Archive for February, 2010

Books to Review

February 23, 2010

Option One:

The Taste of Penny

Jeff Parker’s characters stumble awkwardly into situations that reveal the darkest sides of themselves: Encountering a female Chechen suicide bomber on a bus ride in Russia, a man finds himself sexually aroused by the terrorist act he’s sure she’ll commit. A father reluctantly accompanies his draft dodger son to Quebec where he erects an enormous and obscene American flag in his front yard. A character who accidentally swallows a penny during a roadside sobriety test finds himself in a state of existential angst when it stays inside him. The characters in these fifteen voice-driven, comic stories show the trammeled among us, beaten down time and time again, still finding cause in the world for hope.

Option Two:

Rock and Hard Places: Travels to Backstages, Front Lines and Assorted Sideshows

What happens when The Prodigy go to Beirut, Def Leppard visit a cave in Morocco, and U2 visit Sarajevo? This account of seven years travelling the world with rock bands gives some of the answers, following the author “going to odd places, behaving strangely, and then writing about it.”

Option Three:

Fiction Across Borders: Imagining the Lives of Others in Turn-of-the-Millenium Novels

Theorists of Orientalism and postcolonialism argue that novelists betray political and cultural anxieties when characterizing “the Other.” Shameem Black takes a different stance. Turning a fresh eye toward several key contemporary novelists, she reveals how “border-crossing” fiction represents socially diverse groups without resorting to stereotype, idealization, or other forms of imaginative constraint. Focusing on the work of J. M. Coetzee, Amitav Ghosh, Jeffrey Eugenides, Ruth Ozeki, Charles Johnson, Gish Jen, and Rupa Bajwa, Black introduces an interpretative lens that captures the ways in which these authors envision an ethics of representing social difference. They not only offer sympathetic portrayals of the lives of others but also detail the processes of imagining social difference.

Whether depicting the multilingual worlds of South and Southeast Asia, the exportation of American culture abroad, or the racial tension of postapartheid South Africa, these transcultural representations explore social and political hierarchies in constructive ways. Boldly confronting the orthodoxies of recent literary criticism, Fiction Across Borders builds upon such seminal works as Edward Said’s Orientalism and offers a provocative new study of the late twentieth-century novel.

(From me: this one may be out of my league. If I were to get this assignment, I’d feel compelled to educate myself on all the listed writers –– embarrassingly, have not read them all –– and I just don’t have the time right now.)

A Found Text

February 22, 2010

Either the Best or the Worst Idea I’ve Ever Had

A found text, by ID.

Look!  I found a review for Lost in the Cosmos: The Last Self-Help Book:

“The late Walker Percy’s mordant contribution to the self-help book craze of the 1980s deals with the heavy abstraction of the Western mind and speculates about why writers may be the most abstracted and least grounded of all. (Before taking up novel writing, Percy was a medical doctor who became a patient in the very institution where he had worked.) The book disappeared for a time. Now it’s back in print. Take the quizzes in it, then take a walk–you need to be back in the world before you write another word.

A List, by Sontag

February 20, 2010

4. Random examples of items which are part of the canon of Camp:

Zuleika Dobson

Tiffany lamps

Scopitone films

The Brown Derby restaurant on Sunset Boulevard in LA

The Enquirer, headlines and stories

Aubrey Beardsley drawings

Swan Lake

Bellini’s operas

Visconti’s direction of Salome and ‘Tis a Pity She’s a Whore

certain turn-of-the-century picture postcards

Schoedsack’s King Kong

The Cuban pop singer La Lupe

Lynn Ward’s novel in woodcuts, God’s Man

the old Flash Gordon comics

women’s clothes of the twenties (feather boas, fringed and beaded dresses, etc.)

the novels of Ronald Firbank and Ivy Compton-Burnett

stag movies seen without lust

From “Notes on Camp” 1964

Oh Be-ruther!

February 19, 2010

From the Olympics, snapped by inimitable aesthete DC…


February 19, 2010

In the words of Annie Dillard…

Last night:

Head lice

Back in high school, ignoring the dress code

a locker without a door, and a sympathetic soul who proclaimed lockers and all they stood for “genteel” (this may not have been the word; it started with a “g,” and afterward was said to mean something superfluous that wealking bourgeoisie liked)

An ex-boyfriend, and the avoidance of him

Sleeping on the street

Cars parked without rhyme or reason

A phone booth on 63rd Street and Park Avenue in Manhattan

The night before:

The closed door to the place where many of my nightmares (awake and asleep) have occurred

I turn to a friend and say, “They ought to just open it. We know what’s behind there.”

Update on Buzz

February 18, 2010

After I wrote the letter to my friend who worked at Google, people began alerting me to other people’s disapproval of Buzz, Google’s new and unannounced feature. Such as this woman, who was suddenly being automatically “followed” by her abusive ex-husband:

“Fuck you, Google. My privacy concerns are not trite. They are linked to my actual physical safety, and I will now have to spend the next few days maintaining that safety by continually knocking down followers as they pop up. A few days is how long I expect it will take before you either knock this shit off, or I delete every Google account I have ever had and use Bing out of fucking spite.

Fuck you, Google. You have destroyed over ten years of my goodwill and adoration, just so you could try and out-MySpace MySpace.”

This woman writes the blog (woo WordPress!) and this article can be read in full

And guess what, everyone? Google heard our cries!

From the Los Angeles Times on V-Day:

Google Makes More Changes to Buzz to Address Privacy Concerns

Google Inc. issued a mea culpa Saturday, saying it had made mistakes in how it launched its new social networking service Buzz. In response to a sharp backlash from users and watchdogs, the Internet giant apologized for escalating concerns about the privacy of the product.

“We quickly realized that we didn’t get everything quite right,” Google product manager Todd Jackson said in a blog post Saturday. “We’re very sorry for the concern we’ve caused and have been working hard ever since to improve things based on your feedback. We’ll continue to do so.”

Jackson said Buzz would no longer automatically have users follow the posts of frequent Gmail contacts. Instead, it will suggest people whom users might want to follow. Google also will put a Buzz tab in Gmail settings to make it easier for users to turn it off. Buzz will no longer automatically connect Buzz to Picasa photo albums and Google Reader items, the company said.

The changes, which will take effect over the next few days, were the latest Google had made to Buzz since it launched the product inside millions of Gmail accounts less than a week ago.

Controversy erupted as Buzz popped up in inboxes. Users complained that Google automatically signed them up to follow some of their Gmail contacts and exposed their contacts by making their follower lists public.

Marc Rotenberg, executive director of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, said Friday that the way Google handled Buzz was a major blunder and a rare one. In the past, Google has been more careful to give users control over privacy settings. Rotenberg said his group would file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

~Jessica Guynn

A Bottomless Well

February 17, 2010

That’s what The Best American Essays of the Century, edited by Joyce Carol Oates and Robert Atwan, is.

“[Washington Woodard] worked hard all his life at being himself, but there were no principles to examine when his life was over…The life that he could recall totally was not worth recalling; it was a box of string too short to save.”

Vengeful (2010)

February 16, 2010

I made this card for my friend.  Isn’t it a masterpiece?

Underneath it says, "Inside this square is the (indisputably) most beautiful picture in the world and I scribbled all over it just to PISS YOU OFF! HAHAHA!

Reality Check

February 12, 2010

Would you automatically hate a piece of writing if its final sentence was:

“Everything is in the past now, but the memories will last forever.”


Me, Wishing I Were Soto Presentando

February 12, 2010

“The Most Romantic Thing is Failure,” (2010 – ) in which I cut my hair like Jean Seaberg’s, move to Paris, drink a lot of red wine, meet with minor success as a writer but never really feel respected as an intellectual, die alone and young-ish but still really pretty and attain instant cult stardom.

Original below:

“Any Number of Things at Once, all Contradictory,” (2010) labanotated dance performed in the background of an 18-person dinner party onstage.  (