want to honor me, they could stop this nonsense.” He included a link to a tweet from the ACLU linking to a article on SB6.  (While Texas claims Riordan as a Texas author and he lived in San Antonio for many years, Riordan now lives in Boston.)

The event in question is slated for March 8 and is being organized by Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas).

Austin’s Natalia Sylvester, author of the 2014 novel “Chasing the Sun,” is also declining the invite.

Austin writer Sarah Bird, who has written nine novels and the novella-length essay “A Love Letter to Texas Women,” seems to have been uninvited. Or declined via accepting. Or something.

Perhaps referring to the fact that bills restricting access to abortion have already been filed, Bird posted the following on her Facebook page

“Stop Using the Bodies of Texas Women as a Political Battlefield: What I would have said to the Texas State Legislature.

I was told last Friday that the Legislature would like to me honor me as an ‘esteemed Austin author’ and ‘an ideal role model for girls.’

I answered that I looked forward to the opportunity to address the Legislature when I accepted this honor.

I went on to say that since they had mentioned my small book, ‘Love Letter to Texas Women,’ I would especially like to ‘plead with this august group to stop using the bodies of Texas women as a political battlefield. I would also like to bear witness to the fact that I, absolutely, would never have become an author, a role model, or even the person I was meant to be without access to safe, affordable, women’s health care.’

I received a genuinely courteous response saying that they regretted I wouldn’t be attending.”

Bird and several other writers will be reading at the”Austin Writers Resist” event at BookPeople Jan. 15.

Novelist Amanda Eyre Ward, who lives in Austin, posted the following on her author page:

“I’ve thought a lot about how to respond to my invitation to the #txledge Celebration of Authors. How can we as artists be a part of changing minds (and policy)? Sent these tweets…any other ideas very welcome.

@JasonVillalba I’m sorry to decline your invitation to the #txlege celebration of authors. Sending a copy of my novel, The Same Sky, to you.

@JasonVillalba I’d love to be a part of a discussion about literature and social issues (like sanctuary cities and unaccompanied minors).

@JasonVillalba Could we organize an event like this in the future? I’d love to talk about art and its power to influence both policy and minds.”

I understand that authors are saying no to the event and with good reasons,” Ward said in an email.”But a “no” ends the conversation. I want to engage and am hopeful that Villalba can organize some kind of event where authors can speak and listen. We write about political issues because we’re passionate about them.”

Ward’s 2015 novel, “The Same Sky,” engages immigration issues. and notes that she witnesses readers get into passionate debates at various events.

“I saw people crying, saying they had never really thought about immigrant children, about their situations and about how many were alone and terrified and hopeful,” Ward said. “The power of novels is the ability to make a dry, complex subject visceral. So I don’t just want to say, ‘no.’ I want to say, ‘Will you read my book and can we talk?’ So I’m hoping he’ll say yes.”

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story stated the authors both cited opposition to Senate Bill 6. This has since been corrected.