Sunday, October 31, 2010

This is the earliest I have ever started wanting it to snow. A few friends in far-off, more easily romanticized parts of the country have already had theirs, and even though a fair number of our trees are still what you would call "pretty" with color, I think we need to get on with it. It feels like we are behind here, which we usually are.

And I keep saying the last lines of this Michael Burkard poem to myself and to Catherine:

A star reports
to another star.

Reading lines like this that are pretty but removed feels a little like looking through a window at snow.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lake Winona trails

Fall riding season is here. Fast, dry trails, no bugs, color in the trees, you're not sweating like crazy. Is there anywhere where this is the only season? Maybe Marin County, I bet. They get all the good stuff.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Ode to the Maggot

Instead of grading papers tonight, I made this.

Windows movie maker is a real pain to use. I wonder what else is out there.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Peter Maysles's home just went up in one of the coolest Selby's I've seen in a long time. I think I like to live in a neater space than this, but that's partly because the things I tend to accumulate around me are not as interesting as the things these two gather around them.

I know Maysles directed Grey Gardens, which also happens to be the name of my back yard, but I'm not sure what else I should know him for. Now I know him for his house.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The M.I.A. lives.

I feel so lucky to know some of the people I know.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Going to set up dinner in the woods with some friends today. It won't look quite this cool and scruffy, but I can pretend.

from one of my favorite new tumblrs, hippy kitchens.

Sunday, September 05, 2010


A new occasional feature here, based on an idea borrowed from Nick Hornby's column in The Believer, a magazine I want to like and occasionally try to. Documenting the last two weeks:

A larger than normal haul in the last two weeks, what with the Little Professor's closing sale coinciding with a delivery from Amazon.

Charles Simic, Sixty Poems
Zadie Smith, Changing my Mind
Modern French Poets
, Fowlie, ed.
Tony Hoagland, Donkey Gospel
Dean Young, The Art of Recklessness
Hayden Carruth, Reluctantly
Paul Eluard, Love, Poetry

Dean Young, The Art of Recklessness. Oh, I'd been waiting for this book to be released for so long. Part of the Graywolf Press "The Art of" series of tiny books. I think that tiny books are going to save print literature because they are so pleasant to have in a pocket or hold open in your hands which now feel like giant hands. Young's book is just one long manifesto, complete with outbursts of capitalized words and a somewhat tangled, digressive argument that convinces through its fervor, wide-ranging poetic illustrations, but, somehow, its even-handed clarity, too. Like his poetry, it makes you brace yourself a little before diving in--it's like I want to be "up" for the intellect I'm about to try to follow, and following requires re-reading for me. Without any section breaks or chapters, it feels a little to me like the way David Lynch releases his films on DVD as a single "track" to discourage experiencing it in fragments. I'm only halfway through and can't really comment on the book itself yet, but my reaction is a little mixed so far.

Zadie Smith, Changing my Mind. Essays. Read a interesting short one about her take on Middlemarch. Learned that it frequently named England's "favorite novel" when polls about such things are conducted. Must be one really literate country, that one. If I were to conduct a personal poll, I think it would be in my top five.

David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas. This book is so easy to put down, but when I spend a little time with each new section of a story in it, I inevitably become engrossed and finish it. So creative, this one, and disorienting just because of how different the interlocking narratives are, but they're also all familiar genres, and that helps you re-settle yourself every time it changes from one to another. The title of this book may be my favorite thing about it, but the stories are good fun, too. Not sure how the Wachowski brothers (The Matrix) are going to be able to recreate it.

Brian Jacques, Mossflower. Reading this to the kids right now. A fair bit of killing, but lots of cuteness, too, and some big words, and plenty of opportunities to read funny British accents.

Tony Hoagland, Donkey Gospel. He's so fun. Like eating popcorn.

Melville, Moby Dick. Haven't read this since college, when it went on to haunt my twenties. Only a little bit in, but I'm hoping to read large sections of this one out loud this time through.

Interesting reader-made "map" of the stories in Cloud Atlas.

Friday, September 03, 2010


Monday, July 19, 2010

playa roosta

UPDATE: I erased this ten days ago, and I miss it.
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

questions answered

I had access to a bracelet making machine the other day so I made one designed to help me navigate this perilous world. Now, whenever I am in a tricky situation of some sort (which happens several times a day), all I have to do is consult my "What would Hunter S. Thompson do?" bracelet, and the path is clear, kinda.

In other news, I am half way through my abbreviated summer vacation, and it has been great. It's short this year, but I ended school already looking forward to fall, so I'm not feeling any dread. It helps that I'm teaching great classes this year: AP Lit, Etymology, and for the first time in two years, Comp. I love that class.

Today, I think Hunter S. Thompson would water the flower boxes, build a bike-repair stand in his garage, drive his kids to the dentist, and try reading some more of David Mitchell's surprisingly funny Cloud Atlas, a book he would have read about in the three million recent reviews of Mitchell's new novel.
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Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Back from the lake, and it is supposed to be hot, so I am engaged in the seasonal puzzle of how to keep a house that has no air-conditioning cool enough that we do not begin hallucinating too badly. I have a system, and it works pretty well. But nature is always trying to crack my system, and I must stay on my toes.
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Saturday, June 26, 2010

38th Indiana Fiddler's Gathering

The glow things were reasonably priced.
People were jamming until 4 a.m. by our tent but the kids slept through it like the champion sleepers they are. And then I had this great breakfast burrito. There were lots of trees around us.

We were on the Tippecanoe battlefield, which I think had something to do with Indians. I'm about to remind myself on Wikipedia.
My friend Dean, picking until 5, back at it at 9.
Kids were mainly into running with other kids, but sometimes they sat down.

And then we were tired. A graduate of Indiana University, it is my sworn duty to disparage West Lafayette and everything related to it, especially for its supposed ugliness. But I have to say, the drive there was so nice. There are gentle hills that have rivers fitted between them with names like "The Tippecanoe," and the rivers move with a purpose that almost suggests a consciousness on their part that they are rivers and that there is a power in that. The rivers where I live don't behave that way. They need to be reminded which way is downstream sometimes, like they would rather seep outward, creep up their soaked banks, or just wait until August to dry out completely.

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new panda bear

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

First day of summer

One of Jim Harrison's handsomer poses (on the right).

So, it's the first day of my "short" 8-week summer and it felt right to start it with a Jim Harrison novel, True North. I like it for its trappings. Lots of its sentences contain the words "Lake Superior" and also many names of upper peninsula towns that I know from driving around those parts. The dim-but-sensitive narrator is always naming the fishing streams he's driving to, too, and I don't really fish until I read a book that has fishing in it so maybe this summer I will. All of the ideas this book tries to carry along with it tend to just fall out of its pockets, but I'm really enjoying the whole "I did this, and then I drove here" looseness of it all.

The book has relaxed me pretty well, actually, because it is stressful, starting a long summer vacation. You, or I, feel like it has to be planned out and ordered to find the perfect balance between things that should be done and the things that you want to do. But after sitting around reading most of the day I'm okay with the possibility that, come mid-August and school, I'll be fine if my summer is just a bunch of loose threads, pointless drives, half-hearted projects.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

a lot of pictures

The chicks are gone now, off to chicken school. I was a little sad to see them go but they were not sentimental at all about it. I don' t think they even recognize me.
The Catalpa is the most useless and annoying tree ever made, but June made these shoes out of its leaves so now I have mixed feelings about it.

Finally, I think the Globe Thistle is going to bloom this year.

The Garden Typewriter is rusting.

I can't believe how far ahead everything is this summer, like four weeks it feels like. The plants are going to get bored by the end of July, wondering what to do next.
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Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Often when you are wasting your life on the internet, you come across things other people do that you wish you could do. A prior generation would be inspired to try to do these things. Now, though, we just put links to them on our blogs or tumblrs. I don't know what it is about this woman's style that I like. The colors, mainly, I guess. But the sketchbooks on her site are the kinds of things that make me want to draw for an hour and then quit, disappointed. Her site.

Monday, May 31, 2010

One of the daily battles for chicken supremacy in our bathtub this Monday evening.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Okay, then. Just finished Middlemarch, sitting here on the porch at the lake with the breeze and the sound of the waves. So lucky.

So I probably like Mill on the Floss a little better than this one, but it's close. There are some chapters in Middlemarch that affect me in ways I just don't know how to write about. The scene where Ladislaw walks to Dorothea's church and sits through the service simply hoping to make eye contact with her and fails even to get that, the resigned reconciliation of Lydgate and Rosamond, and all of the scenes depicting various species of provincial ignorance. It's all too much.

We were listening to the Wind in the Willows audiobook on the drive up here and I was taken at how much it reads like a George Eliot kids' book. Grumpy animals pottering about, grand authorial asides, and a diction that, though meant for children, sees no reason not to use words like "paroxysm" with regularity. These days, the kids section at any local Borders makes it look as though children's literature is full of options, but it's all so bad. I read what June brings home from book fairs and it seems like something designed so that the kids might one day aspire, if they keep reading all their Magic Treehouse books, maybe, to manage Harry Potter. I think I've decided to only read stuff with the kids that is over their heads and fun and serious. If you are not disoriented, your reading list is not challenging enough. That will be my motto.

But now I might leave the 19th century for my next books, but gently. Re-reading Wallace Stegner, for example. Angle of Repose or Crossing to Safety.

You finished your book, now throw me a stick.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

If I had a building

Here's a distant shot of the historic freight depot that many think is about to be torn down this weekend. "Historic" is a relative term, I guess. I mean, I don't know if any famous freight ever passed through here or if Kerouac ever rode by it with Neal Cassady in a boxcar, but the fact is that, compared to a lot of what we have left in this town, this is our history. It's near a downtown that keeps threatening to become a destination, is right across from two of our most beautiful urban parks, and is about 100 yards from our ever-expanding greenway and a skate park that is so cool I can't stand the fact that I never got into skating and only donned the haircuts for a few years.

It may go down, though, because the current owner doesn't, publicly, at least, appear interested in entering a dialogue about possible uses. But if it goes down, I hope it's not without some noise. If this is the kind of thing you care about, join the Facebook group or go to the web site and sign the petition. It's a pretty non-confrontational, responsible group of people running the group--friends of mine, radicals only in the sense that they see value conservation.

I see an old building like this and can only think of the businesses I would run there. I mean, look at its length. What would you do there? It looks to me like nice place for a family restaurant and brewery. Maybe some cool apartments or studios running along the back there. Great land for some kind of community gardening (um, unless it's a brownfield). Maybe an indoor skate park so that in the winter the skaters I teach don't have to be so glum all the time.

Anyway, do consider contributing to the noise that just might make a difference here. It would be a real waste of potential to turn this old place into one more corner of rubble. We have enough of those.

Cool apartment. I like all their stuff, the way they just have it there, in their place, and the casual way they sit there in the middle of it, with the sincerest form of feigned indifference. I wish I could feign my indifference like this.

Unhappy Hipsters would have something snarky to say about this picture, but (a) their credibility is damaged by the odd definition of "hipster" that they seem to be applying, and (b) they probably live in a dump. And (c) snark is the lowest form of internet speech.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Monday, May 17, 2010


Earlier this school year, one of my students, Nabia, schooled her class, myself included, in the possibilities of an often overlooked program called Windows Movie-maker. It's another one of those programs that makes me think "I'm sure there's a much better form of this for Macs," but she showed us that it's still cool enough to play around with and make some great movies.

Anyway, I copied Nabia's idea and assigned it as an option for one of my classes, a class that is based on independent reading, to make trailers for one of the books they read that semester. This video here is a sample I made for a fun read called The Dart League King.

It represents about three hours of time, and could use another hour. The inter-titles could be written more succinctly and the timing is off, but still, I like it, and I'm excited to see what students come up with for their books if they choose this option.

In the back of my mind, I'm a little bothered by one problem or blind spot this trailer approach has--it's emphasis on selling the plot of a book rather than its style and voice. There is nothing "wrong" with reading primarily for plot, but as a teacher, I feel like it's partly my responsibility to interest people in caring less about "what happens" and more about enjoying the "how it's told" part. This is complicated, though, because it's a mystery to me, most of the time. I don't know where to start when explaining why I love The Savage Detectives, a long book where nothing happens, or the Laura Ingalls-Wilder book The Long Winter other than to say that when I read them out loud, it feels good. Maybe some kind of read-aloud contest between literary and popular fiction might allow a class to make some observations and a dialogue.

Speaking of The Long Winter, which we are shoveling through a chapter or two a night . . . Birk heard a weather report with a lot of rain in it this morning and said "Dad, it's The Long Thunderstorm, get it?" One of his rare non-Scooby Doo or Andy Griffith Show allusions.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Damon, Naomi, and Dean
Drove to school and then drove right back this morning because I could tell that I was about to have a re-match with the stomach flu I thought I beat this weekend. So I have just a little bit of time before I'm incapacitated and have to get a few things done, some grading, some ideas about how to set up my AP students before the big test on Thursday (could be one of my best classes, I'm starting to think), but Pitchfork has this big article about Galaxie 500, like really long for the internet, and what am I supposed to do, not read it?

Their records feel like not soundtracks but actual emotional documents of my life back when they came out. And the more time passes, the greater they sound to me, and I don't think it's just nostalgia that is doing that. I wonder if I am running out of the ability to have new bands or whatever affect me like Galaxie 500 did and still does, because it doesn't happen very often anymore. It's like my heart is spoken for.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Just spent a long two weeks or so re-reading Dubliners, of all things. How does that take me two weeks? The book is so tiny it fits in your back pocket with room to spare for a copy of Lunch Poems, but still, I just couldn't finish the thing off.

It all started when I picked it up and read "The Dead" and I suddenly remembered how great that story is. I think I like any story that includes people shaking rain off of umbrellas as they climb creaking wooden stairs, but this reading really got me for reasons beyond overheated and smokey coziness of the rooms it takes place in. That end, I think it's pretty beautiful and sad and I don't think anyone should disagree with me on that.

But so I took my experience with "The Dead" as reason enough to re-read the whole collection, and . . . man, it just didn't happen for me. The stories almost feel dated now, much more so than people who modeled themselves on this book, like, say, Hemingway's short stories, which only get better with time and I'm not just saying that because I'm a dude, because I am anything but a dude's dude. I'm saying it because Hemingway, young Hemingway, short story and parts of Farewell to Arms Hemingway, is about as good as we get. So I was surprised at this time through Dubliners. It wasn't anything like what happens when I re-read "The Three Day Blow" or "The End of Something" or this one where about him and Hadley skiing somewhere in Europe.

And I doodled that picture of Joyce at school one day last week while I was trying to lesson plan.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Really charming article in the New York Times yesterday about a father and daughter who read out loud together, every night, from some young age until she went away to college. Every night! She would be out with friends on a weekend and she'd be like "oh, we have to stop by my house before midnight so I can read with my dad." Totally worth a look if you have a son, daughter, or parent.

I will admit that this story made me cry. Or no, tear up a little. This happens more frequently ever since I became a parent. Before, I only used to tear up when dogs died--both fictional and non--and during that scene in The Sound of Music when the dad comes in singing "Edelweiss" and all the kids are like "dang, dad's singing."

Monday, April 05, 2010

Tony Hoagland is pretty funny and that is enough for me to like a lot of his poems but he is also smart and has a great ability to write about poetry in a way that makes me think "yes, I agree." I had that reaction when I read this thing he wrote about Dean Young I wish I could find on the internet and I'm having it all the time now when I dip into his essay collection Real Sofistikashun that I would not have found had Joseph not pointed out to me that there were books below my eye level when we were at Hyde Bros. the other day.

There are a few varieties of the "yes, I agree" response that you can have when you read. One of the good ones is where someone has said something that you have consciously thought in the past but had thought you were the only one. And reading this person makes you feel understood and less lonely for a few minutes, even if you didn't know that you were lonely.

Another good kind is where someone says something that you didn't even know you had felt it until you read him saying it. His or her words cause a secret panel to melt inside of you and it reveals some unrecognized feeling that had been there all along. This happens a lot, if you read a lot, and it is one of the best things that can happen to you. A long time ago this happened to me a bunch when I read Richard Ford's Independence Day. Something about Frank Bascombe and how he was always "seeing around" his feelings. Relating to him should depress me but it doesn't.

An example of the former variety happened as I read one of Hoagland's essays a few days ago. He's describing surrealist poetry:
In the Surrealist aesthetic, imagery has virtue to the extent that it exhibits freedom, and art is "reliable" to the extent that it trusts in the revelation of process. The poem is an action, not an object, and its architecture is a series of moment to moment jolts and explosions.
I have thought, like, exactly that same thing for a long time. It works for things other than just surrealist poetry, too, I guess. That idea of the poem being an action, an enactment, is what gets me, and let's me read differently. The surrealist poem is less an object with a rhetorical purpose than a document of a life lived in a certain way. You could argue much contemporary poetry is that way, but I might argue that this modern tendency owes itself to Breton and the surrealists.

Anyway, writing about this makes me think about one of my favorite poems from the last Beloit Poetry Journal. I hope it's one Dawn voted for. I am going to steal it, I guess. If it's not okay, she will let me know.

Old Men

Your carnation-white flesh
Lives off scrawny birds
And thereby catches fire

You old men, sing slower
In the shifting wind
And let the sun crumble
Between your fingers

The blue-feathered sleep
Has the teeth of death
And the voice of lime
This is already a long post, so I will let "Old men" speak, or not, for itself. But it's beautiful whether or not.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Coming back to Eliot after reading the new John McPhee book for a couple of days has me lost again. Thank you, Internet, for this great map. I can't make any sense out of it, either, but it's reassuring somehow.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

In the interest of taking credit for every single one of my kids' accomplishments, I can't help but note the influence of Tu Fu, whom we have been reading in Kenneth Rexroth's 100 Poems from the Chinese, on her recent writing. Here is Tu Fu:


Roads not yet glistening, rain slight,

Broken clouds darken after thinning away.
Where they drift, purple cliffs blacken.
And beyond -- white birds blaze in flight.

Sounds of cold-river rain grown familiar,
Autumn sun casts moist shadows. Below
Our brushwood gate, out to dry at the village
Mill: hulled rice, half-wet and fragrant

And here is one of June's, from the "poem book" she has been typing into the computer lately. It's nice:

The breeze and the wind brushed through my
hear as I fly a red kite.
The fall air is cold but I’m worm
in side.

I think June's compares well, considering that Tu Fu had a 1000+ year head start.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

good luck with this one . . .

Watanabe, Naoko, and Midori

Just read that a movie version of Murakami's Norwegian Wood is being made, to be released in Japan this December. This makes as little sense to me as making The Road, or maybe as little as turning any novel into a movie. Sarah Dessen or Judy (Julie?) Picoult books do make sense, I think, as movies--so much sense that they could probably skip the book stage and go straight to the theater (not hatin', just sayin').

But Murakami? I know people are kind of divided on his value as a writer, but I've always really liked his detached style and the way it makes the mild absurdities of his stories seem almost normal. It's nothing like the way Marquez will do it, spinning these baroque-ly unreal settings and pretending that they are a part of the normal universe while still kind of winking at the reader "isn't this all just so gorgeous?!" I like Marquez; he can just overwhelm me sometimes.

Murakami is different, though. With him, you'll read about a man standing in a well for hours on end or a logo for a whiskey that eats stray cats and you have to decide for yourself just how weird it is. It will not feel that weird at the time, but it will later.

So, the main point here is that I don't see how any movie can achieve this effect without using a lot of voice-over straight from the novel. You can tell from the still picture above that the director probably told the Watanabe actor to use the "thousand-yard-stare" to express the floating wonder he carries around. That might get old. Maybe the best thing about the movie version is that it will get me to re-read a book I liked ten years ago and still remember fondly.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

It's raining so it's perfect for Middlemarch, which lately is starting to feel like a joyless Northanger Abbey. The first few sentences in of this book are always confusing for me as I have to pose questions to myself like "who is Mrs. Bulstrode's niece?" and "have I met any of these relations of Mr. Farebrother's before?" After a re-read sentence or two, I either answer a few of them them or push on with my slightly tempered bafflement intact.

I'm reading this one slowly, but one part I keep remembering from the Ashbery article I read a few days ago is how he read poetry quickly and prose slowly, with more consideration, and I think I do that too, so that is one way I am like a famous poet.

Today, there was some action, though, as Dr. Lydgate's cruel and thoughtless courtship of Rosamond suddenly exceeds his control, and, in a moment of surprise intimacy, he ends up engaged. A lovely line in there describes how "flirtation was shaken into love" or something like that. This book might seem, to the outward eye, as slow-moving at times but what I love is the way Eliot documents the private movements--the dramatic shifts of public regard in general and also the individual expectations and disappointments--all these things happening out of sight but revealed with Eliot's careful voice.

That word, "expectation," too--that's one of my favorite expressions right now. Men here have to be careful not to hold eye contact too long with a woman or risk there arising "an expectation" between them that they will have to answer for. Every step here is so fraught with social dangers.

Friday, March 26, 2010

so it turns out that I am probably not going blind

but it felt like a close call there for a couple of weeks. Being told you have a rare disease of the retina, an actual thing that starts with somebody's name and ends with the word "disease," and then being told to come back in two weeks to make sure that it isn't something even worse, well, it is not the doctor routine I have grown accustomed to. Try forgetting about it for those two weeks . . it doesn't work.

And of course something about your anxieties calls out to the universe, which in turn declares it "Universal Blindness Week." Everywhere I looked it came up. I read to the kids and Mary goes blind in By the Shores of Silver Lake. I pull out Dubliners from a shelf and Joyce stares back with his eye patch. George Eliot describes something really bad as "spreading ominously like a disease of the retina." I read that one and yelled out "Are you kidding me!!?" It wasn't. Eliot may delight, but she does not kid. I did walk right into the Joyce one, though, only myself to blame, but still, where were the books about happy things? Maybe I don't own any.

Ultimately, the news was pretty good yesterday and so I can scale back my emergency plans to create a memorized Noah's ark of poetry. Or maybe I should do that anyway.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Birk showing us "how Chinese people sit" at Mahnin tonight during our pre school carnival meal. It was a great meal, but not quite long enough because by the time we were done eating, the carnival was still going on.
So we spent an hour at school, squeezing around excitable children, casting nervous glances at the school fireman, who did not seem concerned enough about the way the cotton candy machine filled the halls with sticky smoke.
Even though this is an elementary school, I always, always learn a lot just by reading the homework on the walls. I will never smoke again, for example.These things are rarely cute enough to not be entirely draining, but they come so close. Most of the games are crafted by parents from Tupperware in basements and are all versions of scams I never pay to play when professional carnies roll them in for the annual Marshmallow festival, but this money goes to something important. I'm not sure what, exactly, but it's something for the schools.

My kids lost most of the games they played but everyone walks away with candy, which is good because the Valentine's day candy just ran out.
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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

i could live here

my house looks a lot like this sometimes, actually. A little less Wes Anderson, though.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Joseph came over on the train this weekend and it rained. He came to the house on Saturday and told me that the raspberry bushes I had just bought would be devoured by squirrels. Then we went out to lunch. This place used to be a used car lot, then it was vacant, then it was a taco shop, and now it sells Burmese food for cheap. These windows are great for looking at rain while you eat.

At first, Joseph and I talked about funny things and then my friend John came in and we talked and then he met and interviewed a pleasant Burmese gentleman who was on crutches and I didn't ask but I think he was some kind of victim of the political violence over there. After that, Joseph and I talked about serious things, like school reform and I think escrow accounts.

Then we went to Hyde Bros. I saw my friends Sue and Jeff there who of course were buying all the cool books that I never would have found even if they had given me a full day's head start. At first, Joseph thought it looked like there were "fewer books" there, like the book store equivalent of going back to your old school and not being able to get over how tiny the lockers look.

But we ended strong. It helps to look at the bottom shelves that you usually skip. I won a few good things:

Yusef Komunyakaa, Dien Cai Dau, in which a prior owner has written "Crazy Shit" on the title page. If that alone weren't worth the $3.95, it also has "Camouflaging the Chimera" and "Tu Do Street" in it. It has "Facing it," too, but I haven't liked that one ever since I watched a national Poetry Out Loud finalist recite it a couple of years ago.

Charles Wright, Selected Later Poems. It has poems with titles that reference Li Po and and southern place names like Chickamauga.

Donald Justice, Collected Poems.

Tony Hoagland, Real Sofistikashun, a book of essays and the first one is good.

So anyway, a good day. And today I will read some of these and go to a five year old's birthday party and also go outside to continue construction of the world's lamest-looking cold frame because that's what back yards are for. If my neighbors don't like it, it will be my mild revenge for them hiring someone to cut down one of my trees without asking me.
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Saturday, March 13, 2010

I'm still reading nothing in particular, but that's okay. I enjoyed as much George Eliot as I could today at the doctor's office until the eye dilation drops kicked in, but tonight I jumped from reading about building a cold frame in my back yard to some of a Keats biography to grading essays about All the Pretty Horses to remembering this John Ashbery profile from a New Yorker that came out like five years ago and of which I had dim memories of enjoying. So I find it on their web site and print it and sit down to read it at midnight and I'll be gosh-darned if it doesn't start out like this:
He read the newspaper. He dipped into a couple of books: a Proust biography that he bought five years ago but just started reading because it suddenly occurred to him to do so, a novel by John Rhys that he recently came across in a secondhand bookstore--he's not a systematic reader.
How funny is that? This article was calling out to me across the years--well, five of them--because it knew something about my state of mind right now. So, this is what I'll be reading for the next half hour or until I fall asleep, I guess.

Tuesday, March 09, 2010


Seems like this place is turning into a kind of reading log or something. Hope that's okay.

Somehow I left Middlemarch at school today so I had kind of a listless paging through of various books I couldn't quite commit to tonight. Middlemarch has such a different feel compared to Mill, and I miss the smaller canvas, I think. Eliot as narrator is much more/ too willing to stand on stage here and dictate. I looked forward to those moments in Mill because the interruptions feel like polite asides, but there are pages of dictum in Middlemarch with nary a paragraph indentation to rest the eyes. Still, Rosamond is amusing and I look forward to the Fred/ Mary courtship, too.

Because Talking Heads are in my top 1 bands of all time, I like bikes, and it is such a pretty book, I spent twenty minutes with David Byrne's Bicycle Diaries tonight, too. If it ever comes true where you get to invite any 10 people you want to a dinner party, he would be one for sure. The problem with this book for me is that his prose matches the kind of flat effect of his real-life voice, too. Or is that "affect"? I think it is. Anyway, it was a pretty book to hold for twenty minutes, reading about the different cities he's ridden around in. My favorite brief chapter is his account of riding from inner Detroit to the suburbs, which sounds insane for a number of reasons but which now strikes me as an essential ride that I must undertake. I've always loved Woodward Ave. in Detroit for the same reasons he suggests, basically that this route is a kind of core sample of the city, or a museum or a time-line. It's so sad, but it's hard to look away. I will probably come back to this book.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

first pedals

45 degrees today and sunny and so I made it out for my first bike ride of the year. The legs were more tired than they had any right to be. Thanks to my father in law for the hand-me-down flip camera.

Bright Star was not all that bad.

Bright Star was not all that bad. I planned for it to be, but it was not. I mean, most movies are bad the way most poems are bad and also the way that most parts of even the movies and poems that I like can be bad, too but still be good enough. Campion's version of this relationship and its setting is a little too self-consciously beautiful sometimes, like in the picture here, but then the dresses and hats that Fanny wears are so ridiculously gorgeous that it is okay. I mean, those dresses. I've watched a fair number of period dramas but don't remember ever being this drawn to a movie's wardrobe.

The guy who plays Charles Brown is over the top, and the Keats actor guy does a lot of acting with his eyeballs, but he is also quiet and I like the way they show him spending so much time just lying around waiting for inspiration, worrying about finding a subject. Those scenes seem more true than the readings of the actual poems, which, even though they are shot in fragments to feel casual, still feel like set-pieces rolled out to fanfares.

So on my personal movie scale of Avatar on the low end up to "not bad" at the high end, Bright Star earns an "I really like the dresses and the lying around parts."

Friday, March 05, 2010

special purpose

Watching this video, it's like, finally I know what I'm supposed to do with my life next. I'm guess I'm kidding, but really, what these guys do is a kind of found poetry with with beats. They hang out, dig around in thrift stores for oddball vinyl, and then sample it into some new patchwork. My favorite part is like twenty minutes in where their compositions start coming together for them and you can feel it happening. I know no one sits around for 29 minute videos anymore, but it's really cool. I'm just saying.

EDIT: The video this links to is no longer the one I had originally, which is too bad. It was cool.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

When Dawn is done with her book about re-reading books I hope she writes one about that time that happens between when you finish the reading of one and commit to the next. Something needs to be said about that. When you're in the middle of some weighty project like The Mill on the Floss, even if you're loving it, every other spine on your shelf catches your eye and sparkles with the glow of what might have been, but as soon as you're done with the Eliot, all of those other books disappear on you, or their shine does. There's this listlessness.

I almost fell back into re-reading The Savage Detectives, just hit the first few pages and I almost got sucked in, but somehow this George Eliot momentum sent me to the used bookstore to get a nice $7 copy of Middlemarch and now I'm fifty pages in and mainly concerned how much Dorothea pales in comparison to Maggie. It's not fair to Dodo, and I'll get over it, but Middlemarch will have to make its own way out of The Mill on the Floss's shadow, if it can.

The marriage proposal letter that Dorothea receives from Casaubon cracks me up, though:

"Such, my dear Miss Brooke, is the accurate statement of my feelings for you; and I rely on your kind indulgence in venturing now to ask you how far your own are of a nature to confirm my happy presentiment."

No, Dorothea's not making a mistake at all here. They'll be great together.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Squid himself picking up his gold keys (I almost wrote "god keys"!), one of which he won for the portrait of me in his glasses, above. He made the thing with a set of toy watercolors! Kid is going places.