Saturday, February 01, 2014


"O-kay!" replied the other, manifestly a bit irritated at Silas Moffit's peremptoriness. Adding, a bit defiantly—or seemingly so: "And I'm Fred Mullins—for many years the Judge's court clerk. But now acting as his man, here at the house. And"—he set the two chairs down in the great hallway—"just arranging," he explained curtly, "the big drawing-room for a trial—the Judge, you see, is going to hold special court here to-night because—but I'll take you up, Mr. Moffit, and—however," he broke off again, "maybe you'd just as soon go up by yourself—since you've been here before? For we've no maid or anything here; just Judge and I live here alone, you know, and——"

Sunday, December 08, 2013


My old friend John Moran essential, hilarious project Perverse Inscrutable is a scrupulous investigation into what makes Absalom, Absalom! tick.

[L]et’s say you want to convey that the players in your novel Absalom, Absalom! are doomed.  Why bother with ominous mood-setting or grave harbingers or any such circumlocution when there’s already a perfectly good word to accomplish your goal?  It’s quite versatile, too: “the very situation to which and by which he was doomed,” “children which she had doomed by conceiving them,” “the current of retribution and fatality which…doomed all his blood,” “caught and sunk and doomed too,” or—this last one also quite comprehensive—“the oblivion to which we are all doomed.”

[...][I]f your characters’ doom is dooming them to some doom in particular, it works for that, as well: “doomed to marry,” “doomed to be a widow,” “doomed to be a murderer,” “doomed and destined to kill,” “doomed to contemplate all human behavior” (said human behavior involving a lot of marital and homicidal impulses, apparently).  It can be used for dramatic counterintuitive effect, like “doomed to live”—and then this permutation can be paired with various different subjects, as in “those who are doomed to live,” “I am doomed to live,” and “she and I both are doomed to live.”  It is also resilient, standing up to repeated, concentrated use in such iterations as “doomed to spinsterhood” (p. 146), “doomed to spinsterhood” (p. 147), and “doomed to spinsterhood” (p. 148).

Monday, November 18, 2013

Call me

Enter Louis Justin, the 23-year-old owner of Massacre Video, a horror micro-label he runs out of his Michigan home. An avid collector of VHS, Mr. Justin turned amateur gumshoe to track down a director he calls a legend. After hundreds of fruitless calls to Chester Turners across the country, Mr. Justin was at a Chicago video store when he asked the owners if they’d heard of “Black Devil Doll.”

—"Chester Novell Turner and 'Black Devil Doll' Are Back," NYT (11/18/13)

Uchenna Ikonne, a Nigerian-born, Boston-based writer who runs the African music blog Comb and Razor, said he tracked down Mr. Onyeabor by phone in 2009 and reached a verbal agreement to reissue some of his work, with details to be settled during a trip Mr. Ikonne was planning to Nigeria.
—"An Elusive Mystery Man of Music," NYT (11/18/13)

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Bin there, done that

Q. Did you study Philip Glass in school or discover him on your own?
A. Growing up in London, nearly all of my musical knowledge was from going to Virgin Megastore on Tottenham Court Road, and in the bargain bins, I would grab CDs. It would be a £2 Neil Young album, and I had never heard Neil Young before, and I had no context for Neil Young. The Philip Glass album, I’m pretty sure it’s called “Glassworks,” I just got that not knowing what it was and put it on and loved it. I was 15 at the time. I’ve probably listened to “The Hours” soundtrack the most. Maybe I listen too much. When I listen to songs too much, it does get to the point after years where it’s in my music. —"Inspiration Is Everywhere, Even in the Bargain Bin: Dev Hynes Releases 'Cupid Deluxe,'" NYT

Thought: Maybe it’s the remainder tables that secretly move the culture forward. Up-and-coming writers, strapped for cash and dismissive of the books that are being published and getting noticed, gravitate toward these steam tables of overlooked lit, these shallow arks of the minor. I used to work in an office near St. Mark’s Bookshop in New York, and would drop in at least once a week. Cheaper than the new releases, even than most of the literary journals, were the remainders on the table in the back, which is where I first discovered John Ashbery and James Schuyler's A Nest of Ninnies. —Ed Park, "Minor Poets, Major Works," The Poetry Foundation

Reality hunger #14

A real world with a real character.

Monday, September 02, 2013

September notebook

The novel, like all art, reaches for immortality, but the unfinished novel is bound up with mortality and the limits of time. In my view, that makes it even more beautiful than a finished novel. We're left to imagine the completion that is forever suspended. How was the writer ever going to tie up such a complicated plot? What was he or she going to do with all those characters and their noisy, difficult yearnings? And what was it all supposed to mean? As we circle these questions, the author becomes paradoxically more and more present to us in the work left behind. We feel his or her humanity because we see the traces of mortality everywhere on the page. These books are marked by the rush to finish coupled with the wish to never end. —Robert Siegel, “The Unfinished Novel,” Bookforum (online), 7/24/13

In my office I tend to be racing through short books — Russell Hoban’s “Turtle Diary” and Edward St. Aubyn’s Melrose books and Lydia Millet’s “Magnificence” just now, while at the bedside table and on trains and airplanes I’m grinding away at monsters over a period of months, if not years: Robert Musil’s “Man Without Qualities” and Karl Ove Knausgaard’s “My Struggle.” I’ve been trending to these galactic structures lately — last summer I had my head broken open by Doris Lessing’s “Four-Gated City” and so now appear doomed to read the Martha Quest novels — backwards. I also recently noticed how many unfinished novels have been important to me: Musil’s, Kafka’s, Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast trilogy, Christina Stead’s “I’m Dying Laughing.” Reading around in Ellison’s “Three Days Before the Shooting . . . ”; I bet I’d like that thing in Salinger’s safe. —Jonathan Lethem, “By the Book,” NYTBR, 8/29/13

So what was I doing here? What was I going to do in the office at half past four in the morning? Write? Do today what I had not succeeded in doing for the last five years? –Karl Ove Knausgaard, My Struggle (Vol. 1)

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Edible complexes

"Properly sung, khoomei sounds as though the singer has ingested a set of bagpipes, with a low drone and a high melody issuing simultaneously from the same mouth." —NYT

"There’s an alchemy at work at ABC Cocina, the kind that can turn the last thing you’d want to order into the first thing you’ll ask for next time around. For me, it was the vegetables with brown rice, which I expected would taste like a tea made by steeping the yellowed pages of the 'Moosewood Cookbook' in warm kombucha and straining it through Pigpen’s bandanna." —NYT


Sentence of the day

"The table is German and walnut and 35 feet long." —NYT


Tuesday, July 09, 2013


Mexicorama by Lance Wyman, at Visual-Poetry
(Via Becky)


Saturday, July 06, 2013


"Winston Churchill’s mother had a tattoo of a snake eating its tail (the symbol of eternity) on her wrist" —Dwight Garner, review of Bodies of Subversion, NYT


Thursday, July 04, 2013

The art of the comic list

I laughed twice reading the Times this week:

"At this point, the astute reader is probably thinking this sounds like a cobbler with a funny name. But what is a cobbler, really? Is it the freewheeling cousin of the crisp? The Southern answer to the thrifty New England brown Betty? A pan dowdy with integrity? A pie for lazy people?" --"Sonkers, Grunts, Slumps and Crumbles," Kim Severson, NYT

"Who among us has not been held captive by a wine, single malt or vodka bore? Thanks to the recent proliferation of boutique vodkas, it is now possible, indeed likely, to have your eyes as frosted as a Grey Goose bottle while someone holds forth at Homeric length on potato versus grain versus molasses versus organic wheat versus Australian sugar cane. My eyes glazed over just typing that sentence." —Christopher Buckley, "Booze as Muse," NYT


From Dullblogger Hua: "She's Leaving Home" from the perspective of a girl leaving home. (Anyone know anything about Kathy McCord?) Happy 4th from Hey Dullblog!

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Best practices

"Jason Everman has the unique distinction of being the guy who was kicked out of Nirvana and Soundgarden, two rock bands that would sell roughly 100 million records combined. At 26, he wasn’t just Pete Best, the guy the Beatles left behind. He was Pete Best twice." —NYT

"Early in the book, we also make all-too-brief acquaintance with an unfortunate lad named Si Wolstencroft, who played the drums with embryonic incarnations of both the Stone Roses and the Smiths before moving on to enjoying life as a Pete Best-like alternative-rock footnote." —NYT

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