Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Quim Monzó

The official site of Quim Monzó, available in English, Spanish and his own Catalan:


Recommendation, with all that is in me: The Enormity of the Tragedy. I read the bulk of this book in Las Vegas, while on the plane to and from and while in the hotel sipping whiskey and waiting for the next casino crawl. This book, while, pardon the pun, enormously fun, really sickened me at times—sickened in the best way imaginable. It really is chilling and hilarious all at once. Monzó is a madman, a beautiful madman.

I’ve been reading his only other book in English, O’Clock, a collection of stories, all of which are quite good but none of which struck me the way The Enormity of the Tragedy has. Here’s hoping that more of his work becomes translated into English. He’s apparently quite prolific. I’m also hoping that a better press picks up his next book. The editor missed about ten glaring typos, which did not detract from the enjoyment of the novel. Still, they’re charging enough for a paperback, so you’d think they’d comb over the text a bit more before submitting the final edit.

And here’s a link to a story of his (which I haven’t read just yet) from Words Without Borders:


Monday, February 25, 2008

Dubravka Ugresic

A nice article about Dubravka Ugresic:
Her book Lend Me Your Character, an excellent read, is highlighted here hilariously:

"In 1981, while working as an academic, Ugresic wrote a postmodern romantic parody that became a Yugoslav cult classic, Steffie Cvek in the Jaws of Life, for which she also co-wrote a screenplay in 1984. It was published in translation by Dalkey Archive, as Lend Me Your Character (2004). The typist Steffie searches for Mr Right amid a blizzard of advice from friends, an elderly aunt and women's magazines, in a sewing pattern of a novel that weaves threads of Madame Bovary into lessons in applying mascara. When a recent Polish translation came out, readers unaware of when it was written thought it a hilarious send-up of Bridget Jones's Diary."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Borges & the Labyrinthine Net

Salon.com ran a similar article years ago, but I’m too lazy to find it and compare and contrast (plus, fuck them, snarky bastards), so I give you this piece about Borges, great prognosticator and foreseer of the World Wide Web:


Thursday, February 07, 2008

César Vallejo

My Favorite Bars

Having recently watched The Sound of Music (thanks, niña), I am temped to be ambitious and write this post to the tune of “My Favorite Things.” But I won’t.

I have not been inside a bar in 2008. Since the smoking ban, and my own personal efforts not to light up, I have avoided these old haunts, though I’m sure that’ll change before long.

Each bar one visits has its own personality and for this we either like a place or don’t, much the way we pick and choose (or don’t, though should) our friends. I list a few of my favorite bars in Chicago in no particular order.

The Red Lion. Where else to begin? I’ve made it my home away from home for the better part of, oh, twelve years. I may have strayed but I’ve always returned. The drinks may not be the cheapest (I usually start off with a pint of Speckled Hen and a shot of Makers and work my way down to the Pabst and Jack), and the place itself is (was, it’s being renovated) structurally unsound, but it is still the place I feel most comfortable wasting hours on drinks, banter, and whatever movie Colin the bartender decides to showcase. It might be the only bar in the area that does not play music so loud you can’t hear your companions. Hell, I’ve sat there and just read a book while imbibing. As much as I love the Lion, I fear that I will not frequent the place again when it emerges from its cocoon all remodeled and up to city code. It’s going to be very different, I know. The old fake pub is gone.

Delilah’s. Though I only get there once a year, I hold this place in high regard, even as, again, I feel that too much has changed for my liking. Punk Rock Mondays used to consist of a $2 Jim Beam drink and a $1 can of American beer (no longer manufactured). Now they raised the Beam price and god knows what they serve as an alternative to the old cans of cheap, yet agreeable, beer with an eagle proudly displayed. Every Thanksgiving I wind up there for Wild Turkey shots, and even those have risen in price. Granted, this is the bar for bourbon in Chicago and they have more beers than I’ve ever heard of, but I’m falling a little out of love with the hipsters and cloying art school crowd who still think dyed hair and piercings instantly makes you a rebel. The look is old and so am I. This bar always managed a mix of young punk college kids and aging hardcore/metalheads. I know which group I belong to, but I also know to leave the dark little vampire bar for the new crop of goth kids and burgeoning alcoholics.

Sovereign. Ah, the little bar that was across the street from my last apartment—always dangerous. I avoided the Sovereign for months because my dumbass roommate told me it looked shady and too full of Edgewater locals not in the mood for anyone under the age of fifty to cross the threshold. As is the case with many things, my roommate was dead wrong. Sure, the bar is a haven for some of the career drunks of Edgewater, and Sundays during football season are lively with their wheezes and cheers, but the place is taken over by college kids routinely around ten, at which point the jukebox predictably changes from Willie Nelson to the Pixies. Once I heard Outkast there and once the Misfits. Clearly whoever stocks the tunes is well aware of what to put on to ensure I’ll stay for one more round. I don’t get there as much since moving, but I’d gladly go again if only to try and win a free Pabst, which I’ve yet to do. All you have to do is guess the playing card number and suit on the underside of the bottle cap. I came close once, guessing the eight of hearts (infinite love) when it was the eight of diamonds (infinite wealth—you can see which is more important to me). The bartender gave me the beer for half the price, which was nice, but I still want to win a free one. The quest continues.

Rose’s. There are many, many stories about this place. Oddly, no other bar in the city better defines my drinking life than this dive. I don’t know how to feel about that, I really don’t. I started going there as a DePaul student. Back then, every other outing there was fun, or so it seemed. You could go to Rose’s and have a great time, then go back a few days later and feel rotten, like a real failure. The bar is alcohol itself—sometimes it makes you giddy and sometimes it makes you cry. I did witness one brawl there over a pool game. That was memorable. And I used to go and listen to Rose’s son (whose name escapes me— DC and I always called him Petrov) wax philosophical. “People are always busy looking at TVs, they ought to try looking out their window sometime.” Deep, Petrov, deep. Rose had a bad run for a bit, and got a metal plate in her head after someone hit her with a beer mug. She wasn’t the same after (who could be?) but since then she’s been warming up and returning to her old cordial Macedonian self. I think Rose’s will always stay with me since it is the setting of the most devastating kiss I’ve ever shared. Nothing was the same after. I guess it had to happen there. The bar is a weird barometer of my life in the city.

I’ll stop the list here, though it could go on. Those are the important places, anyway. Other notable mentions would be the Old Town Ale House and the former Déjà vu, before it got sold, remodeled, and ruined. I never made it to Tooman’s much before it went the way of all flesh, and by the time I did it was no longer the bike messenger hangout. Everything changes.



This is easily the most upsetting thing I’ve seen on the silver screen in some time. I had already read Iris Chang’s instant classic, The Rape of Nanking, and knew what to expect, but this film destroyed me nevertheless. Not for the faint of heart, but really everyone should see the movie if only to understand the extreme inhumanity of which man is frighteningly capable.

And speaking of Iris Chang, when her name appeared at the end of the movie I failed to suppress tears. Her suicide remains one of the saddest mysteries I can imagine. Truly everything the 1937 occupation of Nanking touches, regardless of time and place, is forever altered.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


I didn’t realize this, but I think DC told me about it. Anyway, one of the places Taipei Movie One played: http://blog.yam.com/iloverain/article/10979040

Wish I could've been there to see it.
If I could go back in time and have a drink with anyone it would be with Peter O’Toole, who is, of course, still alive but might not be the champion drinker he once was.

Borges interview

Continuing in my tradition of posting links I found on Three Percent, here’s a never before translated interview with Borges:


Friday, February 01, 2008

If I could go back in time and have a drink with anyone it would not be Malcolm Lowry because he would surely drink me under the table and might even get a little rough.

Winterson, I love you, but please...

I love Jeanette Winterson, and I love her website: www.jeanettewinterson.com but I am getting increasingly less fond of her monthly messages, which are almost always awash in a simplistic kind of political ranting that one could just as easily find in the average undergraduate dorm room. Not to say that I don’t agree with Ms. Winterson a lot of the time, but I find the blanket statement she made this month about masculinity running wild and ruining the world, and how we need girls in office, to be a bit irksome. This is only because the woman running for office in my country, arguably the most powerful position one can hold in the fucking world, is not who I would wish to see representing the U.S. of A. I’m all for a woman president, just not that woman.