Tuesday, June 28, 2011

summer reading

I'm definitely overestimating my prowess, but these are packed. Ciao!

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles (fiction)
The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan (history)
The Enchantress of Florence by Salmun Rushdie (fiction)
Down With the Ship by Ryan Murphy (poetry)
Dark Blonde by Belle Waring (poetry)
RHINO 2010 (poetry journal)
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky (fiction)
The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields (fiction)
Brute Neighbors (lit anthology)
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven by Sherman Alexie (fiction)
Juan Luna’s Revolver by Luisa A. Igloria (poetry)
Undertow by Anne Shaw (poetry)
The Scented Fox by Laynie Browne (poetry)
The Pill vs the Springhill Mine Disaster/In Watermelon Sugar/Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan (poetry/fiction)
The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa

song of the day: bella ciao

Sunday, June 26, 2011


We leave for vacation this coming week. We’ll be spending 2+ weeks in Sardinia, the plus time being the drive & ferry there and back. Packing space is limited because browndog is coming, meaning the back of the station wagon is half-occupied by her. I’m sharing a suitcase with my daughter, meaning 2/3rds of the suitcase is occupied by her. So I’m making my reading selections carefully.

I don’t really differentiate between summer reading and winter, spring or fall reading. I don’t mind reading snowy gulag books on the beach, or desert books in the dim, rainy fall (which reminds me, I could take The Sheltering Sky!). I think people who like light reading on vacation probably prefer light reading in general.

One tradition I do stick to is reading short stories in summer. This year I plan to read Sherman Alexie’s The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fightfight in Heaven. Another summer tradition is the ‘forcefeed read,’ a book I think I should read but have so far managed to avoid. Last year it was David Copperfield, which I loved. This year it’s Crime and Punishment. I’m really not optimistic. I never am. I bailed on The Brothers Karamazov, for example. But you never know.

I usually do take non-fiction, too. Right now I’m in the middle of Primo Levi’s Survival in Auschwitz, which with luck I'll finish before we leave (freeing up room in the bookbag). On the maybe pile are The Worst Hard Time and Confederates in the Attic. Dunno.

Poetry is hard to pick because if I take two or three books and it turns out I’m not in the mood for them, it’s a disaster. So I like to bring an anthology for the variety. I’m pretty sure I’ll be taking Brute Neighbors, an anthology of urban nature poetry and prose, which Kathleen recommended and has a poem in. It’s small, too, so I won’t have a problem fitting it in my bag. I will be far from the urban, and any wildlife I see will likely be of the sea-creature variety, but I like when a book delivers me elsewhere.

I was going to link to some summer reading lists here, but none of them have books on them I'm particularly interested in. "Bossypants" appears to be dominating this year, which seems to me a good example of high summer fluff.

Friday, June 17, 2011

I come from a state of astonishment

I have two poems in the new Literary Bohemian, the handsome half-Czech zine that goes everywhere. The poems are Crossings and Among the Watermelons.

Crossings is a poem I began long ago on a trip to Denmark when I forgot my passport. Coincidentally, around that time I'd learned that my paternal forebears were more likely Danish than Dutch. After a boring and disappointing visit to Denmark, I abandoned this poem for a long time.

Among the Watermelons is a cento using lines from French poets I adore.

As we say in China, welcome you enjoy.

For me, my roots don't go much further than Scranton, PA, where my parents are from. And weirdly, whenever my mother visits me in Germany she says, "Germany always reminds me of Pennsylvania." And I understand her, at least as far as eastern Pennsylvania goes. The photo is of her on the cover of The Scrantonian in 1954.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Open the hood and expose the good bones

The piano is nothing more than a musical vehicle. It has a brake, accelerator and clutch. The metronome makes a precise speedometer.

Unlike a typical car, however, the piano can be started with any key.

It is good for taking out for a spin on a Sunday morning when the shops are closed. Dusty, rural roads recommend Mussorgsky; the city’s stop-and-go pairs well with Satie; and the long lake drive lined lushly with chestnuts lends itself to a variety of Baptist hymns.

The piano has an ample interior, airy and comfortable, but that needn’t influence one’s driving style – it may be slow and sumptuous, or aggressive and down-to-business. Most models are aerodynamic, epitomized by the Steinway grand, though the piano world also has its jaunty uprights, which are easier to park.

All pianos are suited to melodious cruising. If you crave a large audience, turn up the volume and burn rubber, or pop a wheelie, or go do doughnuts in the parking lot.

As with any vehicle, a piano is meant to provide its driver with a feeling of freedom. It’s versatile – with imagination you can take anywhere. For flair, experienced drivers suggest wearing a veil or a scarf, or simply let your mane grow long. That way you’ll feel the wind try to pull you back as you get going, before deliriously playing along.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

A note on the type

We spent the weekend on the Rhine, including the preposterously cute town of Unkel, and the once-grand/now-tawdry town of Remagen. Among other things, we went to an art fair where I spent an imaginary 10,000 euros on jewelry.

On the way home, to ease the fear that I’m wasting my life, I pulled the old trick of reading in the car until I ALMOST felt sick, then resting, and resuming. I’m reading The Line of Beauty by Alan Hollinghurst. My daughter asked me what it’s about, and the plot is truly not that interesting: gay 20-year old staying at the house of a rich English parliamentarian. But it is excellent writing, which expunges all shortcomings (if the lack of a plot is a shortcoming.)

I am lucky to have picked up a hardbound copy of this book somewhere (Borders sell-out?), with its beautiful cover and its heavy paper and dust jacket. During one of my non-reading intervals in the car, I just fondled it and was glad it was mine, glad I could underline and write in the margins should I want to. E-books be damned.

What struck me funny was the half-page "note on the type," Bembo, three times longer than the author’s biography. Bembo is 600 years older than Hollinghurst! It was born in Venice! The typography note turns into a homage, and an anthem for those who love tangible print on real paper. Ok, computer-screen print is also in some font or the other, but you could just as well mark it and change it to comic sans. People!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Police tape

Every morning she’s photographed waking up in another position.

Monday: Splayed, and mouth gaping like a union soldier

Tuesday: Crouching as if about to jump from a frosted cake

Wednesday: Collapsing into herself like Jack Ruby being mortally wounded

Thursday: Breaking into bits of birds

This morning she woke like Ophelia with her hair fanned out and floating, hands folded; and last week there’s a picture of her

knees tucked up, fingers curled against her cheek

as if making a desperate phone call to consciousness

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Dogs barking down clouds

Sorry to have been absent, but I’ve been busy off forming opinions somewhere.

For example, if you take a picture of your genitals and distribute them on the internet, you have already shown such a lack of responsibility to your wife and family (and self) that no one can expect you to show responsibility to your constituency, i.e. you should step down from political office immediately. You are also a joke, and disgusting. Is this, like, a trend in male-dom?

I’m also trying to write a ghazal. Will it fail?
And these doubts about my spirit?

I finished a bunch of books: The Quickening Maze, The Redcoats and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, all with different levels of success.

I also let Twitter distract me. Alongside Tricia’s hilarious non-stop sexting, there’s a group of DogsDoingThings, which assures me I have wasted my life.

For example: “Dogs rinsing the remains of an indigent off the sidewalk as a van-mounted megaphone urges, ‘Re-elect Mayor Goldie Wilson.’” Or “Dogs bursting into a cloud of marbles and rolling down the drain.”

This goes on all day people!

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Serve your Notion

I went to the dentist this morning. I always like going to the dentist because I become representative America. The first thing he asked me when I came in was "so, what do Americans think about the European e-coli outbreak," as if we'd have some special opinion on it. Anyway, I told him we were widely opposed to e-coli, and if it were to occur on our own soil we would have congressional pre-approval to declare military action.

This was a follow-up visit to have a crown installed, which was fitted two weeks ago. At that time, it was all about Strauss Kahn and the American justice system. Was the perp walk actually necessary, my dentist and his assistant wanted to know. Not only is it necessary, I said, it is therapeutic. It is also democratic, and there are people who aspire to it, who practice it at home. "Necessary" seems hardly the adjective, I said, "essential" is more like it.

I am really happy to be able to serve my nation in this function.
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