Saturday, June 14, 2008

Table-Talk of Parkus Grammaticus for June 14–15: West Coast Tour Preparatory Edition

I. From Monday to Friday next week, I'll be hopping down the West Coast to read from and talk about Personal Days. Hope to see some of you! (Thank you, Bostonians, for coming out to the reading on Thursday! And thank you Newtonville Books! And: So great to see people at Happy Ending on Wednesday! That was a lot of fun.)

Thumbnail schedule—more info at the website.

MONDAY: Seattle, Elliott Bay Books, 7:30 [TIME CORRECTED]
TUESDAY: Portland, Powell's Books (Burnside), 7:30
WEDNESDAY: San Francisco—Google in the a.m.; then Booksmith at 7
THURSDAY: Berkeley, Pegasus Books, 7:30
FRIDAY: Los Angeles, Book Soup, 7

II. My latest Astral Weeks column is up at the L.A. Times site—a meditation on Charles Fort, prompted by Jim Steinmeyer's new biography.

Following up on Dzyd Rachel's Triple Canopy interview with me*, I meditate some more on metaphor. Here's the first graf of this month's column:

What are metaphors for? Before finding fame as the 20th century's greatest compiler and theorist of weird news, not to mention one of its most audacious and influential autodidacts, Charles Fort (1849-1932) was a journalist and pulp-story writer who amassed inventive ways to describe one thing in terms of something else. Among the few to glimpse these scraps was no less a literary titan than Theodore Dreiser, who was Fort's early magazine editor and steadfast champion. Bowled over, Dreiser offered to buy the odd collection from Fort. "They are better than any thesaurus," he raved, "a new help to letters."

III. Digression 1: A line in Janet Maslin's review of The Story of Edgar Sawtelle made me raise an eyebrow:

Its voice is so natural and unfettered, so free of metaphor or other baggage, that even the simplest moments can have extraordinary grace.

So metaphor is "baggage," rather than that which makes us human???

IV. Digression 2: "Is [Rivka] Galchen a modern day Charles Fort?" —New York Observer

V. Digression 3: A hilarious example of interior dialogue as practiced by Fort (spinning off accounts of people awaking from fugue states, nude and in public):

Don't cats and horses and dogs go around without clothes on?
But they are clothed with natural, furry protections.
Well, Mexican dogs, then.

...which brought to mind this demented trailer (via Jenny D).

VI. Sukie Park (no relation!) of the Joongang Daily profiled me—we also had a fascinating conversation (not reflected here) about various Korean directors....

*Rachel e-mailed me this link, from the new Atlantic: "The process of adapting to new intellectual technologies is reflected in the changing metaphors we use to explain ourselves to ourselves. When the mechanical clock arrived, people began thinking of their brains as operating "like clockwork." Today, in the age of software, we have come to think of them as operating "like computers." But the changes, neuroscience tells us, go much deeper than metaphor. Thanks to our brain's plasticity, the adaptation occurs also at a biological level."

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