Thursday, December 27, 2007

Me vs. Life

Five days off from work will really make you realize the importance of not working. The old joke: how do you make god laugh? Make a plan.

My plans for the time off involved reading a lot, writing, doing some WWB work, watching movies, drinking and enjoying the dwindling time when I can legally smoke in bars. Sadly, I got sick and had to curb the smoking and drinking, which meant I did not get to any of my watering holes, save for Wednesday when I met friends at the pub (non-smoking friends, which meant I abstained). Other calamities befell. Aching muscles and old age pains, city living, broken glass, dirt, rage, resignation . . . it was all too much. I ended up staying in most of the time, sitting on my ass and watching cable and only occasionally reading (and writing less than I had hoped). And then I missed DC at the airport. And I couldn’t sleep very much. It was an ideal break in some ways but, as with all vacations, even those spent in town, it ended too soon and I felt as though nothing I set out to do was done. But who cares? It still beats having to shuffle into the office.

A four-day weekend approaches and I again plan to relax, read, write, watch movies, loaf. We’ll see if the city and the demands of modern life impede this non-activity.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Nicanor Parra

A nice site featuring Nicanor Parra and his antipoems:

Thursday, December 20, 2007

2007 Reading

The best books (in no real order, except the first which is one of the best books I’ve ever read) I happened upon in 2007 were:

The Obscene Bird of Night – José Donoso
The Savage Detectives – Roberto Bolaño
Shamrock Tea – Ciaran Carson
Under the Volcano – Malcolm Lowry
Nazi Literature in the Americas – Roberto Bolaño
Amulet – Roberto Bolaño
Shapeshift – Sherwin Bitsui
A Country Doctor’s Notebook – Mikhail Bulgakov
The Adolescent – Dostoevsky (or was that last year?)
The Stray Dog Cabaret collection
Zeno’s Conscience – Italo Svevo
Black No More – George Schuyler
The Last Clear Narrative – Rachel Zucker
The Invisible Player – Giuseppe Pontiggia
Ice – Vladimir Sorokin

Notable contenders:

Breaking News – Ciaran Carson
Fascination of Evil – Florian Zeller
The Human Line – Ellen Bass
Man and Camel – Mark Strand
Oubliette – Peter Richards
Hidden Camera – Zoran Živković
The Ministry of Pain – Dubravka Ugrešic
The Business of Books: How the International Conglomerates Took Over Publishing and Changed the Way We Read – Andre Schiffrin
Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics – Mikhail Bakhtin (I really only read half of it)
If This Be Treason: Translation and its Dyscontents – Gregory Rabassa (which I need to look at again, but sadly don’t own)

Next up (yeah, right):

The poetry of Cesar Vallejo
Hopscotch – Julio Cortázar
Montano’s Malady – Enrique Vila-Matas
By Night in Chile – Roberto Bolaño
The Bad Girl – Mario Vargas Llosa
The Garden Next Door – José Donoso
The poetry of Frank O’Hara
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy (when school’s done)
Malvinas Requiem – Rodolfo Fogwill
The Green House – Mario Vargas Llosa
Lost City Radio – Daniel Alarcón
The poetry of Adam Zagajewski

Fuck Bob Dylan

I’ll admit I do want to see Cate Blanchet portray Bob Dylan only because I am hoping she captures the disconnected loopiness and deadpan stare (masquerading as profound) that has duped so many generations. Blanchet is a wonderful actress and maybe the best person for the job. I am sure she is amusing as Dylan, or so I hope.

A few years ago I chanced a few scenes of Masked and Anonymous, which was more than enough to cement what I had long suspected: Emperor Dylan’s not wearing any clothes. At least not these days.

Masked and Anonymous is absolute crap with only Jeff Bridges and Giovanni Ribisi trying to elevate the thing. They seemed to be acting in an entirely different movie, god bless them. I can only assume I’m Not There is somewhat better, mostly since it is directed by Todd Haynes. But I hear Dylan waltzes into this film as well, picking up a check and all the accolades he claims he is not concerned with. This alone will keep me from seeing the thing.

I heard a snippet of “Ballad of a Thin Man” on NPR the other day. I can’t think of a better example of why Bob Dylan infuriates me.

I don’t hate Dylan, no. I just hate most of his art. He has a handful of good songs, or songs I enjoy. “The Man in Me” is great but I only like it because of The Big Lebowski. “Hurricane” is wonderful. Most of that record is, actually. And I do like “Ballad of a Thin Man” but the rambling bit about being a cow sinks the song completely. Dylan doesn’t know when to quit, damn him to hell. Here’s the objectionable verse:

Now you see this one-eyed midget
Shouting the word "NOW"
And you say, "For what reason?"
And he says, "How?"
And you say, "What does this mean?"
And he screams back, "You're a cow
Give me some milk
Or else go home"

A wonderful song virtually destroyed by some bullshit stream-of-consciousness lyrical masturbation. Unless Dylan actually wrote that verse ahead of time, in which case the Emperor is truly stark fucking naked. Either way, it’s the seventh verse, for Christ's sake. Clearly God Dylan should have rested on the 6th.

Seriously, that verse always strikes me as the sort of thing that only C+ art school dropouts would dare produce. And it angers me because the rest of the song is so damn good, lyrically and musically. Okay, some of the other lyrics are crap, but they’re inoffensive crap. And the music is stunning, partially because it is a multi-instrumental cut and not just Dylan fucking around over a shitty acoustic guitar and shittier harmonica.

I’m only bitching about this because I’ve managed to hear a lot of Dylan lately, in cafés and on the radio, and it has again made me feel so alone. (I know you feel the same way, niña. Gracias.) I hear Bobby Zimmerman, that posturing folkie, and I get really, really pissed. I feel like the pod people have taken over and I’m the last person on Earth still in control of my faculties, the one man who will not kneel before this shriveled and wheezy icon, the one person who sees something sad and ironic about Dylan selling his music through Starbucks, a fact that none of his zealots seem bothered by. Then again, those sheep would have to think to reach such a conclusion.

Punk rock rant done.

Blog Adultery Part 2

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bolaño short story

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Vita Died

It snowed the day Vita died
as if her body releasing life
caused a barometric shift.
Pressure dropped and swept the sky,
pressure felt in undignified months
and every ambivalent visitation
with her body in the supine position.

Pills and tubes fed the breaking
fought with futile tears
the way the clouds fight against
the chill of December,
never a month without a storm.

And we tread on salt
and pealed the ice
from windshields,
wrenched our backs
on bitter accumulation
in the days following her death
when the snow melted
and ice fell the way she became
removed from the burden of being.

Monday, December 10, 2007

They say the holidays are a time of depression

I am always one to pimp the scene at Words Without Borders, partially for self-promoting reasons, but this month I discovered something quite amazing: go to the main page and look at the features from top to, oh, eight or nine entries down. The story title is listed first, then the author and translator info with a quick summation of the story/poem. After that is the blurb, provided in italics. Read the blubs one after another. Cut and paste them in a Word doc and you’ll have the most depressing poem ever written.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Odd Nerdrum