Thursday, June 29, 2006

the wedding circuit begins

Posting will be light to nonexistent over the next ten days or so, as I travel east to attend the first of several weddings this summer. If you insert Amazon Wish List here for Manolo Blahnik, I'm that much closer to marrying myself.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

turtle thief strikes!

Beware Los Feliz...

Monday, June 26, 2006

some new, recent, unexpected solitude

The Brooklyn Rail has an excerpt from a new translation of work from Marguerite Duras, Yann Andrea Steiner.

One never knows a story before it’s written. Before it has suffered the fading of the circumstances that led the author to write it. And especially before it has suffered, in the book, the mutilation of its past, its body, of your face, your voice, and it becomes irrevocable, fated. And I also mean that in the book it has become external, been carried away, separated from its author for all eternity, lost to him.

And then the door closed on you and me. On this new body, tall and thin.

And then there was the voice. The incredibly gentle voice. Distant. Regal. It was the voice of your letter, the voice of my life.


too cool to be part of that

Greil Marcus is in conversation with Don DeLillo at The Believer. The brief excerpt features thoughts on Bob Dylan.

DON DeLILLO: See, the genius of rock music is that it matched the cultural hysteria around it. Not only Dylan, but that kind of scorching electric howl of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin and Jim Morrison—and these happen to be three people who died early and tragically—as if to provide an answer, as if to present a counterpart to what was happening around them in the streets, in the riots, in the assassinations, in the war in Vietnam, in the civil rights struggle. Rock was the art form that could match that. Not that these artists all made explicit reference to the immediate culture around them. But the music itself was a perfect counterpart to what was happening in our culture—as, for example, jazz was not. I’m a lifelong jazz fan—but jazz was just too cool to be part of that. It had to be rock. Rock just came out of it. The great thing about Dylan is that he is such an American story and such an American artist. He’s an American in a more important way than the Beatles or the Stones are British. He is so identifiably American—and this comes across very well in [Martin Scorsese’s film No Direction Home], and I think it’s one of the most important things about the movie.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

some compliments last a lifetime

When I first moved to Brooklyn, I got a job bartending at a local brewery/restaurant. I worked the weekend brunch shifts, so there were many early morning hours with no customers. I would grab a seat at the bar and pass the time reading. One day, Gio, the sexy Dominican waiter, sidled up to me and said, "Girl, you look good when you read." Considering the only thing I do more than read is breathe, it was a heavenly gift that's stayed with me for years. I was reminded of this by a link on Wit of the Staircase to these reflections by women writers on images of women reading in honor of the Orange Prize shortlist.

Jeanette Winterson
Marilyn Monroe by Eve Arnold

This is so sexy, precisely because it's Marilyn reading James Joyce's Ulysses. She doesn't have to pose, we don't even need to see her face, what comes off the photo is absolute concentration, and nothing is sexier than absolute concentration. There she is, the goddess, not needing to please her audience or her man, just living inside the book. The vulnerability is there, but also something we don't often see in the blonde bombshell; a sense of belonging to herself. It's not some playboy combination of brains and boobs that is so perfect about this picture; it is that reading is always a private act, is intimate, is lover's talk, is a place of whispers and sighs, unregulated and usually unobserved. We are the voyeurs, it's true, but what we're spying on is not a moment of body, but a moment of mind. For once, we're not being asked to look at Marilyn, we're being given a chance to look inside her.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

souffler your beastly boys

Something a little salacious for hump day...3quarksdaily links to Christopher Hitchens' attempted Americanization of fellatio in Vanity Fair and Amanda Marcotte's subsequent defense of Hitchens' lumpen fellatariat.

Hitchens: Well, which is it—blow or suck? (Old joke: "No, darling. Suck it. 'Blow' is a mere figure of speech." Imagine the stress that gave rise to that gag.) Moreover, why has the blowjob had a dual existence for so long, sometimes subterranean and sometimes flaunted, before bursting into plain view as the specifically American sex act? My friend David Aaronovitch, a columnist in London, wrote of his embarrassment at being in the same room as his young daughter when the TV blared the news that the president of the United States had received oral sex in an Oval Office vestibule. He felt crucially better, but still shy, when the little girl asked him, "Daddy, what's a vestibule?"

Marcotte: The rest of the essay is more of the same—a pseudo-cheeky, secretly maudlin paean to the growing social acceptance of fellatio, which Hitchens chooses to interpret as American women finally coming down off the high horse and falling on their knees with gay men, where god intended them to grovel in front of straight men. I really hate having oral sex, which should just be a fun way to pass the time, mistreated like this.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

nothing remains some things return

For some reason, a few years back, I was invited to be part of a small group in "conversation" with Wendy Lesser at my grad school. I think I was asked because I had begun a career outside of the traditional faculty track, and Ms. Lesser was speaking on life outside of academia. She talked extensively about her decision to launch lit journal The Threepenny Review and her success finding a living that brought her pleasure and pride. She also read from her (then) recent release, Nothing Remains the Same: Rereading and Remembering. I found Lesser charming and inspiring and talked about her for days as well as my plans for seeking similar pleasure in my life. As often happens, the shine wore off, life got in the way, insert cliche here. I've recently once again been considering the future a little more seriously - deciding I must have a career that feeds my soul as well as my bank account - and who comes along to help in the form of a brand new blog? Wendy Lesser.

Speaking of blog rules, this one is not going to follow most of them.

For one thing, it will be very organized, with listings of its contents (once it accumulates any contents, that is).

For another, I will not be making daily or even weekly postings, and the format will in no way resemble a diary or journal. Each posting will be a little (or not so little) self-contained essay, perhaps more chatty than my usual essays in the magazine, but nonetheless resembling a printed article more than most blog entries do.

And finally, I do not plan to include any photos of my cat or best friends or any other personal items that you would be required to take an interest in. This should come as something of a relief — a blessedly impersonal blog.

Monday, June 19, 2006

soft and fat like summer roses

Linda Lee Bukowski has donated Charles Bukowski's archives to the Huntington Library.

"It's going to be scandalous. This would tickle my husband. It would crack him up," Linda Lee Bukowski said from her San Pedro home, where curators have been sorting through more than a thousand items. Those include a typed draft of his 1982 novel "Ham on Rye," with handwritten corrections; his screenplay for the 1987 autobiographical movie "Barfly;" rare poetry journals from the 1940s; and scratch forms for horse races at Santa Anita. -

one day your life would start

Jonathan Lethem makes an appearance in Said the Gramophone's Said the Guests series.

It was Southern California in those days. We all worked in a used record store and we all were a certain age, a clerk’s age, the long middle of our twenties, already wrecked. Some of us were in their thirties already! All the clerks played vinyl on a turntable behind the counter in turns, getting royally sick of one another’s music, a certain bluegrass album a dozen times and you’d start trying to time your lunch break to that track about the horse. Somebody else played African music and you might be coming around slowly. The Go-Betweens, every album was on a different label, it was like putting together a puzzle. All the best bands were from New Zealand, mostly, except if they came from Australia. The guy with the suit and the clipboard from ASCAP came around and said we’d have to pay royalties on the songs we played behind the counter since they were being broadcast in a public place and we said they were only for our own pleasure, our customers didn’t even like to hear music, everyone else tittering behind their hands while someone offered this explanation. We’d all been in a band or were about to have been in one or else just owned a leather jacket.

Lethem's been busy. He also has an open letter to Frank Gehry in Slate, arguing that Gehry's partnership with Brett Ratner and their development plan is a "nightmare for Brooklyn, one that, if built, would cause irreparable damage to the quality of our lives and, I'd think, to your legacy."

Saturday, June 17, 2006

52 books in 52 weeks

12. Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

The structure of this book is enviable (reminiscent of the Eastern European ABC genre), but one wishes Rosenthal's life were a little less ordinary.

13. Desperate Characters by Paula Fox

It's nice to see that women were partaking in this mid-century doom and gloom school. Fox's work holds up nicely next to Richard Yates and Brian Moore.

14. Indecision by Benjamin Kunkel

The most appropriate review I can think to give this book is that I look forward to Kunkel's sophomore effort. There are some promising elements here, but there is also much that annoys.

15. This Is a Voice from Your Past by Merrill Joan Gerber

After seeing Gerber at the Festival of Books, I've been meaning to find this collection. I don't know whether the stories were just too dated or old-fashioned for me, but I preferred hearing the author talk about writing.

15 down, 37 to go.

Friday, June 16, 2006

the only way out is through

There's been a rash of writing available that takes the reader around the world. So if you can't afford the ridiculous cost of airfare these days, you can be an armchair globetrotter.

Coudal Partners offers an excellent series of field-tested books: writers reporting on the reading of a certain book in a certain place. Jonathan Eig reads A Confederacy of Dunces in New Orleans, Scott Korb reads Gilead in Brooklyn, Joel Reese reads The Exorcist in Buenos Aires, and many more...

Salon has debuted their Literary Guide to the World, wherein you can find reports on the literary scene from what I assume is a growing collection of locations. Right now, you can travel to Ireland with John Banville, Togo with Matt Steinglass, Vietnam with Tom Bissell, as well as Zimbabwe, Whitechapel, Havana, Arizona, and Martha's Vineyard.

On a more somber note, the New Yorker features writing on "Life During Wartime" from a variety of contributors, locations, and eras, such as Aleksandar Hemon on Yugoslavia (1991) and Robert Stone on Antarctica (1958).

If you still haven't been out enough, there are always "travel dispatches from a shrinking planet" at World Hum.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

thinking with someone else's brain

In a bid to really be read for the articles, Playboy compiles The 25 Sexiest Novels Ever Written.

gilbert sorrentino (1929-2006)

Such a short time ago, I remarked on the growing ubiquity of novelist Gilbert Sorrentino, only to find he died weeks later at the end of May. There have been several tributes to the author since then that illuminate the author's life and deserve linking.

The Los Angeles Times: "Gilbert Sorrentino, 77; Avant-Garde Novelist, Professor"
n+1: "Uncorrupted: On Gilbert Sorrentino"
ReadySteadyBook: "Gilbert Sorrentino"
The Guardian: "Gilbert Sorrentino"
The Elegant Variation: "Gilbert Sorrentino Dead"
The Washington Post: "Experimental Writer Gilbert Sorrentino"

I can only imagine more will follow.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

no, no you deserve some time off

This edited clip from The Family Guy of Stewie tormenting Brian about the novel he's working on is hilariously painful and enough to make someone never want to write again.

For more animated entertainment, check out Apocalypse Pooh.

(Thanks to rockslinga and LA Brain Terrain.)

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

journey to the end of the night ranger

Tons o' fun with this book/band mash-up list, featuring such gems as:

The Things They Might Be Giants Carried
Charlie Daniels and the Chocolate Factory

Courtney Love in the Time of Cholera

Jane Eyre's Addiction

The Reverend Horton Heat Hears a Who

The Great White Gatsby

Sam over at Women of Many Nations also chimes in with his list of names that didn't make the cut, such as Huey Lewis and the Shipping News and As I Lay Dion.

Monday, June 05, 2006

the best chance at better than the book

The Guardian dishes the top 50 film adaptations made from novels.

1. To Kill a Mockingbird
Robert Mulligan (1962)
Adapted by Horton Foote from Harper Lee's 1960 novel

Lee's first (and so far only) novel was a literary sensation, scooping the Pulitzer prize and shifting 2.5m copies in its first year of publication. Clearly the screen version strikes a similar chord. This is a film we cherish in the same way we cherish It's a Wonderful Life, or The Wizard of Oz. Sensitively scripted by Foote, To Kill a Mockingbird spins a vibrant, child's-eye view of adult torments and boasts a career-best turn from Gregory Peck as the iconic Atticus Finch. Needless to say it could all have been so different. Legend has it that Peck only agreed to the role after the producers' first choice, Rock Hudson, turned it down. - Xan Brooks

2. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
Milos Forman (1975)
Adapted by Bo Goldman and Lawrence Hauben from the 1962 novel by Ken Kesey

"Which one of you nuts has got any guts?" asks Jack Nicholson in his role as the swaggering Christ figure to the downtrodden inmates at an Oregon mental hospital. Where Kesey's source novel was a hippie-ish allegory on individualism and conformity, Forman's screen version adopted a more earthy, naturalistic approach. But in ditching the book's druggy flavour, Forman earned the author's lifelong enmity. Kesey disowned the movie and went to his grave without ever having seen it.

3. Blade Runner
Ridley Scott (1982)
Adapted by Hampton Fancher and David Webb Peoples from the 1968 novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K Dick

When Dick remarked that the rough cut of Blade Runner looked exactly as he hoped it would, Scott replied that he had never actually read the book (the title was changed because the studio hated it and pinched one from a book by rival author Alan Nourse). Despite that, his vision of a futuristic melting-pot Los Angeles superbly converts Dick's outlandish worldview into an exotic hybrid of film noir and science fiction. The film is now embraced as a contemporary classic.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

overheard in los angeles

Loud lecturing man to date: "Actually, L. Ron Hubbard is a genius because it's a little known fact that he wrote this amazing book called Stranger in a Strange Land."

He probably would have gotten further with something as cute as this.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

a legitimate place at the high-culture table

The new edition of Artkrush is all about art here in our fine metropolis. You can find a profile of painter Mark Grotjahn and an interview with Ann Philbin, director of what is rapidly becoming my favorite local museum, the Hammer. If you have not been to the current Société Anonyme exhibit, don't miss it.

AK: You were the director of the Drawing Center in New York for nine years, and during that time you transformed it into a vital center for emerging and historical art. What did you see in the Hammer that compelled you to leave an established position in New York and begin anew in Los Angeles?

AP: Well in general I think it's healthy to jump off a cliff every ten years or so — to scare yourself a little. It was time for me to do something different and when I saw the Hammer, I had ideas about what it could or should be. [Emphasis mine]