Friday, July 29, 2011

the revised me, other artists, and you

i'm still here, too, although it feels odd to unfair not to be blogging about floods in Seoul, chaos in Yemen, mass murderers, unemployment, dire warnings, debt ceilings here, or defaults there.

well, i've linked to this one before, but if you want to feel happy to be alive, i offer up Cassendre Xavier's "Happy To Be Alive."

i suppose that i'm more "too tired to be alive," which is not the same as tired of living.

and it has nothing to do with the hiccups and giggles with my analyst or anyone else.

another way to get a lift out of life is to view the photography of Abeer Hoque.

have a great weekend, wonderful reader!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

bolano, ebooks, tweets, etc.

I'm engrossed in Bolano, Roberto, again--polished off the second section being serialized by The Paris Review (197) and then jumped right into The Skating Rink, which I'm finding pleasantly suspenseful. I'm also enjoying how this slimmer novel resonates with Bolano's other work. We meet alternating narrators, a broken poet, South Americans in exile, the murdered and the forlorn, and a rich sadness that can be absurdly comical, and thus radically destabilizing, all at once. Or, you could say Bolano can write scenes that perfectly create the feeling of simultaneous laughter and tears.

(I believe I first read about Bolano's writing being described this way in a review either in Harpers Magazine or The New Yorker, and I apologize for being unable to pin it down. This wonderful website of Bolano articles appeared when I tried to search for the original quotation.)

At a slight tangent, it seems fitting that I received my form-letter rejection from The Paris Review last night; Bolano's success is most often in his fully realized vision of our failures.

But I guess my book is still in the news if we define "the news" as all information I so desperately search for online everyday. Which does indeed mean that although I failed to watch the women's football (soccer?) championship or follow all the blow-by-blow of the NFL and NBA labor disputes, and the "debt-ceiling crisis" is only an occasional worry and not a constant fear for me or my meager holdings, I did learn that Fight for Your Long Day is now also available as a google e-book, and if you click on "View Sample" to the right of the screen (or follow the last hyperlink), the first 25 pages can be read for free.

And then an amazing blogger, Lori at The Next Best Book Club, has tweeted on it several times, and has even invited shy Cyrus into the bedroom for a late night finale (a dash to the finish line?) according to one tweet. She has also hung it on the front page of her blog under currently reading for quite some time--alas, possibly due in part to the fact that the last half reads a lot faster than the first half for many. A final cool thing about TNBBC is that she is also an alt.punk fan.

Last, the talented writer and photographer Abeer Hoque was kind enough to share this photograph from the Chestnut Hill Book Festival:

Thanks, Abeer and Lori!

And now it's probably time to return to all of my Saul Bellows and Bolanos and John Fantes and other writers who'd probably not be caught dead blogging about themselves or their writing.

Alas, I suppose they died before we could find out, so that they're dead is all we can know for sure.

(So in other words, I wouldn't wish promoting one's own writing on anyone? Or death? Watch out! Yikes! Yeah, I know. I'm a goner.)

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Adventures of Augie March

Before I drove up to Philly, in bed but awake at 7 a.m., I shoved down the last ten pages of The Adventures of Augie March, and I can tell you the last word was America even if it would be ridiculous to suggest this novel could be the last word on America.

In fact, it's not, and although I know that from reading James Atlas's biography and other sources, Bellow ended his life in favor of Augie's active spirit as opposed to the hopelessness and fatalism of the much shorter Seize the Day, it still seems that you don't have to live through the Great Depression or the current situation to recognize that by the numbers, the protagonist's life in Seize the Day much more accurately depicts life for many more Americans than the adventures of Augie. (Still, we could consider that's not the point at all, and that while both inform, it is Augie March that better entertains.)

And for the slim majority of Americans that do live their whole lives floating well above surface, housing and health benefits intact, etc--well, their adventures are not often with gigantic eagles, gamblers, thinkers, and Russian revolutionaries on the run, but rather, exist on planned vacations and shopping and HDTV where some other fellow is ramming his head into an incredible hulk of a defensive line.

As for the book itself, similar to Ravelstein, my interest waned when Bellow took his protagonist South of the border. Save for the Trotsky section in Mexico, I found most of the writing much more exciting when Augie was in America, Chicago for the most part, but not exclusively. I can't say why that it is, and it could surely be coincidence.

I can see why Bellow's friends and admirers were downright angry at the Atlas biography, and yet, frankly, it was good, easy reading, and in some ways, to me, the man's life was more interesting than his prose.

Another favorite nonfiction concerning Bellow is the chapter included in Brent Staples's Parallel Time, which although seemingly based upon a misreading or incomplete reading of Mr Sammler's Planet offers a great chase scene and is still fascinating in the way it brings perspective to the circumstances in which the canonical writer was living at University of Chicago in the late sixties and early seventies. I highly encourage a read of Staples's book concurrent with Sammler.

Bellow did come through with many great quotable sections of Augie, and I'll leave you with this one (for clarity, in short-quote format--with quotation marks, period in the wrong place, but alas, no identifying tag because I have no colon on this netbook and I just drove myself mad pasting in all the periods!--not because I'd want any of you to ignore MLA format for long quotations).

"Take the fact that people generally were full of loathing and it cost them an effort to look at one another. Mostly they wanted to be left alone. And they dug for unreality more than for treasure, unreality being their last great hope because then they could doubt that what they knew about themselves was true" (482).

And as we do, we move on, and now I'm reading number 197 of The Paris Review (great interviews with Samuel Delany and William Gibson, photography, and the next section of an early "lost" Bolano novel) and John Fante's Dreams from Bunker Hill.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fante criticism but no fiction

Well, I've been blogging on Saving Bookstores (and buying more than I should, too), but I wanted to come clean and be sure that everyone knows that I purchased the John Fante straight from the Evil Bezos himself on Friday. This was after I discovered that my otherwise wonderful university library had books of John Fante criticism but none of his novels.

Please thank Allen Ginsberg if this first thought is in fact the best one:

The parasites suck the host dry and then live to gloat about it in the stacks!

(I should come clean and admit that I checked out both books of criticism and have enjoyed some of the essays so far. In fact, if you count comp and business writing as separate strands of college English, then for some time now, I've been swinging from far more than two sides of the departmental plate.)

Well, I've read The Road to Los Angeles and Ask the Dust, so I ordered Dreams from Bunker Hill and The Brotherhood of the Grape.

If you want to learn more about John Fante, or the writing of his son Dan, then John's Ask the Dust and Dan's Chump Change are good places to start, but Dan Fante's memoir Fante: A Family's Legacy of Writing, Drinking, and Surviving coming later this summer, will work just as well. Maybe better.

prizewinners die broke?

Well, I doubt that's invariably true, but the gold stickers on the wall haven't lifted me away from run-down townhouse living on the poorer side of university town, South Carolina. The optimistic angle could be that the final days of living on Mom's couch have been avoided so far (Et tu, Kerouac, Exley, et al). To be frank, I have a feeling that sobriety and fear will keep me working and dull enough to support myself for many more years.

It ain't exactly the Nobel or Pulitzer, but I suppose an Indy regional prize is better than nothing at all.

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