Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Joke? No Kundera's birthday is April 1

So Milan Kundera, author of The Joke--yes, you could add "among other titles"--was born on April Fool's Day:

Tangential at best, but I'm reminded of the opening of Aleksandar Hemon's The Lazarus Project, where he informs us that Bosnian Independence is celebrated on its official February 29 every four years and on random nearby days for the other three.

Back to Milan, it looks like 81 is in his immediate future... unless I am counting incorrectly from April 1, 1929.

Well, happy birthday, Milan Kundera. Stay healthy and keep writing! If the truths or rumors about your informant youth are true, don't sweat it. People have all kinds of blemishes on their official, unofficial, and other dust-strewn records. A bit guilt or shame always beats a significant jail term in this regard. To make amends (if the informed upon is still alive), you could buy the guy a modest but well-crafted automobile; if he has passed on, then buy his descendants some shares of stock along with a long personalized letter. I've heard people do these things.

Indeed, my own motives for blogging could be seen as less than pure. Believe you me, I am counting on all of these people misspelling your name as "Kudera" for them to possibly learn of and purchase this book: I suspect this occurs in 1000s of blogs and personal pages; yes, Milan, you are the second entry if one googles Kudera without the quote marks. So again, keep writing!


Sunday, March 21, 2010

where do poems come from?

As it turns out, they come from baby's nap time according to Brooklyn's Poet Laureate Tina Chang.

Yes, it did occur to me that the real Brooklyn would never have a Poet Laureate, or if she did, it would be some guy in the cheap seats of right field cursing out his "bums," the Dodgers.

Well, I suppose the Dodgers have been gone for over fifty years, but wouldn't today's Brooklyn have about 10,000 Poet Laureates? How did they choose just one?

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

barry hannah, heck of a writer

Again on Hannah, the more obituaries I read, the more amazing he sounds. A friend appreciates Hannah's honesty when he describes his teaching "haggardly" at Clemson (LATimes, linked one blog below); the NYTimes obit makes his language and characterization sound immediate and intense:

Hannah's honesty appears again in the piece: “I am doomed to be a more lengthy fragmentist... In my thoughts, I don’t ever come on to plot in a straightforward way.”

Again, I'm reminded of Ha Jin's thought that many of the great novels have technical flaws; language, voice, and/or character dominate plot and pacing in so many of my favorites, ranging from Knut Hamsun's Hunger to Fred Exley's A Fan's Notes. For fans of plot, pacing, and action, I recommend a trip to the movies.

I'm pretty sure the bookstores could stimulate sales by pasting obituaries of writers on the windows by the entrance; the LA and NYTimes have me hopped up on literary death, and I'm near ready to traffic online in Barry Hannah's fiction. I will report back after I read.

Note: "heck" is a euphemism for "hay" as in "what the hay"; hay is also for horses.


Note: USK consulted Sandra Boyton's Moo, Baa, La La La! for the proper spelling of "neigh"; it seems worth mentioning that this witty board book is a national treasure that relies less on plot than language and character.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

"teaching at clemson was very hard work"

Or at least this is what Barry Hannah told the Paris Review according to his obituary in yesterday's Los Angeles Times:

Save for the "bourbon" and the "total loosening and release," this quotation is strangely reminding me of my own predicament: the baby's Mom is out of town for most of March, the first manuscript deadline is March 31, and the five classes continue.

I like what Hannah says about the "high mark" that Faulkner sets and his goal of shooting for it. There are too many "contemporary classic" novelists who excell at what they do, but what they write is clearly not challenging the American canon. You might say that what they lack is a "distinct voice."

Of course, I tend not to be too keen or amazed by some of today's other footstep followers of Faulkner--Cormac McCarthy and Toni Morrison come to mind. Despite ancestors, both have that "distinct voice," and although I certainly respect their projects and have enjoyed some of their novels, I just don't gravitate toward their writing (no desperation to read the next one or get on a McCarthy kick, say). I'm not familiar with the dead man's writing but hope to investigate when time permits.

I do love William Faulkner and recommend a conversation with Michael Rizza (USC, PhD candidate) to anyone who doesn't. Absalom, Absalom! is the novel you ought to read now. He held a joint chair in writing and drinking long before MFA programs began to offer cushy academic posts for such dual citizens.

Barry Hannah, rest in peace and in Oxford, Mississippi.

Well, back to the Cheerios with local honey (better allergy medicine than bourbon?) and the next stack of papers... and the next dead man too.

Cheery ho.

Monday, March 1, 2010

to e-book or not to e-book

My hunch is that paper books stay in the game much longer than the e-bookists believe and that production and unit sales of both will continue to rise. This article describes how the costs of e-books are not as dramatically lower than paper books as one might suspect:

If the cost-driven corporate publishers do gravitate en masse to e-book-only production (which I severely doubt), then I suppose the superbookstores could add a lot of seats to the coffee bars and sell more greeting cards and chocolate. And of course, the children's section would appear safe until amazon comes out with a chew-proof toddler model.

Well, when you book your flight to the future, remember that all electronic devices must be turned off during extreme turbulence, departure, and landing.

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