- Already? I read a whopping 8. The 2010 Tournament of Books Long List
- The Most Anticipated Band Reunions of 2010
- Anne Patchett: Writing is a job.
- Rolling Stone's 100 Best Songs of the Decade
- Federico Garcia Lorca's corpse is missing.
- Facebook's Five Most Annoying Parents
- NPR (John Freeman) selects the best debut fiction of 2009.
- The Guardian's 100 Best Films of the Noughties
- Yay! The White Stripes are releasing a live box set.
- "All the hot chicks dig guys with supernatural cars that kill people." Via @ebertchicago, screenshots of actual Comcast movie plot summaries.
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Dear Santa -
Think of all the fun I've missed
Think of all the fellas that I haven't kissed
Next year I could be just as good
If you'd check off my Christmas list
Gramercy Gate Compact @ Etsy (citybitz) $40
Miz Mooz Amelia Button Boot @ Amazon $220
Pictorial Webster's Dictionary @ The Curiosity Shoppe $35
Aesa Diamond Vein Necklace @ Barneys $267
Stanton T90 USB Turnrable @ ebay $299
Electra Orbit 3i (Emerald) @ Cyclewerks $549
The Bombshell Woolie @ Etsy (superjennylove) $46
Collins Sofa @ Crate & Barrel $2499
Posted by escapegrace at 10:01 AM
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Anne Trubek on the death of handwriting:
The moral of this story is not that typing is superior to handwriting, that parents should have to transcribe the stories of their offspring or that private schools are superior to public ones. The moral of the story is that what we want from writing — what Simon wants and what the Sumerians wanted — is cognitive automaticity, the ability to think as fast as possible, freed as much as can be from the strictures of whichever technology we must use to record our thoughts. As Wolf writes: "A system that can become streamlined through specialization and automaticity has more time to think. This is the miraculous gift of the reading brain." This is what Palmer wanted for his students — speed. This is what the typewriter promised Twain. This is what typing does for millions. It allows us to go faster, not because we want everything faster in our hyped-up age, but for the opposite reason: We want more time to think.
Related, a student brings a typewriter to class (via Open Culture).
Posted by escapegrace at 10:12 AM
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
33. A Gate at the Stairs by Lorrie Moore
Sigh...I'm not getting the accolades. I am a huge Lorrie Moore fan, but this novel did not do it for me at all. It took many, many pages to emerge from a somewhat boring beginning and never quite seemed to find its purpose. Of course, because it's Lorrie Moore, there were sentences of quirky, startling insight, but not as many as I would have liked. However, if the praise for this novel leads to more rapid release of another, then that's fine by me.
34. A Vindication of Love: Reclaiming Romance for the Twenty-first Century by Cristina Nehring
I love anyone who dares to point out that twenty-first century heterosexual relationships are suffering at best, totally fukakte at worst. Nehring doesn't explicitly state she's focused on male-female connections, but her use of literary and historical examples of this type imply it. She attributes this contemporary dilemma to a denial of much of the emotional currency that supported the traditional romantic economy. Is everything she says reasonable? Not necessarily, but at least she's saying it.
35. That Old Cape Magic by Richard Russo
I grew up in Massachusetts and took summer vacations in Maine, so I hoped the settings would charm me, regardless of any other narrative element. No such luck. This book wasn't painful to read and the second half was much more engaging, but I didn't really connect with any of the characters in this character-driven novel. There is one successful scene of absurdity that seems out of place, but it is also the most memorable section of the story.
36. Homer & Langley by E.L. Doctorow
I can't quite believe this is my first Doctorow novel, but there it is. I enjoyed this quick read that fictionalizes the story of New York's most famous hoarders, the Collyer Brothers. There's a mild Forrest Gump-like narrative arc that shows the brothers responding to different monumental events of the twentieth century. I questioned whether the idiosyncratic recluses would have never had a fight (really?), but the men and their increasingly cluttered home were effectively evoked.
Posted by escapegrace at 9:18 AM
Sunday, December 06, 2009
- Margaret Atwood offers 10 editing tips for your fiction manuscript.
- The Spirit Awards announce their nominees for 2009.
- Classic art + graffiti = The Graffiti Ren 2 Contest
- "My MFA Workshop Responds to My Twitter Status Updates"
- Bored? Make all 48 recipes for your favorite LA restaurant dishes.
- Holiday dating? Guys and girls to avoid...
- The bands of tomorrow: SXSW 2010
- 50 Things a Writer Shouldn't Do
Posted by escapegrace at 11:26 AM
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Brian Eno thinks we're living in a stylistic tropics.
There’s a whole generation of people able to access almost anything from almost anywhere, and they don’t have the same localised stylistic sense that my generation grew up with. It’s all alive, all “now,” in an ever-expanding present, be it Hildegard of Bingen or a Bollywood soundtrack. The idea that something is uncool because it’s old or foreign has left the collective consciousness.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:01 AM
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Monday, November 30, 2009
V.L. Hartmann reflects on Joan Didion after seeing her on the street.
For some of us, mimicking Joan Didion has become the height of literary ambition, and not just her sentences. “Goodbye to All That” is a jumping-off point, California will fall short of its promise, but there is always Hawaii, and a penthouse, even when you are broke. There is a husband across the hall in his own study in your house in Malibu while you write. This is the Joan Didion who is forever leaning out of that Stingray with a cigarette in her hand. She appeared to be living in her sentences, and it was this intimacy that took me everywhere that she had been, even in the decades before I was born. The text might say it was hard, but the style makes it look easy.
Posted by escapegrace at 8:32 AM
Sunday, November 29, 2009
- 100 Notable Books of 2009 from The New York Times
- Oddly Specific: The Strangely Particular Website About Peculiarly Exacting Signs (via @GreatDismal)
- So you have invented Twitter. Congratulations. This is where that time machine would definitely have come in quite handy.
- Mary Gaitskill, Lionel Shriver, Walter Kirn, and others contribute to New York Magazine's Political Fictions Project.
- LA Weekly's Post-Apocalyptic Playlist
- What does indie mean to you?
- Rick Moody starts his 153-tweet fiction project tomorrow @ElectricLit.
- The AV Club's 10 best short-story collections of the ’00s
- No duh: Jack White is The Observer's rock 'n roll start of the decade (via @largeheartedboy)
- The Guardian's Best Books of 2009
- Make sure you have some time: The 99 Most Jaw-Dropping Movie Moments
Posted by escapegrace at 9:53 AM
Friday, November 27, 2009
Every year, the LADWP hosts a bizarrely retro light show along a road through a golf course at Griffith Park. Yesterday, I made a Thanksgiving morning pilgrimage in order to take some photos. The whole collection can be seen here, but below are some of my favorites.
Posted by escapegrace at 12:59 PM
Monday, November 23, 2009
Sunday, November 22, 2009
- Nick Cave joins nine other writers on the Literary Review's bad sex in fiction award.
- LA Weekly's Top Ten List of Major Stars Covering Other People's Music
- 1000 Awesome Things
- McSweeney's offers standards for grading the life of an adjunct composition professor.
- Three Guys One Book is just what it says.
- The 25 Greatest Coens Movie Moments
- I wish I had been at this Jesus Lizard show.
- Top 10 Bad Messages from Good Movies
- From Neatorama, 13 Examples of Literature in Song and from Flavorwire, Writers Who Sing, Singers Who Write
- Check out Google Image Swirl.
- NYC's Best New Buildings of the Decade
- Jack White and Wanda Jackson are going to make an album together!
- I never got around to posting this when it came out, but behold: the four-part Paste feature, "Glory Days: Dispatches From an Academic Conference on Bruce Springsteen."
Posted by escapegrace at 10:10 AM
Saturday, November 21, 2009
Zadie Smith wonders what essays offer to a novelist:
Within the confines of an essay or – even better! – an aphorism, you can be the writer you dream of being. No word out of place, no tell-tale weak spots (dialogue, the convincing representation of other people, plot), no absences, no lack. I think it's the limits of the essay, and of the real, that truly attract fiction writers. In the confined space of an essay you have the possibility of being wise, of making your case, of appearing to see deeply into things – although the thing you're generally looking into is the self. "Other people", that mainstay of what Shields calls the "moribund conventional novel", have a habit of receding to a point of non-existence in the "lyrical essay."
These are all satisfactions the practice of writing novels is most unlikely to provide for you. Perfect essays abound in this world – almost every one of Joan Didion's fits the category. Perfect novels, as we all know, are rarer than Halley's comet. And so, for a writer, composing an essay instead of a novel is like turning from staring into a filthy, unfathomable puddle to looking through a clear glass windowpane. How perfectly it fits the frame! How little draught passes through!
Posted by escapegrace at 4:07 PM
The New York Times looks at the indie music scene in Greece.
One factor in Athens’s downtown indie transformation was a recent explosion of free press in the city. Five years ago, there was only The Athens Voice, an alternative weekly that then had a meager listings section and only a few pages devoted to the arts.
But along came Velvet (www.velvetmagazine.gr), a free monthly first published in 2004 by the Athens-born brothers Lakis and Aris Ionas, who run a veritable do-it-yourself culture factory out of their fourth-floor downtown studio.
In addition to running the magazine, devoted entirely to the local indie scene, the Ionases have an art collective, a fashion line (their mother sews all their futuristic neon-colored metallic wool creations), and an art-punk band called the Callas. The group has self-released two albums and performed throughout Europe — often in homemade spandex Superman costumes — with the Callasettes, their five “laboratory-made groupies.” Following Velvet, many other locally focused free publications, like Lifo, FAQ, Don’t Panic Athens and Ozon, which has an English-language Web site (www.ozonweb.com/en), have sprung up.
Posted by escapegrace at 4:00 PM
Thursday, November 19, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
- Orhan Pamuk, Kazuo Ishiguro, Kate Christensen, and Margaret Atwood - among other luminaries - explain how to write a great novel.
- Make Your Own Academic Sentence
- New York magazine thinks these 40 songs define "the Brooklyn sound."
- Jacket Copy reprints the 1958 LA Times review of Lolita.
- Martin Scorcese joins me in thinking The Shining is superlatively scary, but he also nominates 10 other scariest horror movies of all time, skewing classic.
- I've started following Roger Ebert on Twitter (@ebertchicago) and he's got the good links, including the one above, Famous Authors Narrate the Funny Pages, the world's worst jobs, and a cookbook written by Nelson Algren.
- Also always great for links, birthday boy @largeheartedboy: the 50 most despicable Oscar snubs of the 2000s and the craziest international bootleg superheroes.
- And for complete and utter listmania, check out Paste's Best of the Decade lists, with everything from breweries to fashion designers.
Posted by escapegrace at 9:45 AM
Friday, November 06, 2009
Lizzie Skurnick weighs in on the all-male Publishers Weekly top ten.
Before I continue, let me borrow a phrase from the majority and say that some of my best friends are men. Some of my best friends are male writers. There are many men I love, many male writers I love, and many loves counted by me among writers of the male persuasion.
But that said, I, female, longtime book critic, longtime lover of males, writers, and male writers, must nonetheless point out an inconvenient truth: It has been a very strong two years for female writers and a weak two years for male ones, and the fact that the latter have garnered unseemly armfuls of praise and prizes for their tepid output is a scandal.
Posted by escapegrace at 8:35 AM
Thursday, November 05, 2009
The Smart Set excerpts a new translation of Kierkegaard's Repetition.
The older one gets, the better he understands life and the more he comes to care for and appreciate comfort. In short, the more competent one becomes, the less content. One will never be completely, absolutely and in every way content, and it is hardly worth the trouble to be more or less content, so one might as well be thoroughly discontented. Anyone who has really thought through the issue, will agree with me that no one is ever granted even as little as a half an hour out of his entire life where he is absolutely content in every conceivable way. It goes without saying that more is required for this sort of contentment than that one has food and clothing. I was close to achieving it once...
Posted by escapegrace at 7:25 PM
Sunday, November 01, 2009
- I've been telling people for awhile now how I fantasized about opening a decadent foodie restaurant in Echo Park, and I had drooled over a newly vacant property. Who beats me to it? A raw food/vegan joint. Sigh.
- How to Write Badly Well
- Enter at your own risk: Largehearted Boy's Best of the Decade (2000-2009) Online Music Lists
- Jeanette Winterson adores the night.
- The 10 Worst Food Trends? Really?
- NaNoWriMo starts today!
- M. Ward and Okkervil River were on Austin City Limits last night.
- Ten Delightfully Creepy Etsy Finds for Halloween and All Year 'Round
- I saw Paranormal Activity yesterday, which could have been much scarier with a few replaced scenes and a completely different ending. This led to a conversation of the scariest films ever. For me, it's The Shining hands down. On that note, one opinion on the 10 most terrifying scenes ever filmed.
Posted by escapegrace at 12:01 PM
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Colson Whitehead describes his what-to-write-next dartboard for The New York Times.
I recently published a novel, and now it’s time to get back to work. If you’re anything like me, figuring out what to write next can be a real hassle. A flashy and experimental brain-bender, or a pointillist examination of the dissolution of a typical American family? Generation-spanning door-stopper or claustrophobic psychological sketch? Buncha novellas with a minor character in common? To make things easier, I modified my dartboard a few years ago. Now, when I’m overwhelmed by the untold stories out there, I head down to the basement, throw a dart and see where it lands. Try it for yourself!
As a side note, Whitehead's appearance at the LA Public Library earlier this year was one of the most entertaining readings I've ever seen. He's got the funny.
Posted by escapegrace at 5:23 PM
Thursday, October 29, 2009
1) If you're a middle-aged white man, we're the only two on the trail, and you don't make eye contact, I *will* think you're a serial killer.
2) I have mad respect for the girl who took the time to apply full-on Amy Winehouse eye makeup before heading out to hike.
3) Sometimes I worry that I run like Phoebe in that one episode of Friends.
Posted by escapegrace at 5:39 PM
Louis Menand on "The Ph.D. Problem":
Up to half of all doctoral students in English drop out before getting their degrees (something that appears to be the case in doctoral education generally), and only about half of the rest end up with the jobs they entered graduate school to get—that is, tenured professorships. Over the three decades since the branch was grabbed, a kind of protective shell has grown up around this process, a culture of “realism,” in which exogenous constraints are internalized, and the very conditions that make doctoral education problematic are turned into elements of that education. Students are told from the very start, almost from the minute they apply to graduate school, that they are effectively entering a lottery. This has to have an effect on professional self-conception.
I wonder if Menand feels responsible for contributing to my professional self-conception as one of my grad school professors. (Not at Harvard, folks.)
Posted by escapegrace at 4:58 PM
Sunday, October 25, 2009
- There is a new edition of L.A. Bizarro. Let's hope they do something interesting with their blog.
- Five Great (and Strange) Musical Origin Stories
- Antiga Confeitaria de Belem, here I come: The 50 best things to eat in the world, and where to eat them
- Elizabeth Gilbert TED-talks on nurturing creativity.
- Step Out Into The Light: Fourteen Covers Of Daniel Johnston's "True Love Will Find You In The End"
- I have no idea how they even began to determine this, but the Top 100 T-Shirts of the 2000s
- Cracked considers The World of Tomorrow (If The Internet Disappeared Today)
- On a more serious note, Paul Carr writes on Weezer, plane crashes and everything else that’s worrying about the real-time web.
- Ten Things You Need to Stop Tweeting About
- Congrats to Randa Jarrar for being one of the Best 39 Arab Writers Under 40.
Posted by escapegrace at 9:54 AM
Saturday, October 24, 2009
29. The Book of Night Women by Marlon James
The narrative voice in this epic history of 18th century Jamaican slavery is fiercely hypnotic from page one. The story is told in a linguistically compelling dialect; it reminded me a bit of the "Sloosh'a's Crossin'" chapter in David Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. The plot is dramatic and, at times, brutally violent, but there is something about the telling that comes a little too close to historical romance for me - not in the "romantic" sense, but in the lengthy, overly descriptive tendency toward repetition.
30. You Don't Love Me Yet by Jonathan Lethem
Oh, Jonathan. What are you doing to me? I love your novels - I've pushed Motherless Brooklyn and Fortress of Solitude on dozens of readers, but what the heck was this? That poor pathetic girl was not an engaging protagonist, and if you're going to have a kangaroo kidnapping subplot (and I would have lobbied against this), I need details to make it at all credible or absurd. I, too, would like to write a novel landscaped with all my favorite LA eastside spots, so perhaps I can just appreciate it for that.
31. The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters
If you like The Turn of the Screw, you will love The Little Stranger. Waters's post-WWII ghost story very skillfully captures the historical detail and sense of place that make for a creepy haunted house narrative. What takes the novel beyond conventional imitation is the richness of Waters's characters. The not-quite-successful country doctor, his likely closeted paramour, her fading gentry mother, and even the adolescent scullery maid are all fully drawn. They easily carry the weight of trying to do something new with a long-established genre.
32. Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon
Perhaps the best part of this book was having cocktails with Dan Chaon after his Vroman's appearance while I was in the middle of reading it, but I digress. Chaon deserves the accolades he's been receiving. This novel is both parts literary and cinematic - his descriptions stretch the boundaries of how common objects are usually perceived. He brings his scenes to life in a way that is vividly visual. The complicated plot is woven well between the three alternating narratives, and the denouement does not disappoint.
Posted by escapegrace at 12:18 PM
Friday, October 23, 2009
Before a handful of (white) internet commenters wild on me saying “Sasha Frere-Jones is not a racist,” let me clarify that I’m not saying he’s consciously and intentionally trying to assert his superiority. I’m just trying to point out that his language is typical of that (white) journalistic voice which presupposes the (white) journalist’s authority.
Perhaps it’s first worth examining further why “periodization” is such a “dicey proposition” to begin with, regardless of how early or late. Concepts like “periods” and even “genre” are loose collections of tropes that have no inherent meaning but rather contextual meanings that are only useful to the extent to which they can help organize texts. The point at which they actually serve to define texts is when they can enter a lens of scrutiny so intense as to render them meaningless.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:26 AM
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
What can be learned from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s tax returns?
To start with, his popular reputation as a careless spendthrift is untrue. Fitzgerald was always trying to follow conservative financial principles. Until 1937 he kept a ledger—as if he were a grocer—a meticulous record of his earnings from each short story, play, and novel he sold. The 1929 ledger recorded items as small as royalties of $5.10 from the American edition of The Great Gatsby and $0.34 from the English edition. No one could call Fitzgerald frugal, but he was always trying to save money—at least until his wife Zelda’s illness, starting in 1929, put any idea of saving out of the question. The ordinary person saves to protect against some distant rainy day. Fitzgerald had no interest in that. To him saving meant freedom to work on his novels without interruptions caused by the economic necessity of writing short stories. The short stories were his main source of revenue.
Until the Hollywood years (1937–40), Fitzgerald handwrote his income tax returns. During the Hollywood years, the returns were prepared by accountants and typed. He, of course, kept his ledgers by hand. Regardless of how they were transcribed, the returns and the ledgers reveal a great deal about Fitzgerald—how he lived and how he struggled.
Posted by escapegrace at 11:24 AM
Sunday, October 18, 2009
- YouTube comment or e.e. cummings?
- NPR has two exclusive first listens worth checking out: The Swell Season and the Ben Gibbard/Jay Farrar Kerouac project.
- 10 Coolest Bookstores in the U.S. (Go Skylight!)
- 10 Must See Bands at CMJ
- These cassette tape skeletons almost defy belief.
- The 18 Most Explicit Music Videos Ever
- The 2009 National Book Award finalists have been announced.
- Top 5 Songs to Hear After Being Dumped and some more suggestions @popcandy.
- Smithsonian magazine collects Great Road Trips in American Literature.
- The 15 Best TV Shows That Were Canceled Too Soon
- I must not be on this list because I don't blog about professorial things: 100 Best Professors Who Blog
- I wish upon a star that someone would take me to the Monsters of Folk show tonight at the Greek Theater. (Can't hurt, right?)
Posted by escapegrace at 1:44 PM
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Jeanette Winterson writes in praise of the crack-up.
The stories are well known; Vincent Van Gogh cut off his ear and went mad. Sylvia Plath gassed herself. Anne Sexton committed suicide. Emily Dickinson was manic-depressive. Virginia Woolf worked through alternating bouts of madness and depression for most of her life. The mad, bad and dangerous wild boys of high art and popular culture make great copy—whether it's Caravaggio on the run for murder after one of his rages, or Allen Ginsberg, naked and drunk, howling through Manhattan. The women—Plath, Frida Kahlo, Maria Callas, Janis Joplin—imploding like dark stars, are the stuff of obsession.
The collision of creativity and mental instability is so marked that the tortured artist has become a cliché. But with depression rising fast right across the population—and twice as fast among women as men—it is worth trying to separate the cliché from the truth it masks, and to ask whether the connection between creativity and depression can help us think again about the bigger picture.
Posted by escapegrace at 9:10 AM
Sunday, October 11, 2009
- LA Weekly's Best of LA: Hiking
- The 8 Most Surprising Music Collaborations of 2009 (Flavorwire)
- 100 European Hotels Under $150
- Regretsy is funny because it's true. (Handmade? It looks like you made it with your feet.)
- Zombify Yourself, then Black Dynamite Yo'self (via Pop Candy)
- 10 Best Twilight Zone Episodes (TV Squad)
- The Inquisitor has 10 Monty Python clips to celebrate their 40th birthday.
- Take Proust's questionnaire.
- George Saunders provides commentary for the GQ slideshow: Tent City, USA.
- 10 Killer Rock 'n Roll Photographs (Paste)
- Pitchfork has a previously unreleased live Nirvana track from the Bleach reissue.
- David Ulin reviews The Book of Genesis Illustrated by Robert Crumb.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:22 AM
Saturday, October 10, 2009
I love the internet for the sheer fact that, on any given day, you can stumble upon something like a post by Jim Shepard on the subject of fiction based on non-fiction.
The first worry writers have when they consider working with something like historical events has to do with the issue of authority: as in, where do I get off writing about that? Well, here’s the good and the bad news: where do you get off writing about anything? Where do you get off writing about someone of a different gender? A different person? Where do you get off writing about yourself, from twenty years ago?
Writers shouldn’t lose sight of the essential chutzpah involved in trying to imagine any other kind of sensibility. And that they should take heart from that chutzpah, as well. The whole project of literature – the entire project of the arts — is about the exercise of the empathetic imagination. Why were we given something as amazing as imagination, if we’re not going to use it?
Posted by escapegrace at 2:33 PM
Friday, October 09, 2009
Thursday, October 08, 2009
Sunday, October 04, 2009
- #shortstacksunday was a trending topic on Twitter for a brief time yesterday, and I got all excited. It turns out it was an IHOP promotion. (And just to show how much Apple has permeated our culture/my brain, I initially typed that as iHop.)
- Listen to the new Noah & the Whale album at NPR.
- The 38 Essential Los Angeles Restaurants (Eater LA)
- Flavorwire chooses the defining romance flick of each decade, from Casablanca to When Harry Met Sally.
- The Top 10 Most Depressing Books (Abe Books)
- I love this song and I am being thwarted by international downloading restrictions.
- Ladbrokes has odds up for the 2009 Nobel Prize in Literature (to be announced October 8). Amos Oz leads with odds of 4/1.
- The 10 Worst Movies of the 2000s (Complex.com)
- The Pitchfork Guide to Upcoming Releases: Fall 2009 (but visit largehearted boy's Try It Before You Buy It every week).
- While you're over at Pitchfork, you can also check out the recently released Top 20 of the Top 200 Albums of the 2000s.
- The Top 10 Worst Movie Accents of All Time (Paste)
- Salon has a roundup of Polanski reactions around the web.
Posted by escapegrace at 10:31 AM
Saturday, October 03, 2009
Dear Mr. Stapledon,
I would have thanked you for your book before, but I have been very busy and have only just had time to read it. I don't suppose that I have understood more than a small part - all the same I have understood enough to be greatly interested, and elated too, since sometimes it seems to me that you are grasping ideas that I have tried to express, much more fumblingly, in fiction. But you have gone much further and I can't help envying you - as one does those who reach what one has aimed at.
Many thanks for giving me a copy,
Posted by escapegrace at 2:04 PM
Friday, October 02, 2009
Virginia Woolf on criticism and Hemingway:
And here, indeed, we may conveniently pause and sum up what point we have reached in our critical progress. Mr. Hemingway is not an advanced writer in the sense that he is looking at life from a new angle. What he sees is a tolerably familiar sight. Common objects like beer bottles and journalists figure largely in the foreground. But he is a skilled and conscientious writer. He has an aim and makes for it without fear or circumlocution. We have, therefore, to take his measure against somebody of substance, and not merely line him, for form’s sake, beside the indistinct bulk of some ephemeral shape largely stuffed with straw. Reluctantly we reach this decision, for this process of measurement is one of the most difficult of a critic’s tasks. He has to decide which are the most salient points of the book he has just read; to distinguish accurately to what kind they belong, and then, holding them against whatever model is chosen for comparison, to bring out their deficiency or their adequacy.
Recalling The Sun Also Rises, certain scenes rise in memory: the bullfight, the character of the Englishman, Harris; here a little landscape which seems to grow behind the people naturally; here a long, lean phrase which goes curling round a situation like the lash of a whip. Now and again this phrase evokes a character brilliantly, more often a scene. Of character, there is little that remains firmly and solidly elucidated. Something indeed seems wrong with the people. If we place them (the comparison is bad) against Tchekov’s people, they are flat as cardboard. If we place them (the comparison is better) against Maupassant’s people they are crude as a photograph. If we place them (the comparison may be illegitimate) against real people, the people we liken them to are of an unreal type. They are people one may have seen showing off at some café; talking a rapid, high-pitched slang, because slang is the speech of the herd, seemingly much at their ease, and yet if we look at them a little from the shadow not at their ease at all, and, indeed, terribly afraid of being themselves, or they would say things simply in their natural voices. So it would seem that the thing that is faked is character; Mr. Hemingway leans against the flanks of that particular bull after the horns have passed.
Posted by escapegrace at 3:27 PM
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
I'm enjoying this meditation by Dan Hill on "The Street as Platform" (via @mkgold).
We can’t see how the street is immersed in a twitching, pulsing cloud of data. This is over and above the well-established electromagnetic radiation, crackles of static, radio waves conveying radio and television broadcasts in digital and analogue forms, police voice traffic. This is a new kind of data, collective and individual, aggregated and discrete, open and closed, constantly logging impossibly detailed patterns of behaviour. The behaviour of the street.
Posted by escapegrace at 11:32 AM
Sunday, September 27, 2009
- "Dude Watchin' with the Brontës"
- The 2009 MacArthur Fellows have been announced.
- The Future’s Twelve Worst Haircuts (New York)
- Don't miss Aquarium Drunkard's awesome L.A. Burnout compilation.
- Peanuts, by Charles Bukowski
- The Millions names The Corrections the best book of the millennium (so far).
- The Only Two Writing Tips You’ll Ever Need
- Information Is Beautiful offers "ideas, issues, knowledge, data – visualized!"
- Twenty Ridiculously Literal Album Covers (Paste)
- Twenty Weirdest Zombie Movies Ever Made (93 Studios)
- Richard Barnes's photos of natural history museum installations are beautiful and creepy.
- The hunt is on for Griffith Park's coyotes because one nipped a napping man's foot in an attempt to get fed.
Posted by escapegrace at 2:20 PM
Saturday, September 26, 2009
At The American Scholar, William M. Chace examines "The Decline of the English Department."
In one generation, then, the numbers of those majoring in the humanities dropped from a total of 30 percent to a total of less than 16 percent; during that same generation, business majors climbed from 14 percent to 22 percent. Despite last year’s debacle on Wall Street, the humanities have not benefited; students are still wagering that business jobs will be there when the economy recovers.
What are the causes for this decline? There are several, but at the root is the failure of departments of English across the country to champion, with passion, the books they teach and to make a strong case to undergraduates that the knowledge of those books and the tradition in which they exist is a human good in and of itself. What departments have done instead is dismember the curriculum, drift away from the notion that historical chronology is important, and substitute for the books themselves a scattered array of secondary considerations (identity studies, abstruse theory, sexuality, film and popular culture). In so doing, they have distanced themselves from the young people interested in good books.
Posted by escapegrace at 11:20 AM
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
The Millions is/are counting down The Best Fiction of the Millenium with an all-star panel. I'll be interested to see the top 5 after today's entry at #6: The Road.
This is perhaps the most shocking aspect of The Road: what remains, what you remember years after you’ve read the book, is the beauty, the compassion, the relentlessness of possibility that burns on the colorless horizon. You understand—much in the way that you first understand poetry, through feeling and syntax and imagery rather than logic—that no matter how desolate the story, it is made bearable through language. There is, the novel asserts, something like triumph in the very telling of a tale, a commitment to the act of witness, and to receive a story is to exalt the imagination, to participate in the process of faith, to accept deliverance. Why else, then, would the father in the novel—when his son is too scared to sleep, when the noise of the world dying its cold death keeps him awake—comfort the boy with narrative? They’ve been stripped of everything except voice, but even on the darkest path words can retain their meaning, their promise of light that will lead lost travelers home.
Update: At least Cloud Atlas is in the top 3 (although nothing else could possibly belong in the #1 position, IMHO).
Posted by escapegrace at 11:36 AM
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
I had a conversation a few weeks ago with a group of people who were reminiscing about learning cursive. Some people found it an oppressive tyranny on their block printing and still look back upon the lessons with dismay. Others - including myself - saw learning cursive as a doorway to adulthood that had finally been breached. I recalled writing looping lines as a cursive-less child, thinking they somehow conveyed meaning I just couldn't understand yet. My parents were trained as elementary school teachers, and they were both indoctrinated into the penmanship standards of the time. And I mean indoctrinated - to this day, when I receive cards in the mail from either of them, I am unable to tell their handwriting apart. As their daughter, I take great pride in my cursive style, so I read with interest Umberto Eco on the lost art of handwriting:
My parents' handwriting was slightly slanted because they held the sheet at an angle, and their letters were, at least by today's standards, minor works of art. At the time, some – probably those with poor hand- writing – said that fine writing was the art of fools. It's obvious that fine handwriting does not necessarily mean fine intelligence. But it was pleasing to read notes or documents written as they should be.
My generation was schooled in good handwriting, and we spent the first months of elementary school learning to make the strokes of letters. The exercise was later held to be obtuse and repressive but it taught us to keep our wrists steady as we used our pens to form letters rounded and plump on one side and finely drawn on the other. Well, not always – because the inkwells, with which we soiled our desks, notebooks, fingers and clothing, would often produce a foul sludge that stuck to the pen and took 10 minutes of mucky contortions to clean.
Posted by escapegrace at 1:58 PM
Sunday, September 20, 2009
- Oh, Kanye!
- If you printed the internet...
- Dear Old Love...
- 25 Greatest Cult TV Shows Ever
- 25 Delectable LA Dining Deals
- Flavorwire deconstructs Lady Gaga's VMA ensembles.
- The 10 Myths of Riot Grrrl
- Top 100 Film Studies Blogs
- Watch the trailer for Jason Reitman's Up in the Air.
- Watch the new trailer for Where the Wild Things Are.
- Awesomely Bad Engagement Photos
- The Morning News followed up its 2004 music bloggers roundtable with another this past July.
Posted by escapegrace at 2:04 PM
Thursday, September 17, 2009
In preparing a new syllabus, I was reminded of this Gary Lutz talk published in The Believer earlier this year: "The Sentence Is a Lonely Place"
...I favored books that you could open to any page and find in every paragraph sentences that had been worked and reworked until their forms and contours and their organizations of sound had about them an air of having been foreordained—as if this combination of words could not be improved upon and had finished readying itself for infinity.
And as I encountered any such sentence, the question I would ask myself in marvelment was: how did this thing come to be what it now is? This was when I started gazing into sentence after sentence and began to discover that there was nothing arbitrary or unwitting or fluky about the shape any sentence had taken and the sound it was releasing into the world.
Posted by escapegrace at 9:09 AM
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Sunday, September 13, 2009
Jim Carroll died of a heart attack Friday in Manhattan at age 60.
James Dennis Carroll, the son of a bar owner, spent his childhood on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where he attended Roman Catholic schools. After the family moved to Inwood, at the northern end of Manhattan, he won a basketball scholarship to Trinity. There he discovered a love of writing and began spending time at the St. Mark’s Poetry Project in the East Village, falling under the spell of Allen Ginsberg and Frank O’Hara.
Still in his teens, he published a limited-edition pamphlet of his poems, “Organic Trains” (1967), which, with its successor, “4 Ups and 1 Down” (1970), won him a cult following that was enhanced when The Paris Review published excerpts from his journals in 1970. “Living at the Movies” (1973), issued by a mainstream publisher, won him both acclaim and a wider audience.
His life was colorful. Hailed by Ginsberg, Berrigan and Jack Kerouac as a powerful new poetic voice, he became a fixture on the downtown scene. After briefly attending Wagner College on Staten Island and Columbia University, he found his way to Andy Warhol’s Factory, where he contributed dialogue for Warhol’s films. Later he worked as a studio assistant for the painter Larry Rivers and lived with Ms. Smith and Robert Mapplethorpe, the photographer. He chronicled this frenetic period in “Forced Entries: The Downtown Diaries, 1971-1973.”
Posted by escapegrace at 3:54 PM
- Back in New York, I was hired to conduct research on Gilbert Rohde, modernist American furniture designer. The resulting book has been published.
- This ink calendar is amazing.
- Slaughterhouse 90210 (via Jacket Copy)
- Died Young, Stayed Pretty is a documentary about the indie-rock poster subculture. Watch the trailer.
- Paste nominates the best voices in indie rock.
- Take this quiz on starting school in literature.
- Joe Wilson is Your Pre-Existing Condition
- The National Book Foundation is coming to the end of its daily overview of 60 Years of the National Book Awards.
- Simpsons writer takes revenge on Pynchon scholar who doesn't watch TV. (via @maudnewton)
- 10 Awesome Images That Are Actually Paintings
- Michael Schaub on 15 Rich-Ass Authors I’ve Suddenly Decided To Like
Posted by escapegrace at 9:55 AM