Monthly Archives: February 2008

Pseu Braun

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One of my favorite shows on WFMU is Pseu’s Thing with a Hook. Last year’s marathon I pledged and got her premium CD, brit fedex’d your playlist – pseu’s thing with a hook – sharp hooks vol 2, which was fantastic. Jim Noir — Key of C — stuck in my head since I heard it.

I’ll prolly pledge her again this year. Hell I listen to WFMU all day long, every day, least I can do is etc. She’s talking on the air right now, I had the auld classic radio thought of Well God I wonder what she really Does Look Like though, don’t I, and and I found the above picture, and stopped looking. This isn’t her (it’s “Katie Sue Braun, an freshman accounting major from Spearfish” — they’re at Black Hills State University) but it mysteriously satisfied my curiosity anyway. Anyway!!

A Failure of Concern

Finally finished “A Failure of Concern,” Ben Marcus’s story in the January issue of Harper’s. I need to reread it. It’s funny, disturbing, baffling. There is a strange paragraph–amid the rest of the strange paragraphs–near the end:

The detective remains folded over himself, coughing weakly, and I might be inclined to wonder if my syntax itself is acting as a diminisher. I think of the giant, in the Whitman poem, who spoke so forcefully that everyone around him was crushed down into miniature size. The people in his life could recover and grow back to full size only if he remained absolutely silent, and if the poem ultimately failed to dramatize that struggle, we can all well imagine for ourselves the difficulty faced by this giant. It is too great to master such an urge. Perhaps I shall render a landscape of people recumbent if ever I can access them and speak in their direction.

Is this a real Whitman poem? My guess is that Marcus does have an actual Whitman poem in mind, but the description of it above works the same as the surreal physical descriptions in the story — that is, willfully, artfully deranged, but still poetically referring to the real thing. So I imagine no one would ever describe the poem in that way, that the “giant” is really something else, something more (or less) specific, but it still manages to be a syntatical or structural or at least associative and I guess ultimately accurate description of the poem. Or Hell, maybe there really is a Whitman poem about a giant. A google search later: Could it be “A Voice from Death”? Where Death’s voice, coming in a “sudden, indescribable blow,” renders the U.S. recumbent: “America itself bends low, / Silent, resign’d, submissive”? Hm.

I need to sleep and read everything Ben Marcus has ever written and Whitman too while I’m at it. But I do recommend this story. So many lines make excellent epigrams:

smart people have little to do, in the end, but make love to their children and assault those in power

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Reverberating Forth from the Antipodes

Brian Boyd, Ron Rosenbaum, and Leland de la Durantaye appeared on Australian national radio yesterday to discuss the fate of V. Nabokov’s final unpublished novel. The host had the hots for Rosenbaum and didn’t use Boyd well. Boyd is the only panelist to have read The Original of Laura. He says it’s riddled with lacunae, dense, written on index cards, about 100 typeset pages long, and features entirely unprecedented literary forms. I have been ill all day. Here’s the link.

Dmitri Nabokov sounds like a lively correspondent. The host reads his emails aloud on the show, and they discuss his tendency to send messages in all-caps. He has a blog:

I have loved crisp bacon since childhood — so, now, this morning’s good news: a new brand of pig has also been cloned, on which I shall apparently be able to gorge myself with impunity due to its “heart – friendly design”.

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Dmitri Nabokov.

Unchastened Drums

“Good taste” — an idea that means quite a lot in this category of the Grammys — can be telegraphed quickly by reducing the role of the drums.

In last night’s dream I quoted the above line from Ben Ratliff’s article on why Herbie Hancock’s lamest record won a Grammy for Best Record. I then suggested to someone in the dream that I’d write an article about how the situation was reversed in Chicago-style deep-dish postrock, “like Tortoise,” that the fake “good taste” Ratliff describes is suggested by loud drums, not quiet, in postrock. I think I actually sat down at a computer and started writing the article in the dream. Upon waking, there isn’t even the ghost of an argument there. I have no idea what I was talking about. Loud drums don’t indicate bland, “exquisitely acceptable” music in rock. I think there was an ecstatic Beagle in the dream, too.

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Sordid Boons

I ate a tuna melt and waited an hour then ran 12 miles. The thing happened again where I assume an hour is enough to digest a tuna melt but even 4 miles in it’s still with me. The line from Wordsworth often gets stuck in my head when this happens:

The world is too much with us

but I replace world with tuna melt or burrito or whatever. Anyway, no burrito can survive more than 7 miles, and so things were fine by the time I was headed home. Except the tuna melt also pushed me past my civil twilight deadline and my glasses were falling apart and the part of the glasses that were falling apart kept fogging up so I’d have to very, very gingerly wipe them off, each time worried the lens was going to fall out, all of which made it difficult to, you know, focus on running, which alternately doesn’t require any focus whatsoever and requires a really huge amount.

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I remember when I ran cross country in high school, after a run my teammate Michael Chang asked me how things went for me and after I replied, can’t remember what I said, he sort of challenged me and said yeah, right, you were watching TV the whole time, implying that I wasn’t focusing on improving my time or my form but rather was indulging the psychotic freeform acid-refracted 80s sitcom that cycles through the tableau of my imagination while I run. Chang, good teammate that he was, had a good point. I absolutely was watching TV the whole time, distracting myself from the tedium and pain of running. Our coach at the time, Tom Foster, one of the greatest teachers/people I’ve ever met, a buddhist/Boston/angelheaded math teacher (hung upside down every morning in one of those batman machines and cycled saline solution through his nasal cavity; heavy Boston accent; impish humor alongside highly developed code of ethics; rakish/debonair/ET CETERA, a true role model, I felt guilty when Alex and I dragged him to see Breaking the Waves in the theater, afterwards he said “I like to monitor what I put into my consciousness”; this sentiment in anyone else enrages me, protecting yourself from art, come on, but Tom made it sound reasonable, like we’d just taken him to a restaurant that wasn’t up to code) — — – — ANYWAY contrast teammate Chang’s comment on TV-running with Tom’s (plainly Buddhist) cross-country running coaching: If you’re feeling pain, don’t think “my leg hurts” or “I’m in pain”. Think of it with less attachment: there is pain. How interesting. Reminds me of (more high school!) how in Spanish you don’t say “my hand”, you say “the hand”: duele la mano. Anyway so one needs to balance a presence of mind wherein you’re focused on performance and what’s around you so you don’t sprain your ankle or snub the sunset (was lovely tonight I was at Ocean Beach as Civil Twilight expired) but not so… “with the world” that one takes every stomach cramp personally and moans and bemoans etc etc. It’s a balance.

I ran six miles yesterday. Before that, nothing at all for about two weeks, except for four miles from my pal’s apt. in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, to McCarren Park, around the track a bunch of times, then back, in the rain. I’ve fallen off schedule pretty hard, but today am back and hopefully will be able to return to form without injury or insult.

The Log of the S.S. The Mrs. Unguentine is sort of like if Samuel Beckett had written Mating at sea. I’m doing the thing I do with novels I love, I think I did it with Mating, too, actually, where I postpone the last two pages a long time after reading the whole thing in a relatively short time. I need to be in the perfect frame of mind to finish it?? I am a precious little Pelican??

Ed Park’s forthcoming Personal Days is completely awesome. Making me laugh aloud again and again. Tearing through it, being mean to my friends in order to be alone again to keep reading. There’s just as much punning and hilarious ekphrasis (or whatever is the Greek word for fictional office satire within a fictional office satire) as I could have hoped for.

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“Recommended”