Wednesday, December 28, 2011


"A scaly neighborhood!" he murmured.

The young man's judgment was one at which few people with an eye for beauty would have cavilled. When the great revolution against London's ugliness really starts and yelling hordes of artists and architects, maddened beyond endurance, finally take the law into their own hands and rage through the city burning and destroying, Wallingford Street, West Kensington, will surely not escape the torch. For, though it possesses certain merits of a low practical kind, being inexpensive in the matter of rents and handy for the buses and the Underground, it is a peculiarly beastly little street. Situated in the middle of one of those districts where London breaks out into a sort of eczema of red brick, it consists of two parallel rows of semi-detached villas all exactly alike, each guarded by a ragged evergreen hedge, each with coloured glass of an extremely regrettable nature let into the panels of the front door; and sensitive young impressionists from the artists' colony up Holland Park way may sometimes be seen stumbling through it with hands over their eyes, muttering between clenched teeth 'How long? How long?'

--P.G. Wodehouse, Leave It to Psmith (1924)


There is one profession and one only, namely architecture, in which progress is not considered necessary, where laziness is enthroned, and in which the reference is always to yesterday.

Everywhere else, taking thought for the morrow is almost a fever and brings its inevitable solution: if a man does not move forward he becomes bankrupt.

But in architecture no one ever becomes bankrupt. A privileged profession, alas!

--Le Corbusier, Towards a New Architecture (1924

Labels: , ,

Wild idling

For reasons unclear even to myself, I am reading a bit of Ian Fleming's Live and Let Die. I just ran across the Ouroboros sighting that Bill alerted me to back in 2008.

These confirmedthat the yacht had put in at irregular intervals over the previous six months and that she always tied up in the Port of St. Petersburg at the wharf of the 'Ouroboros Worm and Bait Shippers, Inc.,' an apparently innocent concern whose main business was to sell live bait to fishing clubs throughout Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and further afield.

On the occasion of that post, Levi commented that he hoped Fleming was a better spy than he was a prose writer...

Q: How can I recommend L&LD to Levi?
A: Tell him there is a full three pages of straight quotation from one of his favorite travel writers, Patrick Leigh Fermor.

It's true! It includes this footnote from the author: "This [The Traveller's Tree], one of the great travel books, is published by Harper & Brothers, at $5.00"

Also, Bond's sensory intake at the beginning, as he's being driven into Manhattan from Idlewild (quoted yesterday), is remarkable.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


I realized that two books I'm dipping into are both from 1954 (and both from the UK). Here then are two excellent similes from that year:

He ambled stoutly across the wide floor of the bar which looked out on the terrace where the ladies of the club were gathered in deck-chairs—a colourful and decorative picture which looked like the second act of a musical comedy reproduced some twenty years later with the same cast. —Walter Tyrer, Such Friends Are Dangerous (1954)

[Bond] was glad to keep silent and gaze out at his first sight of America since the war. It was no waste of time to start picking up the American idiom again: the advertisements, the new car models, and the prices of second-hand ones in the used-car lots; the exotic pungency of the road signs: SOFT SHOULDERS—SHARP CURVES—SQUEEZE AHEAD—SLIPPERY WHEN WET; the standard of driving; the number of women at the wheel, their menfolk docilely beside them; the men’s clothes; the way the women were doing their hair; the Civil Defense warnings: IN CASE OF ENEMY ATTACK KEEP MOVING—GET OFF BRIDGE; the thick rash of television aerials and the impact of TV on billboards and shop windows; the occasional helicopter; the public appeals for cancer and polio funds: THE MARCH OF DIMES—all the small fleeting impressions that were as important to his trade as are broken bark and bent twigs to the trapper in the jungle. —Ian Fleming, Live and Let Die (1954)

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, December 26, 2011

The sea and the sky (late 2011 edition)

Between the silver ribbon of morning and the green glittering ribbon of sea, the boat touched Harwich and let loose a swarm of folk like flies, among whom the man we must follow was by no means conspicuous--nor wished to be. --G.K. Chesterton, "The Blue Cross," opening sentence

(To be added to these worthies.)

Labels: ,

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The last tycoon

Players only love you when they’re playing, or when they’re spirit-possessing you. —Julavits


Mark Asch (L Magazine) on Kim Jong-il, cinephile:

Kim wrote a couple of books about the cinema. 1973's On the Art of Cinema, about merging socialist messages with populist aesthetics, through a filmmaking process in line with socialist principles. ("In the capitalist system of filmmaking, the 'director' carries that title, but in fact the right of supervision and control over film production is entirely in the hands of the tycoons of the industry who have the money, whereas the directors are nothing but their agents. [The director] is a mere worker who obeys the will of the industrialists whether he likes it or not.")

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Late 2011 gleanings

Three books from friends—Victoria Nelson's story collection A Bestiary of My Heart, Jaime Clarke's Conversations With Jonathan Lethem, and Damion Searls's translation of Proust on Ruskin.

Here's D.S. talking about P&R:

Labels: , , ,

Monday, December 19, 2011

"Alfred Hitchcock's Tender Buttons"


Labels: ,

Sunday, December 18, 2011


In “Let Us Create More Revolutionary Films Based on Socialist Life,” a whopping 28-page talk, Kim sounds like a contemporary U.S. critic dissing Avatar’s plot as a Dances With Wolves ripoff: “As I pointed out some time ago, the new script in which you made the hero a shoemaker has a similar story to that of the feature film The Girl Barber, and there is also nothing particularly new in what the writer wants to say….As a matter of fact, this work differs little from The Girl Barber in theme, plot and mood. The only difference is that the barber, the heroine in The Girl Barber, has been replaced by a shoemaker as the hero.”
From a piece I wrote on Kim Jong Il last year at Moving Image Source.


I live alone, wear odds and ends, I have resisted vegetarianism and I don't keep cats." —Neaera H., in Russell Hoban's Turtle Diary

Labels: ,

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

From a free book I got when I read at a laundromat with Sung J. Woo

"In 1404 King Taejong fell from his horse during a hunting expedition. Embarrassed, looking to his left and right, he commanded, 'Do not let the historian find out about this.' To his disappointment, the historian accompanying the hunting party included these words in the annals, in addition to a description of the king's fall."

Labels: , ,

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Via Light Industry

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Written on a scrap of Post-It attached to the front page of a copy of THE BOOK OF DISQUIET


Labels: , ,

A site dedicated to...

Shopping montages!

(Via L.M. Thos.)


Wednesday, December 07, 2011

"First Time in Print"

Heidi Julavits has a Tumblr...and things may never be the same again!

Her upcoming novel The Vanishers is ridiculously fun...

...there's a line I'm trying to find from it, describing a wall "varicosed" by ivy.



I just finished Pope Hats #2, a comic book by Ethan Rilly. Lovely and surprising. The "B" story, "Gould Speaks," has Julius Knipl-ish observations set to Huizenga-ish graphics, as the titular narrator takes a long bus trip:

See how all the
windows are now smudged by
human hair.

These nodding mops
slowly paint a mural
of long distance travel.

Every panel is unique.

Ed. note: "Huizenga-ish"?

Labels: ,

Monday, December 05, 2011

Notes from a screening of Grant Gee's PATIENCE (AFTER SEBALD)

If you allow yrself
to be a writer — aub___che [avalanche?]
whereas if you're a walker—you might be OK.

Pulsing laptop dot—


Once you have time[?]—it
becomes easy
to write

(This is a doddle
(takes care of itself)

He's ripe for a cult

They don't want
the freedom
to assemble the
book by themselves
—RM [Rick Moody]

May 18 '44
Dec 14 01


The dream life of debris


An objective
chance method

narrator [emphasis on second syllable]
a game of patience

Skype/speed[irp?][totally illegible]


The reenchantment

I want to be in all the boxes. I'm not using a familiar formula. [Sebald quoted as wanting to be shelved in various sections of the bookstore.]

< Barber Hui > [??]
map [?? illegible]

Eine englische walfahrt


Katie Mitchell


Labels: , , , ,

Por Nicholson Baker


The Year of the Lawrence

New York magazine asked me to name a couple of my favorite books of the year—I gave some more love to Lawrence Block's A Drop of the Hard Stuff and Lawrence Douglas's The Vices. (Wait...didn't Lawrence Weschler have a book out this year, too?)

I love the artwork!

(I wrote more about LB for Time and more about LD—and his alter ego, Lars Arffssen—for Bookforum.)

Labels: ,

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Notes from a talk given by Nicholson Baker, February 2011

I wrote these notes earlier this year, when Nicholson Baker came to speak at Columbia—a great talk by an early member of the EP pantheon. (My former student Andrew Eisenman gave the wonderful introduction.) The words are in black ink on both sides of a yellow bank receipt. The handwriting is messy, at times nearly indecipherable; the chronology is unknown, as entries are written horizontally, vertically, every which way. There are some arrows, brackets, and lines of demarcation. (Mostly I am posting this so I can throw away this piece of paper, which has been taunting me for most of this year, daring me to transcribe.)

Dizzies challenge: What book (or what anything) does "DWYDWTD" refer to?

[Reverse side of receipt]

GGM [ = Gabriel García Márquez]
DWYDWTD [ = ?]

early NB compos[itions]}

I love chronology

Heap of self
I forget whole books
[Reminds me of passage in U&I about how little we retain from even the books we like.]

carpet remnants

keep it short)
Copy out good stuff)

Geo. Saintsbury
This American
kind of
Lego [?]

What it's like
to be sitting
in a room

Churchill [?] magpie/maniac
DB [= Donald Barthelme] — @50,
starting to count
You gotta face down yr demons! —————> 400 pp. ———> down [???]
—beard [?]
———> There's something fake about a long book.

sign language [There was a woman to his left, relaying the talk in sign language.]

Simp[le?]/complet[ist?] [?]
[Or more likely: "Simple/complexity"]

I thought it was my friend, then remembered my friend was dead. [I have a feeling this could be a note to myself about some story I was working on, or else a line wanted to use in a story.]

Korean actress story [This was definitely a note to myself, to get back to a story I had started/was working on.]


[Front side of receipt]

bassoon: some ridiculous novelty item
Strav[insky], Bartok, Brahms
Rubbing brow—
Schumann var. #9
"I wanted it not to be modern."

("Jeez, Eddie Money's not bad.")
Beat your brains (ASL mimic head morts[?]) ["American Sign Language signer mimics head mortifications"?]

Dick Francis is a great comfort to me. First person. Horses. Every single book.
[The] M[e]z[zanine]: The book was aiming at the list

Panasonic 3 wheel vacuum cleaner, greatness of

What a brutal thing to say—& I was probably wrong [? about what?]

If I can surround
it w/words to make it OK. (vid) [??]
Every day that I)
write is a new file)
[NB starts a new computer file for each day—title is the date]
Boringness is really
an interesting thing
[On the editing process:]
The places where I fell
asleep I took out
The most modern I
ever got, I think,
was Geo. Eliot
Maeve Brennan [what he was reading lately]

Labels: , , , , , ,

Thursday, December 01, 2011


The first-generation fleece, called Synchilla (as in synthetic chinchilla), was used in Patagonia’s seminal Snap-T pullover (1985), which was subsequently made famous by family ski trips across the Northeast. “For many, many years,” says Rob Bondurant, vice president of marketing at Patagonia, “Synchilla was the Kleenex of fleece, if you will.” —"The Evolution of Fleece, From Scratchy to Snuggie," NYT

(Via Jane)

View My Stats