Monday, November 30, 2009

Joseph Epstein's "My Brother Eli"

Here's one worth reading:

I "googled" and found two different reviewers with a similar opinion of Joseph Epstein's "My Brother Eli." In reviewing Best American Stories 2007, one writer called it "by far the best [story] up to this point" (disclaimer: "this point" is the sixth story), and "It made me wish for a whole novel about these characters":

The other book blogger, over on, considered it one of "three stories that in this standout collection, IMHO really soared" (also referring to the 2007 collection):

Well, I'll spare you the "IMHO" and instead offer the uncompromising and ridiculous ego of the direct command: read it! As Rushdie once said of a Pynchon novel, "Gulp it down. It beats getting drunk." At least, that's what I remember reading on the back cover of the book.

Joe, if you're out there, we're gonna make you rich. Or drunk. Or read. Or something. . .

Friday, November 27, 2009

inside an unnamed big-box structure

I will admit I was inside a superstore today; you've earned a right to know that much. It was of course the very worst one to your mind. Or mine. Yes, indeed, I admit that too. Perhaps you will find some solace in the fact that I did not leave the shopping environment with a 40 inch hdtv?

I did buy disposable razors for sensitive skin as well as shampoo, bananas, and other minor players in the world of common purchases...

...a day after Thanksgiving and there was not one 9 to 12-inch pecan pie anywhere in the store, but the discounted baklava platter served as a worthy substitute.

And so, we move to the next day. Safe journey.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

my coffee and pie with andre

28 years late to the restaurant, I rent a VHS tape of My Dinner with Andre and watch the film. I remember hearing the title in my childhood, and although my father had already slipped me past the guard in search of movies like Jane Fonda's Barbarella and The Band's The Last Waltz, neither of my parents took me to this Wallace-Shawn joint.

Like so many of the movies of Spike Lee and Woody Allen, it is in its own way a tribute to New York City, and in this case, a tribute to the kind of conversation that could only make it there. In other words, if you're from South Carolina, or at least living in these quieter parts the past few years, there's a good chance your reaction to the movie will be like mine: these people talk too much! And so, not too late at night, you'll get exhausted midway through, and you'll finish watching the next day with the aid of dessert and strong coffee.

And yet of course, it is a rather excellent film although I could not tell you why this is so.

I may watch it again before returning it to its quiet, resting place among all the other stodgy films no one ever checks out of the university library. (I cannot be certain, but I have a feeling the members of our community who would watch and enjoy it are people who have already seen it; most students would ignore it because it is VHS, and they have only packed a DVD player for their movie-time leisure.)

For now, I find myself trying to place it in the early 1980s and wondering what it was doing there. After all, as a nation, were we not high on Lake Placid gold in Olympic ice hockey as well as the chest beating of Reagan's election and subsequent freeing of the American hostages? How dare these two characters sit down and talk so much about the kinds of things they talk about. And yet, there is something remarkable about how late in the film, in front of his patrons, the waiter takes a drag and then extinguishes his cigarette. I do not believe for a moment that the screenwriters intended for us to believe this silent server could be mafia or KGB.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

9 days left in national novel-writing month!

With 9 days left in national novel-writing month, I imagine you are freaking out! But no fear, there are novels (well, yes, short ones mostly) that have been drafted in a month. For inspiration, I'll drop a dime on a couple: Paul Auster's Portrait of an Invisible Man and Jean-Philippe Toussaint's The Bathroom. I suspect in both cases that is the first draft alone, and we don't have the hard facts, the exact data as it were. Okay, I'll admit the Auster is packaged with another memoir and is more or less a long story told in fragments (but a good one).

Fans of Jack Kerouac's On the Road are no doubt already aware that the original scroll was produced "during a three-week period in the spring of 1951" (see for the words surrounding this quoted bit). I've heard that Thomas Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49 was first drafted in three weeks, but I've also heard this disputed.

But back to your novel. What to do?

Quit work, boycott Thanksgiving, and write your ass off! And if you are writing twelve to fourteen hours a day on November 30, let the momentum carry you into December and make that month your writing month too.

You need your novel in your life.

Happy word choice, writer.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

running away

If you've been waiting for the English translation Jean-Philippe Toussaint's Fuir, then your wait is over... I think. lists November 10, 2009 as the publication date of Running Away, and various new and used copies are already available from other sellers on JB's website. At's $9.20 after discount, that's a mere 20 cents more than the new Sarah Palin biography! I'll let you decide which offers more fiction for your buck:

I taught Toussaint's The Bathroom last week, and it seemed to go well.

I'll let that thought resonate before resuming this entry.

merci, encore

Merci France parce que, maintenant, des personnes tres francophonique sont cinquante-trois de tout de citoyens aux Etats-Unis de Kudera. C'est un problem, oui, vraiment, que Le Roi de U.S.K. n'ecrit pas le francais tres bien. Oui, vraiment, je suis tres triste... mais peut-etre si Le Roi des autre Etats-Unis, Le President Obama a un demi-fils qui habite en China et son pere vien d'Afrique et la mere est juif, tout des choses c'est possible! Le "global village" has room for imaginary leaders of imagined websites waiting to be discovered by readers across the pond. Imaginez le Paix!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

the writing life in film

If you're interested in movies that are in part or whole about writers, here are some suggestions for the coming breaks (either Thanksgiving or the longer winter break). In many of these films, the writer is depicted as a rather comic, neurotic type, perhaps indeed a "tool" as it were. These all come with a Kudera guarantee of course, which for reasons of fiscal prudence in these unfortunate times cannot include any kind of "money back" statement. I'm betting you have watched some of these already.

Anyway, here goes:

The Daytrippers (also a Thanksgiving movie, possibly my favorite comic film)
Wonder Boys (based upon the novel by Michael Chabon)
State and Main (David Mamet; House of Games if you're more into the hustling life)
Henry Fool (Hal Hartley; the sequel, Fay Grim, is disappointing)
The Stone Reader (a documentary about a "one book" author)
Ask The Dust (based upon the novel by John Fante)

and three by Woody Allen:
Husbands and Wives
Crimes and Misdemeanors

Others whose titles escape me at the moment include one about the life of Janet Frame and at least one film by the Coen brothers. I'll add to and edit this when I can. If you happen upon this entry, feel free to "comment" on your own favorite "writing life" films.

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