Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Table-Talk for New Year's Eve 2008

I. Happy new year!

II. At the New Yorker's Book Bench blog, PD has been dubbed "2008’s Best Novel About Doing Battle with Microsoft Word and Losing"! Heyyy—I'll take it!

An eeriely prescient tale of layoffs; think “Alien” set in an office, where computers are stealthily self-destructing and people keep disappearing from their cubicles, leaving vast empty warrens of corporate debris. Did I mention that it’s deeply, bitterly funny?
(Thanks to Levi for the tip.)

III. At Moving Image Source, assorted cinéastes weigh in on their favorite moving-image moments of the year. Here's a tidbit by Dzyd David "Shadowplay" Cairns:

I attended a rare screening of Sidney Lumet's Tennessee Williams adaptation Blood Kin and was most impressed by a shot where a giant plastic cow was wheeled past James Coburn. It made me feel alive in a special way. The combination of elements—Coburn and cow—something about it was just so right, and so bold.
(Here is Part 2.)

IV. Happy new year, again! Thank you for reading this blog! (AND a big thanks to everyone who read PD, or reviewed it or blogged it or end-of-year-listed it, or came out to see me read, or sent in PD sightings.....)

And that's...

(Via VSL. See more "The End" cards here.)

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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuesday ouroboros

We've seen the armadillo lizard ouroboros before...but L.G. Thos has found another specimen:


Not quite a "Table-Talk"

1. I keep thinking this movie I'm semi-watching is called Terror Twilight. No! It's Tropic Thunder!

2. A big part of what I have enjoyed about the growth over the past several years of the world of book blogs is the way they open literary conversation to include books that are not new, bringing in (depending on the blogger) everything from classics to ephemera. In an environment where, for obvious reasons, the official organs of book culture are forever preoccupied with the new, it's wonderful to see that a big swathe of people is perpetually reading from a wide range of eras and styles, that our shared frame of reference really is much larger than one might think at first blush. —Levi's comment on Confessions

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Monday, December 29, 2008

The invisible article...revealed!

My latest Astral Weeks column is finally up! Ostensibly a review of a book by Jack McDevitt, I also pay a visit to the Invisible Library. Here is the tantalizing beginning!

Earlier this year, with a like-minded bibliophile, I started yet another blog. The blog, called Invisible Library, would list books by fictional authors -- that is, titles that don't exist outside the pages of fiction.

Up went the novels by the titular author of Nabokov's "The Real Life of Sebastian Knight," the wildly varied subjects of Stanislaw Lem's "A Perfect Vacuum" (a collection of fake book reviews), the quartet of stories attributable to a Cheeveresque author in Cheever's sly anti-Cheever "A Miscellany of Characters That Will Not Appear."

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Half a hexagon

I’ve just returned from a visit to my own local library, which is vast but far from universal. I discovered that the set of books by and about Borges would fill up roughly half a hexagon. Bloch’s little volume will add one more to those shelves. Sometimes the ceaseless proliferation of books makes me dizzy....
—Brian Hayes, "Books-a-Million," American Scientist

The richness of the connections, which implies a great deal of attention from the artist, rewards a similar intensity from you. There are connections within connections; connections that jump forward or back beyond a work’s immediate neighbors; and larger overriding themes that gather several works into a sustained sequence.
—Roberta Smith on Vik Muniz, NYT

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Ouroboros: The Layoff Narrative

In September, Ketzel Levine, a senior correspondent for National Public Radio, came up with an idea for a series about how Americans were handling economic pressure....

Ms. Levine and her editor didn’t want a series of unconnected stories. “We came up with the idea that each person should be connected with the next somehow, and that was the best part for me,” she said....

But there was an unexpected ending. Midway through her reporting, Ms. Levine found out that she had been laid off as part of a 64-employee cut at NPR.

Ms. Levine, who has worked at NPR since 1977, said she decided the final episode, and her final piece for NPR, should be about her own situation.


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"The world's most northerly palindrome"

This is the Arctic Utopia of Knud Rasmussen, Greenland’s favourite son and most famous explorer, who memorably summed up the appeal of the traditional Inuit way of life: “Give me winter, give me dogs, and you can have the rest.”

The trading post he established in 1910 still stands by the shore, remarkably preserved in cold, clear air, near a curious flat-topped mountain that looks like a giant crème caramel. A gravel road winds past a memorial to Rasmussen and other empty buildings, and up a hill to where a sign says that only authorised personnel may proceed to the US base on the other side.

The kayaks that once glided silently among the icebergs in pursuit of seal and walrus are long gone, replaced by a grumble of military transport aircraft rising above a sprawl of hangers and fuel tanks.

The locals who lived here were relocated more than 100 miles north to Qaanaaq, the world’s most northerly palindrome, which is now a lively community of about 650 souls who still hunt seals but in their leisure time surf the internet and stage concerts in a modern sports hall. —Telegraph

Can you find one other palindrome?

(Via Dzyd Kaela)


Saturday, December 27, 2008

The insured loneliness, the invisible library

I. In the NYT—would this count as a volume in the Invisible Library?

In a bookcase in a dark hallway there is another book, not well known like the others. In fact, it is unclear whether anyone other than its author has ever read “Where Yesterday Began.”

Ms. Macefield paid to have her novel published in 1994, under the pen name Domilini. It is set against the backdrop of post-World War I Europe.

An introductory page begins, “This story is for all those who have ever loved — truly, deeply, irrevocably — and in the thrust of disaster. For some, love simply dies — and one moves on. But for a few, love is as lasting as the ages — despite the impossibilities, the separation, the insured loneliness.”

The book is 1,138 pages long, not counting the musical references, from Scottish folk songs to a 1915 work by the English composer Albert W. Ketelbey, and a 16-page glossary of the French, German and Italian phrases sprinkled throughout. “I think it was kind of a love story,” said Mr. Peck, the longtime friend. “I never did read it.”

The book is dedicated to “B. Robert Aigner, M.D.,” with no explanation why. Reached by phone at his home in a Seattle suburb, Dr. Aigner, 80, said he remembered Ms. Macefield was a patient, but nothing more.

Dr. Aigner, a neurologist, was amazed and amused that Ms. Macefield would have dedicated her ambitious work to him. He had never heard of it.

“I have no idea what I was treating her for,” he said.

[Ed. note: Among the works of Harry Stephen Keeler are several dedicated to various physicians.]

II. Dzyd Sarah W. mentioned Keeler in her latest Dark Passages column (looking at pan-Asian crime fiction) at the LAT:

Several novels by Harry Stephen Keeler involve Asian characters or settings but are remembered less for them than for the author's wildly pyrotechnic writing style.

III. Meanwhile, my current Astral Weeks column has been completed—but you can't read it yet! I don't know why! Clicking through gets you to a Page Not Found. (The invisible article?)

UPDATE (IV): Who is the winner of the 2008 honorary Harry Stephen Keeler character award?

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Your most humble and obedient servant: Table-Talk for December 26, 2008

I. Dzyd Brian revisits his teenage sonneteer self, and more:

An hour or two ago I dreamt that I and some coworkers were missing our top rows of teeth. On the bare gums in the tops of our mouths, we wore "reversible" dentures.

II. John Lennon's "paranoid close readings of some lyrics from Ram." (Via.)

III. Dzyd Andrew's Flaubert's Parrot :

I prefer to think that this newspaper was clipped in Manhattan, where the paperback was purchased by a wonderful bespectacled clean-shaven man. My dad lived in Manhattan at the time, and I lived with my mom across the Tappan Zee Bridge in Rockland County. I visited dad in 80s Bachelor Manhattan every other weekend, sometimes every weekend. I might’ve touched this newspaper when I was four years old!

(Also see: "an ouroboros of one's own").

IV. An interview with Jenny D. at the Columbia Political Review:

When I sign a letter “Your most obedient and humble servant,” is that a falsification of my relationship with the person to whom I have addressed the letter? What about if I ask my servant to say that I am “not at home” to visitors—is that safely perceived as a conventional “white lie,” or do I actually degrade my own truthfulness by practicing these forms of supposedly innocent deception?

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An anecdoted discography of chance

John Darnielle reviews "everything that happens to be stacked up against or near the stereo." (Here's installment two.)

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Thursday, December 25, 2008


The Buffalo Bills sing the "Twelve Days of Christmas." Things get hilarious/interesting, relatively, at "five golden rings."

(From Dzys T.M. Rob)

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Burn this

At the Tor blog: Which book would you bring to a cabin to read? Which would you bring to burn?

(Via Gwenda)


Xmas TV

(Via Dzyd Brent)


Which will it be?

Gilmore Girls and the Politics of Identity? Or Coffee at Luke's?


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A must-read?

Five years ago, young Muslims across the United States began reading and passing along a blurry, photocopied novel called “The Taqwacores,” about imaginary punk rock Muslims in Buffalo...

(From Jenny D)

And..."the Baryshnikov of the hockey rink"...meets disco...c. 1979..."two of the most powerful trends of our society..."

And...Dzyd Jessica on NewsRadio.

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Monday, December 22, 2008

On the road

This is adorable! Erasing-meister (and Ouroboros-hunter) Scott and wife sing Neko Case...try not to smile while watching!

Set Out Running from SDH on Vimeo.

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1/3, 1/3, 1/3

At The Millions' endless best-thing-I-read-this-year roundup, Mickey Hess writes about Richard Brautigan's Sombrero Fallout (which I happened to buy this year), and an RB story entitled "1/3, 1/3, 1/3."

* * *

CONTEXT prints Ben Marcus's afterword to its reprint of Stanley Crawford's The Log of the S.S. The Mrs. Unguentine. Here's my take, from Bookforum. Aside: Crawford first hit my radar when I read a great piece by Marcus on SC's Some Instructions, in the PTSNBNLS; I probably have it clipped and saved somewhere...

* * *

What books are behind Obama?


A bestiary

An Ouroboros?

The days of phony prosperity — I borrow cheap money from China to build a house and then borrow on that house to buy cheap paintings from China to decorate my walls and everybody is a winner — are over.

...or is it a chimera?

Dafen is just one of a million Chinese and American enterprises that constitute the most important economic engine in the world today — what historian Niall Ferguson calls “Chimerica,” the de facto partnership between Chinese savers and producers and U.S. spenders and borrowers.

—from Thomas L. Friedman, NYT

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A portrait of the artist as a young cinema manager

2009 sees the centenary of one of the odder corners of early film history. In December 1909, the then unknown James Joyce, future author of Dubliners, Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, opened a cinema in Dublin. This was through no particular passion for film; Joyce was merely seeking the means to get rich quick, and like a good many other people at the time, he saw the new cinema business as the way to do so....

Happily for literature, Joyce turned out to be a hopeless cinema manager, or rather he left the business all too quickly in other hands, only to see the hoped-for source of his fortune rapidly fail. The Volta (which was located at 45 Mary Street) floundered, as much through competition from other film entertainments as its own mismanagement, and it was sold at a loss in June 1910. Joyce’s own specific involvement with the cinema was brief, but intense. He spent several weeks setting up the business, staffing and equipping, promoting it, obtaining a cinematograph licence, and—it is to be assumed—selecting the films.

It is this last element that continues to attract scholarly interest. What films were shown at the Volta, what role did Joyce play in their selection, what did he think of such films, and what traces of the cinema can be uncovered in his art?

The Bioscope

(Via L.G. Thos.)


Sunday, December 21, 2008


AJRMS on a Dizzies fave: Daniel Spoerri's An Anecdoted Topography of Chance

* * *

The latest Keeler News (which includes a great Keeler parody by Ken Keeler—no relation to HSK!) tipped me off to Graham Self's short film adaptation of "Strange Romance," the tale-within-a-tale in Y. Cheung, Business Detective.

Watch it here:

Curiously, Self made the movie without having had the chance to read "Strange Romance"; he knew of it only via the aforementioned (Keeler fan) Ken Keeler's commentary on a episode of Futurama.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

So that's who called me at 3 a.m.!

Frankly, though, I don’t see how any review could really spoil what may be among the most transcendently, eye-poppingly, call-your-friend-ranting-in-the-middle-of-the-night-just-to-go-over-it-one-more-time crazily awful motion pictures ever made. I would tell you to go out and see it for yourself, but you might take that as a recommendation rather than a plea for corroboration. Did I really see what I thought I saw?

A.O. Scott

(Via Dzyd Rafferty)

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To the lighthouse

Chapter four of W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn opens with a photograph of the lighthouse in Southwold, a town on the Suffolk coast to which the author walked from Lowestoft, further along the coast, in August 1992. One can also find the same lighthouse in the opening scene of Peter Greenaway’s 1988 film, ‘Drowning by Numbers’, which was made in the town and its environs.

(More here.)

(Via L.G. Thos.)

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"If that is what it takes..."

Destroyer's "Farrar, Straus and Giroux (Sea of Tears)":

(Thanks to Gwenda's brilliant post.)


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Two heists

—If the police come, they don’t notice that the historical mural on the wall is actually us, holding still.
—Jack Handey, "The Plan," The New Yorker

...having pretended to be a punk band and carted in instruments and actually played them very loud before switching to recordings of the same stuff played just as loud,...
—"Détournement," Pinakothek

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Thursday Evening Ouroboros

Dzyd D. Cairns—the illuminated magician behind Shadowplay—embeds an Ouroboros for us in this mind-bender of a post at The Auteurs—"The Forgotten: I Stab Sane."

The innovation of Sebastian is its bold, surreal transposition of wartime desperation to swinging London, an masterful, eccentric solution that successfully folds time back on itself to create a temporal ouroborous – in which 60s glitz is nourished by 40s passion.

The assorted anagrams for SEBASTIAN make me wonder: Is there a term for words/names that carry the same sequence of letters? E.g., Tokyo and Kyoto...


They are a step above being anagrams of each other..."Sequential anagrams"?

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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Sittin' on the floor of the bay

From Dzyd Mnglz, some of the most beautiful prose of the day:

Human-sized heart found at the Paw Paw car wash

PAW PAW, Mich. (AP) - A human-sized heart found at a southwestern Michigan car wash has investigators wondering whether it came from a person or an animal. The organ was discovered in a corner of a manual wash bay at Soapy's Car Wash, Paw Paw police said. The owner of the business found it Monday on the floor of the bay, according to WOOD-TV in Grand Rapids and WWMT-TV in Kalamazoo...

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The Connections: Footwear

Has anyone written a piece musing on the shoe thrower and the shoe bomber?

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Something in the air

Yesterday I send Dzyd Mike this picture I took a while ago with my phone — a door at WFMU's studios in Jersey City:

(Mike is a notorious hippie agnostic!)

Today Dzyd Euge sent me this:

Don't watch it, it will destroy your mind!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Peice of mind

From the table of contents to F. Scott Fitzgerald's Tales of the Jazz Age:

This story was inspired by a remark of Mark Twain’s to the effect that it was a pity that the best part of life came at the beginning and the worst part at the end. By trying the experiment upon only one man in a perfectly normal world I have scarcely given his idea a fair trial. Several weeks after completing it, I discovered an almost identical plot in Samuel Butler’s “Note-books.”
The story was published in “Collier’s” last summer and provoked this startling letter from an anonymous admirer in Cincinnati:

I have read the story Benjamin Button in Colliers and I wish to say that as a short story writer you would make a good lunatic I have seen many peices [sic] of cheese in my life but of all the peices [sic ] of cheese I have ever seen you are the biggest piece. I hate to waste a peice [sic ] of stationary [sic ] on you but I will.”

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The Cebocap effect

Dave Warner of Arlington Heights, Ill., notes many pharmacies already are stocked with a prescription-only placebo, Cebocap, which pharmacists dispense when a physician prescribes a placebo. Walgreen offers this online information for the Cebocap placebo, which comes in three colors, presumably so patients can think they are taking three different drugs. When a doc prescribes Cebocap, the patient doesn't know it's a placebo. Cecelia Higgins of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., reports this Australian company markets a placebo that people are supposed to order for themselves -- you buy the stuff knowing it's a placebo, and dose yourself. —ESPN

(From Dzyd Jane)

Andrew Leland: The next Howard Hampton?

From Goodjobbb:

That’s why I use AmandaPeetMoss

roman a Wycleff Jean

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Bringing home the Bacon

Some gorgeous "pre-Golden Age" science fiction covers illustrate Dzyd Josh's latest transmission at i09 , including Harold Steele Mackaye's The Panchronicon (1904):

I'm informed that The Panchronicon concerns a pair of New Hampshire spinsters who are given the opportunity to travel through time via a solar-powered airship-thing from the 27th-century. See, first you fly the Panchronicon to the North Pole; then you orbit the Earth widdershins (anti-sunwise, like Christopher Reeve does in the 1978 Superman); and presto, you're in 16th-century England, where you're able to disprove the Bacon-was-Shakespeare theory.

And there's an Ouroboros, linking back here, to boot!

7. E.R. Eddison, The Worm Ouroboros (London: Jonathan Cape, 1922). More admired than read, Ouroboros is a linguistically adventurous saga recounting the infinite war between the king of Witchland and the lords of Demonland... on the planet Mercury. Call it Nietzschean SF: somewhere out there, the author would have us believe, another world is possible, one in which the self-overcoming values and worldview of Roman, Arab, Germanic, Japanese nobility, Homeric heroes, and Scandinavian Vikings will never be corrupted. (As Lord Juss puts it: "For better it were we should run hazard again of utter destruction, than thus live out our lives like cattle fattening for the slaughter, or like silly garden plants.") The end of Eddison's novel is also its beginning, hence the title and Keith Henderson's heavy-metal jacket illustration — a snake devouring itself tail-first. Like they so often do in medieval engravings, Celtic sculptures, Egyptian scrolls, Aztec glyphs, and on Agent Scully's lower back. Wish I could afford a 1st edition.

(Here's my take on the book at Astral Weeks.)

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Dizzies Press Release: Will Sheff interviewed (San Francisco Dizzies)

Blvr. mg. ed. and secretive power-blogger ANDREW LELAND will be interviewing Okkervil River singer-songwriter WILL SHEFF at the City Arts & Lectures series on Weds., Dec. 17...Here's the official notice:

As the front man for the Austin-based band Okkervil River, Will Sheff explores rock music's right to revel in human experience, clichés and all. After growing up in New Hampshire, Sheff left New England to study English at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota. Okkervil River formed in 1998, and has produced five albums and five EPs, from their very first - a live EP called Stars Too Small to Use - to their breakthrough album Black Sheep Boy, released in 2005. In an interview for The Believer magazine, Sheff states, "A lot of the time, my guiding principle is to try and do all the things I couldn't possibly get away with, and do them well." Okkervil River's upcoming release, The Stand Ins (September 2008), completes a planned double-album with their 2007 record, The Stage Names. Critics have frequently labeled Okkervil River a "literary" band, but Sheff and his bandmates also remain faithful to rock's hard-swinging roots. Will Sheff cites influences from the Incredible String Band, Sam Cooke and James Brown to Joan Didion and Russian literature. In live performance, Sheff allies himself firmly with performers like Otis Redding or Ian Curtis, delivering songs with visceral, no-holds-barred physical dedication. In addition to his lyrical talents, Sheff plays banjo, guitar, piano, and harmonica, and is also a founding member of the band Shearwater.

And here are some recent pictures of Mr. Sheff.

And an old but good Blvr interview!

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Burn the passports

It's very nice to just wander
The camel route to IraqLink
—"It's Nice to Go Trav'ling" (sung by Frank Sinatra), at Moistworks

* * *

Shades of End Zone:

Mr. Blagojevich, 52, rarely turns up for work at his official state office in Chicago, former employees say, is unapologetically late to almost everything, and can treat employees with disdain, cursing and erupting in fury for failings as mundane as neglecting to have at hand at all times his preferred black Paul Mitchell hairbrush. He calls the brush “the football,” an allusion to the “nuclear football,” or the bomb codes never to be out of reach of a president. —NYT

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Navel academy

At the Louisville Courier-Journal, my former coworker-turned-geniusy-novelist Samantha Hunt has nice things to say about Personal Days.

Other Dzys faves also weigh in, and I get all mysterious about something called Bottomless Belly Button.

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From Reborn (vol. 1 of Susan Sontag's diaries):

In philosophy the snake swallows its tail;
thinking, about thinking(2)--two senses of “thinking.”

Thinking is philosophy; thinking(2)=the sciences.

(That "2" = superscript)

(From Dzyd Ed)

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Will Sheff + Bird of Youth + Charles Bissell at Music Hall, Williamsburg, 12/11

Photos by Dzyd Euge

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"Speaking of": The greatest transition ever? (aka your Weekend Table-Talk)

I. Jenny's mention of Munchman led to me e-mailing video-game expert Ed, who through a series of mental associations then unearthed the Mighty Mouth copyright infringement case:

This 1983 judgment of the District Court of Nebraska found the defendants liable for copyright and trademark infringement of three Midway coin-operated arcade games: “Pac-Man”, “Galaxian”, and “Rally-X.” Midway sold their games to regional distributors, who then sold them to operators, such as arcade owners. The defendants, who were previous operators of Midway games, purchased 10 “copy games” and 3 “conversion kits” and sold them to other retailers. They called the “Pac-Man” imitator “Mighty Mouth,” the Galaxian imitator “Galactic Invaders,” and did not bother to change the name of their copied “Rally-X” game.

(I like the laziness in that last line.)

II. Speaking of Dzyd Ed, here he is on Jerry Lewis's The Total Filmmaker.

III. Dept. of What Am I Talking About?: Yesterday I thundered/joshed—

“I've been on a mild anti-Doors/JM kick for the last, oh, 15 years or so—amazing that in seven short paragraphs, Klinkenborg can make me interested again.”

—and yet also posted at The Millions on Lewis Shiner's Glimpses, which includes some great sequences involving Jim Morrison! This blog is not to be trusted!

IV. Speaking of The Millions: Just noticed that Dzyd/Envelope Sarah's Millions picks went up right after mine: Bonfiglio's books (which for some odd reason I never cottoned to, I should try again) and on James Laughlin's memoir-dossier-thingie (which I've only longed for in bookstores), of which she writes, "It's a made thing, a crafted thing. It's a rescue from the tedium of what happened."

[V. Speaking of Psychic Envelopes/Sarah/"what happened": "Something Happened" and other PE originals are back up at the Myspace page, complete with an annoying "click" starting off two tracks...not part of the recording, but the work of some Myspace gremlin.]

VI. Speaking of Best Reads of the Year, Rivka (Dzyd status: unknown) at Granta feels the same way I do about James Lasdun's The Horned Man:

I’m trying to overcome the grade school favourite band instinct that makes me not want to let any but the truly ‘deserving’ know about James Lasdun’s 2002 novel, The Horned Man. (I feel I don't deserve to know about it, simply because I didn’t already know about it.) Lasdun’s prose is, well: dappled, counter, spare, original, strange. Narrated by an awkward expat literature professor, one who remains steadfastly unaware of being himself the origins of the very mystery bedevilling him, The Horned Man is the descendent of both Saint Augustine and Buster Keaton. It’s odd, unfathomably beautiful, very (very, very, very) funny, charismatic and a shade miraculous.

Saint Augustine and Buster Keaton—together in one sentence at last!

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Annals of running

But for a truly one-of-a-kind gift, nothing could beat what Michael Chambers received for his 40th birthday on Thursday: a world-class runner from Kenya for a day...Kiplagat was paid $400 to run with Chambers and have lunch with his family. ...
They ran eight miles, at a sturdy 7-minute-per-mile pace. It was quick for Chambers, but Kiplagat usually trains by running 10 or more miles at a 5:45-per-mile pace.
“We’re back,” Chambers said as the two entered the apartment again. “I won.”
Chambers was drenched in rain and sweat. Kiplagat looked as if he had done little more than climb a flight of stairs.
“I was pushing him a little bit,” Kiplagat said. “I wanted to see how fast he was. I was listening to his breathing. He was not breathing as hard as I thought. He looked very strong.”
Chambers noted just how quietly Kiplagat moves. His breath and his footsteps never got heavy, he said.
“It’s literally like running next to a cheetah,” Chambers said. —NYT

(From Dzyd Jane)


Shades of The Young Visiters... Jenny D's The Purple Cow! This tantalizing page contains the line: "Just two years ago, he had won seven cars."

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Table-Talk of Parkus Grammaticus for December 12, 2008

I. I'll be reading this Sunday at KGB with Deb Olin Unferth and Heidi "Olin" Julavits! Sort of a McSweeney's night (Deb's novel, Vacation, is out from McSwy's)...and my last reading of the year! Then I will rest my larynx!

II. Over at The Millions, I give the much coveted EP nod to a few books (one of which I don't think I've written about here: Lewis Shiner's Glimpses)*...the others of which I have rambled about: those Richard Stark reprints....

III. Recently observed: Paul La Farge's article on Tintin and Tuten is available online at Blvr. central...The Khongster has a new blog...I enjoyed this, by a secret blogger...which reminded me of this...Book Nerd hearts Crozzles!...listening to: THE TOUGH ALLIANCE...Dzyd Adrian sent along this video..."Soup Dragon"! there a band yet named "The Clangers"?

IV: How I wrote certain of my posts: I am actually not up at 2:30 a.m. writing this—it is in fact just before noon on Thursday! I frequently adjust "Post Options" so as to not seem like a perpetual blogger.

*..........the backstory is that I bought the book at Powell's in ’07, having heard of it from Mark Moskowitz, the director of Stone was a wallet-shattering $35, a signed first edition! I never buy such things, really, but I had never come across the book before and figured, "Well, I'm on vacation" took me nearly a year before I actually cracked it open.......

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Moral sudoku

A wonderful Verlyn Klinkenborg musing in today's NYT:

It has been nearly 40 years since the rocker Jim Morrison died. But this week — the day after Morrison would have turned 65 — he appeared in The Times in two obituaries: his father’s and that of the owner of the Los Angeles club, Whisky A Go Go, where Morrison’s band, the Doors, got its big break....

This is the kind of thing I encourage some of my students to try:

I find myself wondering how Elmer Valentine would tell his story to himself, or what George Morrison might have said to his son’s employer.

Better yet, I imagine them meeting long before the famous son came along, perhaps during World War II when Valentine was an Army Air Forces mechanic and Morrison was a young naval ensign. How would the future have looked to them? Could either have imagined Jim Morrison’s arc?

I've been on a mild anti-Doors/JM kick for the last, oh, 15 years or so—amazing that in seven short paragraphs, Klinkenborg can make me interested again...

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Tloothy in the Sky

I. Levi has been reading that George Plimpton book, and has some quotes from/thoughts on the Plimpton-connected figure I'm most interested in—Harry Mathews! Here's HM on GP*'s

George created the first Paris Review Editions—another moneymaker, he hoped. And the first book they published was James Salter's wonderful A Sport and a Pastime, which was cover-to-cover sex and did well. The second was my second novel, Tlooth (1966), which was a totally weird book, but I worked on every sentence. The story that George always used to love to tell is that on pub day, they would hire a plane to inscribe the letters TLOOTH in the sky above New York to create wonder and bewilderment in the populace; but the winds weren't right, and it was too expensive anyway. Of course, the book—well, it didn't go nowhere, but it didn't do very well.

II. Dzyd Molls has some thoughts and more thoughts on the whole Pope-forgiving-the-Beatles news. Great—irresistible—headline for her dotCommonweal piece: "Mother Superior, jump the gun"!

She also poses this trivia bonus: "Do you know which Beatle was Catholic (by birth)? Hint: it wasn’t Lennon."


*= George Plimpton, not HM's other great friend Georges Perec!

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Haro, I must be going

“It’s the kind of place where you’d never be left in your house dead for four or five days,” said Peter Gabriel-Byrne, a singer-songwriter and sometime construction worker here.
—Sarah Lyall, Sark Journal, NYT

The rest of the article is totally worthwhile: gratuitous Iraq comparisons, identical-twin billionaires, and...haro!

According to ancient Norman law, people here who believe their rights are being violated can halt the offending action by dropping to their knees, raising one hand and crying out in front of witnesses “Haro, Haro, Haro!” followed by a French phrase meaning, roughly, “I have been done wrong.”

"Like a palindrome spelled with acts of corruption"

I. From Levi:

From the Chicago Reader blog, about our galactically stupid and corrupt soon-to-be-ex-governor (the third Illinois governor out of the last five to be arrested!!!!!):

"Chicagoland correspondent KC:

'If I'm reading the Sun-Times article right, then:

'Blago contemplated appointing himself to the Senate seat because he'd get better lawyers to defend himself for trying to sell the Senate seat that no one wanted to buy, which is why Blago contemplated appointing himself to the Senate seat.

'It's beyond circular logic, it's like a palindrome spelled with acts of corruption instead of letters.'"

II. Irony! The PTSNBN puts PD on its list of the Best Books of 2008...

In a prelapsarian New York populated by surging, infinity-sign-shaped real estate developments, an office is undergoing endless layoffs....Park's unsettling, uproarious debut delights as much in sending up various crimes against language as it does in satirizing workplace culture....

(Via Other Ed)

III. The mystery of language, cont'd: "Two cases of compulsive swearing—in sign language."

IV. At A Journey Round My Skull, Will has some "Musings and Thunderings of Leon Bloy":

"My existence is a sad country where it is always raining...."

V. Parenthetical of the day: "First, I must preface this conversation by saying that from time to time (hourly) I google myself." —Ta-Nehisi

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

"Best" is best

The first of a few EP weigh-ins on my favorite books of the year—this one's for Salon, on Don Paterson's Best Thought, Worst Thought: “You get the sense that Paterson both stakes his life on every sentence and wants to distance himself from it almost before the ink has dried...”

(Dear Salon, it is not too late to review Personal Days!)

* * *

Also in ’08 best-of round-uppery: a nice mention of PD on Ed Champion's year-end list (though what exactly he thinks I'm censoring is still a mystery to me...perhaps the fact that [DELETED]?)...

Brrr! The Independent names it one of the 50 best "winter reads"...ahead of The Inimitable Jeeves?!

And finally—in the latest issue of Commonweal, one of its "Christmas Critics" had this to say about PD:

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Tabular Talkage for Tuesday, December 9, 2008

1. At Print, Hillary Chute talks to Art Spiegelman about the rerelease of his Breakdowns. (The interview runs in five parts this week.)

2. Dennis Cooper has more Oulipo links/photos/videos than you can shake a stick at...(Via L.G. Thos.)

3. Jenny's latest book!

4. Next Psychic Envelopes cover?


(Anyone know anything about the musicians who wrote/performed these songs?)

5. ”Beethoven learned to add and subtract but never learned to multiply. If he had to multiply 65 by 59, he wrote 65 in a column 59 times and added it up.” —Jan Swafford, “How the Illuminati Influenced Beethoven,” Slate

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Monday, December 08, 2008

"Time" is on our side!

Personal Days hits Time magazine's Top 10 Fiction Books list, clocking in at #6! Lev Grossman (a/k/a the Greatest Book Critic in the World) writes:

"This is a book that gets frighteningly truer month after month. Somehow it also remains just as funny."

As a Dizzies reader, you can:

• Read the full Time article here, as well as rundowns on books by Bolaño, Sittenfeld, Lahiri, Price, and others!
• Visit the PD site, and buy books there or at your local bookstore!
• Participate in this PD anagram contest!

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Monday warmup

I. Another nice mention of PD from Moonlight Ambulette (with bonus clip from 9 to 5!).

II. Dzyd Rachel has More like a gathering of all (or most) of her excellent pieces from the last few years, many of which (for the Blvr., V.V., and TPF) I've had the pleasure of editing...Quick picks: Russell Hobson, high-IQ societies, the mysterious "Footprints" author, and the perils and pleasures of public speaking...amazing!

III. In The Stranger, Paul Constant reports on the return of L. Ron Hubbard's early fiction: "Many reviewers—myself included—have extolled the glories of pulp fiction, and this series provides a good opportunity to make something perfectly clear: Most pulp fiction is awful crap that was cranked out in order to make a fast buck. Hubbard's fiction is the worst of that dreck."


Roth says he spent most of his time at Sony working on his own projects, sketching logos on the company stationery and making long-distance phone calls from his desk. One day, someone from personnel called him into the office. Roth was sure he’d be fired. When he sat down, the executive complimented him on his productivity and offered him a full-time position. “I was just floored,” Roth told me. “I couldn’t imagine anybody doing less than I was doing.” Not only did Roth turn down the promotion, he quit his job. —Saki Knafo (a/k/a the Greatest Journalist in the World), "Soul Reviver," NYT Magazine

V. At the LAT, Dzyd Carolyn remembers the late Forrest Ackerman...She also links to the Book Design Review's rundown of the year's best covers...It's perhaps not inappropriate for me to say that the Personal Days cover should have been on that list?!

It's even more eye-popping as an actual object...Perhaps it's time to get a few copies for gifts? (Click here for wild PD contest info!) Buy the book of which the aformentioned Paul Constant writes, "Every word belongs exactly where it is."

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Sunday, December 07, 2008

I've heard of them!

Toni Morrison, editor: BURN THIS BOOK: PEN Writers on the Power of the Word. This anthology includes pieces by Toni Morrison, Salman Rushdie, Orhan Pamuk, David Grossman, Nadine Gordimer, Paul Auster, Ed Park, Russell Banks, and others.

The 26th Story


Last week — Teaching notes

I. Via L.G. Thos.: George and Weedon Grossmith's The Diary of a Nobody is now online as a blog. (I'll be teaching this book next semester.)

II. Speaking of teaching: Last Tuesday, for my final short story class, I had my students read various short-shorts, including the liner notes to The Best of Leonard Cohen, which is one of my favorite very short collections of very short prose—exquisitely world-weary, self-deprecating, droll, and surprising.

Lady Midnight
This was finished in the Henry Hudson Hotel on 58th Street in New York. Yafa was doing tricks with her silver bangles. I owe her the last verse. It was recorded in Nashville. The voice is uncertain. In those days it took me fifteen minutes to decide whether or not I should wear my cap when I went outside and a half hour whether or not I should take it off when I came back.

Then today I saw that someone at The Millions blog included them on Friday (as part of its year-in-reading series)!

III. Also last week: Jenny D's post on Oscar Wilde's reading habits mentioned W.H. Mallock's book The New Republic. Why did the name "Mallock" ring a bell?

A: Because he is the author of A Human Document, which Tom Phillips transformed into A Humument...topic of my final Friday class!

I was also happy to find that A Human Document is available in its entirety as a Google Book.

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Saturday, December 06, 2008

Alphabetical order

Dzyd Paul on George Herter in the NYTBR:

Herter’s magnum opus, though, was “Bull Cook,” a wild mix of recipes, unsourced claims and unhinged philosophy that went through at least 15 editions between 1960 and 1970. Herter claimed one million copies sold; Brown guesses it was closer to 100,000. Either number is impressive, and the wild curveball of the book’s opening lines remains unmatched in American literature: “I will start with meats, fish, eggs, soups and sauces, sandwiches, vegetables, the art of French frying, desserts, how to dress game, how to properly sharpen a knife, how to make wines and beer, how to make French soap and also what to do in case of hydrogen or cobalt bomb attack, keeping as much in alphabetical order as possible.”

Also in the NYTBR: Dzyd Douglas has the lowdown on some recent comics...

(...which reminds me, I need to read Incognegro!)

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"Funes" and "H.M."

On Thursday, Levi sent me this link—shades of Borges's "Funes the Memorious":

"No one can imagine what it's really like," says Jill Price, 42, "not even the scientists who are studying me."

The Californian, who has an almost perfect memory, is trying to describe how it feels. She starts with a small demonstration of her ability. "When were you born?" she asks.

She hears the date and says: "Oh, that was a Wednesday. There was a cold snap in Los Angeles two days later, and my mother and I made soup."


She can also date events that were reported in the media, provided she heard about them at the time. When and where did the Concorde crash? When was O.J. Simpson arrested? When did the second Gulf war begin? Price doesn't even have to stop and think. She can effortlessly recite the dates, numbers and entire stories.

"People say to me: Oh, how fascinating, it must be a treat to have a perfect memory," she says. Her lips twist into a thin smile. "But it's also agonizing."

Yesterday in the Times, there was an obit for "H.M.":

He knew his name. That much he could remember.

He knew that his father’s family came from Thibodaux, La., and his mother was from Ireland, and he knew about the 1929 stock market crash and World War II and life in the 1940s. But he could remember almost nothing after that.


H. M. could recount childhood scenes: Hiking the Mohawk Trail. A road trip with his parents. Target shooting in the woods near his house.

“Gist memories, we call them,” Dr. Corkin said. “He had the memories, but he couldn’t place them in time exactly; he couldn’t give you a narrative.”

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Wylie agency

At io9, Joshua Glenn lists "the Ten Best Apocalypse Novels of pre-Golden Age SF (1904–1933)," with some hypnotic covers.

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New Zealand, Benjamin Rosenbaum, and Me — Memo to myself

In the first of a few "best of the year" spots, I list some interesting ’08 titles in SF/speculative for the L.A. Times (some of which will be familiar to the vast Astral Weeks audience).*

And...speaking of lists—ye olde Personal Days makes it onto The L Magazine's holiday gift guide!

*And.....speaking of Astral Weeks, I want to read this interview with Van Morrison at some point.

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Friday Ouroboros

I. From Dzyd Kosiya:

I found another Ouroburos! p.200 in Zanesville by Kris Saknussemm. Two in one week is weird.

Roger was the nearest person. When he peeked into the cargo hold he couldn't at first process what he saw. The snakes, the whole slithering lot of them, were no longer piled or squirming at random but neatly entwined, their bodies forming a living rope that flowed into the shape of a larger snake that took up the entire chamber, curled from mouth(s) to tail(s).

II. Artist Sam Scriver's Ouroboros (purchasable at Gifts by Artists):

III. And finally—this is sort of an Ouroboros, no?

(Via Dzyd JMcB.)


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sad-eyed lady of the shoe store

I love this post:

I tell this story to set up the premise for why I like Boz Scaggs: low expectations. Ever since I asserted my ill-informed opinion that summer (based on my absolute certainty that I could not like the same music as this sad-eyed lady of the shoe store), I basically wrote off Boz Scaggs and just knew that if and when I finally heard him I'd absolutely hate his guts. But around the same time that I was discovering Philly soul from the 70s, I tripped upon Silk Degrees in a junk shop near my house and decided to give it a spin. See, by the time you're my age, 37, you've been wrong about so many things you just figure, 'What the hell, maybe I was wrong about this, too.' And it turned out I was wrong. At least relative to this falsely established opinion, which I'd used as a wedge issue in some early music nerd throw-down with a shoe store assistant manager. —Driftwood Singers Present

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"The Late, Great Ed Park"

Last Tuesday, I posted a "Not Me"—a link to an article by Ed Park about hunting as a "green" activity—and, later, a "Totally Not Me," which listed the table of contents from a 1965 copy of True, The Man's Magazine." (EP had written a piece called "Shoot Swans? Why Not!"—perhaps satire?!)

I didn't know it, but this Ed Park—judoist, Korean War vet, outdoors writer—passed away last Tuesday. From his very interesting obituary:

Raised in Portland, Park was just out of high school and working as a fire lookout on Black Butte in 1948 when he wrote his first outdoor story.

The account of a bobcat attacking Park’s dog was rejected by Outdoor Life magazine, but Park persisted, writing and publishing thousands of articles for nearly 100 publications.

It's an odd feeling for me, reading this obit—every line is strange, or sad, or strangely sad:

“Ed was fascinated with nature; he was interested in every little thing,” Lewis said.

“I was astounded I’d be getting a call from Ed Park,” Monroe said. “I cut my teeth on Ed Park when I was in Vietnam. That’s what we’d do, read the big outdoors magazines, Field & Stream, Sports Afield, Outdoor Life, and Ed was writing for all of them,” he said.

Here's another tribute, more personal, from The Source Weekly. (And here's an old interview with Ed Park (I think I already posted this.)

This article confirms what I only recently suspected—that this Ed Park had written The World of the Otter, a book I bought earlier this year:

(There's an article about otters in literature that I am—seriously—contemplating writing.)

Also: I am now pretty sure that he is the author, with Lue Park, of 1992's The Smoked Foods Cookbook, copies of which were prominently displayed next to Personal Days at my Brooklyn B&N reading.

* * *

After suffering a stroke in 1991, Ed wrote his articles with one finger.

* * *

For a while, I believed that there were at least three authorial Ed Parks—the article writer, the cookbook writer, and the man behind The World of the Otter (and The World of the Bison). I liked having this unlikely fraternity...It is weird to say this, but I will miss him.

—Ed Park

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Smart Alec

New York Post:

He's only 9, but this pint-sized pickup artist already knows plenty about pleasing the ladies.

So much, in fact, that Alec Greven's dating primer, "How to Talk to Girls"—which began as a handwritten, $3 pamphlet sold at his school book fair—hit the shelves nationwide last week....

The best part, actually, is this aside in the last graf:

Alec—who just finished a children's book on the Watergate scandal—said he wants to be a full-time writer when he grows up.

(Via Dzyd "Papa" McMülls)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The mystery of language, addendum II

"Every word was once an animal."

"Every morning the writer should go to the window, look out and remind himself of this fact: aside from his own species, not one thing he sees—not one bird, tree or stone—has in its possession the name he gives it." —Don Paterson, Best Thought, Worst Thought

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The mystery of language, addendum I

From Pinakothek, "The Poetry of Ellery Queen":

It may be hard at this late date to understand how wealthy best-selling authors could become so exercised by a marginal avant-garde prank, but the Resurrectionists seem to have had a way of exposing raw nerves, "psychoanalyzing" the books they selected and uncovering unconscious residue the authors would rather had not been noticed.

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The mystery of language

Just as there are real human languages (French, Chinook, Burushaski, etc., just to name the best known) and imaginary human languages (the most famous of which is Psalmanazar's Formosan), there exist real animal language, (the language of crows, for instance) and imaginary animal languages (among which one can cite the language of Swift's Houyhnhnm and that of Edouard Chanal's sea lions). To these, we must add the dog language found in Chapter 13 of Sylvie and Bruno.

Lewis Carroll provides a corpus of nine sentences that allows us to identify eighteen different words, whose meaning one can discover thanks to the translations he provides. (It is somewhat curious to note that Swift also reveals only seventeen words of Houyhnhnm to us--but leaves the meaning of five of them uncertain.)

—Raymond Queneau, from “On Some Imaginary Animal Languages & On the Dog Language in Sylvie and Bruno in Particular”

(From L.G. Thos.)

II. Sine-wave speech

(From Dzyd Sarah)


zsl.ΩΩΩ t gb 1k `
M a111q61

—Infant at keyboard, 12/3/08

The Mystery of Language,” as I understood it, 11/30/90

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Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Songs are about songs

The weirdest (yet more predictable) aspect of Chinese Democracy is the way 60 percent of the lyrics seem to actively comment on the process of making the album itself.

—Chuck Klosterman, The Onion

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Dizzies Press Release: Light Industry

When L.G. Thos. (Linksmeister General Thomas Beard) isn't sending us links, he's cocurating amazing stuff at Light Industry...Of tonight's offerings, he says: "It should be cool, rare Werner Herzog print + televangelism bootlegs."

For another kind of seasonal celebration, head to Light Industry in Sunset Park for “Hellfire and Rhinestones,” a collection of films and videos about televangelists, including Miss Velma of the Universal World Church of Glendale, Cal., retelling the manger story through the eyes of a raccoon. Seasonal refreshments will be served. —NYT

A series of snakes

Something in the air? Two days ago, Dzyd Christine sent in this kinda-sorta Ouroboros from an old TMBG song, "I Palindrome I":

See the spring of the grandfather clock unwinding
(Egad, a base tone denotes a bad age)
See the hands of my offspring making windmills
(Egad, a base tone denotes a bad age)
Dad palindrome Dad
I palindrome I (I palindrome I)
I palindrome I (I palindrome I)
And I am a snake head eating The head on the opposite side
I palindrome I (manonam)
I palindrome I (manonam)
I palindrome I (manonam)
I palindrome I (manonam)

II. Then yesterday Dzyd Fhyll sent this link—new Dizzies stationery?:

III. Then a few hours later, Dzyd Kosiya submitted this quote, from page 31 of Kelly Link's new-old collection, Pretty Monsters:

It was shaped like a snake. Its wriggling tail hooked in to its narrow mouth, and Onion has always wondered if the snake were surpprised about that, to end up with a mouthful of itself like that, for all eternity. Or maybe it was eternally furious, like Halsa.

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Monday, December 01, 2008

They'll need a Crane

Yvor Winters vs. Hart Crane—who would win???

(Via L.G. Thos.)

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Financial musings pig Latin!


Everything is illuminated

From Moonlight Ambulette:

So now that I remembered how to read I've been picking up all the many half-read books littering my apartment, and have happily re-delved into Personal Days, Ed Park's very funny novel about a group of people who work in an office at a time of economic upheaval and rampant layoffs. It just goes to show you what a difference it makes to be reading the right book at the right time -- even just a few weeks ago I'm sure the employees' skittishness about layoffs wouldn't have struck so chillingly close to home, but now layoffs (and rumored magazine shut-downs) are sort of the theme of the day at the media company where I work.

And then the most amazing thing happened. One day I read this paragraph: "Week after week, you form these intense bonds without quite realizing it. All that time together adds up: muttering at the fax machine, making coffee runs. The elevator rides. The bitching about the speed of the elevator. The endlessly reprised joke, as it hits every floor: Making local stops." Funny, I thought, and so true about the unexpected bonds. But no one makes that elevator joke where I work, bub! I mean, no one really makes small talk or even looks each other in the elevators in my building.

And guess what happened the next day at work. Two security guards in the elevator, going up, with practically every floor's button illuminated. One turned to the other and before he even said it I knew what he was going to say. Making local stops.

This book must be magic!


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