Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Sander Levin (D-MI) to House Speaker John Boehner

Dum Dum Girls - Rimbaud Eyes [OFFICIAL VIDEO] - subpoprecords @ UTU

Hunters - Narcissist (Live on KEXP)

James Vincent McMorrow: 'The Lakes,' Live At Gigstock In The Greene Space (WNYC)

cultural mashup

We went to the Jewish Family Service of Seattle food bank today and there was this exchange:

VOLUNTEER (to OLDER VIETNAMESE LADY in front of us): Matzoh ball mix?

OLDER VIETNAMESE LADY: .....what is that?

VOLUNTEER: Uh, matzoh, you know, unleavened bread? It was just Passover.... //trails off


DIFFERENT VOLUNTEER: //firmly Dumplings.

FIRST VOLUNTEER: Yes! Dumplings!

OLDER VIETNAMESE LADY: Dumplings! Well, why you not say so. //all laughing Yes please.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Jessye Norman, "When I Am Laid in Earth" (Purcell, Dido & Aeneas)

Chandelier, Palácio da Ilha Fiscal, Rio de Janeiro


Tropic of Cancer - The One Left (Room 205)

"On Poet-Ape," Ben Jonson

Poor Poet-Ape, that would be thought our chief,
Whose works are e’en the frippery of wit,
From brokage is become so bold a thief,
As we, the robb’d, leave rage, and pity it.
At first he made low shifts, would pick and glean,
Buy the reversion of old plays; now grown
To a little wealth, and credit in the scene,
He takes up all, makes each man’s wit his own:
And, told of this, he slights it. Tut, such crimes
The sluggish gaping auditor devours;
He marks not whose ‘twas first: and after-times
May judge it to be his, as well as ours.
Fool! as if half eyes will not know a fleece
From locks of wool, or shreds from the whole piece?


Forecasters predict a high of 59 degrees and partly sunny skies on Monday. Then it gets better: Tuesday, sunny, high of 70 degrees; Wednesday, sunny, high of 79 degrees; Thursday, sunny, high of 79 degrees; and Friday, partly sunny, high of 73 degrees.

The warm weather is unusual for Seattle. In the last 70 years, the National Weather Service at Sea-Tac Airport has recorded high temperatures of at least 80 degrees 11 times in April. The last time was 10 years ago.

On average, Seattle doesn't get an 80-degree day until late May.

- via

There's no A/C in our apartment building (dates from 1912), it's poorly insulated so it's stuffy and drafty and any cooling in the summer or warmth in the winter that we manage to pay for leaks out immediately, and I get migraines when it's hot and bright. Joy.  I guess I can always walk to the giant bright shiny air-conditioned tourist trap library.

I hope John Boehner had a nice vacation

As of Friday I am officially too fucking broke to afford my crazymeds for three months (sertraline and oxcarbazepine -- sixty bucks combined at Costco, about an hour and a half walk distant), whee. I can't afford a month's worth of generic Sudafed, either, which means I'm going to have the vertigo and sinus infections and tinnitus and face pain again. Running low on Prilosec, which I take a megadose of every day to help with chronic pancreatitis and severe GERD.

At least I still have about half a bottle of Advil. Yay.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

from the "Note-book of Anton Chekhov"

Essentially all this is crude and meaningless, and romantic love appears as meaningless as an avalanche which involuntarily rolls down a mountain and overwhelms people. But when one listens to music, all this is: that some people lie in their graves and sleep, and that one woman is alive—gray-haired, she is sitting in a box in the theatre, quiet and majestic, and the avalanche seems no longer meaningless, since in nature everything has a meaning. And everything is forgiven, and it would be strange not to forgive.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Keats & Woolf, aww yeah (Negative Capability)

Cannot wait for this book, either.

To me, the grounds for hope are simply that we don’t know what will happen next, and that the unlikely and the unimaginable transpire quite regularly. And that the unofficial history of the world shows that dedicated individuals and popular movements can shape history and have, though how and when we might win and how long it takes is not predictable.

Despair is a form of certainty, certainty that the future will be a lot like the present or will decline from it; despair is a confident memory of the future, in Gonzalez’s resonant phrase. Optimism is similarly confident about what will happen. Both are grounds for not acting. Hope can be the knowledge that we don’t have that memory and that reality doesn’t necessarily match our plans; hope like creative ability can come from what the Romantic poet John Keats called Negative Capability.

On a midwinter’s night in 1817, a little over a century before Woolf’s journal entry on darkness, the poet John Keats walked home talking with some friends and as he wrote in a celebrated letter describing that walk, “several things dove-tailed in my mind, and at once it struck me what quality went to form a Man of Achievement, especially in Literature.… I mean Negative Capability, that is, when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.”

- Rebecca Solnit (my heroine)

Le Guin and Jackson encounter! (sort of)

Among those who were confused about Jackson’s intentions [in "The Lottery"] was Alfred L. Kroeber, an anthropologist at the University of California, Berkeley. “If Shirley Jackson’s intent was to symbolize into complete mystification, and at the same time be gratuitously disagreeable, she certainly succeeded,” he wrote. In an e-mail to me, Kroeber’s daughter, the novelist Ursula Le Guin, who was nineteen years old when “The Lottery” appeared, recalled her father’s reaction: “My memory is that my father was indignant at Shirley Jackson’s story because as a social anthropologist he felt that she didn’t, and couldn’t, tell us how the lottery could come to be an accepted social institution.” Since Jackson presented her fantasy “with all the trappings of contemporary realism,” Le Guin said, her father felt that she was “pulling a fast one” on the reader.


“We’ll have to name him something,” Phyllis said.

I think Shirley’s use of the name Circe was to make sure that the reader understands the mythological components, just in case he hadn’t noticed. The symbols are abundant and almost playful, such as suggesting the Fool and his dog from the tarot as a previous, unsuccessful visitor. My mother took great care with the names of her characters. When their names are common, that is intentional, and when she names them Summers and Graves and Constance and Oakes she does so with much meaning.

....Shirley gives us a lot of information in few words; her images are complex and symbolic. She structured her stories with seriousness and craft. Her writing is very compact, and she does not waste words or toss things in meaninglessly. When she repeats words, it is to make certain that the reader has not somehow missed them. She expected a certain literacy from her reader, or at least the ability to pay attention, since she considered the writer and reader to be partners.

 - Shirley Jackson's son on "The Man in the Woods"

(cannot WAIT for that new collection) (am now also REALLY looking forward to Ruth Franklin's new bio, because I finished her book on Holocaust fiction last night and that was fucking amazing)

“You would have to go through the woods to get here,” his host agreed soberly.

“What’s your name?” the first woman asked Christopher, and he said “Christopher” without effort and then, “What’s yours?”

“Phyllis,” the young woman said. “What’s your cat’s name?”

“I don’t know,” Christopher said. He smiled a little. “It’s not even my cat,” he went on, his voice gathering strength from the smell of the onions. “He just followed me here.”

“We’ll have to name him something,” Phyllis said. When she spoke she looked away from Christopher, turning her overlarge eyes on him again only when she stopped speaking. “Our cat’s named Grimalkin.”

“Grimalkin,” Christopher said.

“Her name,” Phyllis said, gesturing toward the cook with her head. “Her name’s Aunt Cissy.”

“Circe,” the older woman said doggedly to the stove. “Circe I was born and Circe I will have for my name till I die.”

- from a recently discovered short story by Shirley Jackson

David Foster Wallace once asked, quoting, he said, a friend, “Has the son of a bitch ever had one unpublished thought?”

"His papers, deposited at Harvard, include his golf scorecards -- "

-- you are fucking shitting me

("But after reading a chapter or two a shadow seemed to lie across the page. it was a straight dark bar, a shadow shaped something like the letter ‘I’. One began dodging this way and that to catch a glimpse of the landscape behind it. Whether that was indeed a tree or a woman walking I was not quite sure. Back one was always hailed to the letter ‘I’. One began to be tired of ‘I’. Not but what this ‘I’ was a most respectable ‘I’; honest and logical; as hard as a nut, and polished for centuries by good teaching and good feeding. I respect and admire that ‘I’ from the bottom of my heart. But — here I turned a page or two, looking for something or other the worst of it is that in the shadow of the letter ‘I’ all is shapeless as mist. Is that a tree? No, it is a woman. But.. . she has not a bone in her body, I thought, watching Phoebe, for that was her name, coming across the beach. Then Alan got up and the shadow of Alan at once obliterated Phoebe....")

(Also Menand is flat-out damn wrong with "Updike did avoid making Martha explicitly the basis for fictional characters" -- I read the book, and Ruth in the Maples stories is clearly Martha, and Begley himself says she's also the wife in Toward the End of Time, down to the deer-killing. Arguably, when he agreed not to write about Martha or her children, mainly because Martha's first husband threatened him with legal action, he wrote some of his worst stuff that showed his total failure of inventive power: The Coup, Brazil, Terrorist, Gertrude & Claudius, &c &c. -- And "He wanted to rescue serious fiction from what he saw as a doctrinaire rejection of middle-class life," okay fine, and his allies were "Henry Green, Vladimir Nabokov, J. D. Salinger, and Roth" -- SALINGER? Fellow-New-Yorker-writer disappeared-up-his-own-mystical-asshole whose character bitterly complains about psychiatrists "adjusting people to the joys of television, and Life magazine every Wednesday, and European travel" Salinger? That one? And I don't think Nabokov ever wrote about middle-class life, much less rejected it.)

(WTF: Updike "wanted to biopsy a minute sample of the social tissue and reproduce the results in the form of a permanent verbal artifact" like Proust, Joyce, Austen and James -- //THROWS UP HANDS)

(PERMANENT VERBAL ARTIFACT. Fuckit, I'm going to go read Wilkie Collins or something.)

fucking corporeality, how does it work

As it turned out I did not go along on today's trip to the food bank, because something I ate yesterday -- very probably the plain PB&J sandwich that food bank offered us, and which, yes, I ate, despite not having eaten highly processed bread or peanut butter or even goddamn jam for about a year now, because I was hungry and had had a bowl of oatmeal about two hours before and was looking at a forty-five-minute-long walk back. Shortly after I got home I had some black tea (no Silk or creamer) and was rewarded with some nasty stomach cramps, severe nausea, and other stuff you don't want to hear about. Goddamn chronic pancreatitis.

-- Also: If you are ever in a position to donate to a food bank and want to know what people truly need, I will tell you right here and now: NOT BEANS. (Especially not dried beans, that shit takes fucking forever to soak.) NOT BREAD. NOT PASTA. NOT BOXES OF MAC AND CHEESE. Food banks have that shit coming out of their ears. Not potatoes either. Produce! Something green and not-too-perishable, like zucchinis or cucumbers or maybe radishes or turnips, but hell, even canned fruit or giant bags of frozen JGG crap, if the food bank takes frozen stuff. Pears! Apples! Dried cranberries! Fucking Sun-Maid raisins! But for the love of saints and little fishes, LAY OFF THE POTATOES. (We have like three big bags of them now in the cupboard, I'm not even kidding. And T's not supposed to eat a lot of carbs....) There is also the Unmade Holiday Pie syndrome, where people buy a bunch of canned cherries and canned pumpkin and horrible fake cranberry stuff, and never make the pies and the cans sit there until they get taken to the food bank. Take it from me: you help noone when you donate three cans of horrible fake cranberry goo. No one.

(Canned pumpkin actually does work for us, even tho I HATE pumpkin, because we mix it in with our cats' food to keep them regular. But somehow "here, we want to make sure your cat can poop!" doesn't seem to be the rationale behind people donating pumpkin, I would guess. Altho a dear friend of mine suggested a Keep The Cats Regular food drive would be popular....)

GPOY, as they say

For years, I’ve spoken about immersing myself in the web’s ceaseless flow – of the glut of RSS feeds, the rushing stream of Twitter, or the never-ending cluster of tabs. Well-managed, that’s all and fine and good. It just takes a well-tuned ability to focus on what’s important to oneself, and quickly and efficiently cast off what is not.

But I now realize that, at least for someone like myself, that kind of decentred approach in which one is constantly left attempting to constitute a relationship to the sea of information – orienting oneself not only ideologically, but pragmatically in terms of ‘the attention economy’ – can be draining. It can be overwhelming. I’ve recently found myself paralyzed, partly because I’m always seeing so many different sides of things, but also because uttering an opinion – something I have to do to pay the bills – often takes the form of attempting to get all sides of an argument right. I find it leaves me stretched – as if I am writing as a mythical neutral character rather than myself.

Navneet Alang

Friday, April 25, 2014

OMG I did not even know this existed

the Hungarian cook's answer to "Does it need more garlic?" is always "Yes."

Walked about 2 mi (there and back) to local produce food bank but was it worth it -- lovely red onions, nice cucumbers, some fine potatoes, real fresh (not frozen!) peas, some bread that I thought at first was just a plain white baked loaf but actually turned out to be sourdough with some beautiful seasoning -- rosemary? garlic? I do not know. It was quite a treat, which you don't expect from the food bank.

HOWEVER. I really don't know what to do with the cucumbers, aside from make uborkasaláta (Hungarian cucumber salad) out of them, and that involves all kinds of stuff I don't have and don't eat anymore anyway, like salt and sugar and white vinegar and sour cream. (Hungarians love sour cream. They put sour cream on their sour cream.) And I want to make something more substantial, not a summery salad dish. Do I bake them? Fry them? Boil them? What?

(Other stuff I do not have right now either that the online recipe sites suggest using: bell peppers, dill, tomatoes, radishes, carrots, shallots, cheese, &c &c. We're going off to another food bank in the morning which promises fresh produce, so I'm hopeful.) (I don't have any FRESH garlic and right now I am down to about the last of even the powdered garlic -- my grandmother would be so ashamed of me. //hangs head How can a Hungarian cook make dinner without garlic? It is cruel and unusual punishment!)

....Damn, real fresh peas -- not canned, not frozen -- are seriously worth eating by themselves, raw, no cooking required, or seasoning even. I did not know this.

from 'The Pure Lover: A Memoir of Grief' by David Plante

You liked a Greek folk poem, which you said originated in the deep tradition of native Greek surrealism, and in which kisses turn lips red, and when the lips are wiped on a handkerchief the handkerchief turns red, and the handkerchief when washed in a river turns the river red, and the river running into the sea turns the sea red, and an eagle drinking red water becomes red, and the sun and the moon become red.



//dives into Mayhem



OMG OMG OH THANK GOD I want to chew her doctor's face off, though but OMG holy shit go say Mazel Tov! This is wonderful!

I'm sure you can too

SPOUSAL OVERUNIT: But why does it annoy you so much if your most popular post is a picture of a bee?*

OUR HEROINE: Because it isn't one about Charlotte Brontë.

SPOUSAL OVERUNIT: .....I can see that.

*still not quite sure but I don't really care enough/have a long enough attention span to figure it out

Thursday, April 24, 2014

a terrible terrible email

Your Kindle is out of memory space

Dear Moira

We are writing about your Kindle (Moira's Paperwhite).  Content is waiting to be downloaded to your device but your Kindle does not have enough memory space left to receive this content. To free up memory, go to the Home screen on your Kindle to remove items you no longer need on your device. Note that a copy of Kindle content you purchase from Amazon is kept at the Manage Your Content and Devices page on This Amazon service securely stores all of your Kindle books and recent issues of newspapers and magazines and allows you to retrieve them if you have previously deleted them from your Kindle.  You can also retrieve this deleted content from "Archived Items", found on your Kindle's Home screen.




checked out from the library

At least my poverty means the Seattle Public Library is getting a workout!....probably their budget will be slashed soon (again), hah.

The Pure Lover: A Memoir of Grief, David Plante
Becoming a Londoner: A Diary, David Plante (these were next to each other on the 'Biography' shelf) (ah! browsing! how I missed you!)
At Home with Beatrix Potter (nice big picture book), Susan Denyer
Beatrix Potter: A Life in Nature, Linda Lear (have an e-copy of this but the hardback has some REALLY nice colour plates, esp of her artwork)
The Mystery of Lewis Carroll, Jenny Woolf
The Diaries of Richard Burton, ed. Chris Williams
Demon Camp, Jennifer Percy

....yes, I DO love reading biographies and diaries and memoirs way too much, why do you even ask.

The cats were VERY excited about the Mylar-sheathed library books. The tiny stripey one started licking a book as if it were a lollipop (she loves plastic. Anything and all things plastic), and the big fat black one whuffed around a couple before letting out some throaty trills and stropping the carpet under the books, so they jumped about. They have IMAX-level smell-O-vision, I guess.

Monday, April 21, 2014

possibly the best comment anyone has ever left on the internet

Step 1: Go to website of person who said something bad about that thing you love.
Step 2: Be obnoxious enough to get banned by repeatedly hammering the No, It Is You Who Is Intolerance point.
Step 3: Go off into the night surrounded by the warm glow of self-righteousness, secure in the knowledge that you have Proven A Point On The Internet.

As hobbies go, I mean, I suppose it beats heroin. But are Scrabble or philately such boring alternatives to this? Are there no gardens to water or walks to take outside?

- via The Radish

Sunday, April 20, 2014

it's good for your blood, dearie

Recently, the Onion spoofed an ad campaign in which Applebee’s encouraged hipsters to visit their restaurants “ironically” and middle-aged adults to make fun of hipsters. The parody describes four “with it” young folks “seriously” eating their dinner at Applebee’s while ridiculing the food, service and atmosphere. Behind them sit three sad, middle-aged adults mocking the hipsters, sarcastically saying “because I know who the latest bands are I am too cool to eat a cheeseburger without making fun of it.” Neither group is genuinely happy about their meal or station in life. The Onion’s satire points out that irony and formality have become the same thing. At one time, irony served to reveal hypocrisies, but now it simply acknowledges one’s cultural compliance and familiarity with pop trends. The art of irony has lost its vision and its edge. The rebellious posture of the past has been annexed by the very commercialism it sought to defy.

- 'David Foster Wallace was right'

reading Sunday

Sue Townsend saved my life over the weekend when I binged on ALL the Adrian Mole books, altho I think I was too distressed to catalogue them, WHOOPS. (Other people express psychic distress through dirty kitchens or lapses in personal grooming; for me, it's when my bookblogging goes to pot.) The Confessions of was really a ragbag and I didn't care quite as much for the last four books (except the "Lost" 9/11 one was fantastic), but the first two are absolute gems. But even Wilderness Years, which I thought was the weakest link, had me guffawing out loud unexpectedly as no writer does other than Pratchett. (And in a way Pratchett and Townsend are similar -- the social criticism, the liberalism, the wild flights of fantasy that are carefully elaborated rather than just flung out, and therefore are irresistibly funny.) I think I'd rank them thus:

The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾ -- 1600 on the old SATs, all the O-levels, Olympic gold medal, however you want to put it. Amazing. How had I never read this before? But if I'd read it before, I wouldn't've been able to read it this weekend, and might have wound up a corpse being chewed on by my cats right now, dead of sheer misery.
The Growing Pains of Adrian Mole -- only slightly less funny, which is even more amazing.
Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years -- I might consider this a kind of weird authorial fanfic rather than the end of the series (haha, Angel series finale syndrome). WMD is a much better conclusion. That said, it is still fucking hilarious. And heartbreaking. And it is the last one! There are no more! //cries
The Lost Diaries of Adrian Mole, 1999-2001 -- bitterly funny.
Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction -- even more bitterly funny, and then it gets you right at the end, WHAM.
Adrian Mole: The Cappuccino Years -- I warmed up to this one after a while, and Adrian's fumbling attempts at parenting Rosie and Glenn are genuinely moving. Got pretty fucking sick of Pandora, tho.
Adrian Mole: The Wilderness Years -- the only book that was distinctly ehh. I didn't like the Love Interest appearing at the end, or the writing retreat, or nearly anything about it.
The True Confessions of Adrian Albert Mole -- more a rough collection than anything else, but some bits were fun.

I also read How to Disappear Completely by Kelsey Osgood, which was amazingly awful, like a really sour, mean-spirited, unedited, overlong blog entry -- particularly when she detailed her jealousy of Marya Hornbacher not once but several times, which gave me severe second-hand embarrassment for her just reading about it. Then the back of the book informed me most of her experience as a pro writer seems to be for....blogs (Psychology Today, Random House), and much was explained. There is a book to be written about how memoirs about addiction and anorexia and alcoholism and even other diseases which don't begin with A simultaneously glorify the very illness they're supposedly proscribing. This really is not it. Not even close.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Sue Townsend is saving my life right now

I am reading The Black Prince, by Iris Murdoch. I can only understand one word in ten. It is now my ambition to actually enjoy one of her books. Then I will know I am above the common herd.

- The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾

Thursday, April 17, 2014

books checked out from the library

In absolutely no particular order:

A Difficult Woman: The Challenging Life and Times of Lillian Hellman, Alice Kessler-Harris
Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers, Janet Malcolm
Play it Again: Against the Impossible, Alan Rusbridger
Nothing Was the Same: A Memoir, Kay Redfield Jamison
Strings Attached: One Tough Teacher and the Gift of Great Expectations, Joanne Lipman and Melanie Kupchynsky
A Romance on Three Legs: Glenn Gould’s Obsessive Quest for the Perfect Piano, Katie Hafner
The Book of Lost Books, Stuart Kelly
The Collected Poems of Denise Levertov
The Returned, Jason Mott 
One Doctor: Close Calls, Cold Cases, and the Mysteries of Medicine, Brendan Reilly

....and that was just the stuff available in my dinky little local branch, I haven't even started ordering from other branches or, God help them, INTERLIBRARY LOAN yet, MWAHAHAHA.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


I want to start up a reading log again, only without the chirpy questions and dull format that made me abandon the last one, so this will be much more informal. I don't feel compelled to write up every book, or even go on for that long (HA, haha) at first. Let's see how it goes.

Books read this month (so far):

Forty-One False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers, Janet Malcolm. Malcolm, like Kael or Sontag, is for me always interesting and irritating, simultaneously -- such subjective (and often wrong) judgments, rendered with Olympian conviction in clarion prose, so intelligent and so often deliberately wrongheaded. Malcolm's books have always been short yet spectacularly dense, like condensed matter, but this book is more of a falling-off: just about half of it is taken up with a pointless reprint of "A Girl of the Zeitgeist," Malcolm's adoring thirty-year-old lengthy profile of Ingrid Sischy (what everyone remembers from this piece is the flattering yet condemning description of her chopping tomatoes. Only Malcolm). It's not even updated with an epilogue (in fact, some reviewers don't seem to realize it's from 1986). There are some real gems here -- "A House of One's Own," about Vanessa Bell and her apparent melding of domesticity and pure art, "Salinger's Cigarettes," a reconsideration of Franny and Zooey, and of course Malcolm's aggravated attack on the giant Arbus retrospective (which Zoe Heller writes about amazingly, and why aren't you reading that right now?) -- but the majority of pieces don't quite come off. A pallid portrayal of Thomas Struth, now famous for photographing the Queen, and some weak, brief considerations of Gene Porter-Stratton, Edward Weston, nude photography, the Gossip Girl books (for Christ's sake) and William Shawn's son's memoir, are all jumbled together without much structural or thematic connection. The last three bits (eulogies for Shawn, Joseph Mitchell, and a very weird disavowal of autobiography) are, plainly, squibs. It's dismaying to find stuff in a Malcolm collection which would fit in one of those late everything-and-the-kitchen-sink-plus-the-plumber's-crack Updike holdalls. In fine, this isn't any better than the equally disappointing late Malcolm works, Iphigenia in Forest Hills and The Crime of Sheila McGough. But I could (and have) read the Bell and Salinger pieces over and over again. I just wish they were in a book worthy of them.

(I don't even know what to say about the title piece, it just went on forever and made no sense, and I believe it was planned that way and it's so coy and unrevealing and Everyone else loves it, apparently. Good for them. I am alone in wishing that she'd expanded the piece on Vanessa into something like Two Lives or The Silent Woman, sigh.)

The Grave Tattoo, Val McDermid. I read this mainly because Beatrice mentioned it. I had the exact opposite problem that every other critic/reader did with this book: too much modern era, not enough Wordsworth literary history! Also, the two murder storylines, in the past and the present, really didn’t have anything to do with each other at all. Nevertheless, a fun read, and much less upsetting/problematic than the Tony Hill books, none of which I am ever ever reading again (I think I got through two and a half before giving up and running screaming).

Updike, Adam Begley. I have a much longer post planned about this which I will probably never write despite having two pages of notes on it, haha! //cries -- It's a lot better than the giant Cheever and Carver biographies, which, again, everyone loved but me, in that it does attempt to show you some connection between Updike's life and art rather than just detailing how the subject was a complete asshole who, oh yeah, somehow wrote some great stuff on the side. It was quite well-written, except when the author repeatedly indulged himself in some annoying faux-Nabokovian Updike alliteration (see what I did there), and he falls down completely on the question of sexism, and is insulting about feminist critics/criticism/anything feminist. This doesn't happen until fairly late in the book, though. It's much too short and was I think written ENTIRELY without any contribution at all from Updike's second wife, but nevertheless it's still pretty good.

Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness, Susannah Cahalan. Sadly, truly overrated. You have to hesitate about criticizing the writing style of someone who lived through major brain trauma (or at least, I do) but the accolades about how wonderful her writing was just annoyed me. Despite the hype there's no real sense of her doing "investigative reporting" on her own life, unlike, say, The Night of the Gun, because she just goes ahead and fills in chronologically with third-person perspectives mostly gleaned from her parents.

-- That's not even half of what I read but suddenly I'm very tired so I'll just wrap this up with:

I'm right now reading Manhunt: The Twelve-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, by James L. Swanson, which took some gentle ribbing, as I recall, when it first came out for being kind of an action adventure movie of a book. It's certainly not well-written -- the style ranges from clunky to florid to pedestrian, often within the same sentence ("now that Booth had slowed down, the pain in his left leg bloomed under the moonlight....relief trickled down the wounded assassin's spine") -- but hell, I like some action adventure movies (we just saw Skyfall on Netflix streaming), and more to the point, this is one of those stories where the events themselves are so gripping the author doesn't have to do much more than just get out of the damn way. It's our great collective murder ballad, the tragic wound at the heart of our country, and probably would remain riveting even if acted out with finger puppets.

Booth's calling card - Shakespeare, Lincoln, and Ambition - Lincoln's Life Mask

has Kakutani really not read a Faulkner bio?

After a dear friend sent me Mona Simpson's Casebook and I was rummaging around on the internet for reviews (LOVED Anywhere But Here, heard her read from the then-just-published The Lost Father at Prairie Lights, haven't liked anything she's done since) I found Michiko Kakutani's review of A Regular Guy:
When she mentions one night that Shakespeare wasn't rich, he snaps back: ''Who remembers Shakespeare's daughter?'
For which the obvious reference is a much-quoted line by Jill Faulkner, Count No 'Count's daughter:
I went to him – the only time I ever did – and said, ‘Please don’t start drinking.’ And he was already well on his way, and he turned to me and said, ‘You know, no one remembers Shakespeare’s child.’ I never asked him again.
I would expect the famous book reviewer for, you know, the NEW YORK FUCKING TIMES to at least pick up the parallel, but I guess not. Maybe she ran out of review space.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

"Intake Interview," Franz Wright

What is today’s date?

Who is the President?

How great a danger do you pose, on a scale of one to ten?

What does “people who live in glass houses” mean?

Every symphony is a suicide postponed, true or false?

Should each individual snowflake be held accountable for the avalanche?

Name five rivers.

What do you see yourself doing in ten minutes?

How about some lovely soft Thorazine music?

If you could have half an hour with your father, what would you say to him?

What should you do if I fall asleep?

Are you still following in his mastodon footsteps?

What is the moral of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”?

What about his Everest shadow?

Would you compare your education to a disease so rare no one else has ever had it, or the deliberate extermination of indigenous populations?

Which is more puzzling, the existence of suffering or its frequent absence?

Should an odd number be sacrificed to the gods of the sky, and an even to those of the underworld, or vice versa?

Would you visit a country where nobody talks?

What would you have done differently?

Why are you here?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

February 9 1964

James Agee in answer to a survey from the Partisan Review, 1939

Have you found it possible to make a living by writing the sort of thing you want to, and without the aid of such crutches as teaching and editorial work? Do you think there is any place in our present economic system for literature as a profession? 

No; no living. Nor do I think there is any place in our etcetera for "literature" as a "profession," unless you mean for professional litterateurs, who are a sort of high-class spiritual journalist and the antichrist of all good work. Nor do I think your implied desire that under a "good system" there would be such a place for real "writers" is to be respected or other than deplored. A good artist is a deadly enemy of society; and the most dangerous thing that can happen to an enemy, no matter how cynical, is to become a beneficiary. No society, no matter how good, could be mature enough to support a real artist without mortal danger to that artist.

Friday, April 11, 2014

a shitty superpower

Believe it or not, they knew about your mood long before you returned from the fridge, flopped on the couch and let out that long, beer-tainted sigh. It's another defense mechanism (notice a pattern here?) that they picked up years before they even knew of your existence. When Mom or Dad's moods started to fluctuate, bad shit happened. Over time, the kids learned that those moods always had telltale signs that predicted their eruptions. Ash that preceded the lava.

At first you take notice, even if it's subconsciously, that before Dad explodes, he starts rubbing his temples. Big, obvious things like that. But over time, you can't help but pick up on more subtle signs. He lets out a very soft sigh when it's going to be just a quick stick-and-move belittling session. He fidgets with his lighter when it's going to be a really bad one. The skill is developed so that when you see it happening, you can either brace yourself for the train wreck, or you can make yourself scarce so you don't have to deal with it.

Just like any skill, the more you use it, the better you get. Over the years, it becomes so woven into the fabric of your personality, you couldn't remove it without completely breaking down who you are as a person and rebuilding the cloth from scratch. So it's rarely ever a case of the person just trying to smother their partner with attention out of some sense of insecurity. It's force of habit. Alarms are going off in their subconscious that shit is about to hit the fan, and they need to defuse that bomb before it goes off. And anything can trip the alarm. The slightest change in tone of voice. The most subtle shift in eyebrows before you speak. The way you're standing. A simple change in your daily routine. The subtle way you look them in the eyes and say, "I'm about to physically punch you directly in the face with my fist. Here I go."

It sounds like a damn superpower, but it can be a real problem in relationships, because the constant questioning and attempts to fix the other person's bad mood can be suffocating. Every person needs to be allowed room to vent their stress and frustrations, but that thought scares the ever-loving shit out of the person who lived through a dysfunctional family. Because he's used to those very things being followed by aggression and hate.

- John Cheese

Sunday, April 6, 2014

it only plays the songs that no one's asking for

actual conversation that just happened in our actual house

"HAH, the cat vomit would have described a parabolic _arc_! Don't mess with me, I took conic geometry! I bet you think Apollonius was Prince's girlfriend!"

Thursday, April 3, 2014


It makes me sad to think about how much I became a ghost in my circle of friends in the last few years. Group dinners, vacations, brunches, shopping trips, nights out at bars and clubs just became less and less a part of my existence until most of the time nobody really bothered to try to include me. I never blamed any of my friends for that; you can only decline invitations because you're literally too poor to participate for so long until people just stop asking. I'm lucky, or perhaps unlucky enough depending on how you look at it, to have some incredibly successful friends who worked really hard and put in the effort to become very well paid in their respective jobs. It's not so much that you envy your friends' success or are jealous of them, it's more that being around people who you consider your peers who all managed to "make it" when you yourself continually stumble and fall makes you question whether you really even belong with that crowd. Being the only fuck up in the room becomes a pretty dark cloud that you'd rather not expose anyone to after a while.

- Christian Gabriel

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

almost good enough to make up for that whole 'Booker-before-she-was-thirty' thing

The reader who is outraged by being “forced” to look up an unfamiliar word — characterising the writer as a tyrant, a torturer — is a consumer outraged by inconvenience and false advertising. Advertising relies on the fiction that the personal happiness of the consumer is valued above all other things; we are reassured in every way imaginable that we, the customers, are always right.

The idea that a work of literature might require something of its reader in order to be able to provide something to its reader is equivalent, in a consumer context, to the idea that a cut-price mobile phone might require a very expensive charger in order for it to function.

- Eleanor Catton

You need to go read that right now, it's awesome (even if I did get turned onto it by Sady Doyle ((she dissed BPAL and praised Hannibal in the space of like two damn days, and that was it for me and Sady Doyle, even before the "Joanna Newsom comes from Tori Amos" article)) ).

(Which is sad, because in its heyday, Tigerbeatdown was amazing. But now she's writing 'think pieces' on How I Met Your Mother and Hannibal, and....yeah. A lot of women who wrote amazing blogs in the 00's are now completely shuttering their personal sides in the twenty-teens. It's really depressing.)

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

from the biography by Jeffrey Meyers

Trying to bolster the pathetic sales of his books, Scott bought all the copies he could find in Los Angeles and gave them away to friends. Almost everyone who writes about Fitzgerald mentions that during the last year of his life he sold only forty copies of his books and received a royalty of $13.13. But no one has noticed that his book sales were virtually the same at the end of the 1920s as they were at the end of the 1930s. In 1927, two years after he had published The Great Gatsby, his books earned only $153; in 1929 they earned $32. Most of his income, throughout his entire career, came from magazine stories and screenwriting, rather than book sales.

have you ever felt yourself in motion

April 1st, 2002

.....over 10 years ago now. Wow. (I keep thinking I should get myself a fancy-ass 10-year coin, but also feel a little superstitious about it. Also there's something a little sad about buying coins for yourself, but that's just one of the problems with being a shut-in, thank you agoraphobia.)

Also hadn't realized at the time I chose the date (no, I swear) that it was so close to Cobain's suicide. All the "holy shit, it's been 20 years" pieces make me think two things: oh God, I am so fucking old, and oh God, he was so young. He was barely twenty-seven! The baby. (Insert inevitable Lehrer's 'When Keats was my age, he'd been dead five years' gag.) 

I guess it's a measure of old age that even though I know from the inside what that kind of suicidal pain feels like, it's horrifying now to imagine anyone cutting themselves off that young. But when you're that sick you can't understand that burning out and fading away are the same damn thing, in the end.

Wasted, inebriated You don't want her, but you brought her here





books read in April 2014

Fiction is in red.

53. Scott Fitzgerald: A Biography, Jeffrey Meyers
54. Here We Are Now: The Lasting Impact of Kurt Cobain, Charles Cross
55. The Empathy Exams, Leslie Jamison
56. Life after Death, Damien Echols
57. Devil's Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three, Mara Leveritt
58. The Grave Tattoo, Val McDermid 
59. Updike, Adam Begley 
60. Forty-one False Starts: Essays on Artists and Writers, Janet Malcolm (WTF was up with reprinting "A Girl of The Zeitgeist"? To fill out the pages?)
61. Manhunt: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer, James L. Swanson
62. Bryant & May and the Bleeding Heart, Christopher Fowler
63. The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾, Sue Townsend (four stars. Five stars. ALL THE STARS. Forever)
64.  How to Disappear Completely, Kelsey Osgood (wow, that was truly terrible)
64. Mayhem, Sarah Pinborough
65. A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction, Ruth Franklin (that was FUCKING AMAZING. Beautiful, so well-thought and well-written, important, amazing. Go read it. Now)
66. Unwanted (Aschenputtel), Kristina Ohlsson