Wednesday, January 30, 2008


sam shepherd * sally struthers * susan sarandon * stephen spender * soupy sales * samuel sewall * siegfried sassoon * sandra simmonds * sylvester stallone * susan sontag * sarah siddons * susanne summers * sam spade * shel silverstein * sharon stone * sibyl sanderson * stephen sondheim * saul steinberg * sissy spacek * scary spice

Sunday, January 27, 2008

hearts full of youth/ hearts full of truth/ 6 parts gin to 1 part vermouth

I'd like to compare Never Let Me Go to a martini. Unlike red wine, where you may find nuances of fruit, cigar smoke, a chewy bosom, violet underpants, a clove or cinnamon finish, etc etc etc, this book one flavor throughout - dry and detached, but not without its own wallop.

And instead of an olive, there's a kidney or lung floating around in the martini glass. I know this is unappetizing, but if you've read the book, you know what I mean.

I love Ishiguro - his writing is clean, his technique is fabulous, and I'm obsessed with his obsession - putting the past together in a way that makes sense. Unfortunately I knew something of the plot before I started, which diminished my enjoyment. I would have loved to be surprised. Perhaps that contributed to the feeling that the book was written in slow motion.

Without going too much into the plot, since I'd recommend reading this and wouldn't want anyone to suffer my fate of foreknowledge, the one thing that's pestering me is why is there not rebel among the "special" group of people under the microscope here. Some readers say the characters are so brainwashed there's no chance of protest, but I don't see that. And if there's no rebellion, then maybe the "soul" that's under discussion in this book is indeed absent. I don't think so, which is why I find this aspect so hard to buy.

Then again, I couldn't help but identify with the characters here in a no-way-out sense, in that there's nothing you can do to thwart mortality even through "true love" or creative work.

This was the fourth book in the Booker Challenge for me. Two to go.

And since I can't find Tom Lehrer's song "Bright College Days," from which my heading comes today, I offer instead "The Elements."

Friday, January 25, 2008

yet more thoughts on the owl and the pussycat

“and sang to a small guitar”
The owl and the pussycat is actually about interracial marriage. The owl is a latino man and the cat a Cherokee woman and they are fleeing the persecution of their families.

“oh lovely pussy, oh pussy my love”
The owl and the pussycat is actually a lesbian love story. The cat is Diana the Huntress, feminine but also strong, and the owl is the take-charge partner, symbolizing Athena.

“too long we have tarried”
The owl and the pussycat is really about a capitalist (the owl, who wants to exploit the piggywig) and a communist (the pussycat, who until meeting the owl considered marriage a corrupt institution) and with their country in revolutionary upheaval they flee political consequences.

“how charmingly sweet you sing”
The owl and the pussycat is really a May-December romance story, with Richard Gere in the role of the wise old owl who can’t wait to get his hooks in the velvety Winona.

“you elegant fowl”
The owl and the pussycat is really about an owl and a pussycat.

“which they ate with a runcible spoon”
The story ends in tragedy. The pussycat is after all a cat, which eats birds.

“they sailed away for a year and a day”
The owl and the pussycat is a road movie with the two buddies who complement each other. The cat cannot fly, and the owl regrets never having had eyelashes. One drives and the other gives directions.

friday confession: bad with birthdays

What is today anyway? My husband's birthday is the 28th. We're not there yet, right? Shit, still no gift!

Not to mention my stepmother. Been married to my father for more than 30 years and I have probably given her a present/phonecall/card on a different day every year. Am I electra-fied?

Maybe it's because I never liked my own birthday. Or at least celebrating it, or the attention. My birthDAY is fine as days go. I just don't like feeling like I have to do something special or have an especially good time. I don't feel like that until somebody asks me what I'm doing for my birthday, which they always do.
Usually I lie.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

waiting for the subway to screech in

heartburn - rugburn - auburn - sunburn
slingshot - buckshot - bloodshot - mugshot
debone - cheekbone - hambone - trombone

Sunday, January 20, 2008

unbuttons the tongue

Syrah poets (violets, black pepper, berries): Les Murray, Ruth Stone, Pablo Medina.

Semillon poets (fig, orange marmelade): Sylvia Plath, David Ignatow, Susan Stewart.

Merlot poets (red bramble fruit, chocolate, straw): WS Merwin, Laura Kasischke, Pier Giorgio di Cicco.

Chenin Blanc poets (green apple, honey): Wislawa Szymborska, Frank O'Hara, Cesar Vallejo.

Sangiovese poets (dark red fruits): Anne Sexton, Federico Garcia Lorca, Marie Howe.

Chardonnay (mineral, melons, citrus): James Wright, ee cummings, Amy Gerstler.

leaden ventures

We went out walking in the mountains today, mostly because the dog was begging to go. It's been unseasonably warm, though I don't know what that means anymore. It rained a little and if I had to pick a shade of grey, I'd say it was rat-pallor grey.

I'm pleased to say Whiskey Island accepted three of my poems: Curtains, God Have Pity on the Smell of Gasoline and Ingrid Wears Bangs. Spring issue.

In other worlds, let's say the stated response time has elapsed by a big margin - do you still withdraw a poem that’s been accepted elsewhere? I would if I could do it via email, but in many cases it involves posting a letter overseas, sometimes the second such letter to the publication (in addition to the original submission). I figure if the response time is way over and they haven’t gotten in touch, it's the equivalent of a rejection. On the other hand, I don't want to piss anyone off. I just don’t think I’m the only one who should hold up her side of the bargain.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

if i have made,my lady,intricate/imperfect various things

I include myself among those who don’t think a poem should be titled "Untitled.“ In the realm of language, you can't get away with it as easily as a painter can. If I can’t come up with a title, I use the first line. Or I pull something out of the guts of the poem. ee cummings was perfectly happy with numbers/Roman numerals, and so we know all his poems by their first lines. Still, I don’t like when people say “name them like they’re your babies.” That turns me cold. What I think is interesting is how Louise Glück has a bunch of poems with the same title. Five poems named “Vespers,” six poems named “Matins.” It gives me an uneasy feeling. Once I was supposed to meet a reporting source at a bar called Vinum. Turned out there were two bars in town by that name. She went to one while I went to the other. I waited for her a long time, reading a book titled Grass Soup. I remember it distinctly; I had a lovely time, drinking a glass of wine, reading a book about desperation. She was upset that she was waiting for me, alone, in quite another place.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I Interview Myself about What I've been Reading for the Booker Challenge

What is Schindler’s List about?
It's about springtime and also winter but mostly it's about crying on the subway.

And what genre is it?
It is the BIG EXPERIENCE genre of novelesque nonfiction.

And the second book you read for the Booker challenge, The Color of Blood, what kind of book was that?
This is what they call a “catholic thriller.” I’m afraid to say I found the bad guys deranged but sympathetic.

Whom would you recommend this book to?
Anyone stuck in a long line at the grocery store.

You’re now halfway through When We Were Orphans. What is that about?
This book is about how much you should read every one of Kazuo Ishiguro’s books, lather, rinse and repeat. How you should be well reminded that he is a superior novelist to Ian McEwan and many flouncy American novelists.

Whom would you recommend this book to?
Anyone who appreciates good architecture as well as cozy interior design. There is a low fire going in the fireplace, and a Bijar rug laid out before it.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

o cloud of special dimness

Almost finished with Schindler's List.
Well, Jesus Christ, of course.
Not to mention the usual cast of assholes.

I feel a WWII reading binge coming on.
I may be temporarily derailed.

Somewhere on these shelves is the Goldhagen
book I haven't read yet. And I added
a biography of Himmler, a bio of Heydrich,
one of Goering and the Höss memoir to my list.
Shit. Plus all those battle books.
Gott! I love getting to the end.
I guarantee that good wins out.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

"next to of course god america i / love you

"THE woman in question became a lawyer after some years as a community organizer, married a corporate lawyer and is the mother of two little girls. Herself the daughter of a white American mother and a black African father — she is considered black — she served as a state legislator for eight years, and became an inspirational voice for national unity.

"Be honest: Do you think this is the biography of someone who could be elected to the United States Senate? After less than one term there, do you believe she could be a viable candidate to head the most powerful nation on earth? If you answered no to either question, you’re not alone. Gender is probably the most restricting force in American life...

Read the whole piece by gloria steinem.

Monday, January 07, 2008

ululation, susurration

Miles: What are vowels for?
Me: To separate the consonants.
Miles: They are not.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


I’ve been reading A Frolic of His Own, but, now on page 118, am finding it a slow plow. The writing is good, and sometimes comic, but the story fails to engage. I would like to finish it, some other time. Yesterday I picked up my mother’s copy of Schindler’s List, a book I’ve also long wanted to read. I walk by Oskar Schindler’s last residence, a seedy walk-up across from Frankfurt’s central train station, every day, and see his face there. A pair of beggars sleeps below the memorial plaque every night.

So, as long as I’m at it with Schindler, I’m going to join this Booker Prize reading challenge. The challenge is easy – read six Booker Prize winners, shortlisted or longlisted books in 2008. If you go to the Booker site, you can see the winners, and if you click on the book, you’ll see also the short lists and long lists. My choices are books I can get my hands on. I have some of them, and borrowed others from our office “library,” where a bunch of us share books. To be honest there are some other Booker books that I’d prefer to read, but that would involve a lot of Amazon shopping and shipping that I’m not ready to do.

Here’s my list of six, followed by some alternatives:
Schindler’s List by Thomas Kennealy – winner 1982
The Color of Blood by Brian Moore – shortlist 1987
The Inheritance of Loss by Kiran Desai – winner 2006
A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry – shortlist 1996
When We Were Orphans by Kazuo Ishiguro – shortlist 2000
On Beauty by Zadie Smith – shortlist 2005
The Life of Pi by Yann Martel – winner 2002
Possession by AS Byatt – winner 1990
Any of the Iris Murdochs I haven’t already read

Here are the Booker Prize winners I’ve already read, favs asterisked:

Heat and Dust
by Ruth Prawer Jhablava
*The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
The History of the Kelly Gang by Peter Carey
*Oscar and Lucinda by Peter Carey
*The Sea, The Sea by Iris Murdoch
*Disgrace by JM Coetzee
Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha by Roddy Doyle
How Late it Was, How Late by James Kelman
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

dot earth

My resolutions are green, mostly, and not particular to 2008.

1. Turn off the lights and stand-by switches.
2. Save water.
3. Resist the urge to buy crap I don’t need.
4. Resist my children’s urges to be crap they don’t need.
5. Use “whom” and “whomever” whenever correct without fear of sounding pretentious.
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