Thursday, March 31, 2011
West is West
Not me, and not even "Ed Park"—from Michelle Richmond's blog* on SF Gate (part of the SF Chronicle):
After the horrible earthquake and tsunami that wiped out much of the northeastern seaboard of Japan, making hundreds of thousands homeless, killing at least 8,000 people, and leaving stores empty of basic supplies, Westerners experienced a wave of respect for the people of Japan, as one question made the rounds of Western media: "Why is there no looting in Japan?"
Ed Park posed the question in his blog for The Telegraph, noting the impressive way in which the Japanese had banded together in a communal effort to survive.
Lately I look like this (photo by Laird Hunt):
*"This is an SFGate.com City Brights Blog. These blogs are not written or edited by SFGate or the San Francisco Chronicle. The authors are solely responsible for the content."
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Mitchell worked on the novel, which was originally to be called either “Tomorrow Is Another Day” or “Tote the Weary Load,” in fits and starts from 1925 to 1935. She wrote on blank newsprint and composed the book out of order, beginning with the last chapter and picking up other sections as her mood suited her. The finished chapters she put in individual manila envelopes, sometimes with grocery lists scrawled on them, and stored in a closet. Very few people saw them or even knew what she was doing. —NYT
[Side note: Reading this, I was fixated on that title, Tote the Weary Load...had I heard that one before? then I realized I was thinking about Toad the Wet Sprocket (apparently still around).]
As it turned out, there was a lot more than just that neat stack. "They brought me literally bins and drawers and wire baskets," Pietsch says. "Just heaps of pages. There was no order to them." He went back to New York City with a duffel bag full of them. —Lev Grossman, Time
Cuisinarts and Cosmetology
Grognardia is on a roll:
As amazing as Fringeworthy's central concept is, its rules left something to be desired. Characters possess a large number of stats, both generated and derived. There are also skills, the list of which is quite extensive, including such invaluable ones as "Food Processing" and "Cosmetology," among many, many more. This level of detail is found throughout the rules, with lots of attention given to combat, damage, and weaponry as you might expect from a game of this period. However, there's also similar detail given to most other subjects, including disease and the nutritional value of various foods.
(Actually, it's always on a roll...)
Monday, March 28, 2011
English books of a French Canadian
Can someone help Sam? Did he simply dream it all?
There was a series of novels I read at summer camp after fifth grade. The setting was a group of friends sitting around and playing a D&D-type game, but with a hexagonal gameboard. But very quickly it cuts to the world of the game and follows the characters as they go to war. Not sure whether they were in the dwarf-elf-human-etc character-class system of pseudo-D&D, but I imagine they were. Kind of, also, like Dragonlance? Anyway, their fates are determined by the humans who are "playing" them.And then the twist is, it turns out some higher-level world is "playing" the humans! Which is worthy of William Sleator?Anyway, I've asked some people, but none of them could help me. Maybe because I borrowed the books from a French Canadian? But they were in English!Any idea???
Labels: Dungeons and Dragons
Sunday, March 27, 2011
The discovery of Amelica
Speaking of SF: Mere Pseudo Blog Ed. reports on a Seo Young-Chu talk on "North Korea as science fiction" (prefacing a screening of Pulgasari) that I would have loved to go to, and connects it to a Gaddafi angle that hasn't come up in the recent Libya news: Gaddafi's 1998 book of short stories, Escape to Hell.
So much for North Korea, but half a world away, another megalomaniac is busy constructing hyperreality out of midnight-movie pastiche.[...][W]hile Escape to Hell is one of those books that one likes to amuse guests with, it is not merely an oddity.
Of course, it is odd. Suicidal astronauts? “Jewish satellites” taken down by the power of mass prayer? Pathetic entreaties to respect “the earth’s bounty” by a the leader of an oil kingdom? Hand-wringing ruminations on the gender of death? The discovery of “Amelica” by an Arab prince? The line between sarcasm and solipsism is difficult to discern. Certain broad tendencies, however, are impossible to ignore.
Escape to Hell opens with a harangue against urban life, the Fritz Langian bleakness of which is paralleled only by the anxious, mephitic metropolises of dystopian, futurist science fiction. The “Hell” of the title both is and is not the city; even if the latter is vile, “how beautiful is hell compared to your city!” City inhabitants are like rats and mice, scurrying emotionlessly, like the robot inhabitants of sci-fi Pyongyang: ”City people do not address one another as fellow social beings or even human entities, but as ‘You, who live in apartment number x on floor number x…telephone number x, license plate on car number is x’ and so on.” The city is “a filthy tomb,” with “no moon or sun,” perpetually dark like the sci-fi cities of Blade Runner or A.I..
Oulipoboros & more
Levi asks: "Is N+7 an Ouroboros?"
(Harry Mathews says no; others say yes!)
"Jenny reads the paper":
He may have inherited his knack for industrial design from his maternal grandfather, a mechanical engineer who was one of the inventors of the Kit Kat candy bar and the machinery to mass-produce it.
Devin brings back evidence of the lost John Lennon/Dr. Who episode.
Bonus link: Levi's new SF reading list.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
Now *that's* a title!™
[I]n the original magazine installments of the novel, the full title read The Personal History, Adventures, Experience and Observation of David Copperfield the Younger, of Blunderstone Rookery, which he never meant to be published on any account.
Friday, March 18, 2011
On April 12, I'll be reading at KGB's "True Story" night with Deb Olin Unferth—she'll be reading from her wonderful new memoir, Revolution: The Year I Fell in Love and Went to Join the War, while I'll be reading from...uh...I'll figure something out. (Maybe this?) More here.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Tuesday, March 15, 2011
Monday, March 14, 2011
"His noggin is more than two feet around"
Throughout his 14 years as a catcher in organized ball, [Earl] Bochy wore the same batting and catching helmets. "I had to," he says. "None of the teams I played for carried my size." Both helmets were specially made in 1975, his first year in A ball with the Covington Astros. The batting lid was so huge that when he made a game-winning hit late in the '86 season, his Padres teammates celebrated by filling it with ice and a six-pack.
"Whenever I got traded or played winter ball, my first priority was always to pack up my helmets," he says. "And before I arrived, I'd usually have to paint them. When I first got them in '75, they were Astros orange. They turned blue when I moved up to Columbus in '76, then back to orange later that summer when I got shipped to Dubuque. They stayed orange until '78, when I got sent back to Columbus. But midway through the season I made the big club in Houston, and they went from blue to orange. I played winter ball in Venezuela, where I had to paint them red. I added a coat of orange before the '79 season with Houston, and a coat of red before the next winter ball season, then two more coats—orange and red—in '80, a coat of blue when I went over to the Mets organization in '81, coats of red and brown when I came to San Diego in '83, and, finally, blue again in '90 when I played for the Orlando Juice in the Senior League. I'm not exactly sure where the helmets are now, but wherever they are, they've gotta be blue."
—Franz Lidz, Endgame, SI.com
In other sports news: RIP Rick Martin:
Friday, March 11, 2011
Stewart was a key figure in a fertile era in British music and he appears throughout the musical folklore of the age. He played at the first ever Glastonbury Festival in 1970, knew Yoko Ono before she met John Lennon, shared a London apartment with a young Paul Simon, and hosted at the legendary Les Cousins folk club in London in the 1960s.
Having bought his first guitar from future Police guitarist Andy Summers...
Labels: Any Human Heart
Thursday, March 10, 2011
Through a hatch
"My only regular income was five guineas a week for doing a weekly column on novels in the Daily Telegraph. A parcel of five would arrive on Mondays, and my copy had to be sent off on the following Friday. It gave me a distaste for new novels in dust-jackets which I feel to this day—for Mr A who can spin a rollicking yarn, for Miss B who so subtly explores the relationship between a housemaster's wife and one of the prefects, Mr C who writes with a fine zestful bawdiness reminiscent of Tom Jones. I used to put off opening the parcel when it came as long as I dared, and even then it took me quite a time before I could nerve myself to read even the blurbs—as far as I got in some cases, I regret to say; but then I would comfort myself by remembering Dr Johnson's saying about the novels of Congreve, that he would sooner praise them than read them. Gerald Gould, who had been in the business much longer than I, had reached the point that his weekly quota of volumes used to be passed to him through a hatch; after which he could be heard groaning and beating his head against the wall." —Malcolm Muggeridge, Chronicles of Wasted Time (v.2)
Labels: Malcolm Muggeridge
Wednesday, March 09, 2011
Reality hunger for March 9, 2011
Why would someone create a replica of Blackie, complete with every single nick and scratch, including the wear pattern from Mr. Clapton’s belt buckle and the burn mark from his cigarettes? And why is that replica expected to fetch at least $20,000 at Wednesday’s auction, and probably much more? —"Urge to Own that Clapton Guitar Is Contagious, Scientists Find," NYT
The turtle, which scientists say could be more than a century old, is revered as the incarnation of a mythical creature that snatched a magic sword from a 15th-century king and returned it to its divine owners beneath the water, giving the lake its name, Hoan Kiem, or Lake of the Returned Sword. Romantics say the turtle is that legendary creature, believing it to be more than 600 years old. —"Turtle in Hanoi Escapes Would-Be Rescuers," NYT
Eat the Document
Sam Frank's great "The Document"—in the current issue of Triple Canopy*—is a must-read for any fan of David Markson, Thomas Bernhard, Saul Bellow, Anthony Powell, Dawn Powell...not to mention
Walter Abish, Kathy Acker, Max Apple, Paul Auster, John Barth, Frederick Barthelme, Ann Beattie, Raymond Carver, Michael Chabon, Andrei Codrescu, Laurie Colwin, Evan Connell, Robert Coover, Coleman Dowell, Deborah Eisenberg, Stanley Elkin, Bret Easton Ellis, Mary Gaitskill, Kenneth Gangemi, William Gass, Donald Goines, Barry Hannah, Jim Harrison, Janet Hobhouse, William Kotzwinkle, Cormac McCarthy, Joseph McElroy, Jay McInerney, Leonard Michaels, Steven Millhauser, Kem Nunn, Tillie Olsen, Grace Paley, Walker Percy, Richard Price, James Purdy, Ishmael Reed, Philip Roth, Gilbert Sorrentino, Richard Stern, James Wilcox, Joy Williams, Tobias Wolff, and Al Young...Waugh, Compton-Burnett, De Vries, Henry Green, Spackman, Colwin, Elkin, Colin MacInnes, Gaddis, Sorrentino... Hobhouse...Paley, Eric Kraft, Beckett...Donald Antrim, Mark Costello, Susan Daitch, Jeffrey Eugenides, A. M. Homes, Jonathan Lethem, Richard Powers, David Foster Wallace, Colson Whitehead...Lorrie Moore...
An incredible piece of writing—it is its own thing. And Triple Canopy's presentation is amazing; I haven't found another site that presents articles in such a readable way for the screen. (Make sure you click on the footnote—two videos.) Shouldn't e-tablet companies be hiring 3C as consultants? Or I don't know, maybe they already are...
(March! This month I've already been blown away by Rebecca Taylor's "Virginia Mountain Scream Queen," in the new Believer—now this!)
(It's also a must for Richard Stern–o-philes—basically me and Jason McBride. "Dick" Stern has a nice cameo.)
(I had a few more reflective paragraphs here but I will stop now. Please read Sam's piece. It is one of the best things you'll read this year...and it also seems to me to be the Writing of the Future.)
After several days of enforced and enjoyable reacquaintance with the Coe canon, I went to a party, where I tried to find someone with whom I could rave about Coevian greatness. One writer I met said, "I think I've heard of him . . . Palladio?" Ten minutes later, another narrowed his eyes as he searched for some connection, coming up with the hopeful "He wrote . . . Witz, right?"
Here's an exclusive bonus for readers of this lonely old blog (who BLOGS anymore??): About five minutes after the above episode, who should walk in but...Joshua Cohen himself! Who then regaled me and Alan Gilbert (not the NY Phil. maestro but the critic-poet whose first book of poems, Late in the Antenna Fields, is now out) with an account of distant relatives of his who were also writers.
Bonus #2: The party was for what turned out to be the final issue of Open City, as immortalized here and here.
Bonus #3: As I was about to leave the party, who should stumble in but...Sam Frank!
Tuesday, March 08, 2011
La Manguso on Teddy Wayne's Kapitoil vs. Jonathan Franzen's Freedom, for the Tournament of Books:
Postmodernism seems to have let the blood out of half of the bad contemporary American novels, and sentiment masquerades as depth of feeling in the other half—in a naughty moment, Patty and Walter’s son refers to the latter sort of book’s reliance on “descriptions of rooms and plantings.” Franzen gets away with that crack, though, for what Freedom attempts is more ambitious than mere sentiment or mere intellection. It asks us to empathize with its lily-white characters, despite their Volvos and organic gardens and upper-body workouts, despite their chosen confinement in such banal surroundings.
Labels: Sarah Manguso
Shuffling through them, it struck me what a different proposition all this would have been in my own cop days. We didn't have copying machines, let alone fax....
Nowadays you just fed everything into a fax transmitter and it came out by sheer magic five or ten miles away, or on the other side of the world, for that matter.
—Lawrence Block, A Walk Among the Tombstones (1992)
Two round numbers
In the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy, Tom Beller reflects on Open City and "a literary magazine's strange relationship to time":
Why did we close? We decided to close the magazine the way Hemingway described bankruptcy—gradually, then all at once. Our last issue was so good, I thought, and the party for it was so good. Why stop? On the other hand, why not go out in top form, when everyone is still in a good mood?
We will keep the books going. Books are much less capital intensive. Also, as Fran Lebowitz has pointed out, a magazine has to keep being published. Books come out at their own pace (or, in the case of Fran, they don’t come out).
Now we have arrived at two round numbers: issue number thirty. Year number twenty. We’d often been referred to as a literary quarterly, and over the years have participated in a kind of soft obfuscation—about our circulation, about how often we published. To have these bold round numbers, 20 and 30, seemed almost funny in their plain truth.
Monday, March 07, 2011
My Bookforum piece on Jonathan Coe and his latest novel is now online. Here's the beginning:
Painting a word-picture of a woman at a restaurant, the titular narrator of British author Jonathan Coe's new novel, The Terrible Privacy of Maxwell Sim, writes, "She had long black hair, slightly wild and unkempt. A thin face, with prominent cheekbones." Prominent cheekbones? Just as the cliché meter is warming up, Max adds a parenthetical: "(Sorry, I am just not very good at describing people.)" This self-deprecation is enough to win us over, and it lets Max off the hook to unleash a few more lines of workmanlike, tentative details . . . prompting another aside: "(I am not very good at describing clothes either—are you looking forward to the next three hundred pages?)"
Sunday, March 06, 2011
Addendum to this post from July 2010*:
"Yo, Logan," I wrote. "Yo, Logan Mounstuart, vivo en la Villa Flores, Avenida de Brasil, Montevideo, Uruguay, America del Sur, El Mundo, El Sistema Solar, El Universo."
—William Boyd, Any Human Heart (2002)
(Until 3/22, you can watch the three-part miniseries adaptation of AHH on PBS.org! I liked it! I wrote a single note to myself while watching: "Jim Broadbent is a good actor!" The other actors playing Logan were good, too.)
(Here's a review in the Boston Globe by Matthew Gilbert.)
*Here it is:
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:
Newbridge High School
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 Superior Planets,
The Solar System,
Nr. Alpha Centauri,
The Orion Spur,
The Milky Way,
The Local Cluster,
The Local Supercluster,
This Universe. The One Containing:
The Local Supercluster,
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)
Saturday, March 05, 2011
The height report
"The antithesis of weal"
Friday, March 04, 2011
Thursday, March 03, 2011
Genres often classifed as both nonmimetic and non-SF are actually varieties of science fiction that correspond mimetically to specific types of cognitively estranging referents....Slipstream—a relatively young subgenre that has emerged over the past several decades, with prominent examples including Don DeLillo's 1985 White Noise, the 1998 film The Truman Show, and Ed Park's 2008 novel Personal Days—is a type of science-fictional mimesis whose cognitively estranging referent is the partially virtual reality of living in a mainstream hypermediated and rendered half-surreal by technology. —Seo-Young Chu, Do Metaphors Dream of Literal Sleep?: A Science Fictional Theory of Reputation
White Noise? Heyyy—I'll take it!™
Chu's book is pretty fascinating! (Where else could you read about Joe Haldeman and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha?) I don't know that anyone else has called Personal Days "slipstream"—but it makes sense. One of my first published stories was in Trampoline, edited by Kelly Link, a/k/a the Queen of the Slipstream:
Now I'm thinking that titling my SF column "Astral Weeks" was also a way of saying I would cover "slipstream," given the first line of the song...
I like this bit in the epilogue:
"As these allusions to the many 'chapters that might have been' are meant to imply, Do Metaphors Dream of Literal Sleep? A Science-Fictional Theory of Reputation is a fragment of a much larger hypothetical book containing an infinite number of chapters that correspond to an infinite number of cognitively estranging objects and phenomena."
Trout fishing in America
Lys had posed for me all the week, and today being Saturday, and I lazy, we had decided to take a little relaxation, she to visit and gossip with her little black-eyed friend Yvette in the neighbouring hamlet of St. Julien, and I to try the appetites of the Breton trout with the contents of my American fly book. —Robert W. Chambers, "The Purple Emperor" (from The Mystery of Choice, 1897)
Labels: Robert W. Chambers
Tuesday, March 01, 2011
The Believer — 2011 Film Issue
It's the first of the month—that means it's time for a new Believer! This year's film issue comes with a DVD of the 1930 German film People on Sunday (you can read Jessica Winter's great liner notes here).
And the articles! F.S.* Rebecca Taylor's terrific memoir, "Virginia Mountain Scream Queen," details her life in B-movies (or should that be C-, or D-?)—here she is at 18, negotiating:
There's no up-front pay, he tells me, but there will be points on the back end.
I don't know what "points on the back end" means, but I decide this ist he way it must be in Independent Low-Budget Horror-Westerns. I ask him—has anyone else signed on? Anyone that I might know of?
He tells me Conrad Brooks has a cameo, a veteran of the Ed Wood movies, an actor from Plan 9 From Outer Space.
I've never heard of Conrad Brooks or Ed Wood or Plan 9 From Outer Space, but I'm ready to believe that this means something.
David Cairns (of Shadowplay fame) looks at the varied career of William Cameron Menzies (who had a hand in everything from Gone With the Wind and King Kong to Invaders From Mars; Light Industry's Thomas Beard on the digest film; Peter Lunenfeld follows Walt Disney and Hugh Hefner to California; Michael Atkinson tracks the many moods of Robert Mitchum; Bess Lovejoy on grave goods; and more...
And the interviews! Debra Winger, David Wain, Walter Murch/David Thomson, Paul Verhoeven...plus Greil Marcus/Nick Hornby/Jack Pendarvis, the finalists of the Believer Book Awards (this year including poetry), and much more...Only $10! You already have it, maybe, if you subscribe!
* = Former Student™