Wednesday, November 30, 2005

generic containers for pure female electricity

I missed Mary Gaitskill at Skylight a few weeks back and this interview at Nerve makes me regret it even more.

Today, it seems that many young women writers — who are the age you were when you wrote Bad Behavior — are calling for a return to a certain prudishness. For example, in Female Chauvinist Pigs, Ariel Levy argues that women are copying men's ideas of how women should be sexually brazen and inflicting that on other women.

Yeah. I don't know what I think of that. Actually I do know what I think of that. It's kind of complicated. When people make those kinds of sweeping statements, it's some impulse to adjudicate what Women — with a capital W — should be doing. And it really so much varies. The problem for me with some of the seeming brazenness that was fashionable for a while is that it can be forced also. Because if a person doesn't feel like being brazen or doesn't want to do that, they shouldn't. I think a lot of times women who really display sexually are covering up a lot of fear. A confidently sexual person doesn't have to announce it all that much. But if it's who you are — if you love to get dressed up in the big heels and the tiny skirt and the wig and the whatever, why not? But I don't feel like that should be idealized any more than the modest, demure person. The same woman can feel both ways on different occasions.

goodnight fine cut

Jimmy Beck turns in a smokin' ode to Clement Hurd on hearing the news that the jacket photo of the Goodnight Moon author will be posthumously altered to remove the cigarette from his hand.

Update: A New York Times op-ed by Karen Karbo asks: why stop at the cigarette?

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

tai shan meets the press

I wish I could mainline a drug distilled from the cuteness of baby pandas.

lovecraft circus

Via The Onion a.v. club, H.P. Lovecraft meets Family Circus.

if it weren't for the words

I've been meaning to post this for a couple of weeks...The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, Told Entirely in Emoticons

Monday, November 28, 2005

chloroform in print

Sam Jordison's The Joy of Sects: An A-Z of Cults, Cranks, and Religious Eccentrics has been published in time to join my dissertation bibliography. Its English bent might not reach the California shores of my project, but it's an intriguing collection nonetheless. You can get a taste at his Guardian list: "Top 10 Books on Cults and Religious Extremists."

Literature would be considerably poorer without cults and religious extremists. They've inspired some fine novels and riveting eye-witness accounts as well as producing rainforests' worth of mad, bad and thoroughly dangerous books themselves.

While we're on the subject, I'm thankful to LA Brain Terrain for turning me on to the work of Erik Davis and his essay, "The Alchemy of Trash: The West Coast Art of Spiritual Collage."

absolut corruption

stay free! daily reports on the lawsuit filed by Absolut Vodka against the blogger who created this fake - although not false - ad.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

december: the month of no significance

Even though the year has yet to end, Amazon has released its editor picks for the Best CDs of 2005, with Sufjan Stevens leading the list. (Mr. Stevens also tops Information Leafblower's Top 40 Bands in America Today.)

Update: The New York Times disses December as well with its 100 Notable Books of the Year.

Monday, November 21, 2005

kryptonite to the female resolve

Is he cute or is he British?

When it comes to the attractiveness of British men, American women are simply incapable of rendering a proper judgment. Bad teeth, the unibrow, Guinness bloat, doesn’t matter; hell, we think Tony Blair is hot. Studies have proven that British accents are, in fact, the number one cause of hot women dating nerdy men. (Number two cause? Woody Allen.) There’s nothing wrong with dating men who have British accents; Madonna liked her husband’s so much she got one of her own. But there are scoundrels out there—those who use their cute British accents to lure innocent birds to their flat for a friendly game of hide the blood sausage. Sorry.

The following prompts will help as you try to decipher whether your new bloke is a winner or a wanker. Beware the British accent, ladies, and remember: The country that gave us Shakespeare also gave us Simply Red.

Friday, November 18, 2005

the inconvenience of his misrepresentation

From the Best of Craigslist, a Men Online Hall of Shame and the corrective A Simple Lesson for Guys Posting Personals (from Another Guy).

Try to tell a little something about yourself without bragging! (You, yea you! Guy who constantly posts a picture of himself leaning against a stupid Ferrari and wearing loafers with no socks – that counts as bragging, buddy!) Just be honest. Do you like the outdoors? Do you have any interesting hobbies that you could share with another person? Maybe you watch a lot of television, and you want someone you can discuss your favorite shows with… Most importantly, just be open and honest! Women dig that shit… Weird, huh?

Thursday, November 17, 2005

all that glitters is not gold

Glam rocker Gary Glitter is wanted in Hanoi for sleeping with underage girls.

Residents of the picturesque tourist town on the mouth of the Saigon River had also complained about his singing, the paper said.

literary crushes

Slate profiles the books famous people loved in college. Daphne Merkin covers one of mine:

The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy. I read it for a class taught by Catherine Stimpson in my senior year at Barnard, and if I were grateful to her for nothing else, I would be grateful to her for introducing me to that novel. I was immediately riveted by its casual yet urgent style, as though there were a secret message running through the book that you would be able to detect only if you paid careful attention to what appeared to be its many inconclusive scenes and exchanges of throwaway dialogue. It remains for me an unutterably prescient book about so many things: the impact of celebrity on earthlings; the yearning for some kind of transcendental meaning in the midst of a secularly ordained universe; the possibility of romantic love even for the inveterately cynical (Binx); the limitations of romantic love, even for the nuttily hopeful (his cousin Kate); the temptations and arrogance of outsiderism; the pathos of emotional illness (Kate) and physical illness (Lonnie, Binx's half-brother).

where you lay your head

I slept upstairs from members of New York's new avant-garde for a good six months and was none the wiser.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

as opposed to purely popular

Forbes presents a slide show of literary tastemakers. I don't know if I agree with the choices, but the pictures are nice...

It is common to think the world is becoming increasingly illiterate and inattentive. The many media that compete for our attention are louder, brighter and faster than books. Libraries, bookstores and publishing houses are swallowing budget cuts and layoffs. The National Endowment for the Arts says that literary reading is in dramatic decline. At the same time, truly interesting and original literature continues to be published--and not all of it is languishing in the sale bins at Barnes & Noble.

get behind me conan o'brien

The White Stripes enlisted Michel Gondry for their latest video, "The Denial Twist."

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

we duly felt the right anguishes

The Elegant Variation has a fitting round-up of links in tribute to the late John Fowles (1926-2005).

no didion?

Feminista!'s 1998 list "100 Great 20th Century Works of Fiction by Women" caught largehearted boy's attention and thereby mine. It's not like it's out of style.

Monday, November 14, 2005

country club

If I had to pick one genre of music to have in my life - a horrifying prospect - it would probably end up being the smart female-fronted americana of Neko Case, Freakwater, Carla Bozulich, Lucinda Williams, Kelly Hogan, and Edith Frost, just to name a few of its members. Well, it's been a happy time around the escapegrace household lately, due to much new music emerging from these quarters.

I already mentioned Freakwater's new album, Thinking of You. Neko Case is playing within walking distance of my new apartment next week, and Freakwater will play at another nearby venue in December.

Edith Frost's new album It's a Game comes out on November 15th. Popsheep has two mp3s for download: "Lovin' You Goodbye" and "Emergency" (scroll down). said the gramophone has "What's the Use."

3hive has Carla Bozulich and Willie Nelson sharing vocals on one of my favorite Geraldine Fibbers' songs, "Hands on the Wheel," which was originally written by Mr. Nelson. Carla's site has many mp3s - including the excellent Bobbie Gentry cover, "Fancy."

Kelly Hogan has formed "motley madrigal quartet" Love Hall Tryst with John Wesley Harding, Nora O'Connor, and Brian Lohmann and released the album Songs of Misfortune.

Lucinda Williams is most likely resting after her last album, Live @ the Fillmore, although I heard talk of a sequel.

In a suprising development, it even looks like Cat Power's making a bid for membership.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

hoarding and lording

Stephen Metcalf anatomizes the rock snob in Slate.

Snobbery is as woven into the human fabric as the sexual and aggressive impulses it seeks to refine. It's no accident, then, that Rock Snobbery emerged just as young people started dressing in blue jeans and pretending that social class didn't matter. Adolescents simply found novel ways—ways more acceptable to their newly egalitarian pretenses—to marginally differentiate themselves from one another. Musical taste was one such method, and for a small but increasingly demented subset of the population (interestingly, almost exclusively boys), having good taste in, and encyclopedic knowledge about, rock music became an almost Ahab-like obsession. During the heyday of rock and roll, when everyone
was aspiring to be at least a little rock snobby, this irritating geek-pedant wasn't so easily dismissed. But the times they have a-changed. Young people (or the lucky among them) are learning to flaunt the blandishments of their elevated social class without embarrassment; rock music as a going concern is next to dead; the Rock Snob has ossified into a vaguely pitiful cultural type. He now stands, that Einst├╝rzende Neubauten rerelease tucked under his arm, awaiting your abuse.

why do you keep kicking yourself? stop

What if Clap Your Hands Say Yeah had been inspired by another piece of graffiti?

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

this week's netflix

Oh, Netflix, I've been neglecting you. This is about two months' worth of movies.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?
: This is a wild and disturbing portrait of the dance marathon craze that took off during the Depression, promising prize money for outlasting other dancers (this term being used very loosely) in a sadistic weeks-long competition. The history behind the film's subject is fascinating, and Sydney Pollack does an amazing job of capturing the despair and desperation. Highly recommended.

In the Mood for Love: This film about unconsummated love between two married people in Hong Kong is long on atmosphere and relatively short on plot, but the ambience - and Maggie Cheung's gorgeous dresses - create a mood of beauty and melancholy.

Me, You, and Everyone We Know: I adored Miranda July's debut feature. It's a lovely caricature of loneliness and a testament to the hope that you can find if you bother to try. A friend had coincidentally watched it the same weekend, and we listed scenes we loved for a good half hour during our next conversation. Also highly recommended.

Dear Frankie: I rented this DVD in an attempt to see more of actress Emily Mortimer, and while she was good, the story was pretty sappy and the ending was just plain unfounded.

Monday, November 07, 2005

adaptation mania

There are a number of book-to-film adaptations about to be released that are of interest:

  • Hollywood producers think they can remain faithful to an adaptation of Milton's 12,000 line blank verse poem, Paradise Lost. In the words of the production company, ""Paradise Lost represents the epitome of mythology in that it is the oldest myth with a capital M." I am overwhelmed by faith in this project.
  • Moving into the modern age, Richard Linklater has begun shooting an adaptation of Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation: "In September, The Austin American-Statesman reported that the drama, written by Linklater and Schlosser and starring Catalina Sandino Moreno ('Maria Full of Grace'), is hiding under the sheep's clothing of a pseudonym. The false name - 'Coyote' - was chosen, the newspaper said, to help the production gain access to franchise restaurants and other industry locations that might be off-limits if the movie's true source material were known."

the lonely task of reconciling two worlds

When I was in college, I lived with seven other women in various housing arrangements through the years. Of the eight of us, three had divorced parents and the others' parents remain married to this day. (I attribute the fact that we were statistically below the national divorce average to our attendance at a Jesuit university.) Flash forward to the present day: the three women with divorced parents are not married, while all the rest have been espoused for years. Coincidence? I think not. And neither does Elizabeth Marquardt:

Even in a "good divorce," in which parents amicably minimize their conflicts, children of divorce inhabit a more difficult emotional landscape than those in intact families, according to a new survey of 1,500 people ages 18 t0 35.

"All the happy talk about divorce is designed to reassure parents," Elizabeth Marquardt, author of the study, described in her new book, "Between Two Worlds." "But it's not the truth for children. Even a good divorce restructures children's childhoods and leaves them traveling between two distinct worlds. It becomes their job, not their parents', to make sense of those two worlds."

les livres succulents

Helena Frith Powell argues French women are sexy, partly because they read, in her Top 10 Sexy French Books.

See also: Ten Writers Admit to the Things They've Taken from Joan Didion

there is genius behind the stupidity

Don't miss Andy Dick as Harlan McCraney, Presidential Speechologist.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

just what the world needs: another bad novel

ABC has announced plans to introduce a Lost subplot about a character named Gary Troup, a fictitious author who supposedly perished in the crash of Oceanic Flight 815, but left behind the manuscript on which he had been working, having dropped it off with his publisher just days before boarding the fatal flight.

Here's where the line between fact and fiction blurs: Hyperion Books, ABC's sister publishing label, is actually putting out said manuscript in book form this spring--here in the real world--to coincide with the related episodes of Lost.

Titled Bad Twin, the private eye thriller is said to be about a rich heir's search for his devious sibling.

you deserve to read nothing but Trollope

Robert Birnbaum interviews Jonathan Lethem over at The Morning News.

Any innovation is a sort of howling red flag. Though I doubt red flags howl—a three-word mixed metaphor. It’s in the nature of the innovations to demand disproportionate attention and description, when often they comprise 10 or 15 percent of what I’ve tried to do. In fact, I think I’ve demonstrated an unwavering, and quite extensive commitment to character, narrative, and emotion, beginnings, middles, ends, the sturdiest of traditional methods—I’m hardly on some avant-garde frontier. There’s simply one thing I do, and it’s not out of—as you proposed in your question—any restless urge to be original or provocative. Instead, it’s a helpless instinct, one I’ve been expressing from the very beginning in my work, and I suppose I’ll never quit: That is, to push together realistic character and emotion, and naturalistic or mimetic textures, with the stuff of dream, fantasy, symbol—and to make the fit between these different areas very prominent. Aggressively prominent...

American writing, its roots in Poe, Twain, Melville, and extended through Faulkner and, for gawd’s sake, everyone else—is encompassing, courageous, omnivorous. It gobbles contradiction, keeps its eyes open, engages with the culture at every possible level. But boundaries being crossed make the inhabitants of the increasingly isolated castle of the status quo all the more anxious. If we’re free to use these methods, allowed to talk about everything we know, if we are allowed to describe the world of advertising, the world of capitalism, the world of pop culture, the actual world where the elements described as of high- and low-brow are in a constant inextricable mingling—if we let down our guard, where will our status emblems be? What credentials will we burnish? How will we know we are different from the rabble outside the gates? Again, it’s sheerly class anxiety that is expressed in these attacks. And, as well, a fundamental discomfort with the creative act, with the innately polymorphous, the innately acquisitive, curious, exuberant and engaged tendencies in the creative act itself.


Wednesday, November 02, 2005

this scurvy and disasterous world of ours

Laurence Sterne's Tristram Shandy has always blown me away with its postmodern tricks, devised long before there was even a modernism. Now - as everything shall be eventually - it's on-line.

I live in a constant endeavour to fence against the infirmities of ill health, and other evils of life, by mirth; being firmly persuaded that every time a man smiles, -- but much more so, when he laughs, that it adds something to this Fragment of Life.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

it may not look so good right now

One of my best friends was uprooted by the Katrina devastation, and she's asked that I pass on a song by Jessie Moore that speaks to what she and other residents of New Orleans have been feeling. It was written by Anders Osborne with J.M. Ragsdale.

Jessie Moore - It's Gonna Be OK