Saturday, July 31st, 2010
I'm eating up Super Sad True Love Story.... A couple of reactions to it, but first a brief passage that I think illustrates what a great rush reading this book is. (i.e. if you don't like this, don't bother with the book, and vice versa.)
My äppärät pinged.
CrisisNet: DOLLAR LOSES OVER 3% IN LONDON TRADING TO FINISH AT HISTORIC LOW OF 1€ = $8.64 IN ADVANCE OF CHINESE CENTRAL BANKER ARRIVAL U.S.; LIBOR RATE FALLS 57 BASIS POINTS; DOLLAR LOWER BY 2.3% AGAINST YUAN AT 1¥* = $4.90
I really needed to figure out what this LIBOR thing was and why it was falling by fifty-seven basis points. But, honestly, how little I cared about all these difficult economic details! How desperately I wanted to forsake these facts, to open a smelly book or to go down on a pretty young girl instead. Why couldn't I have been born to a better world?
I can honestly see how I could go either way about this -- it could seem self-indulgent and silly; but instead I'm feeling for Lenny, caring about his histrionic soliloquies. Rayyan Al-Shawaf at The Millions complains that Shteyngart's broad satire produces one-dimensional, artificial characters -- but to be honest that's sort of what I'm expecting from Shteyngart based on Absurdistan and The Russian Debutante's Handbook -- it's a feature, not a bug.
Possibly of interest in this connection, I'm seeing some points of connection between this book and A Visit From the Goon Squad -- a hugely different book, and one comparatively much more concerned with drawing characters than with biting social satire. It's possible I'm making this up -- but there seems to be a common theme between the two of them. In both books authentic communication is dying, its place being taken over by superficial, thoughtlessly immediate texting.
* (No explanation at this point in the text, why ¥ is being used as a symbol for Yuan instead of 元. Perhaps just sloppy copy-editing...)
I went to Brooklyn yesterday evening to hear Gary Shteyngart reading from Super Sad True Love Story (about which more later -- it looks from the first pages and from the portion he read like it is going to be a magnificent book) at Greenlight Books, which turns out to be a lovely independent book shop in Fort Greene... I got there early enough to take the train to Grand Army Plaza and walk through Prospect Heights, and by serendipity discovered a second bookshop that I'm adding to my list of destinations, which is Unnameable Books.
The reading was packed -- easily 75 people were there, filling up the seating area, spilling onto the floor and into the aisles of the shop. One of the most fun readings I can remember. I met up with Dave and Greg, and went out for dinner with them afterwards. Got my book inscribed. (And by a funny coincidence, I bought an inscribed book at Unnameable Books, a little booklet of poetry by José Pubén -- it is signed "with brotherly amity" to Adela Muñoz.)
Wednesday, July 28th, 2010
A six-month long exposure from Wired. Thanks for the link, cleek!
Starting to really get my music library together -- I ripped a lot of old and new disks onto my computer this past week, and updated the file organization a little. Today's random 10 are a nice mellow mix.
- "The $1 Store" sketch by The Vestibules -- a very worthwhile Canadian humor troupe. (from their Chest of Drawers 5.0 record.)
- "Who by Fire", from New Skins for the Old Ceremony
- "Where I Lead Me" by Steve Earle. Ellen and I went to a concert of his last weekend that I've been meaning to blog about (can't quite find the hook though) -- I bought his record Townes.
- "Garden of Eden" by the New Riders. They have a lot of good songs besides "Panama Red" -- which for some reason is the only song I really think of when I hear their name.
- "Devil's Radio" from Robyn's April 96 Bilbao show. Which contrary to my assertion at cleek's, definitely does move me in this incarnation.
- "Night Fishin'" by Bobby Rush, from one of Apostropher's mix tapes. One of the things I discovered while organizing my library is that a slight plurality of my non-Robyn Hitchcock music is mix tapes from various blogging sources.
- "A Day in the Life", Robyn Hitchcock performing on the Give it to the Thoth Boys tape. One of the best Beatles covers I've heard of his -- this comes close to being as great as the original. (Though it gets a little silly toward the end.)
- "Pins and Needles in my Heart", the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
- "Tubular Belgians in my Goldfield", Departure Lounge (featuring both Captain Keegan and Robyn!)
- "Blue Lake", Bill Gessner
Tuesday, July 27th, 2010
Wow, it seems like all of my favorite young novelists are releasing new books all of a sudden! Today I come to find out (via NPR's The Takeaway) that Gary Shteyngart has a new book coming out, set in a near-future dystopia in NYC. Here is his interview from this morning:
On Friday, Shteyngart's release party is happening at Greenlight Bookstore in Fort Greene. I am trying to figure out if I can make it over there...
Saturday, July 24th, 2010
Gareth Hinds' graphic novel* of King Lear is a fine accomplishment; I recommend it. I see among his other works are The Merchant of Venice and Beowulf -- both look pretty intriguing -- and a forthcoming edition of The Odyssey -- which I am hard put not to find implausible. (But who knows! The cover certainly looks beautiful.)
* It seems to me like Shakespeare -- and plays in general -- are uniquely well suited to the graphic novel format; and yet I think this is the first time I have read a graphic novel based on a play. Conceptually, this book has much in common with a staged production of the play.
Tuesday, July 20th, 2010
Driving to pick up his son, Bennie alternated between the Sleepers and the Dead Kennedys, San Francisco bands he'd grown up with. He listened for muddiness, the sense of musicians playing actual instruments in an actual room. Nowadays that quality (if it existed at all) was usually an effect of analogue signaling rather than bona fide tape -- everything was an effect in the bloodless constructions Bennie and his peers were churning out.
I finally picked up Jennifer Egan's new book today -- am finding the first few chapters pleasant and stimulating without them exactly grabbing me the way The Keep and Look at Me did. Definitely interesting enough to keep me reading.
...And, by the end of Chapter 4 I realize I am completely hooked in. A glorious, hypnotic read.
Sunday, July 18th, 2010
It was not until I was reading the Quixote this evening and happened on the quoted line (near the end of the ninth chapter) that I realized it is not a mere rhetorical flourish, that Borges is calling attention to the line for his own reasons. (Still not exactly sure what those reasons are...; but the line comes at the end of bit of meta-storytelling that sounds to my ear very Borgesian, about the discovery and translation of Benengeli's history. When I'm reading it now it sounds like Cervantes is being ironic about the truth-value of his story.)
...truth, whose mother is history, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and adviser to the present, and the future's counselor.
This catalog of attributes, written in the seventeenth century, and written by the "ingenious layman" Miguel de Cervantes, is mere rhetorical praise of history.
-- "Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote" (Hurley's translation)
Here I am playing with The Lost Souls last week at the South Orange Elks' Club. (Thanks for the picture, dad!) Mike and Eric are to my left, Jon is behind me; other members are cropped or obscured.
Saturday, July 17th, 2010
Two wonderful videos from cyriak. (Thanks, cleek!)
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