Friday, August 26, 2016

The bird that I hope to catch in the net of this play is not the solution of one man’s psychological problem. I’m trying to catch the true quality of experience in a group of people, that cloudy, flickering, evanescent—fiercely charged!—interplay of live human beings in the thundercloud of a common crisis. Some mystery should be left in the revelation of character in a play, just as a great deal of mystery is always left in the revelation of character in life, even in one’s own character to himself. This does not absolve the playwright of his duty to observe and probe as clearly and deeply as he legitimately can: but it should steer him away from “pat” conclusions, facile definitions which make a play just a play, not a snare for the truth of human experience.

- Tennessee Williams

Thursday, August 25, 2016

from "The Oracle," by M.J. Engh

"How can you live....How do you bear it?" 
He moved closer, not explicitly smiling, but all his face and body, his very hands, expressing something of a smile. "It's not hard," he said. 
"Tell me." 
"I've always known," he said, " -- no, not always, but since I was a child -- I've known that we live on quicksand....on the side of a volcano....on an earthquake fault. You know that any minute of any day or night the roof can fall on your head, the floor can open below your feet, the earth itself can suck you down. And somehow when you know this -- when you know you always live surrounded by unappealable forces so much stronger than you -- then you are not the slave of those forces. When you must build your house on quicksand, you don't count on its standing. You find your security in yourself; because your self is all you have. And if you're a Buddhist you know that even your self is quicksand. In a way I don't exist, I'm an illusion. This self is only an accumulation of particles and forces interacting, clinging together for a second or a century. But this accumulation, this tension, this equilibrium that I call Philippe Montoya -- this is all I have. When it falls apart, then Philippe Montoya has no more problems. But until then, Philippe Montoya exists -- and what difference does it make what happens outside? Philippe Montoya exists." 
Philippe Montoya could never speak to her like that in the flesh, she knew. But if he could have spoken, that was what he would say.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

books read in August 2016

Fiction is in red. Date of first publication in (parentheses).

48. Summer Brave, William Inge (1962)
49. Picnic, William Inge (1953)
50. The Strains of Triumph: A Life of William Inge, Ralph F. Voss (1989)
51. The Less Than Epic Adventures of TJ and Amal, E. K. Weaver (2015)
52. The Drama of Marriage: Gay Playwrights/Straight Unions from Oscar Wilde to the Present, John M. Clum (2012) (heard about this re Inge and Williams)
53. Jingo, Terry Pratchett (1997) (part of a City Watch books readthrough)
54. The Fifth Elephant, Terry Pratchett (1999) (ditto)

all 2016 booklist posts

Friday, August 12, 2016

If you have not listened to this concert, GO NOW. NOT EVEN KIDDING.

This closes the interview. I thank her. She says, "You're welcome," and my editor and I leave the car. We sit on the stairs for a few minutes to catch our breath. We spent all weekend chasing Lauryn Hill, hoping to have this conversation about her voice. I compared it to a video game with infinite levels you didn't even know existed, like when you beat a level and you think you won, but then you go through a door and there's a whole other world you have to conquer. Getting to Lauryn Hill was like that.

Sara Sarasohn, my editor, compared the chase to the Israelites rising up and following the cloud over the Tent of Meeting. In the Torah, when the Israelites are wandering in the desert, there was a cloud over the Tent of Meeting, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. When the cloud lifted and moved, the Israelites would see it and know that it was time for them to move as well in their journey through the desert. It was like the presence of Hill was this cloud that we could see in the distance, and we were trying to follow it, and finally, we got to the Tent of Meeting.

Sitting on the stairs together, Sara and I couldn't help but cry, just a little. We talked to Lauryn Hill. And she's doing fine.

- Zoe Chace, 2010

Ms. Lauryn Hill on Austin City Limits "Ready or Not"

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Monday, August 8, 2016


Eugene Lee as August Wilson in "How I Learned What I Learned"

August Wilson, The Art of Theater No. 14 (Winter 1999)

You were the director.

And I acted when the actors didn’t show up. As the director, I knew all the lines and I took over more times than I wanted to. I didn’t know much about directing, but I was the only one willing to do it. Someone had looked around and said, “Who’s going to be the director?” I said, “I will.” I said that because I knew my way around the library. So I went to look for a book on how to direct a play. I found one called The Fundamentals of Play Directing and checked it out. I didn’t understand anything in it. It was all about form and mass and balance. I flipped through the book and there in Appendix A I discovered what to do on the first day of rehearsal. It said, “Read the play.” So I went to the first rehearsal very confidently and I said, “Okay, this is what we’re going to do. We’re going to read the play.” We did that. Now what? I hadn’t got to Appendix B. So I said, “Let’s read the play again.” That night I went back to the book and sort of figured out what to do from that point on.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Saturday, July 16, 2016



Friday, July 15, 2016

and I kneel down and pray

you can turn it off or on

That first "Hey baby" just absolutely fucking slays me.
So far 2016 seems like one of those years that gets described in history books like "As the world slid farther and faster towards fascism, most citizens felt powerless to do anything other than witness the horror." Jesus fucking wept.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Monday, July 11, 2016


Method actors like to talk about something called “public solitude” — that is, the ability to seem alone onstage. Really, to be alone, without wondering how you look to the audience. They will tell you this is the basis of naturalistic acting: to forget about the audience. Only then can you build a character, pay attention to others onstage and act out a scene.
To write a story also requires public solitude. You can’t be worrying how you sound. You can’t wonder whether you or your characters are likable or smart or interesting. You have to be inside the scene — the tactile world of tables and chairs and sunlight — attending to your characters, people who exist for you in nonvirtual reality. This takes weird brain chemistry. (A surprising number of novelists hear voice, and not metaphorically. They hear voice in their heads.) It also takes years of reading — solitary reading.
For all these reasons, writing fiction is pretty much the opposite of writing a good tweet, or curating an Instagram feed. It’s the opposite of the personal-­­­slash-professional writing that is now part of our everyday lives. More than ever, we need writers who are unprofessional, whose private worlds come first.
Women are good at translation. We are culturally programmed for it. We learn early on to translate the world we inhabit: to adapt the stories that permeate our culture to have meaning for us; to adapt our own stories to be amenable to the male ears that might be listening; to adapt our bodies, our voices, our words, our thoughts to make them acceptable.  We translate to find our own stories in a male narrative, and our own vision in a world framed by a male lens.
From childhood, we develop this skill....Of course, this type of translation is not a linear search for linguistic equivalence. It does not prioritise a seeming originary text. It does not see a clear progression from source to target. It does not even consider fidelity to the source important – because that source invariably negates the female experience. It is a lateral, rhizomatic form of translation that gives a resigned shrug and weary sigh to the traditionalists’ frequently, and tediously, trotted out axiom, traduttore traditore(translator, traitor), and carries on regardless with its own meaning creation and quiet works of subversion.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

books read in July 2016

Fiction is in red. Date of first publication in (parentheses).

35. The Dead Ladies Project: Exiles, Expats, and Ex-Countries, Jessa Crispin (2015) (AKA 'Eat, Pray, Sulk'; remarkably shallow and twee)
36. An Abbreviated Life, Ariel Leve (2016)
37. Stone Mattress, Margaret Atwood (2014) (deliciously wicked indeed)
38. The Lyre of Orpheus, Robertson Davies (1988) (reread)
39. Truth: Red, White & Black, Robert Morales and Kyle Baker (2004)
40. The Marriage Plot, Jeffrey Eugenides (2011) (just BAD)
41. Kill the Messenger: How the CIA's Crack-cocaine Controversy Destroyed Journalist Gary Webb, Nick Schou (2006)
42. The Killing Game: Selected Writings by the author of Dark Alliance, Gary Webb (2011)
43. Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion, Gary Webb (2nd ed., 1999)
44. You Will Know Me, Megan Abbott (2016) (very disappointing; time to stop buying her books new)
45. Aftermath, Rachel Cusk (2012)
46. Hagar, Barbara Hambly (2015)
47. Death on the Moon, Barbara Hambly (2016)

all 2016 booklist posts

Monday, July 4, 2016

smash those faces bro we're watching The Social Network (yeah I am ALWAYS this behind the cultural curve, I go back so far, I'm in front of me as McCartney sings) and the impression I have so far from the first half-hour is that if Zuckerdude had been able to keep his mouth shut long enough to get a pity fuck from a townie girl, our future here-and-now would be OH SO VERY different.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Chuck Klosterman apparently just went through incredible contortions (and so many words!) to answer "What artist would represent Rock and Roll far in the future?" and admitted the obvious fucking answer would be the Beatles, but then he'd get paid about ten cents for the goddamn article. Then he admits the second obvious fucking answer is Elvis, but somehow he has to cram Bob Dylan in there, because....don't ask me, man. (Bob Dylan, rock? Really?) So he talks and talks and he talks and then finally the grand conclusion is --

Chuck fucken Berry.

I like Chuck Berry okay but oh my fucking God, no.

Also nobody has to pay anyone else to cudgel their brains and kill trees pixels to come up with an answer to this question anymore, because I found it for all time after thinking for five fucking minutes:


You know who is not mentioned once in that fucken article as far as I can tell?


Yeah, Klosterman, I don't motherfucking care if two white people picked Chuck Berry to represent us all on Voyager. The answer to your fucking question is


I mean, JESUS FUCKING CHRIST. He caps it all off triumphantly with a quote from John goddamn Lennon anointing Chuck Berry. I can top you there, man. (And of course I can't find this interview right now, dammit. I know I have it in a book somewhere....)

INTERVIEWER: What musicians have influenced you?
INTERVIEWER: ....and what other musicians have influenced you?

This right here is the fucking biggest way Gen Exers get fucked over, man. We're squeezed to death between the Baby Boom and the Millennials, nobody gave a damn when our futures went bust in the nineties, grunge is a hissing and a byword when it's not a joke, and our NYT-sanctified spokesperson is....Chuck fucking Klosterman.

Who has apparently never heard a BO DIDDLEY RECORD IN HIS ENTIRE LIFE. I don't even fucking know. It's like being represented by Elmer Fudd.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Loneliness is personal, and it is also political. Loneliness is collective; it is a city. As to how to inhabit it, there are no rules and nor is there any need to feel shame, only to remember that the pursuit of individual happiness does not trump or excuse our obligations to each other. We are in this together, this accumulation of scars, this world of objects, this physical and temporary heaven that so often takes on the countenance of hell. What matters is kindness; what matters is solidarity. What matters is staying alert, staying open, because if we know anything from what has gone before us, it is that the time for feeling will not last.

-- Olivia Laing

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The signature to a life requires
the search for a method
rejection of posturing
trust in the witnesses
a vial of invisible ink
a sheet of paper held steady
after the end-stroke
above a deciphering flame

- Adrienne Rich, 2011