Monday, June 27, 2011

Writer Beware!

Interesting list/article on some of the writers who met their doom via the motorized vehicle. I like lists. Now, a list of literary suicides is sure to be longer.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Blind Owl

A book I just started reading is available for free here:

While I can’t speak to this particular translation (mine’s different) I can say that after only three pages I am entranced by this slim, bizarre book. From the intro to my version, and some of the notes on the angelfire site, it seems that the book has a controversial past. Apparently readers have killed themselves after finishing its short, anguishing pages. We’ll see if the same fate befalls me.

Stay tuned.

PS: For those looking to read it untranslated, go here.

Hitchens Takes Down Mamet

Another for the love him or hate him group, Christopher Hitchens is, in my view, a more complicated figure than people think. I lifted an article from Conversational Reading, a fantastic blog, though its author was surprised that The Hitch cares about global warming. Why wouldn’t he? Yes, he’s turned to the right in recent years, but his opposition to radical Islam made him foolishly back the post 9/11 wars and say some utterly ridiculous things (notably, that we never really ended Desert Storm, thus the current war in Iraq is not pre-emptive). Nevertheless, Hitchens allowed himself to be (mildly) waterboarded and declared it torture, and he backed Obama against McCain, decried Sarah Palin, and eviscerated Anne Coulter, not the sort of stuff blindly obedient conservatives get up to.

That being said, Hitchens can venture into the land of the nutjob. His deep hatred for all things religious has informed his political position, which seems backwards to me. (Why would an anti-theist go the right?) To be sure, Hitch seems to be backing off the republican bit somewhat, though he’ll never admit it. His real love seems to be in disagreeing, and if he is a contrarian, well, he’s one of the funnier ones. To be sure, it is always fun to read Hitchens, even if he is talking utter crap. Here, while reviewing David Mamet’s new screed against liberals, Hitch is fantastic.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Gore Vidal Was Right

Love him or hate him, what Gore was saying then has pretty much become everyday thinking now.

It makes me wonder how future generations will look at our present debate over gay marriage. Actually, I don't wonder at all; I am quite sure they'll laugh at us.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Attack of the Lunch

Though I usually avoid sharing these tales, as they make the author look a tad stupid, I am still so stunned by today’s misadventure that I felt like posting it for your, um, consumption. I say consumption as it involves lunch.

I bought a can of aloo peneer at Jewel. Aloo peneer, for those unaware, is a fantastic Indian dish consisting of peas and soft Indian cheese in a spicy tomato cream sauce. It’s fantastic. I have been waiting to eat it for days, excited out of proportion at the idea. It was the sole thing that made today, a Monday, worthwhile. It’s also gray, rainy, and humid today—not a good combination. I awoke to dark skies that made it difficult to get out of bed. Nothing seemed to be worth rising for, save for the thought of aloo paneer. You gotta find joy where you can.

I microwaved the grub for a minute and a half—just under standard time for soup—and carefully removed the bowl, peeled back the plastic wrap, and inspected my lunch. It was sizzling, steaming, obviously done. I took the wrap off completely. That’s when it happened. BOOM! A heat pocket under the sauce burst. Aloo paneer was everywhere. Thanks to quick reflexes I shielded my face with my hand, which got burned, but there was no way to protect my shirt, a nice blue Eddie Bauer number, one of my favorites. I ran the thing under water, used dish soap to spot treat it (a handy trick I picked up years ago), but the food covered too great an area. The shirt, it seemed, was ruined.

I did not have a back-up shirt (fans of Party Down! will get the reference). What to do… Well, first I ate the damn lunch. I suffered for it; I was going to eat it. And it was quite good, almost as good as what I get in my favorite Indian restaurant. Then I asked for a quick break to go to the dry cleaners. The trek was long, especially in the humidity, and I wore my undershirt and a black jacket. I looked ridiculous. The cleaner said the chances of saving the shirt were 50-50, so I went for it. Then I walked to Sears and bought a new shirt. It’s not the same, but close: blue, button up, fairly generic save for a Polo symbol on the breast pocket.

My thinking is that nothing worse can happen today, and if it does, well, so be it. After a near scalding and an embarrassing aftermath, I’m ready. Okay fate, you fucker, bring it on.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Another Reason Not to Get a Kindle

I never had this problem with my paper books.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

With Age Comes Who Cares

As I am now 40 (more on that later) I find it easier to laugh at much of the world whereas I, as a younger, angrier man, would have screamed. Looking back at the year 1994, as The Reader did this week, I am reminded of how much I disliked Bill Wyman, their former music critic, and how much I loved Steve Albini, who I still think has made a significant contribution to music though he is indeed an asshole. Here’s a great letter war that makes me laugh like hell now, though at the time it seemed like pretty serious business. And time has definitely made some things clear: Albini was mostly right. Urge Overkill? Who cared then and who cares now? Liz Phair has always sucked in my opinion. Overrated at first and now not able to produce anything even the critics can forgive. She’s well beyond her greatest hits days. And Smashing Pumpkins—Gish aside—never made a record to get too excited about. This was evident right around the time Corrigan penned what remains one of the ten worst lyrics in rock history: “Despite all my rage I’m still just a rat in a cage.” Deep, Billy. Deep.

So enjoy and laugh and remember when any of this mattered (if you are my age).

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fuck Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan turned 70 this year and my first thought was: good—he’ll keel over any day now. Then I realized that would be the worst thing that could happen, as surely I’d be forced to suffer tributes, wall-to-wall TV footage, ubiquitous re-releases and rarities, and every Starbucks within 100 miles (which is approximate 70) playing his music from open to close.

I’ve never understood the cult of Bob Dylan. Okay, he has a handful of good songs, but he’s not a poet. Sorry, folks—he’s not. Joyce Mansour, Ernesto Cardenal, Ciaran Carson, C. K. Williams, Byron, Anna Akhmatova, and Farugh Farrokhzad are poets. He’s a songwriter. If he ever wins the Nobel Prize for literature, which his worshipers claim may happen, I’ll know that the Swedes have also sipped the Kool-Aid.

This morning I was strolling through the pedway on the way to work, sleepy from the train ride and a bit grumpy, when “Like a Rolling Stone” butted into my head via the crappy speakers outside Au Bon Pain. I tried to describe Dylan’s voice to my wife and the best I could up with was: he sounds like a gopher dying inside a whale’s asshole. I was proud of that one.

Okay, Tom Waits, Kevin Sharp, and Eye are three of my favorite vocalists; clearly I do not always listen to singers with perfect voices. But Bobbie Zimmerman’s voice just bugs me. And his harmonica playing is brutal. And his songs are often more frustrating than brilliant. “Ballad of a Thin Man” for example, is a song I always liked, but the last verse is so awful it ruins the whole thing. But nobody wants to say that as Bob is beyond reproach in our post-baby boom world that seems to follow piped pipers of his sort. I think it has to do with his carefully constructed enigmatic persona. Yeah, he’s a rebel and his harmonica has been described a big middle finger (though I’m not sure to whom), but I’ve suffered through Don’t Look Back and I have to say that his antics in that film are very annoying, occasionally callow, and often self-important. He was buying his bullshit early on and the world followed suit. He’s managed to pad that out to a very long career. Well, good for him, and, to paraphrase Robinson Jeffers (another actual poet), I’m happy to let the duped stay duped.

Jesus, I just had to get this off my chest. Thanks for listening. I feel better now.

Bolaño Mania

Okay, I can’t read this in its entirety, but the long and the short is that Bolaño is getting a street named after him in Spain. Some see this as flogging the dead, but I’m amused.

Anyway, Between Parentheses, the newest translated book of Bolaño’s is out. I picked up my copy, and though I am currently wading through Orhan Pamuk and speed reading some texts I’ll have to teach this summer, I’m looking forward to this book as it is the first collection of Bolaño’s nonfiction to be published in English in one volume. I skimmed some already and it looks to be great—certainly better than the last few releases (short story collections that I’m ambivalent about).

Friday, June 03, 2011