Friday, July 30, 2010

Let's Read "Uncle"!

Remember Theo Schell-Lambert's great Believer piece on Rohan O'Grady's novel Let's Kill Uncle? (Beg/borrow/steal an issue—you need to read TSL's piece.)

Now Bloomsbury has brought it back into print, as part of their handsome/sprightly "Bloomsbury Group" line. (I reviewed the second in this series, Wolf Mankowitz's A Kid for Two Farthings, last year, and the other titles look like a lot of fun.) The Edward Gorey cover art, so you know, is reproduced inside. I can't wait to read it...some other stuff to get through first—for "some" read" A LOT OF"...

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Preferred direction

This explains everything (i.e., nothing)! From the New Scientist (via FB):

WE COULD be living inside a black hole. This head-spinning idea is one cosmologist's conclusion based on a modification of Einstein's equations of general relativity that changes our picture of what happens at the core of a black hole.

In an analysis of the motion of particles entering a black hole, published in March, Nikodem Poplawski of Indiana University in Bloomington showed that inside each black hole there could exist another universe (Physics Letters B, DOI: 10.1016/j.physletb.2010.03.029). "Maybe the huge black holes at the centre of the Milky Way and other galaxies are bridges to different universes," Poplawski says. If that is correct - and it's a big "if" - there is nothing to rule out our universe itself being inside a black hole.


How would we know if we are living inside a black hole? Well, a spinning black hole would have imparted some spin to the space-time inside it, and this should show up as a "preferred direction" in our universe, says Poplawski. Such a preferred direction would result in the violation of a property of space-time called Lorentz symmetry, which links space and time. It has been suggested that such a violation could be responsible for the observed oscillations of neutrinos from one type to another[...]

I still don't really know what neutrinos are (but have a false idea that I understand them...intuitively...)


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Separated at birth?

According to HTML Giant, The Boat author Nam Le is my literary doppelganger!

(Via Theo)


Megalopolitan Diary, or A Dash Shaw catchup kit (for you and for me):

I reviewed Dash Shaw's great graphic novel Bodyworld on Sunday—here is some stray Shavian stuff!

I. A link to his IFC series The Unclothed Man in the 35th Century. (The storyboards, and other stories, including one of particular interest to "Dizzyheads," are collected in last year's book of the same title.)

(Via Eric Reynolds)

II. Poster for screening of Stanley Milgram's shocking Obedience:

(Via L.G. Thos.)

III. Douglas Wolk reviews Bodyworld (NYT)—an important point about the layout!:

The first sign that “BodyWorld” doesn’t play by the rules is that the book’s spine is at its top. The overall motion of Shaw’s story becomes a downward scroll rather than a rightward stroll. The climax of that slow 380-page dive is a remarkable sequence toward the end — seven pages devoted to a single gigantic panel that pulls the reader’s perspective downward across the architectural landscape of a future megalopolis, after which the movement of the story bounces back up into the stars. This is a disorienting, distracting funhouse of a book: there are long hallucinatory passages, near-abstract images, drawings overlaid on one another until they’re nearly incomprehensible.

IV. I might have posted this before—trailer to The Ruined Cast:

"The Ruined Cast" / Dash Shaw - demo teaser from Howard Gertler on Vimeo.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Yesterday I got so old..."

Found via someone's Twitter feed: Superchunk doing "In Between Days"!

Superchunk covers The Cure

Superchunk is pretty much unimpeachable in my book...this is great on multiple levels...

Who will cover that Billy Squier song?

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

"An irony-free synaesthetic experience"

My latest Astral Weeks column at the L.A. Times looks at Dash Shaw's phenomenal Bodyworld:

Though Panther upends the social order, disastrously, in his quest to pin down the plant's psychotropic qualities, he wears his heart on his sleeve. "I just want to meet a nice girl who's into 'Tarnsman of Gor' and settle down," he explains, with helpless, hilarious sincerity. In one of many bravura backstories, we learn that a once-suicidal Panther fell into his line of work thanks in part to his aching response to some Viagra spam; ignoring its meticulously mangled language, he discerns a painful truth about his lack of bedroom prowess.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Clenching my fists futilely

I've never come across myself in a work of fiction*—but I just came close! This is from Philip K. Dick's early story "James P. Crow":

Ed Parks got up from the table and moved into the living room of his modest five-room dwelling unit, located in the section of the city set aside for humans. He didn't feel like eating. "Robots." He clenched his fists futilely. "I'd like to get hold of one of them. Just once. Get my hands into their guts. Rip out handfuls of wire and parts. Just once before I die."

*not counting ones I've penned myself:

"Do you think you could put us in touch with some other Ed Parks who might be film critics?"

It was a strange request. "I don't know of other Ed Parks. Rather, I know there are others, but I don't know that any of them work in my field, such as it is. I’ve heard of an Ed Perk and an Ed Parr, both journalists, but I don’t think they’re film reviewers. Perhaps your wife is thinking of one of them?"

"No, no," Lex said. "Terribly sorry. But here's the thing. Are you now or were you ever Edward Parks?"

"Parks with an -s?"


"Of course not. How could I be?"

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Annals of facial hair, VI

Facial Hair (Men) – Asian men who sport a strong, thick facial hair (beard, goatee, etc.) tend not to be Koreans. (Confidence Level = 4) Those who do have facial hair tend to keep it trimmed short, and beards or stubble never extend to the neck. You will never, EVER see a Korean neckbeard. (Confidence Level = 4)

Ask a Korean

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Lynchian moments

In the NYT's Education Life, a sampling of future celebrities who were once college roommates. The most interesting/entertaining one: J. Geils Band frontman Peter Wolf...and David Lynch!

Wolf: "One 'Lynchian' moment I remember was when David realized there was a cockroach on his toothbrush while he was brushing his teeth."

(This post deserves a better headline. Ideas?)

What about me and my roommate?

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Don't forget about Borges!

"Borges is one of the authors whom I most read – and whom I probably like the least," Gabriel García Márquez once said. "I read Borges for his extraordinary ability at verbal artifice; he's a man who teaches you how to write ... to sharpen your instrument for saying things." —Guardian

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Kafka, Walser, Galchen: An Eternal Golden Braid

At The Rumpus, my F.S. Bekah (aka "M. Rebekah Otto"!) reads Robert Walser by way of/in conjunction with Rivka Galchen:

Why couldn’t I focus on The Tanners? At first I thought the problem lay in my reading style. Since high school I have been a note-taker. Stars, hearts, exclamation points, interrobangs line my notebooks alongside page numbers and brief, fleeting ideas: “pg. 85 does the plot move?” “pg. 98 metaphors?!!!” “pg. 118 art? ‘life is short when you’re distrustful…’”

My notes do not compete with Walser’s microscripts in size, but they may be similarly obsessive. I take notes every other page or so, so it is no surprise that my reading is slow-going. But, a comrade to Walser, I like my notes. I can look back at Atmospheric Disturbances from my own perspective: “she really likes the word ‘ersatz’” “pg. 100 if the novel is a collective fantasy/insanity, is the narrator crazy? the author? the reader?” “pg. 159 ‘the errors of a suspected psychosis.’”

* * *

Safety-deposit Kafka.

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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Aqua Fantasia

My Korean website!


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Location, location, location

There was something curiously touching in the fact that the Amazon should treasure this childish literature. He turned to the fly-leaf to see if her name was there. On the fly-leaf was written:
Ella Darroll,
Form III
Newbridge High School
The World
The Universe.
This was surrounded by a fine section of coloured transfers.

—Josephine Tey, The Daughter of Time (1951)

It might help if we knew where we lived. Each of us, after all, has the same address. Every child has memorized it. It goes something like.

This or That Number,
This or That Street,
This or That Conurbation,
This or That County,
This or That Country,
This or That Continent,
This or That Hemisphere,
The Earth,
The Superior Planets,
The Solar System,
Nr. Alpha Centauri,
The Orion Spur,
The Milky Way,
The Local Cluster,
The Local Supercluster,
The Universe,
This Universe. The One Containing:
The Local Supercluster,
The Cluster,
And So On. All the Way Back To:
This or That Street,
And This or That Number.

—Martin Amis, The Information (1995)

As children most of us will have occasionally written our address not as the bare minimum, "20-4 Ferguson Street, Palmerston North," say, but as an expansive maximum, adding something like "North Island, New Zealand, Pacific Ocean, Southern Hemisphere, the World, the Solar System, the Milky Way, the Universe."

—Brian Boyd, On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction (2009)

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Hauling the rug

It’s the only comic book (American Splendor #2) I bother keeping in one of those archival sleeve things. There was an epic story in it about Harvey and two friends just hanging out one night. It goes on for pages and pages, and the only thing that really happens is that they move a rug from one guy’s house to another guy’s house. The guys are all at loose ends–one’s a Vietnam vet who just got fired from his job, one has been unemployed for years. And then there’s Harvey with his “flunky government job” as a file clerk. They haul the rug—which is waterlogged and smelly from being left in the rain—all the way across town and up to the guy’s apartment. But then he decides it was a mistake, and they have to haul it out again, to his back porch. It’s a perfect story about nothing, and everything, and it started to give me ideas about autobiography. You don’t need to engineer some grand sprawling thematically dense narrative. If you write honestly about everyday life, all that stuff will automatically be there.

Alison Bechdel on Harvey Pekar

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Monday, July 19, 2010

Chin music

"But why do you wear a beard?"

Zouch said: "That is the second time in five minutes that I have been asked that question. I'll tell you. It's because I think it suits me."

"Do you?"

"Don't you?"


Zouch said: "I expect that is only because you are not used to beards. They can look very distinguished really. And, by the way, it isn't because I've got a weak chin. I happen to have a very good chin."

—Anthony Powell, From a View to a Death

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Byssine days

"And I say, by the same token, don't get huffy, but why do you wear a beard?"

"Because I like the feel of it," said Zouch.

He had often been asked the question before and was quite prepared for it. He sometimes even welcomed it as a good opportunity for describing himself to people from his own point of view. But now he had a growing perceptivity that his byssine days were drawing to a close and that with a newly acquired social consciousness he would soon do better with bare cheeks. He could sense that change was in the air. A change for the better. But still while he wore a beard it was his duty to stick up for it.

—Anthony Powell, From a View to a Death

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Thursday, July 15, 2010

Yes? No? Maybe?


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Ivy and Anthony

"Ivy Compton-Burnett embodied a quite unmodified pre-1914 personality. Her jewellery managed never to look like jewellery but, on her, seemed hieratic insignia." —Anthony Powell

(Via LM Thos.)

* * *

And Levi has some thoughts on the Anthony Powell Society...Apparently there's a collection of writings on AP's Dance by high school students(!). Here's what Nick Birns has to say:

But reading Dance so early will give these young women and men important gifts to have at their disposal throughout their lives, a gift that will never stop giving. They will have a stock of archetypes with which to associate acquaintances. When they have to talk about current politics as a way of breaking the social ice, they will reap the humour of the resemblance to uttering “It seems the nationalists have reached Peking” in 1928. They will learn how to deal unflappably with the wide range of preposterous situations, all the while facing melancholy ones with poise and resolution, having been partially made immune to the depredations of the world’s Blackheads and Widmerpools and Pamelas and Murtlocks, and made receptive to the joys of the world’s Stringhams, Morelands, Barnbys, and Umfravilles.

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Monday, July 12, 2010

TNCOM, #18

Like a grandfather of mine whose method of parking was simply to stop the car, regardless, when he had reached his destination, and get out, so when Trollope finds himself at a point in his story where his interest flags—or even, perhaps, when he had written the allotted number of words—he just ends it. The effect on the reader is most peculiar. It is like opening a door and finding a blank wall across the frame inside. —Joanna Trollope, foreword to the Editors and Writers volume of Anthony Trollope's short stories

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Uke break

(Via Priscilla Ahn)

A new brick

Even in that, you knew what to expect on the next page. Did no one, any more, no one in all this wide world, change their record now and then? Was everyone nowadays thirled to a formula? Authors today wrote so much to a pattern that their public expected it. The public talked about "a new Silas Weekley" or "a new Lavinia Fitch" exactly as they talked about "a new brick" or "a new hairbrush." They never said "a new book by" whoever it might be. Their interest was not in the book but in its newness. They knew quite well what the book would be like.
—Josephine Tey, The Daughter of Time


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Actual note from a Montreal B&B

Bonjour and thanks for choosing to stay with us. Do consider the room confirmed. Please excuse the following somewhat lengthy, "pasted on blurb," but.....(If for any reason, you are not comfortable with what we consider your commitment, please email back as soon as possible with your concerns, otherwise we will be holding the room for you.) Our cancellation policy is pretty straight forward. We ask that guests only seek confirmation if they are positive that they will be arriving and departing on the dates agreed to. From the moment we confirm a room, each and every request that follows for that room is denied and many of those people who contacted us and were refused were past guests or guests referred to us by others, in other words, we were their first choice. Most people also plan well ahead so it becomes more difficult for us to rent a room if we only become aware that we have a vacancy with in days of it becoming vacant. Many guests book months in advance, few just days before arriving. For instance, many people assume since larger hotels usually demand two days notice of a cancellation, that should be fine with us too and it's not. We have a very small number of rooms and the income from each allows us to keep our prices reasonable. If we get stuck with vacant rooms, for us it's costly and there is a good chance that someone who had wanted to stay with us couldn't due to the original confirmation. Obviously if highways are closed due to storms etc. those things happen and we accept the loss. We hate taking a loss though, just because someone didn't plan well and realized that Quebec city was a lot farther then they had planned for, for instance. The vast majourity of people who ask us to confirm their stay actually stay, and if we confirm a room and the totally unexpected happens and a guest must cancell with little notice, we expect that they would help shoulder some of the financial loss especially if only a day or two notice is given. We work on the honour system so obviously we don't and can't chase people down for money we loose, and that's part and parcel of what we refer to as "the honour system". We work in cash or traveller's cheques and on the honour system and will accept payment during your stay. Our house is classified as a "historic monument" and we have invested heavily in the pine floors and carpeting and want to keep our home as clean as possible. We ask that guests wear slippers when in our home and we do provide freshly laundered wool slippers to each guest. If you prefer and have your own favourite slippers, bring them along. We look forward to having you in our home. If you haven't already supplied us with an guesstimated time of arrival, please email back with one. [It goes on...]

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Stuck in the middle with you

At Three Percent, Chad Post turns up an interview with Benjamin Stein, the German author of a fascinating-sounding novel called Die Lienwand (The Canvas), "which you can start on either end and which seemingly ends with a confrontation between the two main characters that happens literally at the middle of the book!"

(I heard about the book via Monique Truong's FB.)

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Friday, July 09, 2010

"My life is just...jokes"

What do Joan Rivers and Harry Stephen Keeler have in common?

(I love the screen capture: "New York/No Self Worth"!)

* * *

"Harry Stephen Keeler . . . has a filing cabinet bursting with thousands of newspaper clippings, all of a sensational nature; and when a new novel impends he lifts out a dozen of these at random, stirs them in a hat, and selects four or five again at random. The final four (or five), whatever they may be, become the basis of the book." (from Vincent Starrett, Books and Bipeds [New York: Argus, 1947] 72) —The Bunburyist

(Thanks to F.S. Caroline for the J. Rivers vid!)

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Are you writing a poem?

I'm reflecting on this when a Milanese banker leans in close to ask whether I need to sit down. Do I? He maneuvers me into a chair. He smells like a Ritz cracker. —Magic Molly


Thursday, July 08, 2010

My disappearance from the blogosphere

Now my old posts at the Poetry Foundation's Harriet are being attributed to other writers—e.g., Christian Bök on Harry Stephen Keeler.

(It turns out I am a big CB fan—but this is a disturbing trend!)

And my post on Gossip Girl is now attributed to "Poetry Foundation."

(I actually can't remember the topics of my other posts...but there were a bunch!)

* * *

UPDATE (6/9): Thanks to Travis Nichols at the Poetry Foundation, my "classic" Harriet posts from 2007–2008 have been restored!

Wait, here are some more!

Let's revisit this one, from June 4, 2008:

Wavy celery

Reading Lucian this morning*, I came across this:

“She said that Stratonice the wife of Seleucus had done something much more ridiculous….She set up a poetry contest with a prize of one talent. The theme was ‘an encomium of Stratonice’s hair’….

“Actually, she was bald and hadn’t a hair of her own. Even so, though this was the condition of her head and everyone knew that it had happened because of a long illness, she actually listened to the wretched poets calling her hair ‘hyacinthine,’ braiding curly ringlets and using the wavy celery as an image for the non-existent locks.”

— "In Defense of Images” (transl. Keith Sidwell), ca. A.D. 169

*Do you like how casually I introduced this information?

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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Only revolutions

The Chicago Tribune reprints—free of charge!—my Astral Weeks column on Matt Kindt's Revolver. They lopped off mention of Alice Sola Kim's story (understandable, I suppose, since the issue of Asimov's is no longer on the stand)...but they also lopped off the last graf of the Kindt review. It now ends on this rather non-end-y sounding note:

“Revolver,” on the other hand, unfurls at breakneck speed, with an unhinged, almost drunken vigor to the deliberately rough drawings. Though the plot is fairly involved, it never feels claustrophobic. Thanks in part to Kindt's unadorned, noir-inflected writing, Sam's existential dilemma is as exciting as watching him and Jan kick in doors and elude snipers.

Here's the ending as it appeared in the L.A. Times:

As I read "Revolver," I couldn't help thinking of the more famous "Revolver," the Beatles' landmark 1966 album. Devin McKinney's description of it, in "Magic Circles: The Beatles in Dream and History," as a sort of pop schizophrenia, seems not irrelevant to the subject at hand:

"'Revolver' is multicolored music in a black-and-white wrapper, terse pop songs of dream, escape, cynicism, forebodings. … By its exploratory nature an affirmation of life and possibility, a bold and radical advance upon the new horizon, the album was at the same time fourteen kinds of oblivion served on a Top 40 platter: nostalgic about what had been, and paranoid about what it saw coming."

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RPGs and desire

From Grognardia:

Thus began my quest to find a copy of the game, a quest that ended in vain. I asked the guys down at my favorite game store about Metamorphosis Alpha, but they told me it was long out of print and my best bet was to go to a convention and win it at an auction. The old grognards who hung out there added that MA "wasn't very good anyway" and that I was better off just using Gamma World and making up the rest.

And so I did. I pulled out my huge graph paper sheets and set to work to mapping out my version of the starship Warden. It was a long and tedious undertaking, filled with lots of missteps and heartache, because I never felt I could get it "right." This vessel was supposed to be 80 kilometers long or so, which meant that even a big map would have to use a very large scale. Moreover, what would a vast generation ship even look like? [...] Eventually, all these worries and concerns got the better of me and I abandoned my maps, something I regret now, even as I fully understand why my younger self admitted defeat.

Over the years, I retained a high degree of interest in Metamorphosis Alpha and kept hoping that, one day, a new edition would be released that'd give me everything I'd hoped for back in the days before I could even take a look at this mythical game. As it turns out, new editions have been published over the years, but each one has been a terrible disappointment to me, utterly lacking in the aura of mystery and possibility that surrounded the original. [...]

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Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Annals of Facial Hair, III

In this [mirror] Zouch he examined his face, wondering what sort of an impression he would make when he arrived. Not too good a one, he felt, if the mirror was to be relied upon. He sat on the edge of the great upholstery, leaning forward, trying to discount the elongating tendency of the glass and the havoc that it played with his beard. Twenty-nine next year, he thought. The V comprised by the lapels of his coat and enclosing his shirt, collar and tie was all right. It had that touch of ingenuousness that was expected of a painter. His shoes, vast golfing brogues with hobnails, were all right too. It was the beard that he was least certain about, but it had served him well in the past and he saw no reason why it should not do so again. —Anthony Powell, From a View to a Death

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Sunday, July 04, 2010

Star wars

Deborah Solomon in the NYT on the Smithosonian's Norman Rockwell exhibit, drawn from the collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg:

Mr. Lucas’s loans to the exhibition are distinguished by a cache of large-scale drawings, many of them as fastidious and expressive as the paintings for which they served as studies. Asked why Mr. Spielberg wound up with more major paintings, Mr. Lucas replied bluntly, “He paid more.” He continued: “Back when we started this in the ’80s, I wasn’t as rich as people think I was. I was spending all my money making movies.” (His company, Lucasfilm Ltd., produced the Indiana Jones movies, for which Mr. Spielberg was the director.) “Steven worked for hire,” he continued. “When he made money, it all came to him.”

Later, when Mr. Spielberg was told about that comment, he sounded surprised to hear himself described as a cash cow. “Well, isn’t that wonderful,” he said, “that I never underwrote my own film company?”

II. What about the Dark Rockwell?

III. Lucas and Spielberg should remake The Norman Rockwell Code.

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

On whether he would ever wax his chest for a role.

It's a funny thing,

the other day I thought about doing it.


I was just thinking

about doing it.

I'm not going to do it anyway, now.

I guess I would do it if I had to do it.


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Friday, July 02, 2010



'You patted his face.'
'I never. I was feeling his moustache.'
'It's the same thing.'
'It's not. Sidney, it's fastened on with glue!'
—P.G. Wodehouse, Quick Service

II. Levi on Reality Hunger:
This seems like a perfect demonstration of what Shields doesn't seem to get about fiction: he’s right about what would happen if you were to take the plot out of Hamlet—but he doesn’t realize that the result would be terrible. A Hamlet who riffs forever? Could anyone really want that?

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It's here! The Believer's MUSIC ISSUE!

Joe Hagan's epic look at Nina Simone's life and career, through her (previously unseen) diaries and letters...Saki Knafo (aka the Best Journalist in the World) on "Orientalist Party Music" (read it here)...the fascinating Adam Kempa on unusual vinyl groove-tactics (WOW)...Rick Moody on drum machines...Ken Tucker on Tammy Wynette's other anthem...Sad TV theme songs, Rush (!?), a chart by Ben Greenman, and MORE...

There's a CD with songs—aka your summer soundtrack! Janelle Monáe! Nina Simone! MORE! Actually here's the track listing:

14. “BORN FREE,” M.I.A.


Plus interviews! Joshua Clover coming out of music-critic retirement to interview M.I.A...Robert Christgau and Carola Dibbell talking to Go-Betweens' Robert Forster...Erik Morse convenes a forum on Warp records...Plus: regular columnists Nick Hornby, Jack Pendarvis, and Greil poems and MORE...

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Thursday, July 01, 2010

The quote that was Thursday's

It was built of a bright brick throughout; its sky-line was fantastic, and even its ground plan was wild. It had been the outburst of a speculative builder, faintly tinged with art, who called its architecture sometimes Elizabethan and sometimes Queen Anne, apparently under the impression that the two sovereigns were identical. —G.K. Chesterton, The Man Who Was Thursday


Poetry and crisis

New Believer is out! THE MUSIC ISSUE!

More soon, but for now—best Blvr author bio?:

Joshua Clover has contributed poetry and an analysis of the economic crisis to the Believer, but this is his first music feature anywhere since he retired as a music critic in 2001. He would come back only for M.I.A., because she combines the best of poetry and crisis. He currently teaches at the University of California, Davis, when he is not in jail.
(A taste of the interview.)

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