Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Save Walter White

Have I mentioned that this show is the greatest?

What an exciting time!

California, while recognizing all same sex marriages made before Prop 8 reared its big, dumb head, reinforces the ban. Sigh.

I can’t wait for this issue to be over and placed in the history books alongside Women’s Suffrage and the Civil Rights Movement on the list of important changes to national embarrassments. Then I can tell the younger generation, “I was there. I saw it. Can you believe people actually had to debate the issue? I mean, I know it seems ridiculous to you kids that there ever was discussion about whether or not people could marry, sure, but I was there. It really happened.”

Friday, May 22, 2009

António Lobo Antunes

Here’s a good piece on António Lobo Antunes, Portugal’s answer to Faulkner, or so say some. Having read his book Knowledge of Hell, I see the comparison (though I loathe it). Lobo Antunes likes the polyphonic structure and is by no means a quick read, but his novels, while dense, dive head-fucking-first into the abyss and leave little room for breath. What Do I Do When Everything’s On Fire is on my shortlist of books to read, as is Fado Aleanderino. This article has some interesting points, especially the bit about the rivalry in Portugal between his fans and Saramago’s.

A new Lobo Antunes book of short essays and stories is available now, and it looks like his entire catalog will be translated and published (there are plenty of his books available in English already), so now’s your chance to pick up on this world class writer who may very well snag the Nobel one of these days. (Hopefully they’ll hand it to Nicanor Parra next.)


Cassandra and I watched Žižek! last night, an hour long documentary on the hot-shit cultural theorist of the day. There were, as expected, moments when I was awed by the quick mind of Slavoj Žižek and just as many moments when I scratched my head. And, of course, I had to laugh at almost everything the guy did. Like a walking tic, he can’t remain still or stop talking, he admits, for fear of people suddenly thinking he’s not as smart as his reputation would have you believe.

Here’s a fun little transcript from last year that raises a point about our sad country and implies that the left, when they gain power, are in danger of losing the myth. Žižek mentions 1968, which is one of the most interesting years in 20th century history. Think of everything that happened: Another dead Kennedy, MLK assassinated, the Democratic Convention here in Chicago, the slaughter in Mexico City, The strike and student revolution in Paris, the Prague Spring, the Tet Offensive, JBJ decides not to run for reelection, Yugoslavia’s 1968 demonstrations… it’s staggering.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

The Machine Strikes Again

Saturday, May 16, 2009


Did you notice how, in the intro to the last post, I substituted the word “sex” with “books” in the lyrics of that Salt-n-Peppa song? What would a shrink say?

Book Talk: Guillermo Rosales

(Book talk, indeed. What else is there? Film? Eh… not much there now that we’ve slid knee deep into the summer shit storm. Well, there’s the Wolverine movie, which I saw. And there’s a slew of new garbage lined up to amuse and deaden the intellect. Hell, I just saw Touch of Evil for the 1st time after all these years and was pretty unimpressed. Sadly, my description of Lady From Shanghai made the girl not want to see it, so she left it to me to watch, again, which was great, of course—it’s the only Orson Welles movie I’ve consistently adored. Well, I do enjoy that F for Fake thing. Anyway… anyone who knows me knows that I tend to privilege the books over all else, save, maybe, for music. But I don’t follow music the way I follow literature. Anyway, I’ll have plenty of time to talk about music once the new Secret Chiefs 3 arrives. In the meantime, I’m aching to see Children of Men again. That would make a good birthday present (hint hint, niña) along with Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (the movie, not the book, which I have autographed by Chuckie Baby himself). Well… for now let’s talk about books, baby. Let’s talk about you and me. Let’s talk about all the good books and the bad books that may be.

I’m sorry.)

After a long wait (something like a year and half, maybe two years now? I can’t recall) I’ve finally gotten my hands on an English translation of Guillermo Rosales. The book, Halfway House, was published by New Directions this month and is in stores right fucking now. I didn’t expect it to drop until the end of the month, but there it was on the Borders shelf last Thursday when I went with mi amor shopping and drinking free wine at a popular department store that was hosting an “event” which meant free booze and finger foods (the wild mushroom torte was quite good) and discounts to the ladies who packed the place while I, and other confused boyfriends, waded through the crowd of females and hounded the poor catering staff. 4 free glasses of vino deep, we got out of there and headed to the book store. I was looking for this book, which I knew would be a long shot in a mega-chain like Borders, but thought I’d scope the R section of fiction out of pure hope that Rosales was available. And it was! (Is!)

The novel(la) is a bit over 100 pages, all of which fly. I started reading the introduction to the book by Jose Manuel Prieto—whose book Nocturnal Butterflies of the Russian Empire has been on my list of to-reads for about 6 years—while waiting for my girl who was doing more shopping. My head was a touch fuzzy from the wine but the crackling intro whet my appetite regardless. Yesterday (Friday) I started the book on the train to work and finished it on the way home, having read it at lunch, in the men’s room, and any other place where I could hide while at work. (It was a lousy, busy day, but I managed to get some reading in.)

I won’t summarize or make any giant lauds and praises, I'll just note that the book did not disappoint after such a long wait, and mention, for the curious reader—and you should be—that the story is full of humor, heartbreak, violence, sex, and human waste—literally and figuratively. I was disgusted and delighted. A wonderful read. Go get you some.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ambar Past

Sunday Night Quality Media

I never blog (now a verb, look at that) about TV but I want to give a shout-out to the only show that matters, the only one I have to catch every week, Breaking Bad. This is the best thing on TV. Well, I really can’t say that with any authority. I have never made it through Lost and am pretty ignorant about any of the other shows people like (Madmen seems good), so what do I know? I don’t know for a reason: when I become obsessed with a TV program I try to make sure that I only am aware of that particular show and no others. I can’t reconcile having a boatload of TV to catch every week. So I have Breaking Bad at 9:00, Sunday nights, and then an hour to prepare for bed before Joe Frank, which I listen to in the dark before falling asleep and having weird dreams.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

An Attempt at Explaining the Cult of Bolaño

I was talking to an attorney in my office about Bolaño. He read The Savage Detectives and, while he enjoyed much of it (he said it's the best title for a novel he's ever come across), he has no idea what the book is about or what the point of the whole thing is. He’s not setting sights on 2666 anytime soon. I couldn’t explain to him my excitement over Bolaño’s work. It’s really hard to communicate, but this essay does a great job:

The idea of Bolaño appealing to literature obsessed goofballs is pretty dead on. (And if you are a literature obsessed goofball who enjoys Bolaño, take a look at Enrique Vila-Matas sometime.) The prevalent aspect of so many Bolaño stories is literature itself, which is why his characters are largely writers, though, mercifully, they never really talk about writing. The closing moments are especially interesting in regard to the idea of the “writer”:

It's clear that, besides the occasional small or large check, most writers—ourselves included—write out of vanity and compulsion. One believes in being a writer more, it seems, than in writing. What is it, again, you once had to say? And who, supposedly, wanted to hear it? Still, Bolaño-like, you can't conceive any redemption for you and your friends except through the production of masterpieces. Masterpieces, however, are always unlikely, and redemption impossible.

Have at it, chumps.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Horacio Castellanos Moya Interview

From the same source as the Collins interview, a literary/political interview with the amazing Horacio Castellanos Moya.

Billy Collins and the War on Pretension

Having read very little of Billy Collins’s poetry, it’s hard to recommend him or say much about the work (I like what I’ve seen, especially the parody of Irish poetry), but this interview makes me love the guy. Collins is maligned by the gutless academic crew and celebrated by the young writers who think they’re taking back poetry from the ivory tower. Both camps are frustrating and absurd, if you ask me, but I am always fascinated by anyone, or anything, that splits opinions, which Collins certainly does.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Amazon picks up a blurb of my Three Percent Cardenal review.

"And I think to myself, what a wonderful world..."

Monday, May 04, 2009

Blog Adultery cum Grandfather Poem

The Smoking Book, an online version of a forthcoming anthology, has posted an old poem of mine which can be read here.

This should please the family, as it is about the late grandfather. Another dirty feather in the would-be writer cap.

Friday, May 01, 2009

The greatest poem ever...

was written by Nicanor Parra:

Silence Shithead

2000 years of lies is enough.