Thursday, July 26, 2007

Familiarity breeds comfort. Comfort, and tasty cheeseburgers

The problem with literature is that it complicates things. That's sort of it's business: you can't have that many words about some topic like "love" or "politics" without introducing a certain amount of complexity.

Which is why, sometimes, for us lit-heads, whether we admit it or not, simplicity can taste so sweet. The comfort of something already known, the familiarity of re-reading an old book.

That's really why, I think, I turned to Pattern Recognition this last week. Life has been busy lately, every day bringing something new, something I can barely grab before I'm juggling it for the next falling object. It was time: I needed something I'd already had once. I knew these words, though I didn't necessarily remember all of them. It felt good.

I'm not often one for re-reading books. Though I love the idea in principle, I've been stuck for some time in the "But there's so many other books to read!" mentality. And even then, the "To be re-read" pile has grown at a rate comparable though not equal to that of the first-run TBR pile. I will re-read Dhalgren before I die. I will re-read Vurt for the eighth time. I will get Persuasion better than I got it the first time, the next time I'm in a mood for Austen.

And I shall introduce new complexities and understanding and intricacies in the process of walking these old paths once again; no matter.


Eddie's Grill knows what I'm after.

A mainstay of Ohio's own Geneva on the Lake since 1950, when (my girlfriend tells me) Eddie himself started his business with nothing but a hot dog cart, Eddie's Grill does not deal in complicated food. It does not deal in palates. It does a few things, and it does them simply, and it does them well.


When they say "Hamburgers" and "Cheeseburgers" they don't mean variety. They mean multiplicity. They mean quantity.

They make hamburgers.

They make cheeseburgers.

They make french fries in amounts that could be shared, but won't be shared.

El Patio

The language on the sign might be about as complex as it gets here, this allusion to multiculturalism in the middle of what's one of the whiter places in the state.


It's true that the simplicity of the place ends for me around the menu. I have a bizarre, unexplainable fascination with Ashtabula County. I tried to blow up the city in the first novel I ever saw through to completion. (It didn't work. The city, albeit with fewer inhabitants, survived.) It's a fascination that extends to the state of Ohio itself, a state I'm convinced, though am not prepared to prove, has more going on for itself than anybody--Ohio itself included--gives it credit for.

Can you go so wrong with a state that endorses such healthy eating and pleasurable activity?

Healthy eating and good fun

A state that boasts a historic putt-putt course?

Historic Putt-Putt

(I won.)


I did not grow up in Geneva, or Ashtabula, or whatever lays in that gray area past Ashtabula before you hit Pennsylvania. And yet it's curious how, every time I go there, it feels like re-reading an old book, one that brought me some curious pleasure once, and which I'm certain will do so again, the next summer day I need a hamburger, the next time I crave a cup of truck stop coffee.

It's complicated, you see.

Eddie's Grill


A couple more (for now) photos here (more to come later, perhaps). Also, check out Erin O'Brien's far-more-comprehensive photo tour.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sounds like someone has a case of the DeLillos

"But the interviews I read are getting him to grow on me. Like a fungus."

(I laughed.)

(Out loud.)

(The interview interested me, too. Though I certainly won't be reading Falling Man until I get through some of the other Don DeLillo bricks currently warping one of my bookshelves (with some help from Umberto Eco and William T. Vollmann) (but with no help, oddly, from Underworld, seeing as that one is currently located on The End Table Where Very Large Novels by the Likes of DeLillo and Dickens and Barth Go to Get Very Dusty for Years on End).)


A. L. Kennedywho I re-fell in love with earlier this year (in a Land Before Time sort of time, back when I wrote much longer (and potentially (though I can't verify this tonight) more content-rich) (albeit it with fewer dinosaurs, one might assume) blog posts)—has a new story in The New Yorker. It's called "Wasps." (I'm printing it now.) (Because, sometimes? I forget I own a printer. And then some other times? I remember I own a printer. And then I print stuff. And smile.)

(Via and reminded.)

Monday, July 23, 2007

"Keep your secret footage heart away"

A third of the way through my re-read of Pattern Recognition by William Gibson, and I can't help but think there's an entire thesis to be written on the "commodification of life/life is commodification" aspects of Gibson's book and Tom McCarthy's Remainder. Both books deal with the meaning of money in its being the power to produce life via the purchase/deployment of simulacra. Never mind the order-vs-chaos theme shared by the two books, and how that theme is made manifest in the financial aspects of the respective stories.

(Just thinking out loud.)

(Actually, it's a little bit freaky how well all the books I've read this year have seemed to fit together, one after the other, responding to each other in happenstance fashion, until I've gotten one place from someplace entirely different. Pattern recognition, indeed.)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Usually I at least make it out of the milliseconds

Hey! There's a new William Gibson book coming out in a couple weeks! So much for my book-buying moratorium. Pre-order, check, click. Right.

Now I just need to wait for that to come in. In the meantime, I'm reading Pattern Recognition, which I really liked a lot, and seem to recall pressing it into many of my friends' hands after I finished it. Fifty pages in again, and yeah, it feels like exactly what I need, right now. (It was the first book of his I'd read since Neuromancer.)

Monday, July 16, 2007

It'd be a nice gift, is what I'm saying

October 15th: anyone want to fly me to Houston for the night?

"You come crash into me / And I come into you / In a boys dream," or "This website's updated by witches! / Witches / Witches 'n me"+

From The Guardian:

This week marks the beginning of a period of double ecstasy for Harry Potter junkies, myself included.... That said, I'm expecting the film - the Order of the Phoenix, which opens here tomorrow - to be a letdown.... [T]here has been a disappointing cowardice towards the darkness of the source material, with directors lightly rehashing its surface details....

My fantasy would be to see the series remade by David Lynch, complete with time shifts, character body-swaps and elliptical dialogue.... Best of all (and least likely) would be David Cronenberg, whose lurking homoeroticism and yuppie body horror would easily accommodate Rowling's nimble mix of genres.

Hell, better yet: let's let J. G. Ballard himself re-write the series. "The brooms were beautiful, crashing into each other, the perfect sociotechnological intersection of witchcraft and semen." I can sense the scar tissue forming on the young tykes' minds already.*

Not that I have anything against the mechaplex that is Harry Potter. It's not about books, really, so it's not about me, right? But then, it's also not that I have much of anything for it, either. I guess it comes in useful, like, sometimes when I feel like my girlfriend is starting to respect me a little, I idly threaten that I'm going to start reading the series, just so she'll give me that look, the one that lets me know that I've knocked myself back down in her eyes. Back down to a safer level, I mean. It's better for both of us: anything that lowers my chances of disappointing her is okay by me.


+ Ryan Adams dot com, motherfucker!

* Actually, not so much. I had this whole long parody in mind, I was going to re-read Crash and find the best scenes and re-write them all Harry Potter-themed, but then I remembered that this is the Internet, and that the aforementioned young tykes have probably already done it themselves, but for keeps, and I quickly placed a piece of black tape on my monitor over the Google search bar in Firefox, because out of sight, out of mind. Right? Oh God, I hope so.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

"I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind"

So now that I've actually read the book, I can officially vouch for Tom McCarthy's Remainder. Add me to the list of people singing its praises. (Maureen, I think you made a good purchase.)

I lack the energy right now to go into great detail about the book--and I think that's fine, because I think this is the sort of book you should probably just read, without too much prior knowledge going into it--so I'll just say two things: first being that it's a very interesting book and that there's a lot going on in there. Matt puts it well: "[I]f what McCarthy explores here - existentialism, trauma, amnesia, etc. - floats your boat, then here's the perfect wave." I think that quote is your litmus test for whether or not you'll be interested in this book. All I can offer is further empirical validation of the test's results.

Second thing, after I note that I haven't read every word written about this book yet so I don't know if this has already been addressed elsewhere, is that I can't help but wonder just how much of a field day a good Marxist/materialist literary critic would have with this book. The novel certainly made me want to dust off what few mental resources I once developed in that arena and put them to work. It's an incredibly, intrinsically financial universe McCarthy builds, is what I'm saying.

And is all I'm saying, for now. Suffice it to say, if you consider yourself the sort of person who likes the sorts of books I like, then chances are you'll like this book.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A good short story is not hard to find

I (finally) (regretfully) finished A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories tonight. Seriously, I have such a huge literary crush on Flannery O'Connor right now, it's maybe a little ridiculous. How did I make it all the way to this year without really reading her stuff? What is wrong with me? And how long will it be before my "I'm going to take my time and read her stuff slowly and spread out over time so I can savor these first impressions for as long as possible" attitude turns into "I'm reading everything she ever wrote right now now now"?

I've also just started sampling some of Faulkner's short stories, from the Collected Short Stories of William Faulkner, where I'm experiencing that same attitude transformation. I picked up the collection because I wanted to read some Faulkner but couldn't decide which novel(s) I wanted to commit myself to. (Dude wrote like 600 of them. And they're all the same universe! Dude, like, invented Stephen King.) So I figure, short stories, right? Bite size Faulkner. Yeah, now I'm like, "Would it be so bad if I just read the whole 900 page collection, ah, tonight?" I'm guessing the answer would be both "Yes" and "Oh but God, no, no, no." Sigh. Conundrum.

One commitment I do plan to make is to spend this weekend reading Remainder by Tom McCarthy. Combine the fact that people I respect are flipping out over it, with the fact that I was crazy-hooked by the opening paragraph in the store, in that "Take to register, do not pass Go, do not collect two hundred dollars" way, and you get one anticipatory reader. Also, toss in the fact that it's been nearly two weeks since I finished Don Quixote, and don't get me wrong, I love reading short stories, but, going two weeks without spending any time reading a novel is for me perhaps a bit like going four hours in the morning without getting that first precious cup of coffee: possible, plausible, and occasionally a good idea, but certainly not an activity anyone who knows me would advise me to make a habit of.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

"The Yikes!er's Yikes!ing," more like

But yeah, so those short stories I've been reading this week? One of them was "The Father's Blessing" by Mary Caponegro, which: oh, holy yikes-o-rama, was that...something. Something something. Something. And that was before it got all fuckin' crazy-weird. And then it got all like...I Damn, geez. Geez.


I'm not even sure what else to say about it, yet. Were you and I in the same room when I'd finished that story, I might have simply handed you my copy, before wandering away to go wash my face, or something, because some things you can't say things about, not right away. And, well, for what it's worth, based on that one story, I think I might have to track down everything Caponegro's ever written. Which is not how I typically react to individual short stories. Take that for what you will. (And as always, grains of salt are available outside in the lobby.)


The church

So, like Callie, I've not been blogging much at all recently. Which is a shame because there's a lot of stuff I'd like to blog about. Like, that typewriter I bought a couple weeks ago. (It's really cool, though I haven't played with it as much I would like.) And I'd like to talk about Don Quixote. (I finished it Monday night. For as much as I enjoyed it, and for as often as I found the book tedious, I think I didn't really "get" the book until I read the last ten pages. And those ten pages sort of made me want to re-read the whole thing all over again. Which I probably will do, someday. But not this year. And probably not next year, either. Probably not until I finish reading Pynchon's books...which isn't going to happen this year. Maybe next year, but don't hold me to that.) And there's these short stories I've been reading this week which I'd love to discuss in detail. (If nothing else, Don Quixote has made brevity so appealing to me, right now.) And there's lots of other things going on these days I'm sure I'd love to comment on. (If only I could remember what any of it is.)

Unlike Callie, I can't blame an impending wedding for my blog silence. Nor can I say I have a new staff member on the blog HQ payroll to train, as is the case over at Condalmo.

What I can say is that I have been writing a lot, and that's really got me thrilled. You don't really get to see that writing, but it's there, and its existence makes me happy, and a happy Darby means better blogging, once I find the extra five hours in the day I can devote to blogging. Because, no offense to the "You can sleep when you're dead" crowd? But I'm not giving up those four or five hours of my day in order to blog more. No no. Not gonna do it.

So, you know. Bear with me. I think you can expect more stuff this coming week. (...Though, well, maybe "expect" is a strong word. "Hope for" might be more accurate.)