Friday, August 29, 2008

Table-Talk of Parkus Grammaticus for the Labor Day Weekend

I. Something I said last week: "Is this Memorial Day weekend, or is that next weekend"?

II. Psychologically this is kind of interesting—am I blocking the fact that it was two years ago this week/end that the PTSNBN showed me the door?

III. Excellent TONY profile of Deb Olin Unferth, author of Vacation (unofficial sequel to Personal Days, ha?).

IV. I leave you with a link to a new interview up at Save the Assistants (which has been nicely obsessed with Personal Days over the past few weeks!).


Modern, primitive, theatrical

Fascinating piece in the...Antiques section!

[Charles] Rohlfs, a Brooklyn native, had studied engineering at Cooper Union around 1870 and then started designing stove parts for a living while acting part time, mostly in Shakespearean tragedies. (Theater critics called his performances “painful to witness” and “screamingly funny instead of sad.”) His fortunes turned in 1884: he married Anna Katharine Green, a best-selling detective novelist seven years his senior. Despite occasional paralyzing bouts of depression, she published a career total of some 40 books.

“People had a voracious appetite for her work,” Mr. Cunningham said. “The writing sounds stilted now, but it was very modern for the time, and her enormous royalties freed her husband to do whatever he wanted.”

In 1887 the couple moved to Buffalo, where Rohlfs worked briefly for a stove manufacturer and then set up a workshop with a few freelance carvers. He channeled his theatrical tendencies into design. He suspended wall cabinets from thick chains like medieval moat crossings and sliced table bases with so much filigree that they seem deceptively unstable.

His desks are riddled with secret compartments and have finials shaped like leaping flames. Cell-like honeycombs are stretched taut across the backs of his chairs...

A few wealthy patrons...commissioned custom pieces. Rohlfs exhibited at some international fairs, including the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901, and he wangled a distribution contract from Marshall Field & Company in Chicago. It advertised his designs as “so primitive yet so new and modern that they excite wonder.” But they did not catch on.

“The work was so radical it defied categorization,” Mr. Cunningham said. “People must have thought it was positively freakish.”

Much more at NYT.

1936 obit here: Is Credited With Having Originated Mission Furniture, BEGAN CAREER ON STAGE Starred in Mystery Drama Taken From Novel by Wife, Anna Katharine Green

Wife's obit here: 'The Leavenworth Case' in '78 Followed by 36 Other Books — Wife of Charles Rohlfs, WANTED TO WRITE POETRY Wrote Detective Stories to Draw Attention to Her Verse — Changed Mystery Fiction.

(I like this bit, Green saying: "The plot should be so clear and concise that if it were given in the curt language of a telegram it should be interesting.")

Paging Paul Collins!

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Dizzies News Service

1. Dzyd Ben reports (in Los Angeles magazine) on a fatality at immigrant detention:

Until 1996, immigration law used a telling term to refer to noncitizens who can be legally denied residency in the United States. They were not only excluded, although they were that, too; they were “excludable.” The idea still prevails. They provide an opportunity for exclusion, for the nation to define itself by what it is not. Victoria Arellano was almost perfectly unwanted: not just a Latina, but an immigrant; not just an immigrant, but illegal; not just gay, but transgender; not just transgender, but infected with HIV—and an addict to boot. She did not merely slip through the cracks of the system. The system, cracks and all, was built with her in mind.

2. Michael Chabon at the DNC? Listen at the NYRB site...

3. Real buffalo in New York State. (Via Dzyd Susan)

4. Ten minutes of dissolute stumbling, fake Chinese accents, and tap dancing? Sure! James Cagney, "Shanghai Lil," Footlight Parade (Via Dzyd Brent)

5. And the PD reviews keep coming...This perceptive one is from (irony!) the L.A. Weekly. Here's some of it:

[A] battle cry rings between the lines of Personal Days: an angry defense of language against its murder at corporate hands. Park performs riotous burlesques with e-mail misspellings and corporate clichés; his characters hear double-entendres in computer error messages ("You are almost out of memory") and invent new words like "deprotion," for "a promotion that shares most of the hallmarks of a demotion." The novel may even remind you of Orwell's "Politics and the English Language."

Heyyy—I'll take it!

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The spirit of Menard

Having started an Invisible Library, a project begun in the proper Borgesian spirit, I thought I'd google the phrase...and found this! (Actually, I found a link to a defunct page, then Levi used the Wayback Machine, and then for some reason today I have found this resurrected/preserved version.)

What to do? Not only the concept but the name already exists!

In the spirit of Borges (more specifically Pierre Menard), we will proceed with the project—without looking at the earlier version!

(In the meantime: Lots of nice notices, and some great suggestions in the comments, which we will gradually integrate into the blog...And then what? Delete the comments? And set aside a "Contributors" post somewhere, maybe on this blog right here, or on Levi's?)

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Buffalo beckons?

So they traded their one-and-a-half-bedroom apartment in Sunset Park—the one they describe as “disgusting and so small and just awful,” and for which they paid $1,300 a month plus an extra hundred for a storage space because the landlady wouldn’t let them use their own basement—for a three-bedroom apartment on a tree-lined street with a living room, a dining room, a basement, a front and back porch, stained-glass windows, and a separate office for Herbeck. All that goes for $795 a month, a price that, Herbeck points out somewhat sheepishly, as though she’s revealing a guilty indulgence, is at the top end of the rental market in Buffalo. —New York

(Via Dzyd JMcB)


The Connections: Post-Olympics Edition

Pakistan's only woman in the Olympics said Sunday that she was hurt by what she called negative feelings about Islam at the Athens Games, where she said she was criticized for running in clothes that covered much of her body. —Agence France-Presse

Toward the end of the season, Cleo and her teammates learn that the Rangers have a new owner and general manager, Ahmed ben Farouky, a Saudi petrodollar tycoon. Shortly thereafter, bed checks by men with Arab headdresses are initiated at home and on the road. Married players find their houses broken into and their wives’s cosmetics, bikini panties, and birth control missing (along with their liquor). (Meade cravenly explains, “They’re pretty ethnic people.”) Finally, Cleo is informed by the Saudi manager that “the men in the Gulf” have reached a compromise: “You must wear a veil when you play.” A full-length veil, which, as Cleo sarcastically observes, will be a distinct handicap on the breakaway. —Gerald Howard on Cleo Birdwell's Amazons (from Bookforum)

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Brought to you by the Frozen Grape Lovers Association

I. One in an occasional series: Blogs That Use the Same Template as The Dizzies.

Today we feature "Musings of a Modern Hygienist," each entry of which is signed, "Welcome to my Life." Sample:

After the photo shoot, we enjoyed the limo ride to the Sunstar corporate office and plant. Have you ever wondered how toothbrushes were made? This was an incredible tour. We saw each step of how the toothbrush is produced. I was surprised to learn that many steps of the manufacturing and packaging are done by hand.
This is probably the best one. (Via Dzyd Shelley)

II. Play with your food. (Via Dzyd Jane)

III. Have you made your frozen grapes yet? This is prime "fro-gra" season. Freeze a lot and you can eat them in December!

IV. This is also a good time to drink lemonade.

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Monday, August 25, 2008

The Invisibles

As reported on I've Been Reading Lately, there's a new site devoted to books that only exist within other books—The Invisible Library! So far you can find books by Maurice Bendrix, Nicholas Jenkins, Sebastian Knight, Fellowes Kraft, Lorna Flambeaux, D. Awdrey-Gore, and some others...

(Please send additions to Levi or to me at thedizzies AT gmail DOT com.)


Shellfish behavior

Monday Ouroboros:

From an autobiographical piece by Severo Sarduy in Review Fall 72: "And from here on it will be better to read the Indian Diary, which closes Cobra. Birds circle over the Parsic garden, swoop down, peck at corpses, fly overhead again. The bones, now naked, pulverized, flow down a drain toward the bay. There the shellfish of the port finish them off. The hotel's best dish is its shrimp cocktail. The cycle closes: cobra curled around itself, biting its tail."

Thanks to Will of A Journey Round My Skull!

Bonus image:


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Is this you?

Facing eviction, health hazards, and family interventions, the owners of these homes were unable or unwilling to get rid of the things they had accumulated. These people are often diagnosed clinically as having Obsessive Compulsive Hoarding Disorder (OCDHD). —The Plan

(Via L.G. Thomas)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Chart of the day

Click to enlarge.


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Materia medica

Don Share at Harriet: "[Gerard Manley] Hopkins’ maternal grandfather was a doctor who got his medical training in London with Keats."

Plus nine other bits of G.M. Hopkins trivia.

Friday, August 22, 2008

With a piece of pi...

How I like a drink, alcoholic of course, after the heavy lectures involving quantum mechanics...

Number of letters in each word: 3.14159265358979!

(From Dzyd Sarah)

A fun thing to do

1. Tell a joke or ask someone to tell a joke.
2. Click this and then click what's there.

(Via Erasing.)

Horse sense

The Hong Kong Jockey Club laboratory has built a global reputation for thoroughness to discourage the chicanery that has sometimes marred horse racing in Asia.

In an unusual incident last year, for example, someone sneaked onto a racecourse here and buried pneumatic tubes and sedative-tipped darts in the turf where the horses start.

The scheme, at a different site in Hong Kong from where the Olympic competition is being held, was uncovered just before racing began. The police have speculated that the plan may have been to place bets on long-shot horses, then fire darts into the bellies of the favorites, but detectives have failed to find the culprits. --NYT

(Via Jane)

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Collected Blurbs of Thomas Pynchon

Rachel Donadio on blurbs (NYTBR):

Sometimes a blurb is news. The reclusive Thomas Pynchon seems to elicit excitement each time he breaks his public silence, as he has by endorsing, among others, “The Testament of Yves Gundron” (1999), the first novel by Emily Barton; Jim Knipfel’s memoir “Slackjaw” (1999); and “The Restraint of Beasts” (1998), a Booker-nominated novel by Magnus Mills, which he called “a demented, deadpan-comic wonder.” (Pynchon has also written the liner notes for “Nobody’s Cool,” the second album by the alt-rock band Lotion.) Recently, Post Road magazine published Pynchon’s collected blurbs from the years 1966 to 2003 — more than two dozen in all.

I love Post Road's occasional aggregations: I recall something about John Cheever characters (or places? in any case, a list of all of them), and I read a great thing featuring the jacket copy (not blurbs, just descriptions) of every Joyce Carol Oates novel.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Turtle diary

"Turtle pellets must be broken into two pieces or the two heads will fight over the food." —NYT

(Via Jenny D)

My new fitness regime

"He explained that walking backwards forces the tummy in and the back straight. Then he walked away, backward. He did not have to turn around to wave."


(From Dzyd Jane)

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Table-Talk of Parkus Grammaticus for August 19, 2008

I. Levi on the brutal charms of Richard Stark.

II. Not quite sure how I got here, but...has anyone read Broch's The Sleepwalkers? (I seem to remember that it was a touchstone for William Rubel, the Stone Soup editor who published Crippled Detectives, or maybe just Broch in general.)

III. Personal Days is reviewed at my hometown paper, The Buffalo News, where much is made of Queen City underdoggism and a former classmate.

IV. Talked yesterday with D.T.M. Hua up at Columbia; he said, "There goes Chuck Bass," and I chuckled, thinking he meant a student dressed à la the dark prince of Gossip Girl. But no—it was Chuck Bass, or rather the actor playing him!

More here; apparently, on the show, Columbia is a stand in for...Yale. (I wonder if/hope there's fanfic in which Blair and Rory from Gilmore Girls are classmates...)

V. When I got back home, Linksmeister General Thos. informed me that GG was filming in his neighborhood...

VI. Thought: E-mailing about Gossip Girl sightings is like the titular character e-mailing about Serena/Blair sightings.

VII. On vacation, so light/no posting here for a while! (Though some random posts will crop up...I've adjusted them to appear in the'll be like I'm still here, posting!)


Monday, August 18, 2008

Dizzies Press Release: Samantha Hunt

Please come enjoy a lunchtime performance in one of New York City's most storied squares. You are invited to the Word for Word event at the Bryant Park Reading Room. Let us write the latest chapter of history!

First Bryant Park was a forest where sweetgum and bloodroot grew.

THEN it was a hunting ground

THEN it was an escape route for General Washington’s defeated troops after the bloody Battle of Brooklyn

THEN it was a potter's field (we are lunching on top of dead bodies!)

THEN it was the site of the Civil War draft riots (an event triggered by New York City's most gruesome moment: the burning of the Colored Orphan Asylum)

THEN it was the site of the dreamy Crystal Palace

THEN it was the site of the Crystal Palace's charred remains

THEN it fell under the dangerous shadow of the Sixth Avenue El where it would stay for 56 years

THEN it was called "one of the most disreputable parks in the city" by Architecture Magazine

THEN it was the site of copious muggings and delirious drug deals

THEN it became the well manicured site of Midtown working stiff half-hour lunches

AND NOW THINGS GET REALLY WEIRD! On Wednesday, August 20 from 12:30pm to 1:45pm Samantha Hunt will read from The Invention of Everything Else, a novel about the life of heroic Serbian inventor Nikola Tesla -- a man who not only fed the pigeons of the Bryant Park daily but also believed he was married to one of them!

She will be joined by her friends and musical idols PINATALAND as they conjure the strangeness of history, drawing inspiration from the all-but-forgotten events of the past 200 years for their brand new album, Songs for the Forgotten Future Vol. 2.

Let's relive the good old days!

Rain Venue:
The General Society of Mechanics and Tradesmen
20 West 44th Street between 5th & 6th Avenues)

For more information:

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Sunday, August 17, 2008

If 'The Dizzies' had no words...


(Via L Magazine)

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Because it is bitter, and because it is my art

Dzyd Douglas on Strange and Stranger: The World of Steve Ditko (in the NYT):

The portrait that emerges here is of an artist whose principles have ossified into bitter perversity. Bell relates stories of Ditko’s refusing to draw vampires because Objectivism rejects the super­natural; quitting a series because of a dispute over coloring production; and using a priceless old page of his original artwork as a cutting board.

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Friday, August 15, 2008

The Connections: Separated at....Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn! (Olympics Edition)

From Dzyd Sarah's comment on an earlier post: "Need I point out once more M[ichael] P[helps]'s startling resemblance to a certain Howard Phillips Lovecraft??"

Not sure that I totally see it, but...sort of? (And "Phelps"/"Phillips"—that's close enough, right?)

Guy Trebay's recent NYT piece hilariously referred to Phelps as the "Baltimore merman," which jogged something in the EP thought-box..........

"They were very fond of the water, and swam a great deal in both river and harbour. Swimming races out to Devil Reef were very common, and everyone in sight seemed well able to share in this arduous sport...." —H.P. Lovecraft, "The Shadow Over Innsmouth"

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The Clone Wars: "It isn’t the most painful movie of the year!" —NYT

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Table-Talk of Parkus Grammaticus for August 14, 2008

I. Your next desktop pattern?

II. Your favorite president—rendered in hair. Is Franklin "Pelano" Roosevelt a beautiful typo?! (Via MUG)

III. Poetry update:

A) Dzyd Carla on memoirs by Manguso and Lavinia Greenlaw.

B) BoingBoing picks up on R. Kikuo Johnson's "Poem as Comic Strip" take on A.E. Stalling's "Recitative"—perfect for summer! Although it's actually not that hot out here these days...

IV. Terry Teachout on Richard Stark, in Commentary—Stark is being republished by University of Chicago Press:

The Hunter” (208 pp., $14 paper), “The Man with the Getaway Face” (224 pp., $14 paper) and “The Outfit” (224 pp., $14 paper) can and should be read in sequence as a trilogy–I would have published them in an omnibus volume–rather than separately.

I read "The Outfit" first, not knowing these three were linked, and there was a chapter of recapping that made me think I'd made the wrong decision...but then it was on with the show!

As I read on in admiration, I formed some mental connections....reading "outfit" in a clothing sense...this was one well-fitting outfit...which reminded me of Sasha Frere-Jones's New Yorker piece on Spoon, and their song "Fitted Shirt"...Though I slightly misremembered SFJ's conclusion ("Daniel is not about to tell jokes or put on a lampshade, and if this makes the band’s performances predictable the effect is balanced by the dignity that comes from self-control")—the dignity/self-control part is certainly true, though The Outfit is pretty unpredictable, especially the rather radical (and exciting!) messing with chronology...a precursor to Pulp Fiction...

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"I like the meta stuff"

Mussina was first introduced to the website in April, when Yankee closer Mariano Rivera sent out a mass e-mail urging teammates to "check out his latest McSweeney's piece," a "short imagined monologue" written by a toaster. Mussina, who while in the minor leagues frequently submitted to Baltimore's alternative weekly City Paper, said that the site's absurd yet restrained writing style instantly resonated with him.

(The Onion, via.)

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

M.P. Phone Home

From today's AP wire story on Michael Phelps (via Dzyd Sarah):

"He is just a normal person, but maybe from a different planet," said Russia's Alexander Sukhorukov, fresh off a thrashing by the Phelps-led Americans in the 800 free relay Wednesday but still wearing a silver medal around his neck.

Cornel Marculescu, who runs the sport's governing body, concurred with the intergalactic theory.

"The problem is, we have an extraterrestrial," Marculescu said. "No one else can win."

British swimmer Simon Burnett has a different take, which he shared with American men's coach Eddie Reese when they ran into each other in the cafeteria.

"He was saying to me, 'I think I've figured out Michael Phelps,'" Reese said. "'He is not from another planet; he is from the future. His father made him and made a time machine. Sixty years from now he is an average swimmer, but he has come back here to mop up.'"

* * *

Check out these false Olympics pictograms at Crude Futures.

* * *

How popular is your name?
(There are 12 people in the U.S. named Ed Park??? Fewer than I thought!)(Hmm, but there are 298 Edward Parks...)

(Via MUG)

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A voice and nothing more

"What we need is truth, not some fake loveliness!"

Available at The Unarchivable for the first time: The uncut version of my piece–a septuple-plus-jointed review?—on voice (karaoke, ventriloquism, voiceover, etc.) for Modern Painters!


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Interesting facet

Behind the showbiz persona, Mr. Diamond is known as a particularly hard-working performer and songwriter, devoted to steady routines. When writing songs, he said, he keeps copious notes on yellow legal pads and lugs the paperwork around in dozens of shopping bags. —NYT

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Table-Talk of Parkus Grammaticus for August 12, 2008

I. The FedEx guy just buzzed, bearing...

—Personal Days' Italian incarnation! (Maledetti Colleghi—sounds like a campus novel!) As you can see, the cover art is taken from the Cape edition, though the spine does a little mirrory thing that is unusual and weirdly eye-grabbing:

Part I, "Can't Undo," is rendered "Impossibile Annullare"; "Replace All" is now "Sostituisci Tutto"; and everyone's favorite, "Revert to Saved," is now "Ritorna Alla Versione Salvata." Love it!

II. Eager to borrow my life coach? Listen to Jenny D on Bat Segundo, talking about her new novel, The Explosionist. (Hear her say: "He pities the plumage, but forgets the dying bird.")

III. Maud and Levi bond over Iris Murdoch.

IV. Ta-Nehisi: Which edition of D&D should you teach your child?

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Monday, August 11, 2008

More '80s

Tantalizing spontaneous contest over at Megan McCafferty's blog...oh wait, I think it already ended...

What Elvis Costello song and what Police song are mentioned in Charmed Thirds?

[Both song titles required.]

If you're the first person who can ALSO answer this bonus question, I'll give you signed copies of all four Jessica Darling novels currently in print:

Bonus: What Police song is mentioned in Second Helpings?

(I wrote about MM's excellent Jessica Darling books way back when.)


Table-Talk of...

Yesterday a friend put a Foreigner video up on her Facebook profile...

Which led me to Wikipedia...

I wanted to check up on a fact I had heard way back when, that Foreigner singer Lou Gramm was born in Rochester (he was)...

His real name is...Louis Grammatico!

Bring Earplugs

New Yorkers: On Monday, August 11, at Lit Lounge (93 Second Ave., between Fifth and Sixth streets), [Dzyd] Brandon Stosuy will read and discuss "A Blaze in the North American Sky," his essay from the Believer Music Issue. There will also be performances by Revocation, Composted, Psytoxia, and Hooker Dragger, a metal DJ set between bands by DJ Shark, and a reading of Dan Nelson's All Known Metal Bands. Doors open at 8:30 p.m. The cost is $6.

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"Only built for elvish links"

Ta-Nehisi on D&D (again!)

This made me laugh, too: "I've been going through all the old rule-books and stuff—this has to be the most complicated 'game' ever invented."


Saturday, August 09, 2008

Son of Table-Talk of P.G. for August 10, 2008

I. The NYT on the ukulele renaissance (Warren Buffett plays?):
The dawn of this third great ukulele era can be traced to 2006, aficionados say, with the appearance of a video on YouTube by Jake Shimabukuro, a Hawaiian-born ukulele player.
(But: no mention of Stephin Merritt?)

II. Dzyd Dennis on Azazel Jacobs (son of Ken), in the NYT:

Reaching for one of the many boxes against the wall, Mr. Jacobs — like Mikey in “Momma’s Man” — rummaged through a stash of yellowed juvenilia. He pulled out magazine clippings, class photos, a middle-school paper on the punk band the Clash (complete with his teacher’s incredulous notation “F — Are you kidding?”) and a few lovingly preserved “hate letters,” records of soured teenage romances, one of which gets a memorable cameo in the film.

III. For the 26 files, via Dzyd Hannah: Jad Fair and Yo La Tengo's "High School Shop Class Constructs Bicycle Built for 26." (I can't do mp3s on this site but drop me a line if you want me to send it!)

IV. And...two bits of weirdness: A talk on skull thievery at Machine Project (from L.G. Thomas) and the Fortsas hoax (from Levi).

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A painting by Tiffany Bozic

(From John Mark)


Last (Not Last)

My latest Astral Weeks column looks at the late Arthur C. Clarke's last* novel, The Last Theorem, a collaboration with Frederik Pohl.

I was hoping the L.A. Times would link to an appreciation of Clarke I wrote earlier this year for them—'s no longer on the site. (You can find it at The Unarchivable, your source for all manner of forgotten EP articles.)

*Don't bet on it...

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Friday, August 08, 2008

How is it...

...that I didn't catch the Gertrude Stein reference in this strip's title until just now (reading over someone's shoulder on the M11)?


*Personal Days* soundtrack takes shape!

Click here to listen to "Coworkers"—a song by Crude Futurist and multimedia wiz "Dzyd" Brian McMullen—or take the extra step and visit, where you can first gaze at Brian's "WORKERS—WORKERS—WORKERS" logo (scroll down a bit)...and then (scroll back up—see, there near the top?) click for the tune.

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Crime A User's Manual

From Linksmeister General Thomas—this is playing on Monday at Film Forum:


(1979, Alain Corneau) Slang-slinging salesman Patrick Dewaere murders the aunt of his girlfriend (Jean-Louis’s doomed daughter, Marie Trintignant) to settle those pesky debts, but then itchily open-palmed Bernard Blier seems to know all too much about it. Adapted from Jim Thompson’s A Hell of a Woman by experimental novelist Georges Perec in a conversational style that mingles verlan (back slang), newly-liberated profanity, bits of English, and elements of almost too-classy French. Approx. 110 min.

Jim Thompson + Georges Perec?!

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Can you sing anything?

Two ur-versions of Big Star's "Stroke It Noel," and much more, at Moistworks.

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Beans and ancestors

[Typed out this morning to Levi Stahl, after finishing Richard Stark's partly-Buffalo-set The Outfit, luxuriously reading late into the night]

Just woke up from a dream in which a letter from Roberto Bolaño (to one of his translators) mentions Buffalo....The letter appears in the latest Triple Canopy.* The translator's letter mentions Buffalo and Niagara Falls, saying, "Of course, since you had only been in the country two days, I can't expect you to have visited either of these places," and mentions how nice it was to have him over for dinner. [He had apparently been in the U.S. recently, for the first time.]

Bolaño's letter is a marvel. He begins by saying, "Believe it or not, I had to travel to Buffalo as soon as I arrived, and had the opportunity to visit the famous Falls," and mentions a few local details that make it clear he did make the trip. Then he digresses on the wonderful dinner salad she prepared, writing that, curiously enough, every ingredient in the salad had some connection to a place in his life. The beans were from Venezuela, as were some of his ancestors; he lived for a time in Mexico, where the cheese was from, etc.

*I must have been thinking of this.

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A new 'Outfit' — The Eyes of Mao — Cubicle Opera

I. A welcome distraction: Three Richard Stark novels, just out from U. Chicago Press. Without planning to, I started with the third one, The Outfit—maybe not a good idea, but the first chapter grabbed me and has not yet let go! You will read this so fast you won't need a bookmark. (Note to self: Save that line for future review?)

Bonus: Part of The Outfit takes place in Buffalo; the wife of the Outfit head lives here. (Did Westlake know Queen City native Lawrence Block already, back in the early ’60s?)

Dzyd Levi (who works for the press) directs me to an interview he and a colleague conducted with Westlake (who wrote the Stark books pseudonymously). Sample gem:
I’ve always been a catholic reader, but also a bit of a sponge, taking on characteristics of what I’m reading, if I’m not careful. If I read too much Anthony Powell, my sentences gradually become longer and longer and less and less gainly.
(Only Westlake I've read previously: God Save the Mark.)

II. Dzyd Rachel has another ponder-worthy piece up at the Poetry Foundation, this time on Mao's verse. Sample goodie:
Although Mao dismissed intellectuals as dumb and disloyal—only those whose feet are “smeared with cow-dung,” he announced, are capable of true art—he could never quite wean himself from the joys of his scholarly existence. He was always neurotic and insecure about his own intellectual abilities, even in comparing himself to his own secretaries. According to one of Mao’s biographers, Jung Chang, Mao slept on a large bed partially covered in piles of books a half foot high, so that when he woke up he could immediately roll over and begin reading. When his vision faltered in old age, he ordered the construction of two factories to print books with characters large enough for his eyes.
III. Nice PD review in Philadelphia City Paper! "This absence of novelized work makes a book that restricts itself to the 9-to-5, like Ed Park's cubicle opera Personal Days shine all the more. Park points out that those dead, stressed hours make up a separate reality..."

IV. Speaking of work novels and Stark, I'll link again to Levi's post on how the Stark novels are work books...There's a scene toward the end of The Outfit that's amazing not because of its violence (as are many of the brutal scenes herein) but because we could be listening to a consultant filling the boss in regarding sloppy management: "The organization is getting too highly organized."

V. More PD news, from our correspondent on the Continent, Dzyd Christine:
No PD sightings in Europe so far (I thought it would be fun to send you one, but alas), but when chatting with the ladies at Shakespeare's in Paris yesterday I asked if they had it, and they said they used to have a few, but if it was good they'd order more. I assured them it is, and they did (!). Very sweet.

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008


My God, My God, why have you forsaken me...

Alone amidst the wolves. And I am the cascade of dreams where the wolves drink their fill.

Alone amidst the four cardinal points furiously battered by the hurricane of the planets.

They have abandoned me here in the middle of a river which tilts on its axis, which runs in circles, bending back upon itself like a warped wheel or a snake which bites its own bewitched tail.

—Vicente Huidobro, "The Seven Oaths of the Poet" (transl. Gilbert Alter-Gilbert)

(Via A Journey Round My Skull)

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Decoration day

This sentence, from Dzyd Ta-Nehisi's NYT/Paper Cuts playlist, is itself beautifully decorated!

...the man who stands on the corner can organize his thoughts just as beautifully as the decorated professor.

(Via Jenny D)


Is this Ed Park? (Cont'd.)

Not me:

"Does Ed Park know of any other ethnic group in the world that embraces you as one of their own simply based on looks?"


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Table-Talk of Parkus Grammaticus for August 5, 2008

I. Projected Books! (From Dzyd Ed, Light Industrialist)

II. One answer to Dzyd Trivia, 8/4, from Dzyd Kosiya: "Gael Garcia Bernal spoke three languages (French, English, and Spanish) in The Science of Sleep." Others?

III. Literary bits: Tolstoy to Turgenev: "They seem to be happy and I seem to be sad"...Short-story necrology: As noted, Raymond Carver died on August 2; last night I read that Flannery O'Connor died on August 3....Has anyone made this joke before? "I have a pristine copy of the Steve Gutenberg Bible!" (Hmm, OK, yes, someone would be great if Steve was related to Johann!)

IV. Many chewable thoughts in this Guernica interview with Dzyd Luc: "Everything that comes with contradictions is wood for my fire"...and: "Constraint is as ever the mother of invention, and maybe I haven’t yet figured out a suitable set of constraints to impose on myself when blogging."

V. Dzyd David Cairns remembers Sea Monkeys.

VI. Word pictures: Yesterday I saw what I thought was a rendering of the Statue of Liberty on the side of a white van. Then I saw that it was the shadow of a hanging traffic light. Then the shadow looked to me like the outline of Manhattan.

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Monday, August 04, 2008

Alphabetical Amalric — Dzyd Trivia

Last night, watched The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (which Dzyd Dennis calls My Left Eye, and which Donald Barthelme might have retitled Me and Ms. Mendibil). Loved how they kept repeating the alphabet (and the disjuncture between the French letters we hear and the English ones we see). Grueling, even Oulipian composition.

Today, in the Solzhenitsyn obit:
At Ekibastuz, any writing would be seized as contraband. So he devised a method that enabled him to retain even long sections of prose. After seeing Lithuanian Catholic prisoners fashion rosaries out of beads made from chewed bread, he asked them to make a similar chain for him, but with more beads. In his hands, each bead came to represent a passage that he would repeat to himself until he could say it without hesitation. Only then would he move on to the next bead. He later wrote that by the end of his prison term, he had committed to memory 12,000 lines in this way. —NYT

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Dizzies Trivia: Swedish-speaking Max von Sydow acts in French in TDBATB, in English in Hannah and Her Sisters and other films. What other actors have acted in three (or more) languages?

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Sunday, August 03, 2008

This article is a favor to Holly

I spoke to the Guardian at length about some good bands that write "literate" lyrics. What you get: Just a few lines on Vampire Weekend and Hold Steady!

That's OK. I like all of the bands that the writer wanted to talk about (which also included the Silver Jews and Fleet Foxes, though I don't know the latter too well), and I also talked a lot about the Mountain Goats (I had just finished John Darnielle's Master of Reality, a book I enjoyed so much that I forgot to blog about it) — it's hard to lump all these groups together, since the Vampire Weekenders have a cumulative age of about 32 and the Silver Jews have been around since...early '90s? (Same with the Mt. Gts.?) But it's all good—heyyy, I'll take it!

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

August 2, August 2

Yesterday I went to the library and borrowed Raymond Carver's Where I'm Calling From. I wanted to reread "Cathedral." I started "Feathers" instead, stopped a few pages from the end. I just finished it now—it's been a while since I've read Carver. There was a great part about the friend's immense, ugly baby; that was pretty funny, but I laughed out loud at the part where the narrator's wife "chucked the baby under one of his chins." One of his chins!

I was about to start "Cathedral" when my eye fell on the About the Author page. It was only then that I remembered: Raymond Carver died twenty years ago today, on the day I turned 18.


Classic Ouroboros

From Dzyd Jenny—how the Ouroboros can help your social standing:

In 1865 Friedrich August Kekulé woke up from a strange dream: he imagined a snake forming a circle and biting its own tail. Like many organic chemists of the time, Kekulé had been working feverishly to describe the true chemical structure of benzene, a problem that continually eluded understanding. But Kekulé’s dream of a snake swallowing its tail, so the story goes, helped him to accurately realize that benzene’s structure formed a ring. This insight paved the way for a new understanding of organic chemistry and earned Kekulé a title of nobility in Germany. Scientific American


Friday, August 01, 2008


Jeff Yang asks: "Could Obama be the first Asian American president?"

Weekend Levi Talk

IBRL proprietor Levi Stahl's got his fingerprints all over the most recent issue of The New York Moon—compiling desert narratives, chipping in with an original Borgesian fable of his own, and
musing on J.G. Ballard's eco-catastrophe novels The Drought and The Drowned World.

Is he secretly running the show?

Illustration by Pete Watts

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Emperor Shi Huang Ti, V. Nabokov...and...

For Levi's "Consigned to the Flames" series:

By 2 a.m., he was alone with the blonde and her sister. He was without his cell phone and had no idea where he was—somewhere on Long Island. Would she call him a cab? She said that she would give him a ride after she’d finished watching TV with her sister. She told him to go into her bedroom and get in bed. So he did. He noticed an unusual number of cats and lots of dust on the table tops and grime in corners.

“I was like, ‘I want my mommy,’” he said. He came out to plead for a cab. This time, the woman was on the computer updating her cat’s MySpace page. He asked if she would drive him to the train station. The date snapped for him to get back in bed. Finally, the girl’s sister gave him a ride to the station.

“So I got back to my apartment here, and I had an epiphany,” he said. He’d been reading Roman history, about how, when Mark Antony accidentally led 150 soldiers to an island to battle 500 enemy soldiers, instead of allowing his men to flee, he burned the ship. Then they won, because they had to.

“So I sat on my bed, and across from me was my pile of meaningless phone numbers of women that I’ve met,” he said. “This is 4 in the morning, Wayne Dyer and everybody says 4 in the morning is the time when the world is quietest and it’s super-spiritual—and I said, ‘The only way I’m going to meet terrific women—I have to burn the ship.’ So I took this pile of numbers and I went to the incinerator and I blessed all the women and asked them for my soul back. And I blessed it, and I kissed it, and I threw it down the incinerator. And it started my new quest for meaning and it sta—Hi, how are you!”

A crowd of teenagers from New Jersey had come up to say hi to the Goot.

—Spencer Morgan, NY Observer, profile of Steve Gutenberg

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Inspirational texts

This morning's NYT has two excellent things that...if I can channel the energy...maybe I can put it toward The Dizzies??

I. Dzyd Dennis talks to Elliott Gould:

On the phone from his home in Los Angeles, Mr. Gould spoke warmly of the movies in the series. “The films hold up as social comments in relation to what seemed to be a changing world,” he said. On the matter of being a generational symbol, though, he was more tentative. “For an awkward audience that didn’t necessarily understand the order of things,” he said, “I would perhaps say I was someone to identify with. One of the things about me is that I’m vulnerable. You can see through me.”

That touching transparency is central to Mr. Gould’s appeal both on and off screen. He has long been prone to bouts of public introspection. The 1970 Time profile pins its subject to the psychoanalytic couch, coaxing out details of his childhood in Bensonhurst, the only son of immigrant parents who had high hopes for his showbiz career, and his failed marriage to Barbra Streisand, whose early stardom saddled him with the nickname Mr. Streisand.

“I’m a little embarrassed about all that now,” he said. “I let myself be known before I understood myself. But had I understood what I was doing, I couldn’t have accomplished it."

II. Holland Cotter on Ad Reinhardt's Black (or "Ultimate") Paintings:

Done in shades of black, with subliminal traces of underlying grids, these were endgame objects, versions of an absolutist art. They embodied no narratives, projected no emotions, broadcast no beliefs; they absorbed light, gave off no heat. The primary reward they offered was the experience of being with them, which, to be an experience (as opposed to a mere walk-by sighting), required patience and concentration.

Despite their visual and conceptual rigor, though, the black paintings are physically delicate in the extreme. The mere touch of a finger leaves a permanent imprint on their matte, suedelike surfaces. The accidental brush of an elbow could create a trail as conspicuous as a tear. Reinhardt was well aware of the paintings’ fragility. Surely he knew that their precarious flawlessness was part of their mystique. It contributed to their being perceived, and valued, as pure things in a corrupted world.

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