Monday, December 19, 2016

twenty-six reds and a bottle of wine

God I miss both these guys, so much.

("CALL OUT THEIR NAMES, TESTIFY! COME ON!" Oh, God, Patti, Earth does not deserve you.)

also none of you told me about Elizabeth Hand you're all fucking fired

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Pointing to citizens who voted for both Obama and Trump does not disprove racism; it evinces it. To secure the White House, Obama needed to be a Harvard-trained lawyer with a decade of political experience and an incredible gift for speaking to cross sections of the country; Donald Trump needed only money and white bluster.

....The election of Donald Trump confirmed everything I knew of my country and none of what I could accept. The idea that America would follow its first black president with Donald Trump accorded with its history. I was shocked at my own shock. I had wanted Obama to be right.

I still want Obama to be right. I still would like to fold myself into the dream. This will not be possible.

Monday, December 12, 2016

books read in December 2016

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

79. The Elephant in the Room: A Journey into the Trump Campaign and the “Alt-Right” (Kindle Single), Jon Ronson (2016)
80. How to Survive a Plague: The Inside Story of How Citizens and Science Tamed AIDS, David France (2016) (superb, even better than the film)
81. A Life Discarded: 148 Diaries Found in a Skip, Alexander Masters (2016) (intriguing but disappointing)
82. Raising Demons, Shirley Jackson (1957) (reread)
83. Last Summer at Mars Hill, Elizabeth Hand (1994)
84. The Godmother, Elizabeth Scarborough (1994) (awful)
85. Wylding Hall, Elizabeth Hand (2015)
86. The Dark is Rising, Susan Cooper (1973) (reread)
87. The Dark is Rising: The Complete Sequence, Susan Cooper (1994)
88. The Big Time, Fritz Leiber (1958) (reread)
89. The Weaver and the Factory Maid (Ringan Laine, 1), Deborah Grabien (2003) (nothing but charming, and sadly long, long out of print)
90.  The Door in the Hedge, Robin McKinley (1981) (reread)

all 2016 booklist posts

Sunday, November 27, 2016

and then Sir Pterry got reality all over my comfort escapist reading

But that would be interfering with the course of history. Horrible things could happen. The Librarian knew all about this sort of thing, it was part of what you had to know before you were allowed into L-space. He'd seen pictures in ancient books. Time could bifurcate, like a pair of trousers. You could end up in the wrong leg, living a life that was actually happening in the other leg, talking to people who weren't in your leg, walking into walls that weren't there any more. Life could be horrible in the wrong trouser of Time.

 - Guards! Guards!

Monday, November 14, 2016

But all the fighting in the world will not help us if we do not also hope. What I’m trying to cultivate is not blind optimism but what the philosopher Jonathan Lear calls radical hope. “What makes this hope radical,” Lear writes, “is that it is directed toward a future goodness that transcends the current ability to understand what it is.” Radical hope is not so much something you have but something you practice; it demands flexibility, openness, and what Lear describes as “imaginative excellence.” Radical hope is our best weapon against despair, even when despair seems justifiable; it makes the survival of the end of your world possible.

- Junot Diaz

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Then the war was just two valleys over, but still they didn’t worry, and then it was in the very next valley, but even so, no one could imagine its actually intruding into their quiet lives. But one day a car suddenly careered into the village’s central square, four young men in militia uniforms leaping out, purposefully crossing the square, seeming to single out a particular house and cornering its occupant, whereupon the leader of the militiamen calmly leveled a gun at the young man and blew him away. The militiamen hustled back off to their car and sped off. As van Cleef subsequently recounted the incident for me, "They left behind them a village almost evenly divided. Those under fifty years of age had been horrified by the seeming randomness of the act, while those over fifty realized, with perhaps even greater horror, that the young man who’d just been killed was the son of a man who, back during the partisan struggles of the Second World War, happened to have killed the uncle of the kid who’d just done the killing. And the older villagers immediately realized, with absolute clarity, that if this was now possible everything was going to be possible."

 – Lawrence Weschler, Vermeer in Bosnia

Saturday, November 5, 2016

books read in November 2016

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

67. The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula K. Le Guin (1969) (reread; Penguin Classics hardcover edition)
68. The Hanging Tree, Ben Aaronovitch (2016)
69. Under the Bridge, Rebecca Godfrey (2005)
70. Popular Crime: Reflections on the Celebration of Violence, Bill James (2011)
71. Who Killed These Girls?, Beverly Lowry (2016)
72. To Say Nothing of the Dog, Connie Willis (1997) (reread)
73. The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, David Grann (2010) (good writing; does not at all live up to the Holmesian framing)
74. Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, Mary Roach (2016) (wild mismatch of tone and subject)
75. Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right, Arlie Russell Hochschild (2016)
76. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis, J. D. Vance (2016) (good, but overrated)
77. White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class, Nancy Isenberg (2016) (very pop)
78. The Valis Trilogy, Philip K. Dick (2011) (reread)

all 2016 booklist posts

Saturday, October 29, 2016


The Invention of Angela Carter: A Biography by Edmund Gordon
Chatto, 544 pp, £25.00, October, ISBN 978 0 7011 8755 2

In 2006, the British Library bought a huge archive of Angela Carter’s papers from Gekoski, the rare books dealer, for £125,000. It includes drafts, lots of them, a reminder that in the days before your computer automatically date-stamped all your files book-writing used to be a clerical undertaking. It has Pluto Press Big Red Diaries from the 1970s, and a red leatherette Labour Party one, tooled with the pre-Kinnock torch, quill and shovel badge. There are bundles of postcards, including the ones sent over the years to Susannah Clapp, the friend and editor Carter would appoint as her literary executor, which formed the basis of the memoir Clapp published in 2012; there’s also one with an illegible postmark, addressed to Bonny Angie Carter and signed ‘the wee spurrit o’yae Scots grandmither’. And there are journals, big hardback notebooks ornamented with Victorian scraps and pictures cut from magazines, and filled with neat, wide-margined pages of the most nicely laid-out note-taking you have ever seen. February 1969, for example, starts with a quote from Wittgenstein, then definitions of fugue, counterpoint, catachresis and tautology. Summaries of books read: The Interpretation of DreamsTractatus Logico-PhilosophicusThe Self and Others. All incredibly tidy, with underlinings in red. And exploding flowers and nudie ladies stuck on the inside cover, as if in illustration of The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, which Carter would have been working on at the time.

- Jenny Turner in the LRB

Friday, October 21, 2016

books read in October 2016

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

62. William Inge: Essays and Reminiscences on the Plays and the Man, Jackson R. Bryer (2014)
63. Words Are My Matter: Writings About Life and Books, 2000-2016, with a Journal of a Writer’s Week, Ursula K. Le Guin (2016)
64. The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas, Ursula K. Le Guin (2016)
65. Splendor in the Grass, The Play: Adapted from the Screenplay, William Inge and F. Andrew Leslie (1966)
66. Follies of God: Tennessee Williams and the Women of the Fog, James Grissom (2015) (highly suspect, all the famous people speak in exactly the same unbelievable diction)

all 2016 booklist posts

Friday, September 30, 2016

I've never been much for the artificial divide between "literary" fiction and "genre" fiction. You still occasionally get the tired old clichés about genre fiction being badly written and full of one-dimensional characters, and literary fiction being plotless and meandering, but that's more and more obviously silliness. That perceived genre barrier is disintegrating, and I love that. I've never seen why audiences should be expected to be satisfied with either gripping plots or good writing. Why shouldn't they be offered both at once? Whether I actually manage to offer them both (or either) is a whole other question – but that's what I'm aiming for.

- Tana French

Thursday, September 22, 2016

pre-election state of mind

In less than two months, the American experiment in constitutional self-government may hit the wall of history. Even if the disaster of a Trump presidency is averted, this fall’s presidential campaign suggests that the United States Constitution is gravely, perhaps terminally, ill.

Trumpism is the symptom, not the cause, of the malaise. I think we have for some time been living in the post-Constitution era. America’s fundamental law remains and will remain important as a source of litigation. But the nation seems to have turned away from a search of values in the Constitution, regarding it instead as a set of annoying rules.

....The corrosive attack on constitutional values has come, and continues to come, from the right. It first broke into the open in 1998, when a repudiated House majority tried to remove President Bill Clinton for minor offenses. It deepened in 2000, when the Supreme Court, by an exercise of lawless power, installed the President of their choice. It accelerated when the inadequate young president they installed responded to crisis with systematic lawlessness––detention without trial, a secret warrantless  eavesdropping program, and institutionalized torture.

In the years since Barack Obama—with a majority of the vote––replaced Bush, the same forces, now in opposition, have simply refused to accept him as the nation’s legitimate leader. In control of Congress, they will not perform that body’s most basic duties––formulating a budget, tending to the national credit, filling vacant posts in the government—and, most shockingly, controlling the nation’s passage from peace to war. Now they have turned their attention to the Supreme Court, and are slowly crippling it in pursuit of partisan advantage.

....the Constitution never was (in James Russell Lowell’s phrase), “a machine that would go of itself;” what has made it work is a daily societal decision that we wish to live in a constitutional democracy. In 1942, Judge Learned Hand warned that “a society so riven that the spirit of moderation is gone, no court can save; that a society where that spirit flourishes, no court need save.”

The willingness to live by fundamental law has fled, and few seem to notice.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

books read in September 2016

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

57. The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Songs / Collected Stories (The Library of America), Ursula K. Le Guin (2016)
58. Shirley Jackson: A Rather Haunted Life, Ruth Franklin (2016) (very disappointing)
59. The Secret Place, Tana French (2014) (reread)
60. The Trespasser, Tana French (2016) (v good -- much better than Secret Place)
61. Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock and Fear... and Why, Sady Doyle (2016) (super fucking bloggy style, and the history's all potted)

all 2016 booklist posts

Saturday, September 3, 2016

How young are you? How old am I? Let's count the rings Around my eyes

I heard the Mats singing "I Will Dare" over the PA system at the QFC this afternoon, and it was a wonder I did not crumble into a little heap of ancient dry dust

right there in between the organic kale and the overpriced bell peppers

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)
55. Night Watch, Terry Pratchett (2002)
56. Thud, Terry Pratchett (2005)

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

Friday, June 17, 2016

Wood's own feelings about the photo have evolved. He remembers feeling angry at Arbus for "making fun of a skinny kid with a sailor suit." But today he thinks of the image as one of the great conversation pieces of all time. And Arbus clearly fascinates him. He riffs about her for a good 15 minutes.

"She catches me in a moment of exasperation. It's true, I was exasperated. My parents had divorced and there was a general feeling of loneliness, a sense of being abandoned. I was just exploding. She saw that and it's like . . . commiseration. She captured the loneliness of everyone. It's all people who want to connect but don't know how to connect. And I think that's how she felt about herself. She felt damaged and she hoped that by wallowing in that feeling, through photography, she could transcend herself."

Wood remembers that his interest in guns and grenades prompted teachers at his Catholic grade school to suggest he see a shrink. ("They thought I was deranged" is how he puts it.) His father dismissed the idea. Wood ended up working for years with his father, a former professional tennis player who invented, and for a long time installed, a new kind of court surface. Wood tried a few different careers after that and eventually moved to Los Angeles to try his hand at acting. He found the auditioning process humiliating and he quit. Now he sells insurance.

He doesn't talk often about his cameo with Diane Arbus but it's been a long time since he was embarrassed about it. Once he wanted to break into theater, and when he started his own production company he knew what to call it: Grenade Boy Productions.

- "Double Exposure," Washington Post (just got the new bio)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What do you fear when you fear everything? Time passing and not passing. Death and life. I could say my lungs never filled with enough air, no matter how many puffs of my inhaler I took. Or that my thoughts moved too quickly to complete, severed by a perpetual vigilance. But even to say this wold abet the lie that terror can be described, when anyone who's ever known it knows that it has no components but is instead everywhere inside you all the time, until you can recognize yourself only by the tensions that string one minute to the next. And yet I keep lying, by describing, because how else can I avoid this second, and the one after it? This being the condition itself: the relentless need to escape a moment that never ends.

- Adam Haslett

Monday, June 6, 2016

Ali was attending a rally for fair housing in his hometown of Louisville when he said:
Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on Brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights? No I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over. This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here. I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality…. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow. I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.
This is not only an assertion of black power, but a statement of international solidarity: of oppressed people coming together in an act of global resistance. It was a statement that connected wars abroad with attacks on the black, brown and poor at home, and it was said from the most hyper exalted platform our society offered at the time: the platform of being the Champ. These views did not only earn him the hatred of the mainstream press and the right wing of this country. It also made him a target of liberals in the media as well as the mainstream civil rights movement, who did not like Ali for his membership in the Nation of Islam and opposition to what was President Lyndon Johnson’s war.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

books read in June 2016

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

26. To the Power of Three, Laura Lippman (2005)
27. True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself in the Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray, James Renner (2016)
28. End of Watch, Stephen King (2016) (not as good as the second one -- also features an evil ambitious policewoman, boo)
29. Under the Harrow, Flynn Berry (2016) (quite good)
30. Imagine Me Gone, Adam Haslett (2016) (wildly overpraised; Franzen Lite)
31. The Girls, Emma Cline (2016) (terrible, so disappointing)
32. Cure: A Journey into the Science of Mind over Body, Jo Marchant (2016) (okay, v pop-sci)
33. While the City Slept: A Love Lost to Violence and a Young Man's Descent into Madness, Eli Sanders (2016 ) (So many. Sentence fragments. Not bad, much less gripping than the reporting it's based on)
34. The Lonely City: Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, Olivia Laing (2016) (pretty good)

all 2016 booklist posts

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

There is an Indiana Jones–style, “It had to be snakes” inevitability about the fact that Donald Trump is Clinton’s Republican rival. Of course Hillary Clinton is going to have to run against a man who seems both to embody and have attracted the support of everything male, white, and angry about the ascension of women and black people in America. Trump is the antithesis of Clinton’s pragmatism, her careful nature, her capacious understanding of American civic and government institutions and how to maneuver within them. Of course a woman who wants to land in the Oval Office is going to have to get past an aggressive reality-TV star who has literally talked about his penis in a debate.

- New York Magazine

'we're just basically a punk band'

Saturday, May 28, 2016

When Ophelia appears onstage in Act IV, scene V, singing little songs and handing out imaginary flowers, she temporarily upsets the entire power dynamic of the Elsinore court. When I picture that scene, I always imagine Gertrude, Claudius, Laertes, and Horatio sharing a stunned look, all of them thinking the same thing: “We fucked up. We fucked up bad.” It might be the only moment of group self-awareness in the whole play. Not even the grossest old Victorian dinosaur of a critic tries to pretend that Ophelia is making a big deal out of nothing. Her madness and death is plainly the direct result of the alternating tyranny and neglect of the men in her life. She’s proof that adolescent girls don’t just go out of their minds for the fun of it. They’re driven there by people in their lives who should have known better. I think Shakespeare probably understood that better than most people do today.

- B.N. Harrison

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

I'm a chronic depressive and I can't be unhappy when I hear this

I'm in love
what's that song?
I'm in love
with that song


The 'mats had the best anti-video videos:

Sunday, May 15, 2016

books read in May 2016

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

17. Alligator Candy, David Kushner (2016)
18. The Long Goodbye, Meghan O'Rourke (2011)
19. David Koresh Superstar: An Unfilmable Screenplay, Simon Indelicate (2014)
20. Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction, Sue Townsend (2004) (reread)
21. Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years, Sue Townsend (2009) (reread)
22. A Long Time Dead, A.J. Orde (1994) (reread)
23. My Life and Hard Times, James Thurber (1933) (reread)
24. Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan McGuire (2016)
25. Who Killed Sherlock Holmes? Paul Cornell (2016)

all 2016 booklist posts
I miss her hands, which I shall never see again, for we have burned her body into fine, charcoal ash and small white bone fragments, and that is what is now left of her voice and her eyes and her fingers. That loss is not recuperable, regardless of what one believes about the afterlife.

 - Meghan O'Rourke

 ....I am certain that [the dogs] thought that, as I was returned, my Sisters were not far behind -- but here my Sisters will come no more. Keeper may still visit Emily's little bed-room -- as he still does day by day -- and Flossy may look wistfully round for Anne -- they will never see them again -- nor shall I -- at least the human part of me.

 - Charlotte Bronte

Sunday, May 8, 2016


CALL MOM” said a sign the other day, and something inside me clenched. In my inbox, at work, an e-mail waited from the New York Times: a limited offer to “treat Mom” to a free gift. It’s nothing, I tell myself. A day for advertisers. So I shrug off the sales and the offers, the cards and the flowers. I press delete. Still, I now mark Mother’s Day on my private calendar of grief. Anyone who has experienced a loss must have one of those. There’s August 29th, my mother’s birthday—forever stopped at sixty-four. September 17th, my parents’ anniversary—a day on which I now make a point of calling my father, and we both make a point of talking about anything but. There’s June 6th, the day she was diagnosed—when a cough that she had told us was “annoying” her and a leg that she had been dragging, thinking she must have pulled a muscle, turned out to be symptoms of Stage IV lung cancer. And then there’s October 16th: the day she died, four months and ten days after the diagnosis. The year becomes a landscape filled with little mines.

There’s a word in Hebrew—malkosh—that means “last rain.” It’s a word that only means something in places like Israel, where there’s a clear distinction between winter and the long, dry stretch of summer. It’s a word, too, that can only be applied in retrospect. When it’s raining, you have no way of knowing that the falling drops would be the last ones of the year. But then time goes by, the clouds clear, and you realize that that rain shower was the one.

-- Ruth Margalit

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

'as if I had been born in a mood as some are born in a caul'

My most pervasive memory of young childhood, however, is of being in ‘a mood’, which really consisted of just the one mood in several shades of monochrome: a spectrum that ranged from a comforting solitary dreaminess inside a softly enclosing gentle shadow at one end to, at the far side of the continuum, the grimmest darkness in a hard-frozen, fractured icescape. Always it was me on the inside, them out there, beyond my enclosure, unable to reach in. And me, sometimes not wanting, sometimes not able, to reach out.

- Jenny Diski

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

'a rehearsal for the yet more impossible losses still to come'

In the Metamorphoses, there is a myth in which Baucis and Philemon, an old married couple, are the only people hospitable to Zeus and Hermes when the gods come to a town in disguise. As reward (along with destroying the town), the gods offer the couple any wish they want granted. They ask to die at the exact same time. On their death they become two entwined trees. The older I get, the more this story haunts a central room in my brain. I used to wonder why they didn’t ask for youth or beauty or riches. Now I don’t question the choice at all. When I think of my parents, I always end up at this story, the pleading humanity of it. Surely, it must happen this way for them, I think. Surely that’s the only way it could happen. Then I remember that this is as likely as them transforming into trees, and I close the door on the thoughts entirely.

Our culture has celebrities in place of myths, and we have grief twitter instead of byzantine lore about the journey to the underworld and the proper ways of burial. When celebrities die and we mourn them in a massively public way, this is a safe way to practice mourning for our parents and our partners and our friends, to try to force ourselves to make the unthinkable familiar. The generational quality of this grief comes from the fact that, as the celebrities with whom we grew up die, it signals that we are at the age where people are dying, and we look ahead to the inevitable disasters, the wave that grows larger on the horizon. If our public grief is a performance, it’s a performance in the way that a disaster drill is a performance. Our grief at losing an icon who meant a great deal to us is a real grief but a bearable one. But that bearable grief is a test-drive for future unbearable ones. We practice together in the hope that we can be prepared, so that the idea of loss does not seem so alien. Complaints about the inappropriate nature of grief on social media -- that it’s a circle-jerk, a joiner’s club, an obligated performance -- are as defining a part of these mournings as the remembrances themselves. But to call this grief a performance is to miss the point – it’s not a performance, it’s a rehearsal. It seems right to me that grief be public, and messy, and inconvenient, that it make everyone in its path uncomfortable. Small amounts of discomfort, after all, increase our tolerance for large amounts of pain. Mourning celebrities who mattered to us is a way to remind ourselves that no one is spared, not even those who seemed immortal, larger than a human being with petty little organs doing their pedestrian little jobs inside their skin. Speaking things aloud removes their terror, dulls the power of their unfamiliarity. We speak this over and over to try to come to terms with something that cannot possibly be made familiar.

- "Forever"