Friday, July 31, 2009

Mortal Love by Elizabeth Hand

I picked this up in Austin at Half Price Books after having one hell of a time finding a good independent used bookstore there. Where did I go wrong?

Anyway, Mortal Love was a great airplane book. Though it flirts with fairydom and myth, it is essentially a book about artistic inspiration and the dangers of courting such a tempestuous thing. Through a triple narrative following the lives of three men tortured by their relationship with art and their eventual relationship with a very seductive woman, Hand questions the relationship between madness and art, ponders the difference between a genius and a mere craftsman and works the phrase “scent of green apples” to the bone. By creating a world where inspiration is a ravenous, immortal being on a quest for her counterpart, Hand offers one view of a complicated subject. I have read few genre authors whose stories have art and artists as their central subjects and I find Hand’s dedication to excavating that world in inventive ways to be compelling despite some occasional clunky writing.

Some of her passages focusing on the aforementioned seductive woman and her witchy ways lean just this side of purple prose, but Hand does manage to deftly portray other kinds of characters: the asshole brother, the former rock star, the settled-for woman, the lost child. She is also great at setting a scene. Whether in a present-day London bohemian throwback apartment or wandering in a lonely dream home, the details seem to come alive—an important thing for a book about people who interpret sensation.

My only complaint is about the one-sidedness of this particular take on art. By having the wild woman crave only the art-juice of men, it excludes female creators from the discussion and put a dent in my appreciation of Hand’s inventiveness. Someone else will just have to write that book I guess.

Monday, July 27, 2009

I’m back, from an actual geographical place this time, not just a morass of apathy. Though I attempted to bring sea-themed music for our drives during this trip to the land of fired seafood and National Park beaches, I did not feel like towing around books of a nautical nature. Instead I brought two novels but ignored them in favor of the stories in Conjunctions 52: Betwixt the Between: Impossible Realism.

Everything I’ve read so far has been at least good. Some have been great, including Karen Russell’s downright scary "Dowsing for Shadows," Julia Elliott’s festering "Feral" and Stephen Marche’s exurbian fiction "The Personasts: My Journeys through Soft Evenings and Famous Secrets." The only one I’ve been disappointed in so far is Elizabeth Hand’s "Hungerford Bridge," which features her usual cast of charismatic middle-agers with secrets and willing foils, ready to have their eyes opened (and possibly scalded). It was fine, I guess, but nothing, not even the result of a mysterious dinner and incomprehensible, cold walks in London, did much to spark my imagination.(You can read this one at the above link, no permalink as far as I can tell).

Speaking of Russell, upon several recommendations I am reading her book of short stories St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised By Wolves and really enjoying it. Even the weakest in the collection so far yield at least one perfect element.

My return also yielded a full mailbox, including a giant package from Coffee House Press. Inside there were four books, all of which I am excited about. Out of the two novels and two story collections, the one I am most looking forward to is Fugue State by Brian Evenson. Evenson was the editor, with Bradford Morrow, for the issue of Conjunctions I’ve been enjoying so much.

And my weekend comes full circle! You can all exhale now.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Radio is the past, and the future!

If you want to hear me briefly talk with Charlito from Indie Spinner Rack and Dylan Williams at MoCCA, go here. It sounds less manic than it was.

Shortly after, Charlito has a conversation with Jesse Moynihan, friend of the blog.

Some things that Charlito exclaims about me are not true, but that's ok.

Monday, July 20, 2009

la-la-la links

This is a perfect description of those instances that make one feel wetly smothered by other peoples' emotions:
"And it's hard to remember that most of what you absorbed was meant to be discarded. You chop insults and carry grudges all day long, til there is no time left for anything else."


This post is a little old, but it contains the first discussion of samizda (Russian for self-published) I have ever read.


What have you been up to -- What I have been up to

I have been scratching the insect bites inflicted upon my already pink and dingy skin by dive bar mosquitos. All over my legs, red welts rise up like some kind of chaste pox. No fun at all. Still, it was worth seeing an old friend to marvel over the details of pasts long gone and enjoy much of what the piers have to offer. These visits are always too short and I am left wondering what kind of temporal flux I would enter if I went back to Philly for longer than two days at a time. It is both a repulsive and dreamily compelling thought.


The Prog Lady is back, in more ways than one, and all is well in the world.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hippie Stew for Two

When I lived alone in my Philadelphia bay window, I would host stew nights for friends, poor and not. There were also sometimes outfits and aprons involved. The stews were usually just giant pots of vegetarian hot mess, cobbled together from the reaches of my fridge—hey, with enough garlic and salt you can make anything taste good. I miss the close-quarters-love of stew night here in the Lonely Apple, so I decided to make a little stew for me and my main man.

Here’s the recipe:
1 large can of diced tomatoes (or 4 large tomatoes, diced)
1 can of chick peas, don’t drain them!
1 large carrot cut into circles, then into wedges
½ Vidalia onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
7 or so napa cabbage leaves, chopped into squares
2 zuchinni or summer squash, chopped into semicircles
2 pinches paprika
black pepper
1 small jalepeno chopped or 3 pinches red pepper flakes.

Sautee the onions, garlic and carrots until the onions are nice and soft; add spices about halfway through.
Add chick peas and tomatoes; stir!
Add zuchinni, cook until zuchinni look a bit translucent; add the cabbage squares; stir
Cook until cabbage is bright green (and white) and tender.

Serve with long grain brown rice. I mix wild rice into mine, but you don’t have to.


Can you tell my lunch was unsatisfying?


What's even better than stew night is when you come home to a house full of cooking smells and are shortly served a delicious pasta, cheese, fava beans and bacon thing by your honey. What's even, even better is when your long-time buddy is there too. Luckily for me that happened last night.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sunday is for...

Today we were doing some easy bike riding. We then decided to go down by the Hudson and relax, but neither I nor MM brought a book. So went to Housing Works Books and I lost my shit.

exhibit a) Like Son by Felicia Luna Lemus: I read about this when it came out from Akashic Books. Plus, how could you resist the Edward Weston portrait?
exhibit b) Slow Storm by Danica Novgordoff: I saw excerpts of this on the web somewhere and it stuck in my mind.
exhibit c) Science Fiction Cinema by Geoff King and Tanya Krzywinska: This was 70 cents, heavily underlined and bound to be a laff riot.
exhibit d) The Vet's Daughter by Barbara Comyns: It's NYRB and I'm no fool.
exhibit e) St. Lucy's Home for Girl's Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell: I heard it was good and enjoyed Russell's reading on the now RIP (?) KGB bar radio podcast.

Instead of heading to the river after dropping my 25 dollars, we went to a coffee shop and talked about serial killers and played Scrabble until the sun went down.

What did you do this Sunday?

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

links in space

A story about brothers, sisters and rampaging merfolk. Strange Horizons is the best.

"Starship trooper," eh?
(via fabulon)

Lauren Weinstein is interviewed over at inkstuds. I can't wait to listen to this. Did you read Goddess of War yet? Do it.

Monday, July 06, 2009

I have a new review over at inkstuds. This time I took a look at Prologue by Kenan.

Summer 09 Contest Winner: Sarah Egelman

Writer Sarah Egelman blogs at Citizen Beta. Her excellent, multi-subject blog came to my attention via her entry in tryharder's distracted, but not forgotten, buddy Moonlight Ambulette's Mr. Wong contest. I found this story to be dark and intriguing, the perfect reading for a steamy summer night. I wish it were much, much longer. Send me your address Sarah!

Police end funereal striptease acts

“It will make more sense in the light of day,” Robinson said, to no one in particular.

The other officers and detectives were already heading to their cars, shaking their heads as if trying to knock water out of their ears; not a soft shake but a brisk one. They hoped to shake themselves back to reality, to the world they recognized. Because strippers should be jiggly, they all thought, and lusty, if not peppy. They should be curvy and bendy with thick ropes of bright blond hair and tiny tattoos of hearts or strawberries on their butts. They might have track marks or acne or stretch marks or bruises but they should not act like those girls in there were acting.

Robinson was the only one intrigued, or perhaps aroused, but what they found in the club that night.

“It will make more sense...” he said again and he turned slowly toward his squad car. Very slowly because, he realized, he could've stayed in there, watching, forever.

Back at the station the girls were divided up and assigned to various cops for questioning and processing. Some of the officers treated them roughly, like common whores. Some acted indifferent and some openly horrified. The girls seemed patient, weary, a bit bored and mostly bothered by the sunlight as it came in the east facing windows. One absentmindedly picked at a maze-like scab that ran the length of her left forearm.

But Robinson was agitated and sweaty and felt there was no way he could do his job in this moment or perhaps at any time in the future because Robinson realized that everything had changed. Never would he see the world the same way; men, women, light and sound, movement and skin, blood and bone, life and death—it all took on new meaning after seeing what he saw. Maybe the others didn't see what he did, they must not have because was fruitless to speculate.

Robinson took his girl by the arm, her dark brown hair swung lightly down her back, over her shoulders. He took her arm and as he led her to his desk, his fingers tightly gripping her, tighter now, he willed her to look at him. Look look look, he silently chanted. Because, he thought toward her, I know what you know now. I have seen the fabric fall from your skin, the fabric fall from the machinery of the universe, I have seen the crude and terrible, the mournful and horrible striptease, and I have seen you sway to the funereal music that has rendered me deaf to all else.

The headlines only gave the barest facts: strip club, arrests, women of all ages and backgrounds, fines and possible jail time. But Robinson knew the whole truth. Yes, he knew the whole truth now.
Check out my review of Jin & Jam #1 by Hellen Jo over at inkstuds.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Today is the Day

Send those Summer 09 Contest entries in!

The task:
Turn this spam headline into something entertaining:
Police end funereal striptease acts.

The format:
Short story, comic, photo essay, pop tune, whatever, as long as it is bloggable

The prize:
A box of awesome from tryharderland sent straight to your door!

The deadline:

*Previous winners are not exempt this round, so make with the summer fun, folks.*

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

This issue of Conjunctions, with stories by Elizabeth Hand and Shelley Jackson, made me subscribe: "Postfantasy fictions that begin with the premise that the unfamiliar or liminal really constitutes a solid ground on which to walk."


I enjoyed Kate Beaton's Mystery Solving Teens even though she forgot the part where they make out.


Mouth-watering food-pornery at Last Night's Dinner. If you are the angry sort, you might call it yuppie-flavored, but I'm just going to enjoy it. Besides I am picking up from my CSA today and I don't want to be a hater just because my camera sucks.