Today, when I signed in to my Gmail account after having signed out, earlier, something I rarely do, Gmail sent me to a page where it asked me for my phone number to enable more security for my account. I’d like to provide the exact wording of the request but I’ve failed to replicate the process, even though I’ve tried several times. In any case, I’d declined and skipped directly to my email.
Later, still annoyed by Gmail’s asking to me to provide my telephone number, I posted the following on Facebook:
And so today I find another unadventurous fiction longlist from the National Book Awards: not a single book from an independent press. Ridiculous! Good to see George Saunders’s Tenth of December on there, though. I taught it at Brown last spring and was impressed by its varied innovative approaches, sardonic tonalities, and embedded poignancies. I’m not much for literary art as competitive sport these days but I’d love to see Tenth of December awarded the prize, not only because its literary merit marks it as “deserving,” but because Saunders will undoubtedly give the best speech, that is, unless Thomas Pynchon’s Bleeding Edge wins and the Pynch sends Russell Brand to accept the award.
Here’s the introduction I delivered before Michael Leong’s reading at Brown University’s Literary Arts Department’s Demitasse on April 3, 2013:
In e.s.p., Michael Leong drafts a kind of architectonics of the page. By architectonics, I mean devices that reveal an overt consciousness of language’s status as language, words as building blocks, in which their form and shape and how they sit on the page and divide the surface plane are integral to their meaning. Though Leong’s poems often revel in the tactile aspects of words and letters, how sentences can visually suggest various structures, e.s.p. is no cold blueprint. Leong’s angular phrases, spiky forms, and playful compositions cavort within their spaces, prick consciousness as much as jar us from our sluggish thinking, and more importantly, rouse great feeling.
Here’s the introduction I delivered before John Domini’s reading at Brown University’s Literary Arts Department’s Demitasse on March 21, 2013:
Don DeLillo once characterized his work as a series of reflections about “men in small rooms.” Like those desperate men, vacillating between doubt and action, navigating between the elusive and the allusive, the characters in Domini’s Bedlam also find themselves in these selfsame rooms, like the cold anonymity of motel rooms found in “Over 4000 Square Miles,” a fiction positing representation as transgression, where a battle-fatigued soldier, fueled on cannabis and no small amount of hubris, if not outright fear, visits an in-progress reenactment-for-television of his famed escape from the enemy, and ends up entering the Everglades, intending to wrestle an alligator. There is also the “silent and empty kitchen” of “The Return,” a liminal space, where a recently murdered couple visit a surly former-stockbroker. Yes, the so-called barriers between so-called reality and so-called fantasy in this collection are porous. “Laugh Kookaberry, Laugh Kookaberry,” for instance, features a garrulous demon reflecting on twisted intimacies, and so Bedlam might as well have been called Pandæmonium, referring back to the name of the palace built in the middle of John Milton’s vision of Hell, viz., the “high capital of Satan and all his peers,” in Paradise Lost. “Special Instructions, Special Instructions” finds another man in a small room, this one an office, rejecting the ladder climb. He states: “Why should I weasel around after my own office, and then a larger office, and then another that’s still larger? After a certain point’s reached, they’re only rooms,” believing it more important to “know who you are and exist accordingly.” In “Thirty Spot, Fifteen Back on Either Side,” we find another business man, reflecting on a certain salacious episode in another small room, thinks the following: “he’d wanted to come by means of this experience to a more complete, more substantial idea of himself as an individual. Grissom alone, he’d wanted to see. Grissom as a separately defined person, as an intensely, separately defined person, something as unique and identifiable as a planet in a pale sky.” Domini’s Bedlam, with its ruined men, whether succumbing to PTSD-induced delusions or to their long-arrested imaginations, forced me, after reading it, to temporarily have difficulty distinguishing “suits” from ghosts and other spectralities.
I’m looking forward to reading the rest of Domini’s books, which include the novels Earthquake I.D. and A Tomb on the Periphery, the former of which, in its Italian translation, was runner-up for the Rea prize, the latter of which was cited in 2009 at the London Book Festival as among “the best of international publishing.”
I’m in the middle of a Don DeLillo marathon, reading his books in chronological order. I just came across this famous passage in Libra.
Plots carry their own logic. There is a tendency of plots to move toward death. He believed that the idea of death is woven into the nature of every plot. A narrative plot no less than a conspiracy of armed men. The tighter the plot of a story, the more likely it will come to death. A plot in fiction, he believed, is the way we localize the force of the death outside the book, play it off, contain it.
Here’s the introduction I delivered before Paula Bomer’s reading at Brown University’s Literary Arts Department’s Demitasse on February 21, 2013:
Reading Paula Bomer’s alternately sardonic and poignant stories and novel, I couldn’t help thinking about Akira Kurosawa’s observation that “To be an artist means never to avert your eyes,” because Bomer unwaveringly, relentlessly observes the fumbles, foibles, and failures of mostly women, but also men, on the verge of, yes, breakdowns, nervous and otherwise, but also breakups, crackups, and myriad other fallings apart. She keeps looking and looking, when most people in the name of propriety, but really because of their fear, hypocrisy, and/or the like, would look away; but she also forces readers to watch, using her words as a corrective, much like the Minister of the Interior in the film version of A Clockwork Orange, who employs an “experimental aversion therapy” for rehabilitating criminals, where the “volunteer” is drugged, strapped into a chair, has his eyelids propped open, and is forced to watch violent movies. Make no mistake, these are moral tales, as cautionary and chastising as they are entertaining.
But the Imperial White House has responded:
- “The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
- The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
- Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?”
… More at the site.
(& this is re: this, obv.)
List-making can be a thorough waste of time, and by “waste,” I mean, excess, dross, detritus, and not necessarily something that does not have value, however minimal or otherwise, but sometimes even this excess may prove excessive, especially when you respond to another list, a list that itself produces its own waste of time, among other things, i.e., Flavorwire’s “New York’s 100 Most Important Living Writers”: a conservative list as predictable, as it is vanilla, albeit with some colored sprinkles added for a semblance of variety. You might say that Flavorwire‘s staff was working within the confines of including only writers who live in New York. But this is one of the problems with it: The list fetishizes the New York writer, a myth as large as the hammer required to destroy it. (Adding insult to insult, Flavorwire‘s list also misses so many important New York writers.) As one corrective, and I hope there will be many correctives in its wake, here’s a list of writers in alphabetical order who are the most important living writers to me. Alas, the thoroughness of the waste here is not thorough at all, so please feel free to do with it as you would with any waste.
Note: I did not include any of Big Other’s contributors on my list, the omissions silly but perhaps necessary.