Friday, April 27, 2007

My work sweater smells like bacon

Extreme procrastination has led me to read the entire internet over the last few days and now I realize it is time to write some letters, finish the kinda blah Patricia Highsmith book I am reading or just plain do some work. This kind of miserable drizzle always makes me want to work, or rather, to have worked and take time to bask in the product.

Last night I made some BEC sandwiches (think about it... and there!) and the apartment hasn't recovered. Neither has my stomach and I dreamt all night of San Francisco, Baltimore, gentrification, drunken mistakes of the losing-precious-possessions kind and thrift stores. And pirate kings. This could have been a result of the confluence of the aforementioned sandwiches and the pound of grapes I decided to consume with them before falling asleep in front of Dead Man.

But look away from my shame and onto:

Interviews are back
at millwhistle!
Gwyneth Jones doesn't say much under the guise of rapping about the SF in our real lives and reminds me of not liking her book which I really wanted to like!
Amy Ambulette has sex in one hour sometimes! (Do you like the way I sell it Amy? Do ya?)
The prog lady still hasn't posted anything new!

Also, for all you writerly, interviewerly people out there:
Please take a long look at Topic wearing its web suit. If this seems like something you would like to be a part of, email me at carrie.jones AT and we will talk. (The site requires a free sign up). If you know some younguns that want to exercise their chops, I am looking for a few good interns as well.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Nice weather signals not only time to get that helmet on and get on a bike, it is also time to sign up for a CSA.

Object Lesson

Saturday night a helmet saved my life. If B had not been wearing a helmet when he had a bike accident only a few blocks from our apartment, I would have likely expired from grief.

In the ambulance, my honey did not know how old he is. He did not know what landed him strapped to a gurney. He did not remember calling me to tell me he "fell off" his bike. Then shock set in and I couldn't warm him up.

The emergency room smelled like rotten fish and barf. Not the best way to spend a Saturday night.

B left the hospital with busted face and hands, and some (possibly) fractured ribs. Two days later he is back to his sharp self but in a lot of pain.

ALWAYS wear your helmet folks. No excuses.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Tonight I am going to this. I cannot imagine an entertainment that connects more of my interests: libraries, musicals (surprise!), obsessions, Philadelphia characters, books, comics (Ben Katchor did the libretto and projected illustrations), um, funny stuff...

THE ROSENBACH COMPANY: A Musical Story of Bibliomania is sold out according to the nypl site, but "tickets may be available at the door." So coy!

ETA: this was totally kick ass. the only downside was that the lyrics were occasionally hard to hear. see it somewhere if you can.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

In 1994, David Bowie called his own mind "sponge-like," and Joni Mitchell recommended Kipling. Fascinating.

(Via Return of the Reluctant)
My taxes are done. I hope yours are too.

I have been trolling all over the booky internet for the last few hours and I must say I feel a bit defeated, a little shrunken in the brain. With all my attempts to narrow my focus and work harder on fewer things, I seem to be missing out on a lot of fun and interesting thoughts. To make matters worse, my efforts do not seem to be producing much in the way of results. I still feel as stressed, scattered and one-step-behind as usual. In fact, I feel like this in more aspects of my life than usual. It feels bad. What do you do when doing what you do feels bad?

Last night I watched a NOVA special on "The First Flower." It was really very visually beautiful and I learned a bit about China and angry paleobotanists while watching it. The best part were all the interior shots of Kew Gardens' buildings, all ornate ironwork and big windows. The last time I was there I really enjoyed myself. The melancholy of a place that is meant to take you far away from another place, a place for whatever reason you can't leave, appeals to me. During my visit some of the glasshouses were being worked on and the workers seemed to take great care with what they were doing, unlike the grubby, glassy-eyed construction guys I see around here. My father and I spoke with one of them for a while. He seemed so perfectly balanced and sensitive beneath all his denim that it was like he sprang from the pages of a bad novel about middle-agers finding love... for the second time.

Sometimes I wonder what my neighbors think of me when they see me squatting around in my garden, stirring compost and molesting my plants. Do they think of chick lit? I hope not.

I just started reading H20 by Mark Swartz and enjoying it. I don't have much of a grasp what it is about yet. It was sent to me with the idea that it was SF-y back catalog stuff from Soft Skull press. Last night I finished the other book in that package and brought it with me to the bar where my boy's band was playing. I ended up talking to a group that liked SF and one of the people said that he had brought two SF books along with him to the bar. After I showed him mine, he wouldn't show me his. It was lame. Obviously there was going to be no fun made. He did recommend someone named Dan Simons though. Anyone know anything about him?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Thanks for the thoughts I never would have on my own.

I have been very busy doing non-blog things. Mostly emailing and editing and emailing and pacing and emailing and drinking tea, but sometimes putting labels on things. I am in a tizzy.

In the midle of this tizzy of practicality, it is hard for me to express my thoughts about the death of Kurt Vonnegut. I will try soon. B was a little suprised that I ws upset when I heard the news; he was under the impression that I didn't really like Vonnegut's books. For me, "liking" his stuff... well. it is not that simple.

Though RIPs are a part of life, I am always sad to write those three letters again.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow

The gloomy, cold rain reminds me that just a few weeks ago I was in sunny Menlo Park, hanging with my grandmother and eating salad. In Menlo, there is a sweet paperback bookstore that I always stop at during one of my many visiting-grandmother-walks. This place has a dollar bin with Kathy Acker and Emmanuel Carrere right in there with Anne Rice books!

Instead of being smart and buying a dollar bin book, I went deeper into the store and looked over the SF section. Mixed in with a wall of Asimovs, Brins, Cherryhs and other things I don’t read was Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow. It had an inoffensive cover and I had been meaning to read something by Doctorow for a while. I paid my four American dollars plus CA tax and left.

I finished DOMG in a matter of hours. It is only 200 or so pages and the type in my edition was term paper huge. Once I got to the middle of this quickly paced story, I just wanted it to end.

DOMG is about a future world where people never die. Instead of living out the >100 years that we presently have and just dying already, the people in Doctorow’s book download their memories when convenient and have it uploaded to a clone whenever they feel old. Jules, the main character, has died a number of times. In his various lives he’s been married, divorced, fucked in space and drunk on Earth. He is also a bit of a sad sack. Jules’ lameness did not provide depth to his character as it seems to be suggested that such crappy decisions and circumstances, (and the shout out to Orwell’s hard luck memoir in the title), should. Not only is Jules flat, but so is every character, which made the breakneck speed of the plot even harder to take.

The whole Disney World thing left me cold as well. Maybe because I don’t like Disney World? No, even I could get into the idea of a society of “ad-hocs” that live in the theme park and care take centuries-old rides, living the meritocracy dream in sunny Florida. It’s just that though Doctorow brings up a zillion things to ponder (what kind of society would occur when there is no fear of death? What would living in space be like for an Earthling? How will idealism be expressed in a time without a future?), he doesn’t explore any of them deeply enough for it not to matter that his characters suck.

Also, the drug of choice among Doctorow’s futureinos, casually used like chewing gum, is crack.

DOMG is not a horrible book, merely an easily forgotten one. It was Doctorow’s first novel, so I want to give him another try and see if his later work delivers what all the ideas in DOMG promise.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Carnival of Green is going on at sludgie. See, I knew that people who love the earth were sexier...


Reading this by Condalmo reminded me of two things:

1) Maybe it is a shame that I don’t read Murakami anymore. Sputnik Sweetheart and many of the After the Quake stories just didn’t do anything for me. Occasionally I would read something of his from the New Yorker and it was the same thing: everything good about the writing was an echo from books past, but made much duller my Murakami’s insistence on not aging his nameless, often befuddled protagonists as he ages. They just stay in an ever more idealized 30s, still obsessed with order, ordinariness, amelioration, ladies, etc, but with an increasingly lack of urgency. Perhaps After Dark is different.

2) Book covers are quite important to me. As almost any genre reader will tell you, it is hard to defend your own taste and intelligence when you are more than occasionally spotted reading a book with a soaring spaceship/green alien/huge-breasted woman in the clutches of a green alien on the cover. My recent utter intimacy with Matthew Sharpe’s Jamestown has left me plenty of moments to ponder the cover designed by Goodloe Byron. I think it works perfectly for the story and is good-looking in its own right, if you like apocalyptic settings or maps or BOTH.
PS>the cover featured on the Soft Skull site is only similar to what's on the front cover of the hardback.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Half Life by Shelley Jackson

After a heavy fine and a few sharp whacks from the librarian’s belt, I released Half Life back into the New York Public Library system only slightly worn. I did not want to return it, mostly because it demanded another read (even after one and a half), but also so I could scoop some quotes for yall so you could have a little taste of heaven.

Heaven for me is this wildly imagined book about a two-headed lady named Nora and Blanche. They are twins and share everything but their heads. The thing is, Blanche opted out of consciousness a while back and Nora isn’t doing so well, even immersed in the borderline-smotheringly welcoming arms of a re-imagined San Francisco. In Half Life’s world, man created a population of Siamese twins by fiddling with atoms and twins created a constant, unappreciated reminder of hubris.

Jackson uses the twins to show us the baldest depiction of how desire can mangle love. She has Nora’s quest for self-hood (aloneness) mirror the struggle of every lady I know—how can I be truly me? Who am I? How can I get where I want to be? When will all this bullshit end? Nora herself is like a triple-barricaded version of everyone who laughs at the party line, tells the “welcoming arms” to fuck off and yet seeks the very comfort pride parades and twin hags offer others. Yes, twin hags—Jackson takes the rainbow flag and sees a noose in it, but shows us all the imperfections of being out and extremely proud in inventive, hilarious and deeply satisfying ways. Reading her version of a press release for a twin film fest, as well as her other entries from Nora’s festering scrapbook of twin-related media, is like biting into the juiciest poison apple given by the sexiest witch.

And then there is sex. Half Life pulsates with eroticism even as it plunges into deeply disturbing territory. Part of this is that so much of this book has to do with bodies, what they mean, how they shape who we are, how they can limit or free us. (She seems to be comfortable in the body. Besides her skin project, her first collection of short stories, The melancholy of anatomy, is based around the four humors.) Jackson doesn’t shy away from gore (like when she describes the “museum” Nora and Blanche make up with decaying desert animals as children), but she somehow makes event he most disgusting eruption seem necessary and part of a larger thing. She gives us sex that is life defining and urgent and sex that is lonely. In short, she gives us real sex clothed in an alternate-present two-necked sweater.

The bondage of women is present everywhere in this book from Nora trapped in the body of an unwanted twin to a caged girl held in the ceiling of a trailer while a normal life goes on under her. She seems to say that no woman escapes all the traps that this world sets, but even so, this confinement is not natural and it is not good. I like a read that makes me think about gender but doesn’t tell me what to think. And doesn’t bore or insult me. Rare? Yes, but that is another post.

This book is full of things to think about and little pockets to get lost in. Jackson’s whole take on America’s purposeful forgetting of atomic weapon use (with ridiculous, yet familiar methods) could have been a book itself (I see a more twisted and fantastic, and maybe better (!) OPRH).

The end was nice and open unlike a lot of wacky books. Like, “well kids, I’ve had a lot of fun showing you my chops and my craaaaaaazy writerly craaaaaziness, but let’s tie this up.” I hate that, as satisfying as it sometimes is, especially when a book was total crap. Some people might see the end as a bit of a cop out, but you’ll have to read it to be allowed to think that, won’t you?