Monday, March 02, 2009

Davo's Moving !

Folks, Blogger has been nice--

But I need to know more about this blogging thing, and wordpress seems to be the place for me. Please update your links, all! I'll be sending other bloggers my new address, which is--

See you there!!! The blog is up--minus the additional links, which I'll be adding tonight.

photo: 12th Street Bridge, Indianapolis, late 40s. Photo at Indiana Hist. Soc.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Felix Feneon--A Series of Unfortunate Events

In trolling through Half Price Books today (where I overheard someone looking for where the Paramilitary Romance section was--quoi??) I found a long-lost novel recently resuscitated by NYRB, who have a fantastic series of high-quality unjustifiably obscure novels. Feneon, who carefully avoided the limelight, compiled this experimental book, called Novels in Three Lines, from anonymous bits of reportage from newspapers of France in 1906, The result sounds like a series of unrealized Edward Gorey captions ranging from the tragic to the bemusing, most in the out-of-date passive voice:

"Napoleon Gallieni, a stonecutter, broke his neck falling down the stairs. He may have been pushed. In any case, he was taken to the morgue.

The sinister prowler seen by the mechanic Gicquel near Herblay train station has been identified: Jules Menard, snail collector.

There was a gas explosion at the home of Larrieux, in Bordeaux. He was injured. His mother-in-law's hair caught on fire. The ceiling caved in.

In the vicinity of Noisy-sur-Ecole, M. Louis Delillieau, 70, dropped dead of sunstroke. Quickly his dog Fido ate his head.

Catherine Rosello of Toulon, mother of four, got out of the way of a freight train. She was then run over by a passenger train.

A ruling by the mayor of Angers concerning parades forbids union banners, songs not of a liturgical order, and canes.

And finally:

Eugene Perichot, of Pailles, near Saint-Maixent, entertained at his home Mme Lemartrier. Eugene Dupuis came to fetch her. They killed him. Love.

Novels in Three Lines by Felix Feneon. NYRB Books, ISBN 978-1-59017-230-8

Monday, February 23, 2009

Boycotting McDonald's...

...for the following reason. I can do my writing elsewhere.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Two Questions, or, Heaven Can Be Yours, Inc.

Today I had scheduled a field trip for my composition class, based somewhat on my McDonalds espionage experiment. I gave my students various roles that they were to assume before we went to the Student Union food court to do our field research.

Once we got there, a table had been set up by some religious group, touting that "Two questions" will let you know whether or not you will go to Heaven. Their table was covered with various swag items--CDs, stickers, the usual promotional crap. I set my students loose, letting them know that I'll be checking to see how they're doing. I pass by the table again and this rather aryan-looking kid with a clipboard finds it his business to ask whether I believe I'll be going to Heaven. I look down at his wipeable-laminated poison green questionnaire and see that the possible answers are:
[]I Think So
[]I'm not sure

I try to see what the second question is, but he notices that I'm looking and cradles the clipboard closer, much to the potential detriment of his shirt, considering the marker residue. I never am asked the second question. Before I turn around, I see that one of my more attention-challenged students has been snagged. Five minutes later, she is still there, with the guy on the flipside of the laminated questionnaire (as there are more than two questions, naturally), and he is sweeping his hand over the table of swag. I go up and remind my student that she is here to do research, not to talk. "But I am doing research," she says. I reminded her that one of the strict prohibitions of the project was not to talk to the people in the Union. Notes and observations only. I had to state explicitly that she was there on my time and that she needed to get to what the project required. There were distinctly non-Christian looks from those that ran the table.
Honestly, I find it insulting that three undergraduates behind a folding table claim to have such grand powers to confirm whether or not one will be going to [their] heaven, and combining it with some prefab way of gleaning personal information and email addresses for marketing/proselytizing. I wanted to go back and tell them that explicitly. I was especially irritated that they were targeting my non-eating students in the food court. I patrolled the area with my own clipboard, looking to move the students onward to the seating areas so they could actually get material for decent essays for Tuesday.
And only those that go to Heaven get a sticker.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

AWP Fallout

Whew. I'm tired. I'd post pix of the convention, but my camera appears to be broken. The bookfair, with its great crowds and constant activity, was often like a football scrum in a library, but in the fray certain recognizable faces were seen: Lucille Clifton, Mark Doty (who signed two of my books), Hilda Raz (whose new book I'll be reviewing soon), Craig Arnold (with a quick L. A. hug before running down the sidewalk), Marianne Boruch, G. C. Waldrep, and others. I picked up quite a few books (and one stalker). Among the great finds was a Turkish novel, some wonderfully printed articles from Ugly Duckling Presse (who print wonderful wonderful things), and a lot of new and exciting literary journals. I'm glad I'm out of the car. Biggest thanks and enormous gratitude to Rebekah and Tadd, who were wonderful hosts, right down to the fantastic navigation packets!

I'll type more fun and frivolity after I've had a bit of sleep...

Sunday, February 08, 2009

More Henry James

In light of what we've been through for the last eight years, I bring forth yet more Henry James:

From his 1892 story, "Collaboration":

"In art there are no countries--no idiotic nationalities, no frontiers, nor douanes, nor still more idiotic fortresses and bayonets. It has the unspeakable beauty of being the region in which those abominations cease, the medium in which such vulgarities simply can't live. What therefore are we to say of the brutes who wish to drag them all in--to crush to death with them all the flowers of such a garden, to shut out all the light of such a sky?"

Speaking of art, I'm off with most of the other writers I know to AWP, thus a rather sporadic blogging schedule, due to radically increased lecture and celebrity intake.I'll try to post pix of folks and scenes I run in to.

Pic, taken by Davo, is not of a James book, but rather of Heimito von Doderer's novel The Demons.

My Summer of Many Words

Henry James stood for me, back when I was an under-graduate, as the height of nothing doing. We were assigned The Portrait of a Lady and I think I got to the 45th page before putting the book down and devoting my time to other things. Looking back on that as a current college instructor, I can imagine the challenges of discussing the merits of such a novel with students like me. It's a big leap to change from discussing the "what's happening" of plot, to the deeper elements of "what are they thinking" or "why are they thinking this." As one of those students, I refused to open that book and nodded in agreement eagerly whenever the professor made a point, hoping to show by this nodding that I not only was paying attention, but that I had actually read the novel in question.

Seven years later, having been in a Corporate job for some time, I actually found myself thinking quite a bit in that grey cubicle, much like Isabel did staring at the fireplace. I turned to difficult and enormous novels to keep my mind from reducing to unappealing elements, like iceberg lettuce left in its plastic bag too long.

Everyone should have a Henry James summer. His sentences are never-ending, sure, but after a while, I found myself going along like a big ship cuts along through water. It took a while to get to speed. Once there, I was never unaware of the constant friction of so many words, but, like the water, all of it was necessary to support the hull.

His character names are occasionally hilarious (who today would have the chutzpah to name a main character, as in "The Wheel of Time," Fanny Knocker?). He's also the master of the artificial problem, such as finding a sealed envelope in "Sir Dominick Ferrand" where they want to know what the papers are, but in order to do so, they'd have to break the seal. So the characters sit and think on it.

It's perhaps from this summer that I got my longer-than-usual sentence length. I lay the blame on James.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Beat Gloor: from "How Are You?"


5. Do you live in the past, the present, or the future?
14. Do children have the right to expect their parents to have a functioning relationship? Until what age?
23. What unites you with others: similarities or differences?
28. Where and when do you have your best ideas?
32: How do you judge others? By their looks or by the way they move? By what they say, what they have achieved, or by their courage?
34: What are you most afraid of? Are you guided by your fear?
40: If you could clone yourself, how would you divide up your life?
55: How do you feel when you are not telling the truth?
58. Would you be happy if certain people were killed? How many do you have in mind?
62: Can two people remain together for the rest of their lives?
65: Would you like to be able to look into the future? Would you do so?
66: Does solitude make one strong or weak?
67: Are you strong? For what?

Translated byGeoffrey Winthrop-Young

Beat Gloor lives in Baden.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Acte Prealable, or, A Mighty Cold Day, Warmed by Music

It got down to -15 or so last night here, but I was warmed by anticipation--my postman left a note on my door informing me that a package was waiting for me at the post office. I bundled up this morning and walked there, breathing the metal-tasting air.

It was a bundle of CDs from Poland, a lovely New Year's present from Jan Jarnicki, the owner of the wonderful classical music label Acte Prealable. He sent me an email a month or so ago wishing me Holiday greetings and it was very nice of him to send this package along. My aquaintance with the label began back in 2005 with a shipment of review discs and the Elzbieta Sternlicht's wonderful performance of the intriguing piano works of Jozef Koffler and the also criminally under-appreciated piano pieces of Felix Mendelssohn's sister, Fanny.

Of the discs in this new packet, the only one I've had much of a chance to listen to is by not-yet-thirty-year-old Tomasz Kamieniak, who performs a selection of his own piano pieces, one of which was completed only this past year. The pieces are generally quiet and meditative, with elements of Philip Glass and Mompou. His Book of Illusions calls Schumann immediately to mind, in that three of the movements bear the title of "Sphinx," the customarily unplayed sections of Schumann's Carnaval that, spelled out in notes, contain Schumann's name and that of the hometown of his fiancee at the time.

Another of the discs features work by another young composer, Marcin Kopczynski, born in 1973. Many of these are piano pieces, performed by the composer, but we have guitar works, as well as pieces for piano and voice. This music, based on a brief casual listen, has more of an intellectual remove, closer to Mompou than Kamieniak is, but this could only be true of the first two piano pieces on the disc.

I was really glad to see the latest disc of Romuald Twardowski's works to be released by Acte Prealable. Reviewing discs has introduced me to quite a few active composers and Twardowski is among my favorites. His piano concertos have loads of vitality and movement, and his first piano concerto--as well as his concerto for violin--are included here. I've been listening to this disc as I'm typing this and this one is going to be fun to hear more of.

Theodor Leschetizky is a composer I don't know at all, but he was quite famous in his day, especially as a teacher, caving instructed--so the liner notes say--over 1200 pianists, including the handsome and wild-haired Ignacy Paderewski (composer and then Prime Minister of Poland), Artur Schnabel, and famous one-armed pianist Paul Wittgenstein (before he lost the arm in WWI). In an unusual move, there is a bonus track performed by Leschetizky himself, though he died in 1915--it is a restored recording of the composer reciting his artistic credo, transferred from an Edison cylinder recorded 102 years ago--almost to the day--on January 17, 1907. Speaking of cylinders, there is a wonderful website out there dedicated to the restoration and dissemination of ancient recordings well worth checking out--the Cylinder Preservation and Digitalization Project website--linked here.

Stay warm, everyone!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Has This Sort of Thing...

...ever happened to you?

The students are all coming back to college this week, you know. And I'm sure I'm not the only grad student who's had a student stagger in with the word "ASS-POKE" Sharpie-markered on his forehead.

--"Never be Alone" by Justice.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Arches of Gold, continued

At lunch (McChicken, Diet Coke). I'm working on semester plans--lessons, sequence of readings, which activities to do.
A woman, stringy-haired, 40-ish and not holding it well, pushes a stroller in through the side door, orders her food, finds her seat in a booth halfway across the restaurant. The employee who does the fries, with the shiny Billy Dee Williams/Rick James Jheri-curl, is out wiping tables. He, as he did over the summer, feels compelled to chat up the customers, but talks so quickly, and with such abrupt pauses, that people can't respond to all he says and often don't say much at all.

"Oh hitherewhat abeautifulbabyHiThere!Prettybabyyour Babyis gettinbig!" He says to the greasy-haired woman.

"He's an asshole." the woman says.
"Oh nonono, don'tsay that. He's beautifulbeautiful. Don't say that."
The woman swallows some burger. "Oh yes he is," she says, serious, yet singsong, "A lit-tle ass-hole."
The fry-guy has the rag twisted around both of his hands. "He's such a pretty baby. Don't say that."
"He's definitely a Junior."
"s'That so..."
"An ugly little asshole." The woman is nibbling on a fry, looking sideways at the three-month old in the stroller. The fry-guy, not sure what else to say, moves to other tables to wipe down. The woman, in rather grave baby-tones and with a mouth half filled with fries, leans to the stroller, "Yes, I'm talking about you. Yes I am. And your daddy too." Her voice raises in pitch with each last word: "I'm talking about you."

She turns back to her burger and the baby makes a slight noise. She chews. Rolls her eyes once. The baby makes another chirp. "You gonna cry? You gonna cry?" she says, again with that slight lilt that hints at baby-talk, but all dead serious, "You're workin' on it. All depends on how loud, that's what you're thinkin' of. You're working on it, I know." She doesn't move toward the child, continues to chew at her burger, both elbows against the edge of the table.
A more irritated noise comes from the baby. "Wonderful," she says, still chewing, "just wonderful."

After a bit, she finishes with her food, leans over to pick up the baby. Come ere, little asshole, she says, almost melodically enough to cover the malice. As she dandles the baby at the table, she sings him a sort of song:
Lo-ser. Lo-ser. You're a Lo-ser.
My mommy says 'you're a lo-ser.'
My mommy says. My mommy says,
Mommy says 'let's go see papa.'
Lo-ser. Lo-ser. Lo-ser...

She leaves before I do, by some five minutes. As I'm walking home, I see her about a block or so off, wanting to cross 10th. She does, halfway, then continues on her way for about a half-block, pushing the stroller right down the double yellow line in the middle of afternoon traffic, past two police cars. I see their brake lights and she loops back to the sidewalk, pushing doggedly to the bus stop.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Happy New Year, Folks!

For all, I wish, in spite of odds, a happy 2009. For Holly, I wish her throat gets better right quick. For Kristen, I wish her ease in dissertation-writing, for my sister I hope for correct usage of toys and various huggy-buggy books in her household, for E&E I wish happiness even though your Thompson guy didn't win, for Mom I wish a great big raise. for Jeff I wish a move soon from the snowy tundra of Seattle to fairer climes for job and pocketbook. To my fellow MFAs, I wish you ease in publication. For my recently-evicted neighbors, I wish you a family reunion sooner than you expected after your Christmas-weekend move. For Michelle and Craig I wish all happiness.

Happy New Year, all, we all have something to learn--and for the CEOs of America's auto industry, I wish you all well behind me in line for a new job.