Monday, November 30, 2009

you should have offered her your boots

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.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

sunday short stack

"Only a world without love would be worse than one without music." - Kingsley Amis

Friday, November 27, 2009

ladwp holiday light show by day

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.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

happy thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

judging a book

i09 presents a history of 16 science fiction classics, told in book covers.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

sunday short stack

“Humor is what happens when we’re told the truth quicker and more directly than we’re used to.” - George Saunders

Saturday, November 21, 2009

what an essay is, exactly, these days

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!

disco bloodbath is a pretty great name

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 (, 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 (, have sprung up.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

video fun thursday

The new Beck/Charlotte Gainsbourg video:

The N.A.S.A. Tom Waits/Kool Keith video:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

sunday short stack

"For all that has been, thanks. For all that will be, yes." - Dag Hammarskjold

Friday, November 06, 2009

the ladies, they write good!

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.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

the impossibility of contentment

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...

Sunday, November 01, 2009

sunday short stack

"There are certain themes of which the interest is all-absorbing, but which are too entirely horrible for the purposes of legitimate fiction."
- Edgar Allen Poe