Sunday, August 30, 2009

sunday short stack

"I take a simple view of life: keep your eyes open and get on with it." - Sir Laurence Olivier

Friday, August 28, 2009

kiss of fire

This is a view of the smoke suffocating Los Angeles today.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

52 books in 52 weeks

24. The Masters of Atlantis by Charles Portis

If this book had taken place in California, it would have been perfect for my dissertation on alternative religion. There was something Upton Sinclair-ish about the style, and while I did not find it as uproarious as the blurbs promised, the characters and their intermittent devotion to their sect kept me interested.

25. The Epicure's Lament by Kate Christensen

Why are novels told from the point of view of the misanthropic so damn enjoyable? I could have spent another novel's worth of time with Christensen's narrator. The supporting cast successfully supported, but Hugo Whittier's voice is what kept me from wanting to put the book down. As this was my first Christensen book, I look forward to more.

26. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I almost didn't read past the first few chapters, which is something I practically never do. Zusak has off-putting writerly tics - especially diction that made me check more than once to see if the book had been poorly translated - but the narrator (Death) and the tale of a young German girl during WWII won out in the end. The novel is long, but despite this, it's a quick read.

27. Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower

I was certain Tower's debut story collection would not live up to the hype, but it did. Each story opened up an original, singular world that hit just the right notes. Even the one story with a female narrator rang true. Tower's vocal versatility is impressive. More, please.

28. Nobody Move by Denis Johnson

Disappointing. Johnson can be a fantastic writer, and I was often left wondering about his choices in this pulpy thriller. I will say that I was reading it during a particularly nasty bout of insomnia, and the style and action got me through several sleepless nights, so thank you, Mr. Johnson. I'm sorry I didn't like it more.

Monday, August 24, 2009

sunset junction 2009

Some photos from this year's Sunset Junction...

The Sonics

Wet Platinum Personal Lubricant provided all the trash receptacles.

Woman vs. Bull

Bull wins.

Racist carnival ride

My old neighbor Bob

Dancin' folks were all about Arrested Development.

Built to Spill

Sunday, August 23, 2009

sunday short stack

"He who falls in love with himself will have no rivals." - Benjamin Franklin

Saturday, August 22, 2009

I will make my character laugh where sensible people think he ought to cry

I'm finally getting around to reading this profile of the new (Knut) Hamsun Centre in Presteid, Norway.

Børset wants the Hamsun Centre to be a place of reconciliation as well as literary debate, creativity and scholarship, open to everyone. Holl faced up to this debate when he first accepted the commission in 1994. Referring to the current exchange of letters, he says: "I think that all those things, good and bad, can be shown in a museum dedicated to the life of one person. You can include the stains in the exhibitions. Life isn't all clean. It has some messy corners."

several discs or an extensive playlist at least

Does every relationship have a soundtrack?

"If you bond over the Smiths, for example, that's not good," Neustadter said. "That's a recipe for disaster."

Friday, August 21, 2009

don't be an egomaniac or a chowderhead

Via @maudnewton, Kurt Vonnegut on "How to Write with Style":

7. Pity the readers

They have to identify thousands of little marks on paper, and make sense of them immediately. They have to read, an art so difficult that most people don't really master it even after having studied it all through grade school and high school --- twelve long years.

So this discussion must finally acknowledge that our stylistic options as writers are neither numerous nor glamorous, since our readers are bound to be such imperfect artists. Our audience requires us to be sympathetic and patient readers, ever willing to simplify and clarify --- whereas we would rather soar high above the crowd, singing like nightingales.

That is the bad news. The good news is that we Americans are governed under a unique Constitution, which allows us to write whatever we please without fear of punishment. So the most meaningful aspect of our styles, which is what we choose to write about, is utterly unlimited.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

sunday short stack

"Television is for appearing on - not for looking at." - Noel Coward

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

william vollman @ skylight books

Vollman answers questions after reading from the Chinese tunnels section in Imperial.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

sunday short stack

"At 18, our convictions are hills from which we look; at 45, they are caves in which we hide." - F. Scott Fitzgerald

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

budd schulberg (1914 - 2009)

In memory of Budd Schulberg, thoughts from my dissertation on his classic Hollywood novel What Makes Sammy Run?

Budd Schulberg, son of former Paramount chief B.P. Schulberg, was almost blacklisted in Hollywood upon the 1941 publication of his novel, What Makes Sammy Run? The novel satirizes the studio system, and while many welcomed the subject matter, many readers were appalled. “They attacked it not only as a slander on Hollywood, but on the human race, and I found myself denounced as a sensationalist, a falsifier, and even…a Fascist!” writes Schulberg in the introduction to the 1952 Modern Library Edition. However, even Schulberg is not impervious to the depiction of studio head as possessing mysterious powers. Sammy Glick may be an unscrupulous bully, but he remains an object of fascination and disagreeable esteem for Al, the narrator, with the question “What makes Sammy run?” reverberating endlessly in his mind. Sammy’s powers are not those of virtue, but darkness, a Lucifer to Monroe Stahr’s Christ in Fitzgerald's The Last Tycoon. Sammy is, in Al’s view, the personification of a diabolical historical force:

Now Sammy’s career meteored through my mind in all its destructive brilliance, his blitzkrieg against his fellow men. My mind skipped from conquest to conquest, like the scrapbook on his exploits I had been keeping ever since that memorable birthday party at the Algonquin. It was a terrifying and wonderful document, the record of where Sammy ran, and if you looked behind the picture and between the lines you might even discover what made him run. And some day I would like to see it published, as a blueprint of a way of life that was paying dividends in America in the first half of the twentieth century (276).
In his scrapbook, Al has essentially assembled the gospel according to Sammy Glick, representing the universality of a distinctly American form of exaltation, that of revenue and ambition.

shaking a baby in his mouth

Glenn Danzig takes us on a (shirtless) tour of his book collection:

Via @chutry

Sunday, August 02, 2009

sunday short stack

"Hollywood didn't do anything to my books. Look at them--they're all sitting on the shelf, right there." - William Faulkner
(via @sashafrerejones)