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Showing posts from May, 2014

Jack Kerouac in The New Yorker

check your prose

This is a slightly modified version of a comment I never posted at The Chronicle of Higher Education after reading "Check Your History."

I wouldn't reduce Allan Bloom's The Closing of the American Mind to the category of "memoirs of oppressed white men," and I'd also argue that Bloom and his text, and perhaps Saul Bellow's Ravelstein as a reader's companion to, are far more intriguing than Tal's tiny essay, even if I disagree with Bloom's political orientation as well as his hilarious, if minimizing, thoughts on Nietzsche and Mick Jagger.

Anyway, Fortgang is much more of a cliche than an interesting writer, and, yes, he's 18 or 19 and we're supposed to think of him as innocent or allowed to be naive or something like that. Still, it's rather disturbing that his "Checking My Privilege" is getting so much more attention than, say, chapter 5 of Fight for Your Long Day, "Check Your Package At The Door," which of…

My Struggle

"My Struggle" is the original title I have for 200 pages I wrote twenty years ago, in the early nineties. It was my second burst of novel writing, and a parody of the liberal arts grad who winds up broke, slacking, experiencing angst, and so on. See Less Than Zero and Bright Lights, Big City for examples of the genre. It seems like a valid title for anything that intends to draw attention to the fact that the author or narrator has not struggled, has no right to think of his life as struggle, or has struggled in such a psychological or emotional way that it hardly seems like struggle compared to the starving, enslaved, overworked, terminally unemployed, etc.

But I don't know why Karl named his book thusly.

The B.K. Lounge

After finishing Paul Beatty's The White Boy Shuffle, I've moved onto Tuff, wherein the main character is seized with love at first sight whilst staring at the fly fry girl at a Burger King. I turn to the internet, and the first story I find staring back is news that Burger King is changing its slogan of 40 years; the royal Whoppers are moving from "Have It Your Way" to "Be Your Way." No doubt the stress of such a transition will weigh down on most of us.

I suppose all roads lead back to De La Soul.

L. A. Prose

I've recently been enjoying novels set mainly in Southern California such as The White Boy Shuffle and How To Get Into The Twin Palms. I've also been following So Cal fires and oil spills, and I'm even getting e-mail  on L.A. social-justice "gap year" programs.

So, naturally, I took it all as a sign that I was due to link and list:


The White Boy Shuffle by Paul Beatty

Chump Change by Dan Fante

Ask The Dust by John Fante

The Road To Los Angeles by John Fante

The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon

The Player by Michael Tolkien

How To Get Into The Twin Palms by Karolina Waclawiak


Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski

Fante by Dan Fante

I'll add links and other books soon, but please feel free to note your own in a comment.

millennials, employment, the jobless, and food

A glut of articles on millennials and employment seems to have surfaced soon after graduation:
Meanwhile Reuters notes that jobless claims are at a 7-year low, but in another article says Americans are now so "frugal" that it's hard for food companies to raise prices and retain customers.
I have no data on which of these writers was paid for their work, but I can assure you I received no compensation for this blog.

Iraq is back. . .

. . .in the news, and Colin Powell's famous Pottery Barn Rule seems more prudent than ever although, quite obviously, we cannot undo the past.

It could just be timed counterargument to opening up a Benghazi investigation, but articles on Iraq are depicting the recent situation as quickly deteriorating. Novelist and professor Jay Parini contributes here, and in "Iraq, three years after U.S. Withdrawal" The Week portrays Iraq today as, by some criteria, just as bad or worse as it was during Saddam Hussein's rule. The situation for women is particularly bizarre, as they are guaranteed 25 percent of of the seats in parliament, but are seen as having fewer rights than women held during Saddam's time:

Are women at least better off?Their political situation has improved: Under Iraq's postwar constitution, women are guaranteed 25 percent of the seats in parliament. But as conservative Shiite forces have gained a foothold within the government, the average female Iraqi …

Pynchon In Public 2014

"She hangs on the western wall." -V.
— Steven Fruhmoto (@StevenFruhmoto) May 9, 2014
Every day is #PynchonInPublic day.
— hook echo (@null_fruit) May 8, 2014
— Refined Quotes (@slothrop89) May 8, 2014
#pynchoninpublic i haven't been outside enough today to catch all the token copies of gravity's rainbow, alas
— Nicole Dib (@ndib22) May 9, 2014
Reading #pynchoninpublic while enjoying a spot of afternoon tea
— Eilidh Macdonald (@thishereeilidh) May 8, 2014
Lenin Pissed Here: Muted Horn on Gents Cubicle at The Crown #Clerkenwell Green
— liminallondoner (@liminallondoner) May 8, 2014
Muted Horn in pink chalk graces green telecom box nr The Fox & Anchor…

Interview in Inside Higher Ed

At Inside Higher Ed, Joseph Fruscione included in his adjunct interview series Gordon Haber, of Adjunctivitis and False Economies, and I exchanging e-mails on writing while teaching as adjuncts.

In one of my questions, I slipped in a Richard Yates reference to the fact that he did very little writing while teaching at Iowa. For me, this relates to his almost famous assessment that writing and teaching are thoroughly incompatible as they require the same emotions. At least, Yates saying that is famous to me.

From the interview:

AK: Richard Yates, in an interview, said he hardly wrote any fiction when he was teaching at Iowa for six years. He described teaching as demanding the same emotions as writing, and so he was too drained from teaching to leave anything on the page. How has it been for you? GH: Teaching was draining, but I wanted to do it. I have a really hard time with day jobs that don’t interest me. Of course it was extraordinarily difficult to balance marriage, fatherhood, teachi…

from Turkey and Armenia to Russia and Ukraine

** Elif Batuman's The Possessedtakes us everywhere from Stanford to Russia to Uzbekistan.

** I feared Batuman failed to mention any of my favorites from Russian literature (Shalamov, Olesha, and Biely among others), and then, like magic, Biely showed up in a footnote a few pages after this anxiety set in. So, yes, it was more like a doubt or disappointment, not a genuine fear.

** Arthur Nersesians's Dogrun has a Yuri Olesha reference!

** I read Turkish-American Batuman just before Armenian-American Nersesian, and, like a naive American-American dip shit, I imagine myself resolving the history of their ancestors.

** On Easter Sunday, we ate with people who described themselves as Ukrainians raised in Russia. The father came from the town that "Gooseberries" takes place in.

** An interpretation of Yuri Olesha's Envy is that it is equally critical of both capitalism and communism, Russia and its "foreign devils," and this is consistent with how I teach Ha …

the old man and the sea

I reread The Sun Also Rises in early May 2012, and I'm rereading The Old Man and the Sea in early May 2014. 

Who else could get away with "the Yankees of New York" or the "Indians of Cleveland" or the boy, the man, the fish, and a gigantic feat of "hand game" (arm wrestling) against a powerful "Negro" that then causes said opponent to lose all confidence? 

Nevertheless, I recommend, and I see Powell's has one for sale at the airport!

"Now is no time to think of what you do not have. Think of what you can do with what there is." 
--Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea