Saturday, February 28, 2009

because I’m good at it

Joy Williams on Flannery O'Connor:

Flannery. She liked to drink Coca-Cola mixed with coffee. She gave her mother, Regina, a mule for Mother’s Day. She went to bed at 9 and said she was always glad to get there. After ­Kennedy’s ­assassination she said: “I am sad about the president. But I like the new one.” As a child she sewed outfits for her chickens and wanted to be a ­cartoonist.

She reluctantly traveled to Lourdes and claimed she prayed for the novel she was working on, “The Violent Bear It Away,” which she referred to as Opus Nauseous. She referred to each of her novels as Opus Nauseous.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

middle cyclone

NPR is streaming Neko Case's upcoming release Middle Cyclone.

harnesses the awesome power of the word clean

The Coen Brothers take on the myth of "clean coal":

Monday, February 23, 2009

the man from dream city

This has been out for awhile, but I'm just getting around to it. Zadie Smith on Obama in The New York Review of Books:

Right up to the wire, Obama made many black men and women of Jackson's generation suspicious. How can the man who passes between culturally black and white voices with such flexibility, with such ease, be an honest man? How will the man from Dream City keep it real? Why won't he speak with a clear and unified voice? These were genuine questions for people born in real cities at a time when those cities were implacably divided, when the black movement had to yell with a clear and unified voice, or risk not being heard at all. And then he won. Watching Jesse Jackson in tears in Grant Park, pressed up against the varicolored American public, it seemed like he, at least, had received the answer he needed: only a many-voiced man could have spoken to that many people.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

sunday short stack

"A writer is a person for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people." - Thomas Mann

Saturday, February 21, 2009

do you like?

In preparation for the Oscars tomorrow, here are 8 humiliating Japanese ads starring Oscar nominees. While you don't have to tell me twice to check out Brad Pitt's jeans, this totally bizarre commercial with Nicholas Cage is my favorite:

Sunday, February 15, 2009

sunday short stack

"Love consists in this, that two solitudes protect and touch and greet each other." - R.M. Rilke

Love: two minds without a single thought." - Philip Barry

Saturday, February 14, 2009

52 books in 52 weeks

1. A Map of Home by Randa Jarrar

This was a great book with which to begin the year - witty, detailed, and full of energy. The main character - an Egyptian-Palestinian adolescent girl in Kuwait - practically runs off the page. Having followed Randa's blog since long before the book was published, I was really hoping the book would be a smash and it surpassed my expectations.

2. Mrs. Bridge by Evan S. Connell

A friend gave me this book at my going away party this summer in New York and I finally got around to reading it. What was I waiting for? This book is a syntactic treasure. Each and every line describing the life of a repressed mid-century matron is crafted to so accurately capture the seething reality below the pretense that it is painful and, yet, hilarious. And then so painful again.

3. The Collector by John Fowles

I will never be able to watch a crime show on TV that pictures a young girl kidnapped and kept in a creep's basement - and believe me, there are so many (three at least in the past two weeks!) - without returning to this book. Miranda has now become the narrative epitome of every "collected" innocent struggling to survive in captivity. Fowles's ending approaches perfection.

4. Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties by Beth Kobliner

This book might have been helpful if it was 1997 and I was not slipping out of its target audience a little more each day.

5. McSweeney's Issue 29

I just started my first subscription to McSweeney's Quarterly. Some of the stories were fantastic and all were worth reading. I do have to steal a line from my friend, however. He mentioned that while all of the writing was terrific, some of the plots were not worthy of the prose, like watching a bad movie with amazing special effects.

6. Jane: A Murder by Maggie Nelson

So far this year, between A Map of Home and Jane, written by a grad school colleague, I am pretty darn proud of the women writers I know. Maggie's poetic processing of her aunt's brutal murder is so inventive and moving, I had to stop and literally catch my breath at one point in a crowded waiting room and I didn't care who noticed. Buy this book.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

double head!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

the smell is not hiding from the law

Classic venue The Smell is on this week's cover of LA Weekly and the subject of a feature story (with sideshow) by Jessica Hopper.

The Smell — like most clubs, a depot of questionable haircuts and loud bands — doesn’t at first glance seem remarkable. But many consider it a different kind of place from other clubs that came before it. It’s an all-ages, no-booze, not-for-profit operation that shuns most of the hierarchies of cool and is staffed by punk-minted teenage volunteers, legit and steadfast. And right now, it’s at the center of the worldwide underground, a positive role model for the DIY ideals of community, safe space and inclusion. Plus, it books some of the country’s most exciting bands, with No Age, Abe Vigoda and Mika Miko its sweaty ambassadors. The Smell makes good on punk’s long-unfulfilled promises and offers a working model of what community can be.

The Smell not only gave No Age and other bands a place to play, but it also indoctrinated the musicians on how to approach their careers, gave them an ideological toehold in the scene, and fostered them amid equanimity and fellowship. So what becomes of you after you exit that community? What happens when the dogma of “no hierarchy” is eschewed, and you are assigned a new role, as kings of the scene?

Monday, February 09, 2009

portrait of my father

In Granta's "Fathers" issue, Maud Newton recalls harboring a prostitute in her home as a child.

Exactly how long the prostitute, unbeknownst to my father, stayed at our house and slept in my bed is hard to gauge. Nowadays time lacks the expansive quality it had when I was eleven years old. But more than three weeks and less than five months elapsed between the day she moved in and the terrible afternoon he noticed her crouching behind the frosted glass shower door in the front bathroom, and kicked her out.

Other contributors to the issue include Siri Hustvedt, Alison Bechdel, Jonathan Lethem, and Ali Smith.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

sunday short stack

"Cut out all these exclamation points - An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wednesday, February 04, 2009