28 July 2010

At The Millions, I muse about different kinds of literary endings.  Commentors are offering their own terrific examples of favorite endings.

25 July 2010

I enjoyed Laura Miller‘s piece at Salon, “The Fine Art of Recommending Books.”  Says Miller, “In a review, I can expound at length, giving readers a pretty good sense of what I like so they can judge if my preferences align with their own. One-on-one, however, what really matters to me is what you like to read.”  The personal recommendation is almost always more reliable than the algorithmic one, especially if the recommender asks good questions of the reader.

Lorin Stein, editor of The Paris Review, says:  “I don’t think people read ‘for’ pleasure, exactly… Of course there is pleasure in reading. But mainly we do it out of need. Because we’re lonely, or confused, or need to laugh, or want some kind of protection or quiet — or disturbance, or truth, or whatever.”  Hmm…

I think I read primarily for absorption.  Without the regular practice of losing myself in the dream of a book, my mind grows dim, my spirit grows noisy and restless.  So I suppose I read to get smarter and to develop my literary imagination.

Nancy Pearl, Seattle-librarian and NPR commentator (the “Oprah” of librarians) lists three books she deems likely to please any reader: To Kill a Mockingbird, Larry McMurtry‘s Lonesome Dove, and Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner.  I find that fascinating.  I wonder what the common denominator is.  I haven’t read Lonesome Dove, but Angle of Repose, in particular, is an interesting inclusion.

I love recommending books.  In a way, there’s nothing more connective, more intimate.  Delicate, too — if you get it wrong, it’s like you’ve set someone up on a failed blind date.  Also, I’m a terrible recommendee.  It’s got to be the right book at the right time… to know this for me is to know me better than I know myself.

22 July 2010

Julian Schnabel is known for his ego — an artist who perhaps better than anyone inhabits/embodies the non-normative fullness of that word; neither “good” nor “bad,” just what it is.   He’s a polymath, and a talented one, and I confess that his ball-busting, I-could-give-a-fuck attitude intrigues me, despite myself.  Not to mention his just-do-it creative output.  I’m a wildly successful painter; I think I’ll make a movie now, and a really good one. And now another one, and another, and I think I’ll learn French so I can make this third one (and win Best Director at Cannes and at the Oscars)…

Flavorwire describes Schnabel as “one of the most motivated creative forces of the past 40 years.”

(It is not lost on me that my last post was about “the ambition of growing okra.”  Clearly, we are cut from different cloth, Mr. Schnabel and me. Likely the root of the intrigue…)

Now Schnabel has a new exhibit of large-format Polaroids, with accompanying monograph.  More info here.

Here’s a link to a radio interview with Elvis Mitchell from 2008.

21 July 2010

Hey, look — the okra is growing…

Just because I’d mentioned it as an ambition of mine — to grow okra — in a recent (self)interview I did at The Nervous Breakdown.  People say okra is difficult to grow in the north, generally grown in the south.  I’m happy to report that it is not impossible to grow okra in the northeast…

It’s too hot for gumbo, so we’ll pickle them.  Yum.

18 July 2010

Posting this a bit late, but found it rather surprising: Marilynne Robinson appeared on “The Daily Show” on July 8.

Surprising that Jon Stewart invited her (nothing particularly funny to talk about here), and surprising that she appeared (she agrees to interviews somewhat rarely). Hmm… hoping perhaps this means we’ll hear a little more from Ms. Robinson via interviews in the future.

Her new book, Absence of Mind, is about, among other things, the “unnecessary division” between science and religion. “The gladiators from both sides are inferior representatives of both sides,” she says.

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Marilynne Robinson
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

15 July 2010

Tonight, a rare thing happens: I put on a dress, I go downtown.  It’s Opening Night of the annual Asian American International Film Festival.  33 years strong and still kicking.  The staff (I happen to know) work their butts off, and it shows…

Films screen throughout the weekend into next Wednesday night: acclaimed features and shorts from all over the world, by and about people of Asian descent.  At Chelsea Clearview Cinemas and the Quad, mostly, with a few programs at the new Museum of the Chinese in America (MoCA) in Chinatown.  There’s a special “New Taiwainese Cinema” series that’s supposed to be excellent.

Check it out — remember, movie theaters are air conditioned!

12 July 2010

1) Wherein I describe/disclose my physical work environment, at Open Letters Monthly-Like Fire, the “Strata” feature.

2) Wherein 4 debut novelists, myself included, discuss our novels, etc. with any of you who’d like to join the group at Goodreads.  The discussion occurs all throughout the week.  Panelists: Malena Watrous, Peter Bognanni, Emily Gray Tedrowe, and me.  Moderated by Katrina Kittle.