Category Archives: book club

Grainwaves

DOCTOR: Linda

LINDA: Herry

DOCTOR: Linda

LINDA: I checked out thirty books from the library today but I didn’t bring any of them home.

DOCTOR: What books? Why so many?

LINDA: I’m writing part of a master’s thesis this summer.

DOCTOR: About what?

LINDA: Just a fat fake scholarly elaboration of this Transom article from 2010.

DOCTOR: That sounds interesting!

LINDA: Yeah, I’m having fun researching it. The fake

DOCTOR: Hang on that’s the second time you’ve said “fake.” I think it’s become a tic. What do you really mean? Instead of fake, think of a more genuine, a more authentic

LINDA: [Seething] Why say both genuine and authentic? Is there a difference between the two that requires you to use both words?

DOCTOR: [With dignity and reserve] I merely used both words for emphasis.

LINDA: I’m sorry. My worst enemy had a baby last night. I just got the email announcement.

DOCTOR: It’s OK. I know you’re going through a lot.

LINDA: You mean my eyes.

DOCTOR: Yeah. Do you want to talk about your eyes?

LINDA: OK. They’re fucked.

DOCTOR: Ha. How are they fucked?

LINDA: I was taking Acetazolamide

DOCTOR: —a generic of Diamox, a standard diuretic used for glaucoma patients —

LINDA: —and also commonly prescribed for cystoid macular edema, which I have.

DOCTOR: A swelling in the retina. Which is itself a common complication of retinitis pigmentosa (RP).

LINDA: Yup. The RP is the main event — that’s the degenerative retinal condition that’s inexorably eating my vision from the outside in

DOCTOR:  At your diagnosis, at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at UCLA, when you were a teenager, I asked if you could see stars. You said no, and I knew it was RP.

LINDA: You asked if I could see stars in the night sky. It felt a little creepy. That you knew I couldn’t see stars. like you’d asked me, “Do you have a fantasy of being reborn as Frank Whaley’s character in Career Opportunities (1991), locked in an after-hours Target, rollerskating and making out  with Jennifer Connolly for eternity?”

And I was like…”uh, yeah. No, I can’t see stars.”

MSDCAOP EC005

CAREER OPPORTUNITIES, Jennifer Connelly, Frank Whaley, 1991, (c)Universal Pictures

DOCTOR: RP often first gets diagnosed in teenagers as night blindness.

LINDA: That movie (and, let’s be real, Jennifer Connelly) made a strong impression on me when I first saw it. I was probably 11.

DOCTOR: What made you think you had RP?

LINDA: It must have been… I don’t know. 2000, 2001. People were already Googling their ailments by then. Or, I guess, Yahoo!ing their ailments.

DOCTOR: Webcrawling across their pain.

LINDA: Ha. That phrase

DOCTOR: I just thought of it! I love riffing with you!

LINDA: Ha. That phrase reminds me of Chris Burden’s TV Ad, where it says “through the night softly.” he bought a TV spot on national television

DOCTOR: He’s the performance artist famous for the piece where he crucified himself to a Volkswagen.

LINDA: Right so he bought a TV spot on national TV where it shows him crawling through glass with his hands tied behind his back and then it says through the night softly

All this talk of my night blindness, kind of reminds me of this Chris Burden piece.

DOCTOR: Was it that painful?

LINDA: not at all. I mean that’s the thing unless you count walking into things (which hurts) or feeling sad or worrying you’ve passed it on to your son

DOCTOR: RP is genetically marked in some people but many with the condition have no record of it in their bloodline

LINDA: But it’s not painful. The Burden connection is more about the way I went through the world at night, and now the way I increasingly do during the day. Softly, at pains. But also something about the way that Burden has uhhh burdened himself with this difficulty himself. he’s not being tortured — he’s going through the night softly for an artistic reason.

DOCTOR: Cut that pun but my question is why do you think of the blindness as self-imposed?

LINDA: More that i have to perform it, that blindness becomes a sort of performance art. The cane really creates that feeling: when I unfold my cane, with a flourish, the social situation is transformed so fast it’s like Chris Burden just walked into a room and started doing one of his pieces. Of course I’m exaggerating

DOCTOR: At the time of your diagnosis you still drove a car

LINDA:  I still drove back then — even at night! Kind of unbelievable to me now. At first it was really only noticeable when I was like running through the woods with my drug-friends after dark

DOCTOR: But over the years…

LINDA: It’s gradually degenerated. Anyway I was living in NYC for a year recently

DOCTOR: You were in that one-woman show on Broadway.

LINDA: Grainwave.

DOCTOR: That got great reviews, didn’t it?

LINDA: Uh, it was a finalist for the Pulitzer. Yeah, we did well.

DOCTOR: What was it about?

LINDA: I adapted Dwight MacDonald’s Against the American Grain and sort of did a mashup with that and “The Star-Spangled Banner”  

DOCTOR: “Amber waves of grain”

LINDA: Right and there was also a thread about brainwaves

DOCTOR: “grain waves”

LINDA: Yep and one of the characters was the lovable fascist Walter Starkie whose autobiography was called The Waveless Plain 

DOCTOR: I thought it was a one-woman show. “Characters”?

LINDA: And I  performed the whole thing in a Lieder style inspired by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau who  Roland Barthes writes about in  “The Grain of the Voice,” his wonderful essay on the linguistics of sound.

Fischer-Dieskau’s recordings are played at loud volume at various times throughout the piece

DOCTOR: Wait didn’t you say it was a one-woman show?

LINDA: It took a lot out of me. Also Terry Eagleton has a book of essays called Against the Grain and he’s a character in it and so is an eagle that my mom made out of felt and I did the whole thing buried up to my waist in raw barley

DOCTOR: But so you said you stopped taking the Diamox?

LINDA: The Acetazolamide.

DOCTOR: Why?

LINDA: Well I was taking it because I had the swelling in my macula and that was fucking with my central vision

DOCTOR: you also have cataracts

LINDA: which are super treatable but I don’t want to fuck with surgery until it’s absolutely necessary because my vision is like a little scrap of parchment that I have been carrying with me through the wilderness

DOCTOR: the wilderness of, say, Cormac McCarthy’s The Road

LINDA: Sure. Or maybe a YA adventure book à la Hatchet

DOCTOR: OK

Hatchet

LINDA: And I think of someone with otherwise healthy eyes getting cataract surgery they’re worried but also if something goes wrong there’s a lot more…uh… parchment left over for them even in a worst-case scenario

DOCTOR: Whereas you have just this tattered soft decaying square that you’ve worried over and sweated through and pissed on and so on through the King Lear style Tempests

LINDA: seriously, the literary references here are a bit much what is going on

DOCTOR: I dunno just feeling my oats

LINDA: right so I’m understandably wary of laying my precious little square of fabric out on the operating table. so when I’m living in NYC i finally decide to go see a retinal specialist which i haven’t been to for years because I figured what’s the point there is no treatment for RP

DOCTOR: At least not for someone with as much vision as you have left but recent developments such as the Argus 2, an artificial retina

LINDA: Right sure but I’m a few years out from needing one of those and it just recently became commercially available and anyway the specialist on Gramercy Park looked at my eyes and was like jesus I don’t know how you get around — i had folded up my cane when i arrived so he didn’t know i used one? — and told me I was legally blind and could collect disability and then said the good news is you have this swelling which we can treat with Diamox. So  I’ve been on that  for a year or so and the only side effect I noticed was that it makes beer and most carbonated beverages taste bad

DOCTOR: which is a shame because you love craft beer!

LINDA: yeah, woe is me. but then i started having tinnitus. which for a person who’s gradually but inexorably going blind tinnitus is really fucking scary. because I was just imagining myself once i’d lost all my vision,  sitting there in the dark with my family nearby reading books that i’d only know the titles of if I asked them and not being able to quite make out what they’re saying because of the painfully loud ringing in my ears

DOCTOR: jesus

LINDA: and then one day i was re-googling my ailments and remembered that tinnitus is a listed side-effect of the drug

DOCTOR: motherfucker!

LINDA: so I stopped taking it right away and then really quickly and dramatically my vision went to shit. like a new level of shit. it took about a week off the acetazolamide, and  suddenly reading got really hard. as did moving around, even familiar places. chances of knocking over my son went up by 40 percent. asking if anybody had seen the thing sitting on the table in front of me became a daily thing.

DOCTOR: ugh

LINDA: so anyway i found an alternative treatment which i’m trying but i’ve only been on it like 2 weeks and I’m not sure if it’s working yet or not

DOCTOR: what’s the new drug called?

LINDA: spousal love

Solo Dad on Toast

This is a recipe given to me by my wonderful friend (and one-time nemesis) Savitri Chandran, who makes it much more fruitily with granulated gnum-gnumb beans sprinkled on after the fact. I have omitted those beans here, but the dish still retains an exhilarating zest.

  • 7 white mushrooms
  • 2 english muffins
  • oil
  • pb&j
  • mirin
  • soy sauce
  • old, old quarter of an old avocado (refrigerated)
  • the red hot chili peppers feat. salt n pepa

Make sure your wife is delivering a paper on Simone Weil at a comparative literature conference. You are alone with your son, a toddler. Put two whole-grain english muffins (I use Ezekiel brand, so named because of the passage in the bible where god says, “And I will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger [plus whole-grain muffinzz, this line may have been added by King James]” and then shoots a screaming Frank Whaley in the head as acoustic desert nomad surf music starts, sounding not unlike the new Tiniawaren album but more surfey than bluesey and the opening credits roll) in the toaster oven.

The english muffins ought to be vegan — most brands seem to contain powdered milk. Are you seriously that insecure that you think having the powdered milk of some artificially inseminated factory farm cow destined for the meat grinder is going to make the nooks and crannies of your little vegetarian muffin taste any better? No. Your milky muffin is poor. Buy a better muffin.

(Also hey I want to know why the cows that make the powdered milk in your [and ok not infrequently my] muffin are lactating. You think they decided to finally take the plunge and have a baby and they read that the longer you breastfeed your baby calf the more immunities and ADHD-resistance it builds up, so they have all this extra cows milk for you? Fact: dairy farmers block their cows’ access to all third-party websites, including Slate, Salon, Mother Jones, and other outlets that might educate them about the benefits of longterm breast feeding. No but seriously dairy farmers spend a lot of time keeping those cows as pregnant as possible as long as possible and then when they can’t anymore they get chopped into cheap chili. Buy a fucking peace muffin, OK, let’s get back to breakfast–

You don’t need to toast your son’s muffin so much — just loosen it up because truth be told those Ezekiel muffins can be kinda bricklike before they’ve warmed up. Slather some PB ünd J on his and cut it into quarters, like a little time-piece. Noon to 3 p.m.: muffin. 3-6 p.m.: muffin. 6-9: yes, muffin. 9-12 midnight is muffin time. Do you understand? The sandwich will distract the child whilst you attend to your half of this meal. Now is a good time to decide that later you’ll write a blog post about breakfast, even though you have more or less stopped blogging in favor of, whatever, working, reading, writing sad diary entries that lack the zest (and embedded video) of a blog entry since you know no one will ever read them.

It’d be easy enough to just slap your muffin with hummus and move on to more pressing matters (becoming an activist, making the bed, etc). But it’s going to be a long morning, no matter how deep the reserves of fun you and your child will explore,  and you deserve more than hummus today. It’s Saturday.

Hey: Why do people frown on dads who smoke one hit of pot after their kids are asleep for the night, the baby monitor flickering quietly like a 19th-century candle? Seems hypocritical whilst these same people smile upon those selfsame dads who drink four high-octane seasonal ales after the kids are in bed. Is it safe to admit here on the barely occluded blog that Last night while my wife was out with Gerhard Richter and his extended family I tried to treat my degenerative retinal condition with illegal medicine? Before watching Steven Soderbergh’s Side Effects on Netflix I had some spooky fun times with Dodie Bellamy’s new semiotext(e) pamphlet, printed on the occasion of the 2014 Whitney Biennial. It’s called The Beating of Our Hearts, and it’s animated by (among many others) these two YouTube videos by Andrew Kenower:

If I were to try to respond with any interpretive substance to Bellamy’s essay I think I’d run out of time and brain cells and tiny dudeman would wake up from his nap and you’d never find out what to do with your muffin, now nearly toasted. Put oil in the pan or, more likely, spray it for nine tenths of a second with a spray-can of oil even though people who subscribe to gimmicky nonsense like spray-cans of oil tend to be fatter than people who just pour a little oil in the pan but know when to stop eating or who can skip meals without feeling “deprived” or who can go six hours without eating without thinking constantly of food. Cut up the mushrooms, probably not local, probably not “ethically sourced.” Throw em in there. Pour in some mirin. Mirin makes everything taste great when you sautee with it. Soy sauce in there. Salt. Pepper. Enough chili flakes so that if this were on the menu at a restaurant they’d need to put a little icon of Flea’s face or Anthony Kiedis’s wang in a sock next to this item.

Come close as you can to burning the mushrooms without burning them: Near-crispy. Spread the top of your halved muffin with the last slices of a dying avocado like the avocado had come out of a tub of vegan fruit spread. Avocado is always already a savory vegan fruit spread (in a compostable wrapper! Just kidding). Remember: Avocado is Already™. Respectfully lump the mushroom sautee on top. Retain your dignity. Don’t put anything in your mouth until you’re sitting down. Your son is almost done with his breakfast by now, having eaten his way through about “6 hours” of the “muffinly timepiece” you “wound” for him. But he’s been learning that Daddy Needs to Eat Breakfast Too (how old until he points at your middle and replies, “Not by the looks of it, Bro”?), so gently bring the muffin to your mouth, over and over, until it’s gone, as your son turns the pages of a book on the floor, quietly identifying each dog that appears there.

Serves 2.

club

—Really wish I was a peace activist right now.

—Why, for the tax breaks?

—Peace activists get special tax breaks?

—I thought they did. Maybe they don’t.

—I don’t think they do. I think the biggest perk to being a peace activist is occasional free lentil soup from potlucks.

—That sounds pretty yummy.

—It is! Garam masala and roasted carrots, yum.

—Yum!

—I know, so yummy.

—And all that shit is vegan.

—I know! Yum.

—Although can I make a confession the other day at Paul’s I had some of this frittata?

—Vegan police!

—So yummy though. The olives were from Israel.

—Yum.

—So should we talk about these poems?

—OK. Let’s start with yours.

—Oh no! [Laughter]

—Your poems are amazing.

—No they’re not.

—They are! They’re like Rilke.

—Shut up! I’ve actually never read Rilke.

—Read his poems. They’re amazing!

—I know OK!

—I have constructive criticism. All the raven imagery is bullshit.

—I know, I already cut those parts.

—Oh really OK well I don’t have any other comments actually so now let’s talk about mine.

—OK. My main thing was I don’t like poems about rape.

—Wait, did you get that my poem wasn’t about sexual assault?

—What?

—The poem is  about rape, or Brassica napus, a bright yellow flowering member of the family Brassicaceae (mustard or cabbage family).

—Fuck, I actually read the poem over the weekend at my mom’s cabin which doesn’t have internet so I couldn’t look it up!

—You couldn’t look it up on your phone?

—You’re right, I should have. I’m sorry.

[The oven’s electronic timer beeps, signaling the “ontological arrival” of the “popovers”]

Wales

—Here, you don’t have a job?

—No, I’m all alone, on a computer not hooked up to the internet, drinking a craft beer out of a can, composing an email to you.

—It’s almost like we’re having a beer together.

—How romantic.

—How are your studies?

—You mean the life of the mind?

—How is your life?

—My mind hurts.

—How is your salad duty?

—I’ve been making bad salads. Bag salads.

—How is your girlfriend?

—I had a dream that she died.

—But she’s alive?

—She’s working on a new translation of Émile Zola’s Germinal (1885). It’s an experimental translation where she takes liberties with the text. Instead of mineworkers, her version of the novel centers around a group of flowers.

—Anthropomorphic flowers?

—Is there any other kind?

—Yes

—Non-anthropomorphic flowers?

—The flowers take place in an election year and the gummy part of my car’s tyres.

—Huh. I think Uncle’s gone into one of his Tish-rages again, Paulice–

—Right. Grab the corduroy. A wide wale will be wanted for tonight. Oh, hush, Uncle; please don’t. Stop fussing. It’s Auld Hallow’s Ween, for aunt grable’s sake. We musn’t brackish the whoolinancy — I mean the whoolery.

—Genre’s got a beer-boner for stoners tonight, Barbara. Barbara.

—I can’t tell if you want this exclamation mark.

—I don’t want just any exclamation point, Mark. [Pause, applause.] I want yours. [Renewed, sustained applause. A child is born.]

—This boner’s gone free.

—Now that you’re a dad, and a city councilman, you mustn’t post pseudohomoerotic flash fiction on your blog. You must only post outspoken 5 point rejections of Romney’s 5 point plan and so forth.

—You remind me of the news.

—Witch part?

—The fuzzy part with no skin.

—That’s called the Purloined Lettuce. [A mouth.] I am studying Botany with your Aunt.

—My nude aunt?

—I have a newborn baby. A child. I haven’t slept. No longer drink coffee. Go Tigers.

— I expect you’ll want to tell me about your craft beer in a can, now.

—Yes. I bought it at the supermarket with some hummus and the halloween candy. Came in a six pack just like a set of Diet Dr. Pepper, but in fact it’s an intensely hoppy microbrew from Whole Foods, Colorado!

—Durango. That candy’s not vegan

—Let’s get personal. I know writing on your blog makes you miss San Francisco.

—Of course. Who doesn’t? But the thing San Francisco doesn’t know is that I took all my shit with me to Missouri so I still have it so if I want to look at my shit like my books or the only one person I love more than anything

—Hang on, there are trick or treaters at the door. [Inaudible] [Audible] [Inaudible]. Fucker just took my last Krackel. [Pause.] Nice costume… What are you?

—Desert clown.

[Doug Liman, director of Swingers (1996), The Bourne Identity (2002), Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005), Jumper (2008), and Fair Game (2010), walks in with Studio Monitors around his neck. Curtain.]

My College Radio Application

Dear mom and dad,

I went to college from 1999-2003, where I lived, ate, breathed, and smoked college radio (WOBC-FM) all day every day. Then, with a year left, I dropped out to move to CA to work for a magazine. I worked there for the next eight years. Then I fell in love with a beautiful woman and she got a job in town, so I decided to follow her here and finish my B.A. To my intense delight and surprise, this makes me eligible for a show on [yr station]. When I dropped out of college, I cryogenically froze my radio show and now, eight years later, [cue music bed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9_tVZFZ5PR4] my beloved show is going into the industrial microwave on MEDIUM for 6-8 minutes and dragging itself through the halls of the academy once again!

My show (TITLE TK: “WEIRD OLD GUY?”) will be freeform radio at its finest, pushing into the red w/r/t innovation and FUN. Fun must never be sacrificed to innovation. And vice versa.

Music is the bedrock of the show, and I plan to make the most of [yr station]’s rock library, in addition to my extensive personal vinyl/CD/MPEG collection. The best rock — from oddities, novelties, classics, forgotten b-sides, to brand-new singles and previews of bands coming through town. But sprinkled throughout the music will be the true jewels of the show, the multiple talk-based segments. Possibilities include:

• “Walking the Line”
Each week, a different writer (from creative writing profs, to visiting poets, to MU poetry/fiction PhDs and even undergrads) brings in one line — a line of their own poetry, or their favorite poet’s, or a sentence from a novel, or from a piece of journalism, anything — just has to be one line of “literature” for us to discuss.

(Each of these segments will have its own musical intro. Maybe Grandmaster Flash’s “White Lines” for this first one? Or Johnny Cash, sure)

• “Comics Digest”

A weekly verbal recap of what happened this week in the comics page of the Missourian

ex: “It’s been a tough week for Lois of ‘Hi & Lois’; she’s been home with the measles and her little brother won’t leave her alone!” etc etc

• “Vibin’ with the City Council”

Each week I get a Columbia city councilperson on the phone (pre-recorded, most likely; I have a ZOOM H4N I can produce several of these segs in advance, but I’ll always cue and introduce them live) and ask: what’s the vibe of the city council like this week?

• deranged/brief Self-interviews; fake interviews with pre-recorded interlocutors

• I might try a recurring feature about being a 30 year old dude taking computer science with freshman; I will probably rip lots of samples from my DVD of Rodney Dangerfield’s Back to School for this (maybe rent Happy Madison, too…). Find other old undergrads and ask them about their lives, what it’s like here for them

• I have an MU football-related idea that I’ll only tell you if you give me a show with a legit timeslot

• Reviews (with field recordings) of frat party bands (!!!!!)

• as many opportunities for live call-in segments as possible (TBD)

• Guest singles (a guest — anyone from the dean of grad studies to that girl who works at Sparky’s brings in 5 singles and we play them and talk about them)

• tiny, hilarious 5-minute radio dramas

• even tinier, even more hilarious 2-minute radio dramas in foreign languages feat. students in various MU language departments

• Much, much more

• Seriously, so much more you have no idea

• And, as I mentioned above, all of these segs, some of which may happen every week, some once a month or so, will all be sprinkled like cherries and chopped nuts over the wide swath of whipped-creamy dark-chocolate sets of top-shelf weird/funky/great music. Wire, the Fall, Olivia Tremor Control, Pixies b-sides, Unrest, Big Dipper, Deerhoof, Beefheart, Squeeze, Elvis Costello, Sonic Youth, Truman the Tiger’s Drug-Hell Singers, Is That a Real Band?, That Would Be Amazing If So, Go Betweens, Soft Boys, Soft Machine, Soft Cell, Soft Bulletin, Don Cherry, Destroyer, Cluster, Tyvek, Essential Logic, Glasser, Wreckless Eric, Nick Lowe, Sparks, Magazine, Melvins, Cardigans, Acrylics, Pterodactl, Fela Kuti, R. Stevie Moore, et al!!!!

Please let me know if you have any questions. I love you.

Fatty

Hey Cutie! Well, if I’m not blogging, I don’t know who is… Best anagram for great is always Greta. I had to write this thing so I took care of other fake-important business and finally barnstormed my way out the house by maybe 1:15. Stopped at cafe number one, where my internet doesn’t work. Drank a single Americano and wrote the thing. It only had to be like 600 words, I just needed to finish a draft, whatever, right? Pay attention to what, ladies, am I right? If only the sports section were full of field hockey, long-distance running, rock-climber recipes, and so forth. Mountain Bike stats, info-graphics about how commercial horseradish is made. Then I’d read it… Ate a clam-filled Peasant Pie. I try to be vegan, and then I stop trying. While I waited for the pie to heat up, I read 2/3 of a framed Dan Leone column about Peasant Pies on the wall that begins with a non-review of a Mark Richard book. (Mark Richard is a Gordon Lish guy. What does that mean? I heard Dan Leone is a Gordon Lish guy, too. What does that mean? I guess technically L.E. Leone would be a Gordon Lish gal. Maybe it just means they took Lish’s class, or were edited by Lish. Code-name Quoinstone’s love for Dan (now L.E.) Leone made me give her a closer look. Those columns are a boon. Real boons. San Francisco is lucky to have L.E. née Dan Leone writing about food in the pages of its best alternative newsweekly. Future generations may shake their heads in wonder.) Moved on to cafe number two, more coffee, realized the draft was fine, realized they didn’t offer internet — it’s more of a bakery than a coffee shop. Plenty of people on laptops, but no internet. This is a shameful description of my current life between full-time jobs. I have a part-time job that requires me to squeeze out 600 words every week or so. [Glances at Jawbone, smiles, casts +4 wagon spell. Begins whistling The Man from Laramie.]

Barista at coffee shop number one asked older woman I didn’t really turn to look at what she was doing today; woman replied, loudly, “I woke up at one, now I’m going to the Legion of Honor. They’ve got the Magna Carta there.” A pause. “I don’t really know what the Magna Carta is, But I’m going to check it out.” Barista: “It sounds like it has to do with the Founding Fathers.” Onward to the Mission Branch of the SFPL. Sent off my thing. Yelling match, crazy dude, “You stepped on my foot and then took my turn on the computer. I want your name, so I can give it to the spiritual registry of offenders.” Patrons yelled for him to shut up. Elementary schoolkids yelled the same thing at each other an hour earlier on the street. Sent the emails. Went to therapy. If I woke up at one on a Wednesday and didn’t know what the Magna Carta was, I wouldn’t say it so loudly. But this blog entry is essentially the same thing. Confessions. Bought and ate a large container of wasabi-soy almonds. Stopped into a new bookstore called, I think, Press Works on Paper? Can’t tell if there’s more punctuation in there. The store is mightily well-appointed, particularly considering they opened less than a week ago. The table in the center was covered in books lain flat: Andy Fitch’s Ten Walks; amazing-looking Al Columbia book from Fantagraphics; Witz; something old by Blake Butler; something old by Anne Carson; plus I think Nox; a journal called Paul Revere’s Horse whose editor and whose editor’s fiancée I ran into in Whole Foods with my fiancée yesterday. We discussed the price of avocados. I feel like I’m trapped inside a club remix of a Leonard Cohen song; Heather Christle’s The Difficult Farm; Rachel B. Glaser’s Pee on Water; Thin Kimono; the Wave book of James Tate prose poems with Bee in the title; Matthew Zapruder; something by that poet with three names who has a new book I just got an email about. All on this one table. On the shelves were things like The Age of Wire and String and Stories in the Worst Way, a twine-wrapped set of old Penguin Paperbacks, Knopf-published Field Guides to Birds/Sea Creatures/et al. Expensive Japanese and German stationery. Fine-looking art books and prints and bookbinding materials. I told the guy at the laptop/register that I was pretty bowled over by their selection. I think it’s the most fussily — that’s not the word, I don’t mean to be negative, I was impressed by this store. Assiduously? -curated bookstore I’d ever been to. The spectre of Flying Object, or do I mean Walser & Co., I honestly don’t know the difference, and I faltered trying to explain them to the kind dude, suffused the place. Not that I’ve been to either of those places, but I wanted Northhampton to drop-ship a passel of chapbooks to this place. It also could’ve used more from Siglio and Picturebox, but AS I SAY, they’d been open five days.  Nothing from McSweeney’s, either, but apparently that’s because PGW turned up their nose at this store. It also might’ve been nice if they’d had print-outs of Helen DeWitt’s and Bill Knott’s blogs stacked somewhere. I’ve never read a poem in my life. Then I stepped on the foot of an old traveler (angry survivor of the 60s) as I exited, fishing for my almonds. He made an aghastly sound and I said, quickly, “I’m so sorry, I’m nearly blind.” Which is true. I no longer drive during the day. (Haven’t driven at night for a few years.) Tuesday morning around 6 I googled “blind martial arts.” Apparently vision’s not too important once you’re in close contact. Jiu-Jitsu.  I might begin (being is the preferred anagram) Asian grappling (?) once I move to Missouri. I don’t want to buy a gi unless I’m sure. Tonight, packing for tomorrow’s wedding-trip to  Chicago, I am glad I haven’t gotten rid of my leather dress shoes in a fit of vegan indignance. I still feel vegan diffidence even though at this moment my belly is full of pork. Yes, after the coffee and the clams I crashed and caved even deeper. It’s not full of pork, but the pork is in there.

“With a beard, St. Joseph; without, the Virgin Mary”

I began writing a comment on this post by Ed Park, where he politely disagreed with Jenny Davidson’s negative response to the style of Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time — but after two Stella Artois and some Ryvita crackers, I’ve decided to host my thoughts here, in my own air-conditioned corner of the web.

Tonight I’ll finish book nine, The Military Philosophers. I might not have made it this far into A Dance without the support of the Society I’m reading it with — or without Ed’s promise that once you get to about book three, things, as Levi notes on Jenny’s post, “will be layered with memory and meaning,” and become more enjoyable.

I couldn’t help but think of Jenny’s reaction to Powell tonight, when I read the passage in book nine where our narrator, Nick, hears Blake’s “Jerusalem” sung at a Victory Day Service at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London at the end of Word War II:

Blake was as impenetrable as Isiah; in his way, more so. It was not quite such wonderful stuff as the Prophet rendered into Elizabethan English, yet wonderful enough. At the same time, so I always felt, never quite for me. Blake was a genius, but not one for the classical taste. He was too cranky. No doubt that was being ungrateful for undoubted marvels offered and accepted. One often felt ungrateful in literary matters, as in so many others.

Powell reminds Jenny D., she says, of no one so much as Pope, with the trouble he takes “to develop an elaborate and fluent idiom that seems… overequipped given the relative banality and commonplace nature of the thoughts therein expressed!” It’s funny that immediately following the passage quoted above — one of the most self-consciously literary-critical in the series so far — the narrator invokes Pope himself, quoting “Imitations of Horace”:

Who now reads Cowley? If he pleases yet,
His moral pleases, not his pointed wit;
Forgot his epic, nay Pindaric art,
But still I love the language of his heart.

“But,” our narrator adds, “surely the pointed wit was just what did survive?” And who now reads Powell? A weirdly vocal and large group, it seems. The pleasure of Powell is in his humor, and his humor is entirely social. “Wit was just the quality he brought to bear with such remarkable effect.”

Before returning to his narrative of periphrastically noncommittal observations of his daily trials and triumphs, Nick ends this section of literary reverie in St. Paul’s Cathedral with a critical reading of the National Anthem:

Repetitive, jerky, subjective in feeling, not much ornamented by imagination nor subtlety of thought and phraseology, the words possessed at the same time a kind of depth, an unpretentious expression of sentiments suited somehow to the moment.

I’m overly inclined to think I’ve found an author’s ars poetica whenever a literary-critical episode appears within a piece of literature. But I wonder if this itchily intrigued section of the Military Philosophers can connect somehow with Professor Davidson’s response to Powell’s style.

UPDATE: I hate this blog post! I’m going to sleep