Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Let your inner Yossarian out to play

Newspaper Blackout Poems. Brought to you by Austin Kleon...and you!

In which your narrator leaves for an hour and finds himself right where he was without realizing it


Did I mention I started a new job last week? I started a new job last week. The long unemployment run finally came to an end when I decided that my desire to be a free-wheeling artistic town vagabond couldn't stand up against my desire to, well, eat. I like eating. I like eating a lot, actually. Dieting half of last year? That was stupid. See, I find that I'm a far happier starving artist when I've got a belly full of expensive food in me. No no, good sir! I shall not be ordering from the $0.99 Value Menu today, oh no! Give me nothing but your finest chicken nuggets! The ones that come plated in solid gold!

So combine my sudden re-emergence into the daylight with a general ennui toward all things Internet (wake me up when "bloggers" can be called "people" again, you know, like they used to be called before 2002 rolled around) and then toss in my fervent desire to immediately convince myself that having a day job will make writing daily a far more maintainable routine than it was when I had all the time in the world to fart around all day staring out the window while wondering how I'd dress up my evening's ramen ("...things that offer the most instant rewards when I do them every day, but which I have the hardest time actually being consistent about..."? Oh, gods yes, Gwenda, do I know what you mean), and what you wind up with is a sharp, but hardly permanent, decrease in the general sex appeal of the staff here at TDAOC HQ. (Hey! Nike! Coke! Microsoft! Bitches, sponsor me, already! I will make you famous. Famous.)


I'll pause here, in the "dinner after writing and before reading" portion of the evening, to let you know where I landed since I finished Half of a Yellow Sun: I'm now halfway through The Unconsoled by Kazuo Ishiguro. I'm not sure why it made sense to pick that book up at this particular time, but I can tell you why reading the book makes sense to me now, a sense I doubt it ever could have made to me back when I read it in high school (and hated it--I'm sure I've mentioned that about 500 times in this blog's archives): this book is often hysterical. I haven't read enough reviews of his stuff to know for sure what the critical consensus is about his work (I mean, other than that everybody agrees with me that Kazuo Ishiguro is fucking awesome), but I think he might be sort of under-recognized as one of the greatest deadpan comic geniuses ever. Maybe--I don't know. I'm just some guy, you know? But damn, this book is just hilarious sometimes.

Still, I don't get it. I don't really know what the hell he's trying to do with this book. I mean, I get a lot more than I did when I read it when I was 15 or 16 or whatever. I get that there's humor here and I get that there's also this incredibly curious sense of dread that seethes beneath the surface of the story, this profound sense of dislocation, a very real feeling of having left some important task undone but without realizing that the task has been left undone. (Remains of the Day, anybody?) But I'm often just so bloody mystified by the thing I wonder if I'm not completely underthinking (or overthinking) everything I think about it. Maybe. Really, I don't know.

What I do know is I like it a lot more this time through. It feels very fitting right now, refreshing in its own way. Ishiguro's prose, serving any end, I'm convinced, is some of the finest prose out there. It's like, I don't know, super tasty, perfectly chilled water. Or something.


Roman numeral'ed sections in blog posts are like caps lock on Instant Messenger: cruise control for awesome.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Upcoming events

This Thursday, March 1, Cleveland-area musician/singer/songwriter/generally nice guy Chris Collins (aka (to regular TDAOC readers) Friend Chris) will be performing at Deweys Coffee Cafe from 7 pm to 9 pm. I think it's safe to call his solo stuff piano pop (though I'm sure he'll correct me if I'm wrong about any of these details). He does a good blend of upbeat and downbeat stuff. (And don't forget to check out The Muttering Retreats at the Beachland Tavern on April 13. Don't worry, I'll remind you again at least thirty-seven times before then.)

Also, David Lynch's Inland Empire will be at the Cleveland Cinematheque for one week starting this Friday, March 2. I'll be there Friday night (dancing backmasked midgets willing) so say hi if you're there that night. I'll be the guy completely freaking out with joy right after the show, so I ought to be easy to find.


I spent yesterday afternoon reading the last couple hundred pages of Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. Uhm, yeah. Excellent book. Rather, ah, emotionally draining, though, you might say. I spent much of last night looking at the TBR pile thinking that none of these books are really going to work for me right now. I mean, how do you follow that up?

The last three books I've read have been a real trip, on the whole. There was The End of Mr. Y which was fantastic and then there was The Open Curtain by Brian Evenson which, on the one hand I was slightly underwhelmed by for fairly lame reasons (generally speaking, most things classified as "horror" leave me feeling underwhelmed--even House of Leaves I was sort of "Eh" about the first time I read it), but then on the other hand the book had so much good stuff going on in it that the first hand complaint rings sort of false to my own ears, and then I followed that up with Half of a Yellow Sun and, well.

Well. It's times like this I wish I had some real underhand softballs on the TBR pile. A couple books I could just read without having to worry about whether the books might accidentally make me think or feel anything. Like as I was starting Sun I was thinking maybe I'd follow it up with some Orhan Pamuk or maybe I'd revive my Summer of Dostoevsky project next and now I'm thinking, yeah, worst idea ever, right now. No, what I really want is something comfortable and mindless, some good honest dumb pleasure. Books that won't care about my performance during my time with them. Or maybe something French. Because, well, with Camus and the gang, the lit might be challenging, but at least there's that existential cloud of non-existence hovering over everything. Eh! Bon soir! Have some wine, monsieur! The plague does not exist, but neither do you!

We'll see where I land.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

War and Peace Beta v0.72.1

Huh. So, great: not only do I get to not read staggering literary classics, I get to not read them multiple times, simultaneously. Swell.


Yeah, that's all I got on that one. There's some changes being made in the Matrix behind TDAOC HQ, so I'm distracted. More distracted than usual. You can probably expect turbulence and non-regular posting schedules for the next couple weeks. (So, really, just what you've come to know and love from me! You winner, you!)

Friday, February 16, 2007

The end of me

I just finished The End of Mr. Y and I feel like Scarlett Thomas just beat the crap out of my mind with my own mind. Like it's as if she ripped my mind out of me and then wrapped it up in a dishtowel, using it as a sort of ad hoc mace against itself.

Which is to say: Awesome!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Onward and upward

I finished Wizard of the Crow yesterday. While I had trouble getting into it, the book did open up for me once the Ruler's illness came back into play. (It was mentioned in the opening line of the novel but not revealed and made into an integral plot point until midway through the book.) From there, I was more convinced I wanted to finish the book than I was during some of the earlier sections, when I was nearly ready to chuck it. So that's good.

But on the whole, the book just didn't entertain me the way I was hoping it would. Don't get me wrong: there's lots of interesting stuff in there. You could easily write a thesis on the role of binary opposites with regards to race, class, and gender as they pertain to the intersection of national and personal postcolonial African identity. And there are some good images and moments here and there--the Museum of Arrested Motion being an excellent example of such. But I didn't find the characters or the structure all that captivating. I take part of the blame on that. The book (I believe) makes heavy use of allegory and tosses in a healthy helping of satire, satire and allegory happening to be, to me, two of the least interesting literary techniques or styles out there. (Certainly in part because I've got next to no ear for satire. There's a story there, one I'll save for a rainy day.)

So then last night, a bit bummed out but ready to move on to something else, I started the oft-mentioned The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas. And oh holy shit did I not want to put it down. And I'm only 100 pages into it. I'd started fearing, while reading Wizard, that I'd developed this immunity or allergy to blog-hyped books. End is putting those fears to rest. Hell, it's kicking those fears in the ass and stealing their wallets. Yeah, I'm right there with you people on this one. At least, I think I am. I don't remember what anybody has said about the book other than that like five (or maybe fifteen? I don't know, I wasn't keeping track) other bloggers have mentioned it recently and they all seemed to love it. And, well, unless the book craps out for the next 300 pages, I suspect you can add another member to the End fan club.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Switching and witching

The Blogger police finally broke into TDAOC HQ and held a gun to my head and ordered me to switch to the new version of Blogger. So far, so good. I apologize for the inevitable barfing up of a new RSS feed, especially to those readers coming in via the LJ feed, whose friends lists are about to get bombed back to oblivion. (Music: Darby's sweet, sweet Internet prose. Mood: Overwhelmed.)

While I sort through the latest Blogger doodads and gizmos, go check in on our old friend Orhan Pamuk, who, Nobel Prize in hand or not, can't seem to get a break. (Shown next to the article is him demonstrating his technique for blowing magic pixie dust in the faces of any attackers.)

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Director's commentary

I've provided a sort of "director's commentary" to my Monday post regarding Gerald Dawe's poem "A Shower of Rain." I only point it out because I spent far more time on it than I'd meant to, and I would hate for my legions of fans to miss a single word of my uttered genius. (Even the redundant ones ought to be fed and watered thrice daily under the assumption that they shall someday blossom, producing a fabulous display of enlightenment.)

Also, it gives me a chance to point out that I'm glad that Scott responded to my response to the post's initial response, because it allows me to clarify that I have no problem with people disagreeing with me. Sad to say, but I know it might sometimes happen. I leave the comments sections open and am quite comfortable with the fact that people can use them to say "Darby, you're right" or "Darby, you are wrong." Just know that it's my nature to attempt to rise or fall to the level of the discourse aimed in my direction. So if you step onto my turf and start talking shit (figuratively or, yes, literally) I am going to offer as much respect as I'm shown.

Monday, February 12, 2007

February Quick Hits at Arriviste Press

My latest batch of Quick Hits is up at Arriviste Press. So go thataways for reviews of and free tracks from Polly Panic, The PoPo, The Memory Band, and The Silent Years.

"A Shower of Rain" by Gerald Dawe

Well, here's a poetry post, though certainly not the post I keep threatening to finish: go check out today's Poetry Daily selection (archive link), "A Shower of Rain," by Gerald Dawe. It's a truly lovely piece--compelling rhythm driving the line-by-line creation of a portrait at once private and inviting, insular yet familiar. The "steel grid" line alone makes me want to snatch up everything Dawe has ever written, on the chance I'll find more little tiny lightning bolts like that one elsewhere in his work.

I like it.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


Inland Empire, the new David Lynch movie, this little film I may have mentioned a slight interest in seeing? Looks like its coming to at least one theater somewhere in Cleveland on March 2. Lots of other non-NYC non-LA non-Chicago dates scheduled, too.

Excuse me while I completely freak out.

I am so absolutely beyond the point of glee right now. Or I will be, until I realize this means I still have three weeks to kill until I can see the movie...oops.

Well, okay, speaking of Pynchon...

...I don't know if I ever mentioned or linked to Dear Mr. Pynchon, a daily (for often irregular definitions of "daily") page-by-page response to Gravity's Rainbow. The blog was launched in January 2006, and has recently crossed the 200 "letter" mark. The entries are short, elliptical, and you might say impressionistic. There is also a remarkably consistent voice to the letters, as well as an above-Internet-average concern with style and voice. They do well to capture, if not the mood (as if one such mood can be said to exist), then certainly a mood of reading the book.

The obvious point of comparison is the Zak Smith illustration project. For my money, I have enjoyed and felt engaged with the Dear Mr. Pynchon letters more than I have Smith's illustrations. If nothing else, reading the letters demonstrates (or at least, reiterates) the fact that Smith's drawings are just one act of interpretation, and that interpreting and reinterpreting Gravity's Rainbow (if not all literature, if not all art) is an ongoing, highly creative exercise, one that is performed by individual people who need swear no allegiance to the "common understanding" or the "inherited knowledge" about what a given work "is." That there is, in other words, more to getting a work of art, than merely "getting it." (Which may be an obvious point, made in over-inflated scare-quoted language. But it still seems to me like one that is worth being reminded about, now and then.)

This, that, and the other

  • This:

    I'm still reading Wizard of the Crow. It's taking me longer to read than I'd planned on, based on the "can't put it down" reports I've seen elsewhere. I've been pulled away from my reading chair the last few days by other activities. It does not help that I find it hard to work up the energy and desire to pick the book back up after each time I put it down. It's become one of those "I read and I read and I read for hours" books and then I check the page count and I've only read 20 pages. I feel nervous voicing this fact, knowing the book has many champions, and I don't feel qualified right now to explain why the book isn't sucking me in. Tough to prove a lack. I'm going to stick with it--I've already dropped one book mid-stride this year, and for far better reasons than I could give were I to drop this one. But right now I'm mostly looking forward to getting into a rock block of recent litblogger favorites that I've started lining up on my TBR pile and on my library card. And, well, I'd like to finish Wizard and then go back and read the reviews and the comments, to see if I can give a little more flesh to my currently seemingly contrarian opinion. I know there's a certain line of thought that suggests that litbloggers have a responsibility not just to praise books but to question them and criticize them as well, which, though I tend to be a nice guy, and I tend to say nice things about books, and though I tend to be rather forgiving as a reader, I am actually cool with. But, fuck, this is a book I don't really want to be the lone odd voice out on. I don't really want to be that guy. But, well, we'll see what happens.

  • That:

    I'm still processing Gravity's Rainbow. Yeah, I know, I read it like three months ago, get over it, already, right? It ended, and it's not restarting. It's dead, man. Dead. To which I say: I've started picking through a 1986 volume of criticism edited by Harold Bloom which I'd grabbed from the library so I could read the Rocket Power essay by Richard Poirier, the essay that pretty much every other essay about Pynchon has to tip its hat to. I'm not committing myself to reading all these essays, but what I have read has been entertaining and enlightening, at least in a geeky academic way. (I make no apologies for my nerdish behavior. In some cultures, it's considered attractive.) This has got my mind re-thinking some things, and I've started to get into this line of thought about, something to do with Gravity's Rainbow being, not just surprisingly not as hard to read as I'd expected going into it, and also far funnier than I'd expected, but also being a far angrier book than I realized, even when I was reading it. Which is really another piece of evidence that goes onto the "Yes he does" pile in the "Does Pynchon give a shit what you think?" debate that's been raging in my head since long before I read any of his work. The more I think about it, the more I realize how much concern there is throughout the novel. Which, well, OMG, intentional fallacy alert, right? Whatevs--wouldn't be the first fallacy I've committed on this blog.

  • The other:

    Back in my drug-addled and fancy-free youth of November 2006, I blatantly made fun of an issue regarding whether litbloggers had a responsibility to their readers to inform them when they had received free reviews copy of books. I made fun of it because I thought it was a stupid issue. Of course, back then, I had not yet become the sort of person who accepted free review copies of books from publishers, mostly because the only books I'd ever been offered were things like My Book of Pictures Without Any Words in Them and How to Write a Book that Darby Won't Give Two Shits About, the books I suspect that everybody with a blog that ever uses the word "book" in any post gets offered. But now I'm going to mention that I do have a couple review copies on my end table right now, not so much because I feel I have a duty to you the reader of this blog, but more because I had that joke about those fake book titles in my mind, and I really needed to use it. Both books are short story collections, so I've been reading them a bit here, a bit there, and I'm going to finish them both most likely, and I'm going to say stuff about them the way I say stuff about most everything I read, and you're going to be free to decide whether or not I'm being a greedy free-book-grubbing whore. Maybe at some point I'll write up a review copy policy or something, though I'm not sure how much more I can say other than "While intriguing, review copies are hardly what I had in mind when I started this blog, though, and let's be frank, actually getting a book into my apartment is a major step toward getting me to actually read a book." I'll dig up the old Businessese thesaurus and dress it up nice and fancy, maybe.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Stephen Dixon interview

Your friend and mine Matthew Tiffany finds a long (long!) interview with TDAOC hero Stephen Dixon at the Baltimore City Paper.

I've only skimmed the photo captions and a little bit of the interview so far. Already I can tell it's going to be a good interview. Like, see how we can finally put one nagging question to rest:

City Paper: Are you Thomas Pynchon?

Stephen Dixon: No.

Which, really: what a hilarious thought.

Check out Matthew's site for a brilliant excerpt, and a summation of what Dixon is up to right now. (To summate the summation: a lot.)

But I don't see what this has to do with not being able to tell whether the story is a male story or a female story

Maud Newton points to this great post about one author's fight against her MFA workshop's consensus about the endings of short stories, and how they shouldn't be so "pat."

Setting aside the fact that, by the time you finish reading the post, you'll no longer have any idea what the word "pat" means due to the repetition of the word "pat," and also setting aside my usual choice to not talk about my own fiction writing on this blog, because really what the fuck does anyone care what an unpublished nobody has to say about the process and procedure of writing fiction (even though I could use the cover of SotShoStoWriMo to talk about my current efforts), I will neither agree nor disagree with the author's point (oh yes, and I'm also setting aside the fact that the author is my age and, well, for fuck's sake, girl, save a little success for the rest of the Womb-Graduated Class of '78, eh), and shall only add the following (unarguable and unassailable, I posit) fact: ending a short story is an absolute bastard of a task. An absolute bastard. Like, to the point where, given the choice between writing an ending of a short story, and spending an entire day waiting in line at the Free "Punch Me in the Face" Clinic, well. God gave us two eyes so we could go back for seconds, is all I'm saying.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Free poetry

I am still--still! (yes: still!)--contemplating, deducing, and occasionally pecking away at a blog post that would suggest a fraction of my thoughts and feelings about poetry. (Or, I should say, ahem ahem, British accent levelled up, mmmmmMMmmmmeh Poooooeeeeeetr-r-r-ry.) Why I would feel all perfectionisty when attempting to discuss an art form about which my feelings are, at best, mixed--far more mixed than my feelings about novels and short stories, about which my posts tend hard toward the lackadaisical--I really can not say. My best experiences with poetry were always of an academic nature--or, at least, they happened on a college campus--and so I guess the medium still brings some latent professorial qualities out of me.

No matter: no reason why my indecisiveness should be the body that stops the party. You may be the sort of person who enjoys the poetry of John Ashbery. You may also be the sort of person who finds deep meaning in the chaotic arrangement of Magnetic Poetry words, when said words are scooped up by the handful and thrown willy-nilly at every metallic surface in a fourteen block radius. Or you may enjoy the thrill of competing for prizes. If you are any or all of these three types of people, then visit the Cruelest Month for a chance to win John Ashbery's latest collection, A Worldly Country. (Spotted on MetaxuCafe.)

Not as tasty as a hot chicken sandwich, not as refreshing as a hot water shower, but neither will make you a literary superstar

I try to point out new literary magazines as I learn about them. I'm a bit late on this one--I'm in a two-or-three-for-twelve blogging/reading/reading blogs/blogging about blogs slump lately, I think--but that's okay, because you've still got a month to submit your material for the debut issue of Hot Metal Bridge. Hot Metal Bridge is being published by the University of Pittsburgh MFA program. (I'd make a Browns/Steelers joke here, but we're all above that sort of thing in lit-ville.)


(Go Browns! Woof woof woof!)

Check out the site for the story on a recent visit by Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman. Is it just me, or does Chabon have a sort of Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips thing going on? Maybe it's just me.

Whatever. You'd be totally with me on this if Chabon had a band member staring at his ear drum.

Either way, Chabon will be visiting the Cleveland Public Library on April 15. Most likely not in a gigantic space bubble. Though I would totally pay to see that.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Wizard of the Crow discussion

The discussion of Wizard of the Crow by Ngugi wa Thiong'o starts tomorrow (I believe) at the LitBlog Co-Op. I had every intention of being done with the book before the conversation started, but it's been a real ants-in-the-pants sort of week here at TDAOC HQ.

I'm about a hundred pages in and, yes, it is a good book, one that makes me wish I could focus on it for more than half an hour at a time. (I certainly see how it could be described as a "surprisingly fast read," as I'm sure I saw someone on the net somewhere say.) Being someone with a standing entry-level interest in Indian literature, I've found myself fascinated by the suggested/explicit connections Ngugi draws between African culture and Indian culture. Plus the whole thing smacks of a fascination with globalization. I'm hardly a history geek, but stuff like this makes me want to go crack some books to learn a little more about that sort of thing.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Whatever it was, it was probably awesome

Pitchfork asks, "What happens when Trentemøller, David Lynch, and Thomas Pynchon get together?"

Uhm...erm...something. About something--maybe.

Look: I don't know. You can't expect me to have all the answers.

Or, in this case, any answers.

My days just became ecstatic

The Rake points the way to a new Steve Erickson Web site.

That alone does not make me double up with liquid glee. What does is the hint on the site that Erickson will be releasing a new book this year. It's called Zeroville. That's all I know. That's all I need to know. Well, I'd like to know a release date, but I guess it's not crucial. Well. Yeah. It is, sorta. Okay, what's crucial is that I get the book right now. Is what I'm saying.