Wednesday, August 22, 2012

On the Shelf 8.23.12

I just read Autoportrait by the late Edouard Leve. It reads something like a memoir, but really it's just a long, disconnected, unparagraphed string of assertions about himself.  The opening lines:

When I was young, I thought Life, A User's Manual would teach me how to live and Suicide a User's Manual would teach me how to die.  I have spent three years and three months abroad.  I prefer to look to my left.

 It continues in that broken style for another 100 pages or so, and before long I started writing my own version, adding a line or two every few days as they occurred to me.  Any book that gets you to pick up a pen has to have some merit, I think.

I also can't stop thinking about "Marathon Man," a New Yorker article about Kip Litton, a dentist from Detroit who has recorded impressive finishes in dozens of marathons all over the country--all without, apparently, actually running them.  Even with the entire online running world obsessed with catching him (see the 200+ page thread about him at, no one has figured out how he cheats, although it appears that some of the races he has done well in did not actually exist.  Mark Singer interviews Litton himself, who denies it all, and it is all you can do not to try to reach through the pages of the magazine and try to shake some sense into the guy.


Now that school has started back up, the best time for me to listen to music is usually when I'm in the kitchen making a weeknight dinner.  And lately, apart from the new Frank Ocean,  I'm back listening to Air again.  No matter what time of day it is, the weather, my state of mind, it always feels like the right time to listen to their album Moon Safari, a record that can make an evening making quesadillas or curry, or a drive to Target to pick up paper towels feel like a scene from a movie worth watching.  


A Restless Transplant.  Guy quits his job, buys a van and starts driving up and down the west coast, surfing skateboarding, losing himself on lost.  His blog documents his travels with lonely pictures of fog-shrouded coastal roads in northern California and Mexican beach communities, and they leave me wondering if maybe he has figured something out.   Most surfers make me wonder that, actually.  They seem to touch some kind of wisdom that eludes mere golfers and joggers. 


My friend Tracy Row told me about this recipe that is supposed to recreate Chipotle's barbacoa burritos, and finally, this weekend, it is going to happen.  It has to.  Or at least I will get myself to Chipotle.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

On the Shelf

I finally got a copy of The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard and opening it to any page is like a happy machine for me.  He says everything that comes into his head, he says way too much, he makes drawings of his to-do lists and creepy versions of old Nancy cartoons.  It's naive and easy and makes you want to start copying excerpts from "I Remember":

I remember solid red when you close your eyes to the sun.

I remember the pale green tint of Coca-Cola bottles.

I remember French kissing and figuring out it must have something to do with the tongue since there isn't anything else in the mouth except teeth.
And now I remember how I miss teaching Composition because assigning students to write their own "I Remember" led to the creation a lot of my all-time favorite student work.

Will Oldham has always been one of my favorite enigmatic singer-songwriters even though I once convinced a bunch of friends to go see him with me in Bloomington and he put on one of the most awkward live shows I've ever seen.  Except for Cat Power, which was so much worse.  His new book is pretty much all I want to read right now.  I envy his gypsy lifestyle, friends in every city, no mailing address of his own.  I would have to get rid of a lot of stuff to do that, though, and I would miss my family, and the stuff, too, probably.

This simple article about writing has me making sentences in my head and then playing with them as a new pastime when I am driving around the city in silence or standing in the yard staring at my stacks of firewood.

Months later, I am still returning to this collection of Leanne Shapton's drizzly and intimate watercolors.