Friday, August 26, 2011


Edward Abbey

Desert Solitaire,
Edward Abbey
Between Parentheses, Roberto Bolano
Any Human Heart, William Boyd
Beautiful & Pointless, A Guide to Modern Poetry, David Orr
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, Trenton Lee Stewart

This week: 388 pages
Last week: 446 pages

Sentences of the Week:

1. "I'm in the stifling head of the trailer opening a can of beer, barefooted, about to go outside and relax after a hard day watching cloud formations." Desert Solitaire

2. "When a nonspecialist audience is responding well to a poem, its reaction is a kind of tentative pleasure, a puzzled interest that resembles the affection a traveler bears for a destination that both welcomes and confounds him." Beautiful & Pointless

3. "Larrain photographs a parked car and it seems to be going more than sixty miles an hour." Roberto Bolano, Between Parentheses.

I read mostly from Any Human heart this week--up until I realized that finishing the book would kill him--and as much as I enjoy the book, there are not a lot of stand-out sentences to my ear. So William Boyd gets shut out again this week.

Edward Abbey is not as consistent a writer, and he seems self-conscious about it almost, but there is some fun variety here. In this week's winning sentence, he's referring to his job as a caretaker at Arches National Monument, where his main duty appears to be passing the time.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

I'm not sure what you call this season we're in now is, but it's my favorite.It's not really summer anymore. The evening light has changed and there is a cooler air, like summer left a door open by mistake and let in a nice draft.

Telling June Apple that she's read enough Peanuts for one day.

Hammock reading makes this particular kids book somewhat more bearable.

Catherine continues to work wonders with the cutting garden.
Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Any Human Heart

This book still feels like something of a guilty read for me because I'm not used to reading things in which so much happens. I'm just ripping through it, though, sad that it's almost over but also sad, I'm realizing, that, because it is written in the first-person style of a journal, the end of the book means the end (death) of Logan Mountstuart.

He's a sad, pill-popping mystery to himself, Logan is, but I still care about the guy. Ominous how his new year's entries for the late 50's say "need to cut down on the booze," and his early 60's entries are starting to say "need to cut down on the booze and pills."

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A peek inside June's new indoor reading yurt.

Flower Buddha happy in the Zinnias and Gomphrena.

new n+1.

Compared to The Believer, n+1, as I understand it, is supposed to be similarly omnivorous and, I don't know, "youthful" or something, but more willing to look critically at its own generation. I think some people believe The Believer and stuff coming out of the Dave Eggers empire in general can be too pleased with itself or too willing to sit back and just be a cheerleader for whatever cleverness their friends have submitted. n+1 is supposed to be more serious, and I do find myself laughing much less frequently than I do when I'm, say, browsing Timothy McSweeney's Internet Tendency.

Toward this goal of seriousness, the issue that came yesterday, no. 12, includes an attempted take-down of the taste-setting music site Pitchfork. Richard Beck, the cheeky so and so, gives P4k a "5.4," and tries to explain to us why we should not like it either. But it's an unconvincing piece, and I don't think it is at all honest with itself about its own ambivalence. Anyone who goes to that site is ambivalent about it. Much of the good new music we like we heard about there, but we worry, at the same time, that we are too dependent on it, that it is too popular, as if we can only maintain our indie cred if we know when to jump ship just before it loses its cool.

Beck seems to be arguing that this has already happened, but he can only throw a mish-mash of hand-wringing complaints at it. He accuses the writing of being too sloppily exuberant, but also concedes that that is the nature of the genre. He points out that no critical stars have arisen from the site, but also suggests that this anti-star feel is a conscious strategy on their part, and may be part of the reason for their success. He accuses them of being "king-makers" (as if Pitchfork were more responsible for the success of Arcade Fire than Arcade Fire themselves) and suggests that we are all missing out on more challenging and novel music as a result. Ultimately, he blames the music itself, arguing that we should "pursue a musical culture more worth our time." Go for it, Mr. Beck. But until that happens, you and I both know that we'll still be reading Pitchfork every day and agreeing with much of what they say.

In the end, he sounds just as conflicted and unresolved about this as we all are, but unaware of that ambivalence or even dishonest about it. He also could have acknowledged the Pitchfork spinoff, Altered States, which attempts to fill in some of those eclipsed musical corners he complains of, but maybe he didn't know about it.

Most importantly, though, Beck's single article had me thinking more than any five issues of The Believer put together, and that's why n+1 is worthwhile.

UPDATE: Reading this over, I really sound like a blowhard. "Go for it, Mr. Beck"? What was that about? I still think that this article doesn't quite explain to me my own ambivalence toward its subject like I wanted it to, but the author deserves more credit than I give him here. I guess the snark bug took over when I was writing.

Posted by Picasa

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Any Human Heart, William Boyd
Beautiful & Pointless, A Guide to Modern Poetry, David Orr
The Great Frustration, Seth Fried
The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey, Trenton Lee Stewart

This week: 446 pages

Sentences of the Week:

(1) "Our job was simple: get the monkey in the capsule."

--from "Those of Us in Plaid," in Seth Fried's The Great Frustration.

(2) "There are several things in this passage that seem interestingly right to me, but there are several things that are interestingly wrong as well."

--Beautiful & Pointless

(3) "Oh for a world that contains Cynthia Goldbergs!"

--Any Human Heart

A decent crop of sentences this week, but the winner by far is the hilarious Seth Fried, and if I wanted to be totally fair, he could probably have taken all three spots this week. I've even read these stories out loud to the kids and they get it; Birk keeps repeating this line about the monkey. It's the first line of the story, and maybe one of my favorite first lines to any story I can remember, though, honestly, I can't remember all that many.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Birk, Birds

Birk and June Apple at the A.C. extension garden a few nights ago. This looks like an album cover to me for some reason.
Decided these frames weren't quite right at our neighbor Barb's garage sale. She did have the exact kind of old popcorn popper I use to roast coffee beans, though, and gave it to me for free. I usually spend around $50 on ebay for them. Good old Barb. First time I ever met her.And for an anniversary present tonight, C gave me a t-shirt she made out of this drawing I did a few weeks ago. New favorite shirt!