Friday, January 29, 2010

Situation, critical

Even the TBR Pile is packed*. Let the nervous vomiting commence.


* - Mostly. Savagery is simply not an option.

Monday, January 25, 2010

And that point is now

There may come a point in your life when you need to transfer your Internet service to a new address. Word to the wise: avoid that point, if at all possible. For in the depths of the Internet service provider's Web site doth madness and despair lay, waiting, and willing. Add to that the fact that I just broke my wireless router anyway and I'm about ready to go monk-like at the new and improved TDAOC World Headquarters. Except not really because all this Internet isn't going to Internet itself.

So not much to report around these parts at the moment. The 2666 group discussion has begun; I might find a moment to contribute something rational to it. Or I might just note that it's right now one more heavy object that has to be transported through space by hand this week. Oops. On the upside, at least it's not Darger. (The Girl and I had a weirdo-documentary rock-block on Sunday, watching 30 Century Man (about Scott Walker, which confirmed for me that as interesting as he may be, his music is crazybones and warranted little more than the three minutes I once offered it in somewhat good faith) and In the Realms of the Unreal (about Henry Darger, who was nuts but at least in a self-contained way; I'm convinced he could have done some fun stuff with Daniel Johnston, had they ever met, and been able to rein in the crazy long enough to do something with it, with each other).)

Meanwhile: boxes.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

My cat could probably whip him one good, anyways

In so far as I take any great interest in Joshua Ferris, it is in seeing him fail. Based on a lot of hype I picked up Then We Came to the End around the time it came out in paperback and I couldn't finish it because I thought it was a terribly dull and contrived take on things I already know. ("Maybe there's good reasons why most people write using familiar narratorial points of view," I thought. "Maybe there's good reasons why most people don't write about really boring shit," I thought. "Maybe there's good reasons why I'm putting this book down now," I thought.) I might resent him for it a little more than I ought to--I mean, the guy didn't exactly murder my cat or anything--but still, it's one that stuck with me, for some reason, to some extent, and while I don't wish him explicit harm, I'd wouldn't mind if he somehow reconfirmed my preconceptions.

So now his new book is coming out and the early word is not kind. Which, now, has me perversely and reversely interested in trying out the new book: maybe if I disliked the Ferris that everybody liked I'll really like the Ferris that nobody likes? Well, no, I probably won't, but, chances are.

Little boxes made of ticky tacky

TDAOC World Headquarters is, in more ways than one, in the process of moving. In part, this means a new mailing address, rather soonish. If you have interest in sending things to me in the real world, drop me a line.

In the meantime, it's all packed boxes and unpacked style sheets around here. And some rampant nostalgia. And a lot of Netflix, to help combat the urge to go tearing through the boxes, looking for CDs and books that I haven't touched in ages, but which I desperately need to handle right now. And a little bit of Bolaño. And the TBR pile, which I refuse to pack or even think about packing until the last possible second, because, A, one can not live on Bolaño alone, and, B, amidst the chaos and the nostalgia and the change and the moving and the shaking, one must have stability, something large and consuming and indefatigable.

So--see clause A above--I've started reading The Cave Man by Xiaoda Xiao, which has made for some remarkably smooth reading, considering its subject (wrongful imprisonment in a 70s-era Chinese prison camp and the attempt to establish a normal life, or at least a life, after said experiences). It's hard to say anything terribly intelligent about it at the moment--my comparisons might seem forced and/or laughable; who am I to speak of the universal?--but I can say it's well-written and that I like it so far. And I will leave it at that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Me & Dan Rather: Kicking Your Ass

Another reason I've been thinking I need to move on, is that I'm tired of the Internet. I find the Internet exhausting. It's not just that I spend so much time on it, but that the content of it is just exhausting. Right now, I can get just about anything I want or need, information-wise. All I have to do is open a new tab in my browser, put some words like "italian art" or "refrigeration mechanics" or "anime fiends who dress up as huge-breasted anthrokitties" and I'll have at least some information on the topic of my choice. I have access to samples of just about any type of music I might feel like listening to but won't, the opinions of easily 48 billion people who I can't keep up with, a million recipies for romantic dinners I'll never get up the energy to cook, and more news than I could ever expect Dan Rather to read to me even if he were granted immortal super powers and the television equivalent of academic tenure. So I guess you could say that, when I say I'd like to move on, what I really mean is, I'd like to yank the DSL cable out of the wall and go outside and sit in a dandelion patch for a while and think about nothing in particular. But, I live in Cleveland, it's the middle of January, and the dandelions aren't due to bloom for about five months, so until then, the only possible response to this quandry is to move on to the creation of a new blog. Which, despite the presence of who knows how many logic pretzels by this point of this post, makes some sense to me, though not enough to really warrant a detailed explanation....

But, honestly, I don't know, for sure. Mostly I'm looking for a change. Something different, sometimes. So, you know, tune in, if you like. It's quiet here right now. I'm kind of cool with that. It's a nice change, for now.

That was me--Little Tiny Baby Me, sniff, it's like I almost knew how to use language!--exactly five years ago, the day I started this blog. Which, you know. Was a while ago. And also! Wasn't so much a while ago! Because how little has changed! The Internet got a little more drop shadow and/or round-cornered! Dan Rather may or may not be immortal! It's a different kind of quiet around here! I have failed to take over the world! See, nothing. Nothing has changed. Which is hilarious and awesome. But okay. Things could have gotten worse! They didn't get worse, did they? It's so hard to tell. Timelines. Etc.

Anyways, here it is, five years later, and I've got jack-all to say for myself. I won't pretend this blog isn't anything less than the single most awesome point of incredible on the Internet; false modesty rests poorly on my shoulders. No, we've had good times, you and I, and if I was ever not a little bit good for you, which I totally never wasn't, it wasn't because there weren't reasons lacking. Negation negation is the new post-modern footnote. Mark my words. Or don't. Not.

Anyways. Where was I? Ah, oh yes: attempting to gaze at my navel through the billowing rolls of my own success.

The truth is, you need me. You need me because sometimes, it just needs to be quiet around here. You need someone on the Internet who isn't afraid to just shut up once in a while, for a while, someone willing to criticize the entire blasted mess we've made by saying absolutely nothing at all about it. The Internet isn't going to shut up about itself, you know. The form in which my silence precedes me may come to change--for even the devoted apathetic occasionally need to cleanse themselves in the wholesome flames of new style sheets and the questioning of unknown assumptions--but there I'll be, between the notes, giving them space to breathe. Internet, I am your white space. This is your independence day.

And if, along the way, I convince a few people to read some Stephen Dixon or Adrienne Miller, Kazuo Ishiguro or Jennifer Egan, John Barth or Julie Orringer or any of the other authors I've liked at least well enough along the way to say a hopefully well-received kind word or two about, then, well. Something happened. And I can't take it back. Sorry.

Either way and in the meantime, here's to five passed and five to come. (Months? Days? Weeks? Who knows! Internet! You fickle mistress!) Take a few minutes out of your day to raise high your glasses to me and to thank me for all I've not yet failed to do. I'm gonna go kiss the mirror. Baby, we'll be fine.

Monday, January 11, 2010

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So, I started 2666 over the weekend, and got about forty pages into it, and my hasty initial non-analytical snap judgement (pre- any informed mental developments generated through the not-quite-here-yet group read conversations, which, judging by the links, one might truly begin to suspect could safely be called a web read) is that those might be among the most smoothly unremarkably decent pages I've read in some time. To be clear: a book can not be judged on 40 pages alone. To also be clear: nothing about those pages leapt from the book's binding to perform salacious acts upon my person. Which certainly means nothing bad about the book; I did in fact enjoy those forty pages; I will almost certainly read at least another 40 pages, perhaps even sooner than I might expect. But nothing about them has pierced through a hype-built desire to remain a little bit (honestly and for the good of the thing) still-yet-skeptical about the whole thing. In any event: onward.

And by perfect I mean perfect

Stephen Dixon has a new short story up at Matchbook. It is incredibly short and absolutely perfect. It reminds me, after having not read his stuff in a while, why I love his stuff so much. If it is at all indicative of the kind of Dixon we can expect to see in the contents of the upcoming collection What Is All This? then May can not come soon enough.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

It's probably ridiculous of me to even contemplate trying to do something like this--what with full work days and a new semester of school starting up shortly and the urge to occasionally drink a beer or spend time not looking at bright shiny screens for occasional ten minute intervals (ignoring completely for the moment that right smack dab in the middle of all of this Final Fantasy XIII comes out in America, which, whatever, I'm a nerd, sorry, and I've got about a hundred hours of my life I need to have a good reason not to remember in minute detail when I'm an old and crusty bastard)--but there's a group read of Roberto Bolaño's that's-what-she-said long novel 2666 starting up a couple weeks from now. I bought the hardcover around the time it came out, because I am sometimes optimistic, and even though I wasn't goo goo gah gah over The Savage Detectives the way I figured I was supposed to be, I did find the opening couple pages of 2666 oddly enchanting, when I stood there reading them in the bookstore, convincing myself I might as well just go ahead and buy the hardcover because the paperback had come out at the same time and it was a box set split into three volumes and that's for wimps and sissies, and then here we are a year later and an actual less-costly real-paperback one-volume paperback edition comes out and oops, wallet fail, ahem! and the book has sat in various locations around the apartment ever since, taunting me with it's being really popular but also that's-what-she-said huge and full of women being murdered, a subject I find about as emotionally and mentally entertaining as one dog trying to make another dog have babies, but what do I know, maybe? (While the Bolaño book remains the size illustrated above, the cat, tiny at the time, could now safely bench press the thing. Big cat.) Long story short, despite the universe and even myself telling me I should read the book, I haven't, and I was starting to think I maybe just wouldn't, because, really?, and now here we are, a year later, and even Stephen King has read it and liked it and that dude just published a 1000-plus page novel and what have I done with myself in that time other than make excuses? Well, okay, I have done stuff, but still. I have made stuff, even though some of that stuff has been excuses. Maybe I'm nuts. Maybe I'll actually try this time. (Via Twitter, basically.)
I've pushed past the dog sex. (It is sentences like the preceding that every blogger should be so lucky as to have to write, at least once, in their blogging careers.) Whether out of some sense of obligation ("If I can't read this book, what can I read?") or desperation ("Oh gods, I may never read again"), I felt I had to, and it's okay that I have, because The Mysteries of Pittsburgh quickly becomes pretty much basically entertaining again, like, a paragraph or two after the canine coitus. (Finger tip lick, second point drawn in the air above my head.) Though the dogs keep coming back up. Which, fine, I'm not there to watch it anymore. Things do get a bit dicey around a game of Twister, when it's pretty obvious that Little Tiny Baby Michael Chabon was all about flexing some descriptive muscles ("I am so hot right now," he says to himself, while somewhere nearby, a few states away, Little Tiny Baby Wayne Coyne says the same thing while splashing about in fake blood and a stack of boomboxes the size of God), but, halfway through the book, I'd place pretty good odds in favor of me actually finishing the thing, which, well; sweet. Sweet enough. And it really is okay. Because for every overtly self-interested flake of linguistic dandruff, there's the enthusiastic head-scratching that brought it to the light, and if I'm in need of anything these days, it's some enthusiastic head-scratching. Or better shampoo? I don't know.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

I will say, the one book I have been having good fun with lately, when I've remembered to pick it up during small moments of nothing else, is Michael Bierut's Seventy-nine Short Essays on Design. That's probably as much though because I can read about the maximum number of pages at a time that my attention span allows for right now and feel like I got something close to a complete thought out of that time. Also, I could totally listen to that guy say "Helvetica. Period." on repeat for days without growing tired. Okay, maybe only minutes. Still. Period.
The Millions has posted its preview of the anticipated books of 2010. I have to imagine that if there are any two books that are going to get me back around to getting on the reading bandwagon again, they'd be The Invisible Bridge by Julie Orringer (whose story collection How to Breathe Underwater I really liked) and A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (whose everything I everythinged, duhs). It's too bad but probably for the best they don't come out until May and June. I probably shouldn't hit those things un-warmed-back-up. Oh, there's also a David Mitchell book (The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet) coming out in June, which for some reason I'm just irrationally nervous about. And, oh, hell, there's the American release in April of the short story collection What Becomes by A.L. Kennedy, who, love. Yikes. What a year to be a mess.
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Things that are actually awesome include the old typewriter my girlfriend got me for Christmas. She knows me and my odd likes well. (For those of you out there--and I know there are those of you out there--who enjoy yourselves some good typewriter porn, here's the rest of the set.) It's a beautiful piece of equipment, in damn fine shape, with a handle still on the case (I do wonder if it's the original handle or if someone gave it a refurb along the way, but still, awesome either way; the case itself is in fairly stunning shape for however old it is) and there's this scent, this, metal, age, time scent, that kind of makes you want to take up whiskey drinking and manly writing. (Or at least whiskey drinking.) It's even got an end-of-bell line, a feature I'd figured was made up by the movies, being not-there on the other typewriter (a '20s era (?) Royal Junior Portable (with round keys! ee!) which I'm sure I have pictures of somewhere but can't find right now) in my now-two-piece-strong collection. There's more charm between the two of them than I know what to do with. Well, I suppose I could try actually writing on them, but....
Kids, if I haven't been writing, it's because I haven't been reading. I've picked up and put down more books in the last month than I have in the previous mumble mrnrmms. That includes both Blood Meridian and Our Mutual Friend, two books that I'd picked up and put down sometime in the last decade, both of which I picked back up in the last month, thinking maybe they'd actually work for me this time. Neither did. Though I did make it about ten pages past the points I'd originally abandoned them. At this rate, woo, some day, maybe. I've also set down A Game of Thrones, which I picked up, thinking, maybe what I need are some dragons and kick-ass sword fights and, like, elf chicks, or something? And then I got 250 pages into the book and I find out all the dragons are extinct, I guess, and there's no Liv Tyler to be found in a thousand miles? I mean, not that the book is bad--I'm generously telling myself I'm only pausing on this book rather than quitting it--but, still, I mean, no dragons. Just a bunch of assholes being political toward each other. No thanks, CNN, I will not engage with you for my light entertainment needs. So then yesterday I started reading The Mysteries of Pittsburgh because I like Michael Chabon a good deal and because maybe I needed to forget about big books for a while (did I mention I tried to read Ada, or Ardor by Nabokov on an empty brain and physically died 20 pages in?) and Pittsburgh comes from the area of the To Be Read piles that my girlfriend has dubbed "the cute little books" section, so, win, right? And it's been going alright--"Yes," I tell myself, "what I do need right now is an old-fashioned tale told by a horny young man who is trying to figure life and girls out but mostly girls of the manic pixie variety, because they are dreamy and mysterious and life is genuinely an interesting thing"--and I've been floating along okay but I just hit some dogs fucking, and it's like, really, Little Tiny Baby Michael Chabon? Dogs? Fucking? I don't know. Heartfelt sigh.

So, you see, I'm at a loss. They don't grow doctors who can look inside you and fix the part of you that's broken your ability to read, and I'm sure my insurance wouldn't cover that option anyway, so I'm stuck. And I'm wondering if the Internet knows what to do, how to literally flush out your brain in such a way that you want to actually start using it again, in a concentrated long-term no-blinky-blinky-lights sort of way, because all these hours spent watching episodes of the original Star Trek series (which is both as cheesy and far better than I remember it being) and playing Fallout 3 (which really does kick a lot of ass, actually) don't seem to be doing it. Should I eat more soup? Is soup good for this? I can't eat more soup. The soup train is full. Tremble.