Thursday, April 27, 2006

Newsflash from the temp world

I am extending the watershed poll until May 1st for all the stragglers and newbies. Thanks guys! The answers so far are pretty interesting...

Pass it along.

And hi Francis! Francis is one funny motherfucker, plus he loves his Mother Earth.

Monday, April 24, 2006

only 3 more days

for the dudes to bare their literary hearts... See the sidebar and comment away.

No, seriously, DO IT!

book 21: My Happy Life by Lydia Millet

(out of order, but you'll just have to wait for book 20...)

Since I had to wait so damn long to get my hands on a library copy of Oh Pure and Radiant Heart, I decided to see what other books by Lydia Millet were getting dusty on the NYPL's shelves. Enter My Happy Life, the story of the least happy life I have read written in such a hopeful yet hilarious tone.

The main character narrates her life from the confines of a mental hospital, which we soon find out has been abandoned by its staff and inmates. Where and why we don't know, but it doesn't really matter. The real story here is how this woman ended up eating toothpaste and taking cold showers in her whitewalled cell, when she has such a great descriptive gift and a fine attitude about the fickleness of fate. Hee ha ho, the irony-- but wait, this book is actually quite good.

Each chapter is titled with the name of one of the objects that the main character has gathered in her life that represent the time and place of its capture. This simple device is beautifully employed by Millet, and gives a real resonance to a metaphor that could have gotten worn out with a quickness in a more heavy-handed writer's hands.

Millet's greatest feat is her ability to carry a whole novel in the first person. The main character's voice is always strong and individual. The details come through organically, never causing the kind of fucked up narrator to have to notice more than she should.

There is a lot of violence and abuse in My Happy Life, but the tale coming from the mouth of the narrator is one of a person with great limitations making their way in a hostile and degrading world full of darkness, finding a path only through some kind of internal light. I found all kinds of situations to identify with in MHL-- mostly the narrator's ghostly feelings of lonliness and loss, and the way thoughts come without warning (Millet does a great thing when she has this character talk about the different qualities of different kinds of memories). I am glad that Millet presented them in a way that made me laugh, made me proud for my past selves and everyone else who has struggled not to break under the strain of living in an absurdly alien society, and let me jump of from her character's intensely bizarre existence into deliciously sustaining reveries.

Yes, I said reveries. All smart ladies have them, you know, even tough ones.

* ETA: sorry Lydia, for calling you Linda for so long

Friday, April 21, 2006

just autograph right here

Here's what a few of my boyfriends look like from kinda far away.

Hee hee.

Monday, April 17, 2006

if you live in nyc

You'll have to ride the rocketship.

This seriously the best comics store around. Enjoy!

Friday, April 14, 2006

reading nyrb

I want to read this right now!

I am actually reading this right now, and I want to marry those crazy Granta nyrb folks!

Holy crap! Where's my credit card?

Absofucking addictive!

book 19: Lives of the Monster Dogs by Kirsten Bakis

I went to the Strand recently and while I was there I wanted to see if Kirsten Bakis had any other books I could buy at the not-quite-low-enough-but-who-cares-it's-right-here Strand prices. What I saw were seven or so copies of Lives of the Monster Dogs.

I was vindicated, it seems. You see, LMS was fun to read, but it wasn't that good. The plot had everything going for it: monsters with a mysterious origin and lots of money, a smart, young female narrator, New York in the near-future, diary entries of a mad creator, etc..

But it was flimsy. I enjoyed reading the diary entries and the analysis of the dogs origins by a dog researcher, but the plot and the protestations of the human narrator were annoying and just not fine enough for this book to transend the SF/horror ghetto. It was a good bathroom book.

I would like to read more by Bakis. This was her first novel,first novels are always a little uneven (or most of the time-- don't email me!), and I'd love to see what she turns her imagination to next.

book 18: A Changed Man by Francine Prose

With all that hoo ha about the watershed, I forgot to write about A Changed Man. Too bad for you guys, because the insights I had and the pretty words I strung together in my mind have all but drifted away. Lesson: procrastination is not good for reviews.

A Changed Man
was excellent. I found it at a library sale for a dollar, in hardback, and read it in fits and starts until I finally got the time to just sink into the story. The plot follows youn(ish) Vince, a broke-ass neo-Nazi who had a revelation about the world while rolling (that's taking ecstacy for all you lucky people who did not grow up with peers who thought going to raves was where it's at). He steals his trashy cousin's pickup, a thousand dollars and a bag of abusable prescriptions and drives to NYC. When he appears in the office of Meyer Maslow, a Holocaust survior who runs a non-profit that tries to better the world, his arrvial is taken as a miracle-- one that could bolster the rep and gala ticket sales of the venerable, but struggling org. A divorced woman and her two young sons get thrown into the mess too, and the way their lives change is not dramatic, but very important.

What Prose excells in in this novel is excavating the desires, motivations and pasts of four very different characters in the thrall of a pretty fine-tuned plot. What she also does is show us what they are thinking as they are thinking it, a technique almost impossible to make interesting and fluid, and she does it amazingly well. The character's voices are very strong and very true, so much so that I felt transported as each chapter switched POV.

Prose also manages to comment on New York, the Holocaust as an industry and survivor's guilt in a way that seems fresh and thoughtful at the same time. She has an amazing grasp of what drives divorce, greed and complacency. She writes in the voice of a 15 year old boy as well as she does a 40-something woman. Her take on non-profit work is extremely nuanced and will be interesting to anyone who has every worked for or with an institution with "vision."

Oh, and it's funny too.

Read it now.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Mens all in a Watershed

***Edited again to add: I'm going to close this on April 27th, after which I will post a highly scientific report on my findings. So, comment and be a part of the arbitrary-arity!

***Edited to add: Seriously? Nobody besides Matt wants to be a part of this highly important poll?
I may have just lost my faith in the internets... or maybe no guys read this.

According to this (via Bookslut), a informal study by the Guardian, men are only touched by boring, crappy books written by other men. Women, on the other hand, like a wider variety of mostly boring books, pooped out by both genders.

I have a feeling most of the guys I know would say they had a watershed moment after reading Neuromancer or Mao's Little Red Book. Well, they probably wouldn't say "watershed".

So men in tryharderland, what would you say? The comments are open to you.

Hi, I'm Carrie

And I'm an alcoholic, but for books. [apologies to AA and The Onion]

After a Daylight Savings-thwarted trip to Skyline Books near Union Square, my friend Dave and I went to the Strand, even though I begged poverty during our coffee date. Luckily Dave is generous and I have a credit card. I was going to look for some comics, mostly anything by Phoebe Gloeckner, suggested to me by Mary, my new booger pal. She is a lightening linker, and loves the life as far as I can tell.

Instead Dave and I combed the dollar racks and finding nothing, I hunched and squatted to find some paperback fiction. This is what I chose, with my rationalizations for spending the money:

1) The Bad Seed by William March
Rationalization: I loved the movie and it was only $5. Wait, "only $5"? Obviously, I was high on book mold and soy milk.

2)Bigfoot Dreams by Francine Prose
Rationalization: I am on a Prose kick. It is hardback and unavailable from the library. And I love the title. I think I've had that dream, but instead of bigfoot it was Bill Clinton.

3)I am not Jackson Pollock by John Haskell
Rationalization: I see this Haskell character everywhere. He must be good, right? Also the stories contained are about movies, art, and literature and I am always looking for a twisted take on sacred cows. Plus, I almost typed Polack, and that's fun.

4)Great Granny Webster by Caroline Blackwood
Rationalization: the cover is great. I have been wanting to read by this publisher for awhile. Now I can.

Any thoughts on these? I would love to have my decision justified by my rational and unbiased readers.

***Edited to add: here is a Bookslut article on nybr, and it looks like I picked a good novella to start with.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

april clicks

Head over to Bookslut and read my reviews. Read everything else too.

Also, don't email me about the typos. I know, and I will get around to fixing them soon.

Also, also, someone get me a fucking job [that pays]!

when you think of metalheads, tell me, what comes to mind...

... maybe stonewashed jeans, a mullet, a guy who's evolutionarily one step behind- Atom & His Package

I love you Atom, but maybe you were wrong.

Or, maybe not.

(via Bookslut Blog)
***edited to fix links

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

capitals aren't always capital

This person should be kept away from library fundraisers at all costs. Though her point (the only one I can understand) about the economical sense of using the library is good, SHE SEEMS CRAZY. FOR REALS!

on writing letters, a prayer of sorts

I got a letter from a friend of mine yesterday. We met in college during a terrible time in my life, and he was generous with rides home and, most importantly, his ear. We took a fiction writing for journalism majors that was even worse than that sounds. Each class was an exercise in restraint for us, and we often did our critiques together in a Polish restaurant far from campus (and really, far from anywhere). We continued our friendship through letters, mostly some shit about our lives and then pages on the books we read. I found out from his most recent letter that he reads this blog. Leave a comment, Matt!

I still write to him about books, and life, and my letters to him (and others) remain an important part of my writing life. I truly don't understand why more people don't write letters. Even with email and all that, there is nothing like getting some pages, written by a friend, that is in their unique hand and voice. You know that they spent time thinking only of you, thinking of how to shape the day or week's events for you. That kind of focus is amazing, and the transmission of it feels so good.

I am far from most of my friends. The letters thay send makes me feel a connection to them that doesn't replace seeing them, but it enhances our relationships nevertheless. I have letters going years back, some from people who I don't talk to anymore because our face-to-face relationship failed, or they died. When I see those letters, I know I was cared for deeply, even if that time is gone. It doesn't really feel like a loss. When I read old lettters (rarely), I get a pleasant whiff of my former self. I hope that when (if) they look back into their shoe boxes and dusty stacks of crap, they know that they were thought of carefully, deeply too.

When I am dead, the letters will remain. I want my grandchildren to know me. I want my friend's kids to know me. When the people I know (grandparents, parents, aunts) die, I hope that my letters to them, the letters in which I try to transmit my care of them when talking is too difficult, are seen. My father has requested that I read his letters (keot in a safety deposit box) when he dies. He wants me to burn them after, but I doubt I'll do that. Sorry Dad! Seeing my own letters to my brother, which he kept and I hope looked at often, while going through his stuff after he died, made me feel a tiny slice of peace. he knew i loved him and thought of him often. He died feeling loved. That is all I can hold on to, and my letters to him, my version of events crafted for him tell me that now that he can't.

So, write letters, because there will always be a past. Give yourself and the people you care about something to hold onto.

book 16: Counting Heads by David Marusek

This book has gotten alot of press, mostly from the unfortunate NYT Book Review Column. Despite what you my have read, this book is all around fantastic. Every sentence belongs, which is a hard task in a full-length novel.

Counting Heads
is set in a far future, where humans have discovered the key to immortality, clones are used to satisfy the whims of the rich, and various cooperative communities have risen and fallen to sustain the poor. The main character is a man born before immortality. He adjusts, as all the rich do, and his artistic life flourishes and falters. When he is marginalized by an attack on his politically promininent lover, he ages, with all that entails in his society. His story entwines with that of a clone that begins to questions the "genetic" emotions and behavior of his race, the russes, cloned from a Secret Service agent who gave his life for a president.

Counting Heads has everything, really. The world is fully imagined, there is cool new tech, there is love and sex and there is an absence of annoying "space" lingo, or whatever, that makes a crappy novel much crappier. The characters are full and complex people that fit into the tiers of society that Marusek has created in a way that illuminates that society and also makes it feel organic.

Read it, my friends, especially if you love the SF. If you don't, this might be a gateway book for you.

book 17:Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by JK Rowling

I went to my friend's house in Philly a while ago. He and I have a long history, and when I looked on his shelves, I found a bunch of my own books, some of which he came by inexplicibly. I filled a bag with those and he told me, in his sleepy, fatalistic way, that I could take whatever else I wanted. I guess I wanted the new Harry Potter.

I tend to read children's books when I am stressed out. I read the second HP while in the hospital for extreme abdominal pain (unexplained), the one before this one on an airplane, and the others I don't remember, but I am sure that I read them during times rife with tension.

Children's books have the power to make me feel at peace with whatever comes, even if the good guys don't always win. It is a precious feeling, even if it sometimes comes from retarded places.

Anyway, in HP some stuff happens, there is magic and danger and all that. The mystery was less interesting than the earlier ones, but still good enough. Then it ended.

The thought I was left with after the Half-Blood Prince was this: Where are the gay witches and wizards? It's not like JK really needs to be worrying about pissing off the fundamentalists any more than she already has...