Friday, December 30, 2005

Dorianne Laux's breasts

As I read poetry I keep a stack of placemarks handy. If I read a poem I'd like to return to I pop in a placemark. If after repeated reading the poem remains one I don't wish to leave behind I hand copy it into a notebook.

I copied out three poems from Dorianne Laux's What We Carry, a book I bought when it was first out. I think part of the reason it took so long for me to get around to reading it was that I liked Dorianne's first book so much. I guess I was saving What We Carry for a special occasion. This fall I booked a few days in Calistoga, wanting to try a mud bath and get away from Berkeley. Kent often pines for a massage so I booked us two massages in three days.

Anyway, I brought along What We Carry and read it on a lounge chair on our room's private patio. We had a tiny triangular pond brimming with reeds and roses and blackberries and fresh tendrils of wisteria swooped down from the roof. I would read a few pages, then close my eyes.

And I liked What We Carry so much I decided, rather than mark particular poems for rereading, I would go back through the whole book.

When, about a month later, I picked it up again the poems had settled more and I started noticing where Laux would repeat herself, poem to poem, where she would soak in a warm theme, what she liked to talk about.

I note that all three of the poems I've copied into my notebook (& even a third I read several times before choosing not to copy) contain the word "breast". In the poem, "Aphasia", the woman who has lost the power of speech (but for one word) opens her blouse for her husband, "fumbling / at her buttons, her breasts, / holding them up to the light / like a gift."

In "Twelve" Laux describes herself (one presumes) and her friends secretly reviewing girlie magazines in the woods. I like the poem particularly for the motherly way one of the boys attends to his baby brother, retrieving the child's pacifier and cleaning it when it falls from his mouth. That alludes to breast anyway, but of course "the turning / of the pages began, ceremoniously exposing / thigh after thigh, breast after beautiful, / terrible breast ..."

And in "Late October" Laux late at night drives scrabbling, yowling cats from her driveway, "a broom handle slipping // from my hands, my breasts bare ..."

Monday, December 26, 2005


I have titled my latest poetry notebook:


Saturday, December 24, 2005

gay marriage in 101 Dalmatians

When Mr. Dearly marries Mrs. Dearly (her maiden name is not given) they move into a house together with their dogs and the nannies they grew up with.

"Nanny Cook and Nanny Butler met and, after a few minutes of deep suspicion, took a great liking to each other. And they had a good laugh about their names.

"'What a pity we're not a real cook and butler,' said Nanny Cook.

"'Yes, that's what's needed now,' said Nanny Butler.

"And then they both together had the Great Idea: Nanny Cook would train to be a real cook, and Nanny Butler would train to be a real butler. They would start the very next day and be fully trained by the wedding.

"'But you'll have to be a parlourmaid, really,' said Nanny Cook.

"'Certainly not,' said Nanny Butler. 'I haven't the figure for it. I shall be a real butler -- and I shall valet Mr. Dearly, which will need no training as I've done it since the day he was born.'

"And so when the Dearlys and the Pongos [the dalmatians] got back from their joint honeymoon, there were Nanny Cook and Nanny Butler, fully trained, ready to welcome them into the little house facing Regent's Park.

"It came as something of a shock that Nanny Butler was wearing trousers.

"'Wouldn't a black dress with a nice frilly apron be better?' suggested Mrs. Dearly -- rather nervously, because Nanny Butler had never been her Nanny.

"'You can't be a butler without trousers,' said Nanny Butler firmly. 'But I'll get a frilly apron tomorrow. It will add a note of originality.'"

The first illustration of the book shows Mr & Mrs Dearly walking arm in arm, followed by the two dalmatian dogs with Nanny Butler & Nanny Cook bringing up the rear, Nanny Butler in her jacket with tails, striped trousers, and a frilly apron, her hair pulled into a bun, Nanny Cook in a dress, round glasses on her face which she turns to Nanny Butler. The chapter title, which seems to act as caption to the drawing: "THE HAPPY COUPLES"

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Annie Proulx's "Brokeback Mountain"

What with the opening of the movie version I figured I wouldn't be able to find Annie Proulx's short story in the library. The New Yorker, the magazine in which the story was originally published, briefly had it posted on their website but it looked long and I'm not much for reading long on the computer.

I searched the library catalog and discovered Still Wild, an anthology of short fiction set in the West edited by Larry McMurtry. McMurtry wrote the screenplay for Brokeback.

The story is a bit muckier than the glistening cleanliness of the movie, "The room stank of semen and smoke and sweat and whiskey ..." But there's not much that happens in the movie that isn't already in the story. Some scenes are fleshed out versions of the story's summaries. "[A] short dirty fight" is all the description Proulx gives but the movie has Ennis punching the driver of a pickup which has just avoided running him down, the driver getting out and putting in his own series of punches.

My favorite scene, where Jack & Ennis have been carrying on this semi-annual affair of the mountains for twenty years and they finally have an are-you-being-faithful-to-me moment, is in the story almost word for word what you hear in the theatre. When I said that to Kent he asked, "So what does Ennis say?"

Ennis, as depicted by Heath Ledger, is a mumblemouth. He's getting lots of critical praise for his performance. But I liked Jake Gyllenhaal's Jack better. Or maybe I just liked Jack and didn't like Ennis.

When Jack suggests they go to Mexico, somewhere not so damn cold as these mountains, Ennis gets suspicious. Maybe Jack has gotten same Mexico tail? Boys? "'I got a say this to you one time, Jack, and I ain't foolin'. What I don't know ... all them things I don't know could get you killed if I should come to know them."

"foolin'" and "killed" were, I think, the only words I caught in the theatre.

Nice to see Jack not put up with this shit. "'I'll say it just one time. Tell you what, we could a had a good life together, a fuckin real good life.'"

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

another excerpt from Kafka's diary

He feels more deserted with a second person than when alone. If he is together with someone, this second person reaches out for him and he is helplessly delivered into his hand. If he is alone, all mankind reaches out for him -- but the innumerable outstretched arms become entangled with one another and no one reaches him.

[Rereading this I decided I'd miscopied some of it, so I just took the liberty of making a couple corrections. Makes more sense now. Hope it's accurate! Aug 26, 2013]

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Conduct Unbecoming & Family Values

I was reading Conduct Unbecoming the other day. The narrative is right now in the early-mid 70s. The movement for gay civil rights is having amazing success, toppling sodomy laws, an out gay man speaks at the Democratic convention, even a few antidiscrimination laws are being or are about to be enacted. Gay service members are fighting back and up to this time the fightingest they got was fighting the accusation that they were gay -- not, as Leonard Matlovich did, because they were gay and deserved to stay in the military. The justness of the cause was self-evident (still is) and all it took for some to get it was to have it pointed out to them.

I have Conduct Unbecoming at home. The book I have on my desk at work, which I carry off to read at lunch, is Family Values, a nonbiological mother's fight to get the state (California) to allow her to adopt her lover's biological child, a child the nonbio mom has helped raise since birth. The narrative takes place in the early 90s. But at one point the author recalls being a schoolteacher in 1977 when Anita Bryant led her "Save the Children" crusade to kill an anti-discrimination ordinance in Dade County, Florida, and her terror when the following year the Briggs Initiative was placed on the California ballot. The Briggs Initiative would have required the firing of all homosexual teachers -- and any nongay teacher who protested.

I had a moment of cognitive dissonance, trapped in the 70s between unrealistic optimism and crushing pessimism.

Well, Dade County has an anti-discrimination ordinance again (enacted in 1998) and it even survived a repeal vote in a general election. The South African Supreme Court today told the government it has to rejigger the laws to allow gays to marry (being as discrimination against gays is explicitly prohibited in the new South African constitution) -- though in typical courtly cop-out fashion it gave the government a year to change the laws. Meanwhile by two to one margins in state after state here in the US voters go for family-attacking anti-marriage laws that purport, as Bryant did, to "save" something, the sort of saving epitomized in such warisms as "we had to destroy the village in order to save it."

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

David Leavitt

I've read Leavitt's fiction, though he's come out with several books since I picked one up. Tonight I went around the block to Black Oak Books to hear Leavitt give a talk based on his new biography of Alan Turing called The Man Who Knew Too Much.

Leavitt brought transparencies and used an overhead projector to throw the images on a screen. Oddly, he didn't seem familiar with the properties of an overhead projector, the way to enlarge the image, for instance, being to physically move the projector farther from the screen. When the bookstore clerk didn't get it either I hopped up, mumbling something about grade school, and helped drag the table with the iffy legs far enough from the screen to give the people in the back (or the older people in the front) a better chance at seeing. Leavitt's transparencies were from the biography and were illustrations of Turing machines.

Leavitt wrote the book having become fascinated by the creativity of mathematicians, a creativity very different from the fiction writer's, a mathematician's way of thought, Leavitt said, being at once baffling and intriguing. I like that.

I didn't buy the book. I did buy some used copies of Leavitt novels.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

more excerpts from Kafka's diary

There may be a purpose lurking behind the fact that I never learned anything useful and -- the two are connected -- have allowed myself to become a physical wreck. I did not want to be distracted, did not want to be distracted by the pleasures life has to give a useful and healthy man. As if illness and despair were not just as much of a distraction!


An endless, dreary Sunday afternoon, an afternoon swallowing down whole years, its every hour a year. By turns walked despairingly down empty streets and lay quietly on the couch. Occasionally astonished by the leaden, meaningless clouds almost uninterruptedly drifting by. "You are reserved for a great Monday!" Fine, but Sunday will never end.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Dead but still among the best poets writing today

Elizabeth Bishop had been dead nine years by the time the annual anthology series Best American Poetry began publishing. I read BAP every year as a sort of penance for caring about poetry, the most irrelevant artform on the planet.

Jeff Bahr has a chart that logs how many times a poet has had work chosen for BAP. John Ashbery, it seems, is America's Best poet. Donald Hall is America's second Best poet. Charles Simic is America's third Best poet. And so on.

Each new BAP culls poems from magazines published in the preceding year. They have to be American (or Canadian) and written in English -- no translations are eligible. Even considering the years of backlog at many literary magazines you could be forgiven for assuming that the appearance of a dead poet in BAP would be unusual. So how many times has Elizabeth Bishop had a poem in Best American Poetry?

Four times.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Conduct Unbecoming

I always have several books going. When I sit down to read I often read a page or two from one, then move on to another and so work my way down through the pile. Conduct Unbecoming is Randy Shilts' book about the US military's ongoing assault on gay Americans, specifically rooting them from the ranks and impressing upon all those nongay that to be gay is the worst thing one can be.

The book has been on the bottom of the pile for months, maybe as long as a year. The placemark sat in place about a hundred pages in. Yesterday I picked the book up again. It's well written. But I quickly figured out what had caused its stay at the bottom of the pile to have remained unrelieved for so long. This book is fucking depressing! It tells the stories of people whose lives are destroyed by the US's crazed notions of manhood (& womanhood). Or rather, by the agents assigned by government to enforce those notions. Drill sargeants, doctors, military police ...

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Man Who Tasted Shapes

The Man Who Tasted Shapes is Richard Cytowic's investigation of the phenomenon of synaesthesia, a conflation of senses wherein one sees sounds or, in the case of his subject (& friend) Michael, feels a flavor.

But I want to talk about something other than the book's purported topic. In a review on of George Takei's autobiography the reviewer notes, "George never mentions getting married or wanting to get married. He never mentions going out on dates. ... He never says he was too busy for a love life. He mentions that other Star Trek actors and other relatives are married, but he never says anything about himself." The reviewer asks, "Is George Takei gay?" This was back in Sept 2003. Now we have it from Sulu himself.

Reading The Man Who Tasted Shapes I also noticed that Richard Cytowic never mentions a love interest. (Though the book is not a biography, exactly, Cytowic talks a lot about his personal history.) Surely if he were married with children that would at least be included in the five paragraph bio in the back of the book. We all know there are straight men (or asexual men) who never marry. But my gaydar pings when Richard describes hanging out in the new neighbor's kitchen. The neighbor, Michael, is preparing dinner. Says Richard, "I sat nearby while he whisked the sauce he had made for the roast chickens. 'Oh, dear,' he said, slurping a spoonful, 'there aren't enough points on the chicken.'

"'Aren't enough what?' I asked.

"He froze and turned red, betraying a realization that his first impression had been as awkward as that of a debutante falling down the stairs."

... excuse me? A debutante falling down the stairs? How gay!

Later, when the scientist is trying to talk his subject into submitting to an elaborate test procedure he says, "'This is your big chance for the fame you wanted,' I cajoled him. 'I can't bestow the Tony Award, but I can promise when you're all wired up that you'll look better than the Bride of Frankenstein.'"

... better than the Bride of Frankenstein? It'd be a rare straight boy who'd feel enticed by that kind of cajoling.

No, Richard never explicitly outs his subject or himself. But how many clues do you need?

Here's an interview with Cytowic. You gotta love how he describes meeting gay artist David Hockney, "Well, David, he is so sweet. He’s brilliant. He was big news because he was painting the opera sets at the Met. And everybody was saying how totally fabulous they were, and how totally different from his painting style that everybody had been familiar with. And in these interviews I’d read, he was talking about the fact that the music had a certain shape and color. So I wrote to him.

Five or six months went by, and I finally got back a hand-written letter on a yellow legal pad in red ink which said: 'I’ve been carrying your letter around with me for months wondering whether to answer or not. Would it tell me anything that I really want to know or would it be better not to know? I’ve never heard of synaesthesia. At first I thought you were just trying to scientifically analyze what I always thought of as artistic. But, anyway, curiosity has the better of me so let’s get together and talk about this.' So we did. I went to Los Angeles and spent two days with him, a highlight of which, for me, was swimming nude in his pool. His famous pool painted with those blue marks. So I thought 'Oh, boy! I’m in David Hockney’s wavey pool.'

So that’s how we met. We did some experiments there, and sure enough he was genuine. And for him it’s the melody, it is the sequence of things that gives him the impression of size, shape, color, and form as well."

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Dykes to Watch Out For

Piles. We have piles. Piles of papers mostly. Piles of CDs and books, too, of course.

But I sorted a ple of the SF gay papers this weekend, intending to skim them to keep from throwing them out largely unread.

I see the Bay Area Reporter finally has an online presence. Looks like old BARs will fill a shopping bag and go to the recycler.

What about the SF Bay Times? Yup, looks like they're current with the web, too. Maybe I should just read them online, stop bringing home the hardcopy that I eventually have to bag for the curb. But what about Dykes to Watch Out For? I've neglected the strip for months. I have to catch up! ... I suppose I could wait for the trade paperback.

Or I could read it here, huh? (Though I don't like the way the strip gets broken up to fit on the scrolling webpage.)

Then there's the yearworth of New Yorkers. Must. Get. Full. Value.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Death on the Fourth of July

Had the day off today, it being Indigenous People's Day. (Eat your heart out, Columbus.)

Lovely day so I sat outside awhile, ate some leftover pizza I'd toasted and read a few pages from books in my current stack. The one I've spent much of the day reading is David Neiwert's Death on the Fourth of July. Neiwert covered the trial of a young Vietnamese-American man who was being prosecuted for stabbing to death a burly white man 6 inches taller than him. Even the white man's most ardent supporters emphasized the man was spoiling for a fight that night. He had draped a Confederate flag over his shoulders (even though this was in the state of Washington) and swaggered around the convenience store parking lot with his bored buddies shouting racial epithets. The prosecutor brought the law down on one of the victims of a hate crime because he defended himself excessively -- that is, he actually killed the white racist who sought to terrorize him and his companions.

Author Neiwert keeps a blog that I read now & then. This is the first of his books I've read. I find it compelling. In Death on the Fourth of July Neiwert puts the crime in the context of America's history of hate crime, from lynchings in the late 19th Century through the mid-20th to the ongoing anti-gay campaigns of the religious-ideological heirs of the slaveholders. Demonize the Other so you have someone to blame for your own failures.

Saturday, October 01, 2005


I'm almost halfway through the poetry notebook I've been working in.

This is about when I start thinking about a title.

There's a long piece that takes up most of the pages -- it posits a man trapped in a nothing, the word/letter I alone on a blank sheet of paper. The piece doesn't conclude, not unlike many another longish project I've undertaken.

But I've gone on to write several page, page-and-a-half poems.

Until now I hadn't been thinking about titles. I'll run my tongue over a few until the flavor of one overwhelms the others and the only thing left to do is write the title down. I won't decide today. Sometime in the next month maybe.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

what I bought at Watershed

The new issue of Bay Nature, a magazine that covers the greater San Francisco Bay area. I was interested in reading their article about the Laguna de Santa Rosa, a marsh between Santa Rosa and Sebastopol. I grew up in Sebastopol and my mother got involved in saving the Laguna from development. There's also a piece on the shore parks of the East Bay.

I paid for a 3-issue subscription to a new literary magazine, Parthenon West Review. I put the first two issues under an arm. The third will be sent to me when published.

There was a table for Sixteen Rivers Press so I bought the new book by Lynn Trombetta, a poet I knew slightly from the Sonoma County poetry scene. I was surprised to see it described as, "her first full collection."

I bought Joanne Kyger's Again: poems 1989-2000 and had her sign it. I would have said I'd heard her read before but once she was on stage she didn't look or sound familiar. Her name certainly is.

These join the great book drifts that ebb and flow (though there's precious little ebbing involved) through our house.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Half Price Books

Half Price Books used to have two stores in Berkeley, one on Telegraph, a short four blocks from UC campus, the other on Solano Ave between the Oaks Theatre and Peet's Coffee. Both locations were odd-nook-and-cranny stores.

In the Telegraph Ave store you had two second floors -- one above your head as you came in, then there was a gap and another more substantial second floor began. Both second floors were served by separate staircases. The fiction room was in the back and down a step. It wasn't exactly a basement but felt like one.

The Telegraph store shut down a few years ago.

The Solano Ave store also had two storeys. Just inside the front door a staircase spiraled down past mirrors to the basement. Fiction and children's books were on the ground floor, everything else was snuck away downstairs and if you didn't have to brush cobwebs aside as you ducked toward the clearance shelves at the back you wouldn't have been surprised to.

The Solano store closed up and reopened downtown in the Kress Building. It looks like a Barnes & Noble or something. Everything is on one floor. It's airy, well-lit.

I hate it.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

what'm I reading?

So. What's in my current stack? Can I remember without going to grab it and read off the titles?

Let's see ... I just started Dora, Doralina, a novel assigned more than ten years ago in my Brazilian Literature class at Cal. I'm reading an English translation. I like the voice -- grumpy but philosophical. The narrator is recalling herself as a young woman living on her mother's fazenda (ranch). She met the man who became her husband when he came to survey the property line. She often fights with her mother, whom she calls "Senhora" rather than "Mama".

I'm reading a book on the Ba-Benzelle pygmies written by an American who has been living with them for the last ten or fifteen years. He fell in love with their music and traveled to central Africa to record it and stayed. The book accompanies a CD of music.

Have two or three poetry anthologies going, a huge one of poetry from around the world that was published a few years ago by the Book of the Month Club. It's not bad. But I'm indifferent to most of the poems. I started another anthology to get some contemporaries in my head, The Heights of the Marvelous, a gathering of poets in New York City published in 2000. It's more fun than the world stuff.

I just finished the second volume of Alan Moore's League of Extraordinary Gentleman. Did he write it after the Hollywood movie adaptation of the first volume? The movie seems to have been based more on Moore's concept than any story he wrote. Anyway, I wonder if anger at Hollywood led Moore to kill off two of the Gentleman ... the pages seem cluttered with 19th century fiction's fantastic elements and the result rather a mess. There's a long prose travelogue at the back of the book which I guess I'll read. Also reading Grickle, a collection of short comics starring very expressive stick figures.

Anything else? ... A book by a man who wanted to see what the contemporary Maya are up to. A thousand years ago they were the height of American civilization -- one of two (or was it three?) cultures in the world that invented the zero, had a calendar more accurate than any in the world, built grand pyramids and domesticated chocolate. So far the accounts of his travels have been superficial. Am I on the fourth chapter? He's only spoken at length with one contemporary Mayan person, and that man was quite Americanized having grown up in (I think) Chicago.

Volume two of Kafka's diaries. So unhappy! So dissatisfied!

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Mars trilogy

This morning I finished Green Mars, the second volume of Kim Stanley Robinson's Mars trilogy. The story traces the settlement of Mars and the terraforming of the planet. Robinson invents a longevity treatment that allows him to follow the same set of characters for decades. At the conclusion of Green Mars the characters are about a hundred years older than at the beginning of Red Mars. They're old and wrinkly and achy but I wouldn't be surprised if they had 600 pages of life left in them.

Robinson's prose? I don't know that there's much to say about it. He does description tolerably well, though mostly avoids metaphor (and, thankfully, knows to step over a cliche). His dialog is believable and the characters distinct. When style doesn't call attention to itself it's easy to forget that poor style is too ready to fill a page. And, of course, one reads a book about settling Mars for the ideas, doesn't one? How do people live in such a hostile place? How do they get there in the first place? Once settled in, how do they relate to their home planet? Toward the end of Green Mars Robinson describes a common graffito, "You Can Never Go Back".

I think I'll take a rest before I start the third book but I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Born Free

Born Free is the book Joy Adamson wrote about raising Elsa the lioness and reintroducing her to the wild. The insanely catchy, treacly song comes to mind immediately. But of course Adamson did not write her book with that ditty plinking away in the African trees above her. I remember the movie, too (for which the song is the main theme). I'm sure I watched it at school. I'd thought it was a documentary. There are lots of pictures of Elsa in the books and Adamson mentions filming her antics. But I guess it's not.

In my stack of books I like to keep a book about animals going. I thought I had the sequel to Born Free. After I finished Born Free this afternoon I went upstairs to the library but found only the third book, Forever Free. Oh. Third book? Guess I'll have to check the bookstores for Living Free, the second book, if I don't want to miss anything. The Berkeley library only has Born Free. It has a single book condensation of the trilogy, but I want every word. Every word, I tell you!

Not that the writing is great. It's the story that's fun, not the prose. Prob'ly the shorter version is better. I mean, even in Born Free do we need to know about every time Elsa shows up after a few days living on her own? When for the fourth time she greets everybody by bumping her face against their knees, well, it's like a series of baby pictures ... if it's not your kid every forehead wrinkle is not equally interesting.

Still, if I see Living Free for a couple bucks I'll pick it up.

Sadly, both Joy and husband George died in the 1980s at the hands of human beings.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Kafka's diary

some excerpts:

"I can't endure worry, and perhaps have been created expressly in order to die of it."


"Leafed through the diary a little. Got a kind of inkling of the way a life like this is constituted."


"The beginning of every story is ridiculous at first. There seems no hope that this newborn thing, still incomplete and tender in every joint, will be able to keep alive in the completed organization of the world, which, like every completed organization, strives to close itself off. However, one should not forget that the story, if it has any justification to exist, bears its complete organization within itself even before it has been fully formed; for this reason despair over the beginning of a story is unwarranted ..."

Saturday, August 20, 2005

writing in books

Neighbor across the street was hosting his annual yard sale fundraiser for the Oakland Jazz Choir today.

I poked around the tables. Spotted the Collected Poems of George Oppen, gave its pages a cursory flip through, then saw Mina Loy’s Lost Lunar Baedeker. Even in Berkeley one doesn’t usually see such poets in the rummage. I also picked up The Trouble with Harry Hay, a biography of a “founder of the modern gay movement” (as the cover has it). A couple bucks for a good cause, right? I figured I would get around to reading these.

Once home, turning the pages with more care, I discovered the Loy and Oppen had been annotated by a jittery black pen. The reader didn’t say much, usually seemed satisfied with underlining and drawing arrows. Loy’s vocabulary seems to have given trouble. Her “Diurnally variegate” is translated as, “daily diversifying.” And “sialagogues” gets this definition, “anything that stimulates flow of saliva” – had I paper to write I’m sure I would have broken out the dictionary at this point, too.

In one rare bit of editorializing the reader cries out, “Oh yeah! baby” to the following Loy couplet:

I am the false quantity
In the harmony of physiological potentiality

… On the whole marked up books bug the fuck out of me. Had I seen the student’s scrawlings I would have put these back on the table.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

CMJ New Music Monthly

Favorite song from the newest (issue no.133) sampler CD:

"Be Careful What You Wish For, It Might Come True" by Gabby La La

Monday, August 08, 2005

The New Yorker

I've let my New Yorker subscription lapse. How much of it did I read?

I did read one short story.

Several poems.

Most of the cartoons.

Entered the cartoon caption contest two or three times. But the winners usually weren't funny. (Kent was all excited about the thing until they'd print the finalists ...)

Realized how much the Talk of the Town political essays have been superceded by my blog reading.

It's not like I need to turn to the NYer for movie reviews. But I probably read a higher percentage of their movie reviews than any other department.

Why do I so often feel I'm wasting my time when I'm reading magazines?

This is from the July 4 issue, which happens to be on the floor near me, "Nearly every statement [Clothing designer] Kawakubo makes about herself is hedged or negated by a contradiction, and she resists being defined even by her own words. The desire to be unique and the sense of isolation that the feeling generates are a predicament common to artistic people." -- Judith Thurman

The first statement is true enough about me, I guess.

But the second annoys me. It may describe Kawakubo accurately but I know "the desire to be unique" is not the reason I hedge and speak slowly around what I mean. It's my not wanting to lie, it's my wanting to be precise, it's my following the travel of my thought. Do I feel a "sense of isolation"? I do. It's not because I want "to be unique". I also wonder about Thurman's "artistic people" ... does she mean "artists"?

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Free Lunch

Free Lunch is a digest-sized poetry magazine that's been publishing for several years. Now that I think about it, for a little magazine, it's quite longevitous.

Its name comes from its queer genesis. Ron Offen is the editor & publisher and, I believe, founder, and he thought, the not unusual thought, there aren't many rewards to being a poet these days. Sure, you toil away perfecting your little objet d' language and once you've got it tweaked and retweaked its little word-shaped heart is buzzing away like a whiskery snouted shrew's, sure either to burn out in days and leave a fuzzy corpse or incandesce in a way that surprises everybody. That's not a reward? What more can you ask!

But Ron said to hisself, I could start a magazine and gift a subscription to every True Poet I find.

Well. Indeed.

I like this idea. Not just cuz I'm one o' dem Trues who gots a sub (eat your hearts out) but because the poetry economy is the gift economy, really, and it's time we faced it (I'm talkin' to you, poets). I've sent batches of poems to Ron over the years and he hasn't cottoned to any enough to publish them, but a free subscription isn't a bad rejection slip.

I read each issue cover to cover. And I don't dislike it more than Poetry Magazine, I suppose. The latest issue, which appeared in my just-renewed po box yesterday, is the first-person free issue. Ron's been buggin' about the state of contemporary poetry (he reads the unsolicited fat envelopes, don't he?) and decided one thing it could do was stop moaning about its own problems (I/me/mine) and start looking around, maybe see what's going on next door and talk about that maybe. I've only read a couple poems so far. They've done that one thing. That was the one thing they had to do in order to get in this time.

Friday, July 29, 2005


Having seen 3 out of 4 of my "Viewing & Reviewing" links fade away I've decided to stop being so fussy. I changed the links heading to "Other Viewing" and signed up for BlogRolling. BlogRolling makes it a bit easier to add links -- I no longer have to edit the template and republish the blog every time I want to add a link. Thus I'm going to be promiscuous and add a bunch of links that no longer fit that demanding old criteria (Must Review Media in Relation to Personal Life) and just throw in a bunch of blogs (& maybe other websites, dunno) that I like to visit. I'll delete those that go belly up, which means I will be checking in on whatever I add to the blog roll. At present the blogs will be in no particular order.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Rogue in Space, A Choice of Gods, or The Grave

These are three paperbacks from one of the boxes of books I brought home from my mother’s house. The books belong to my brother and eventually I’ll get them to him in Seattle. In the meantime I’ve been toying with the idea of reading a couple. (Like I don’t have ten zillion books lined up already!)

Which should I read? I pulled these three out because they were at the top of the box. Of the three only The Grave by Charles L. Grant is more than 200 pages. It’s the horror novel. (Natch!)

Rogue in Space is a science fiction novel by Fredric Brown. “A lone outlaw encounters a unique being in the classic novel of alien intelligence,” says the cover blurb. A man in a yellow jumpsuit stands on a sand & rock plain in front of a big ochre spaceship (said spaceship looks a bit like the Marin Civic Center).

Clifford D. Simak’s A Choice of Gods has this front cover blurb: “The message came: Leave Earth alone. It is part of the experiment. [italics in original]” A robot knight stands in a clearing in the forest holding a lance or probe.

I can’t recall having read a book by any of these authors. David seems to own a few books by each. (Brown & Simak, anyway.)

So, D, which?

Anybody else have a rec?

Friday, July 22, 2005

One of These Things Is Not Like the Other

Wednesday poet friend Tim and I went over to San Francisco to Smack Dab, a reading series with open mike in the heart of the Castro. D. Travers Scott was down from Seattle to read from his novel, One of These Things Is Not Like the Other.

The scene he read involved incest, murder, and animals eating human flesh. Or rather, talk about incest, possible murder, and mysteriously fresh dog food.

I bought a copy. On the train home Tim said he'd like to borrow it when I was finished. I handed it over. "I've got so many books going it's going to be a long time till I get to this one."

When I bought the novel from the author and he asked if I wanted it personalized, asked my name, and I told him, he perked up having recognized the name from comments I've left on his blog. So that was kinda fun, too, having kinda sorta already met him online then in the flesh. I kept thinking later that I ought to have said something like, "Want to go out for drinks?" Because Scott & his partner seemed nice and it would be fun to make friends. But I don't much like drinks and all the places for drinks are so noisy and I don't have a car and it was late and the later it gets the more problematic the trip back across the Bay becomes. So we just said, "See you online!"

Sunday, July 17, 2005


Another one of my Viewing & Reviewing links has up n quit. Mick Martin of Daily Burn lists a bunch of reasons for burnout. And they sound like good reasons!

Of my measly four V&R linkies two have bowed out (rhubarb is susan and now Daily Burn), one seems to be on extended hiatus (i eat books) and the other is averaging a post a month (Taze Files). If this is the company I keep no wonder I haven't posted since last Tuesday!

I've come to a place in my diary that corresponds to a really difficult time in my life. It's a place I remember too well and I don't want to go back there. I've been thinking of strategies to get back on track with DIR. One involves talking only about the books mentioned in the diary and not discussing what was going on in my life at the time. That may be the way to get going again. What else? Really delve into what I was feeling & thinking? I think that's what I was going to do. And balked.

I'll probably take a little more time to think about it. Meantime maybe I'll find some new V&R linkies.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Monday, July 11, 2005

cat pee

I discovered a box of books I’d brought home from my mother’s house has since been peed in by one of our cats. The pee dried. Cat pee is frightfully pungent. It’s not going to be pleasant reading a book impregnated with cat urine.

Some books I threw away:

Lloyd Alexander’s Taran Wanderer books.

A book of poetry by Jonathan London, a Sonoma County poet now best known for his children’s book Froggy Gets Dressed and its sequels.

Some Poems Heaped Up by another SoCo poet Jim McCrary.

An edition of Gulliver’s Travels I bought in England during my semester in London. I think we were in Cambridge and there was a church with a box of books on its porch. A sign above a slot in the wall asked 10p per book. It was a nice hardcover not ill-used and had a color plate in the front of giant Gulliver up to his waist in the sea pulling a fleet of ships.

A little collection of Federico Garcia Lorca’s folk song poems. Nice wood cuts of dancing crickets and such.

One of two copies of the one book by Helen Luster that I own.

A kid’s book about a boy who is banished by his caveman tribe and threatened by various prehistoric (and pre-human-era) beasts. When young I was fascinated not only by the great dinosaurs and such but by the boy’s almost-nudity (a furry black loincloth clung to him throughout his adventures) and by the enticingly cruel way the tribe tied him to a log (a sacrifice?) and threw the log into the river. I’d saved it up to now mostly to provide fodder for a blog entry. This paragraph will have to do.

All my Xanth books by Piers Anthony. Xanth is a somewhat Oz-like fantasy world in which magic is taken for granted. The pages abound with puns.

If I really miss them I can hunt these up again somewhere, I figure. Except for the poetry books. I did hold onto two books by Paul Mariah. I’m thinking about putting them in a plastic bag with potpourri or something. I don’t think a masking scent will make the cat urine stink undetectable or even non-noxious, but it may make it more weird than hideous. Who knows?

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Blue Unicorn

From the diary: “Saturday November 23, 1985

“Today the issue of Blue Unicorn with my poem in it finally came. Been a year and a half since they accepted ‘Chaos in a Meadow Turned Cornfield’. But it’s sure nice to see in print. Though I’m ambivalent about the poem.”

The poem is in rhyming couplets (mostly). It’s a bit on the cute side. I wrote it in high school.

The UC Berkeley library had a subscription to Blue Unicorn. When I finally transferred to Cal it was fun to find one of my poems in the collection.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

The Little Wizard Stories of Oz

From the diary: “Friday November 15, 1985

“Last night I took advantage of the Moonlight Madness sale to buy an ink pad, three [Ruth Plumly] Thompson paperbacks and the new edition of Little Wizard Stories.”

L. Frank Baum wrote fourteen full-length Oz books. I didn’t even know he’d written Oz short stories until I joined the Oz Club. The Little Wizard Stories were originally published as booklets. Baum had tried to end the series with the sixth book, The Emerald City of Oz, but his non-Oz fantasies were not as successful so he wrote a new full-length sequel, The Patchwork Girl of Oz as well as these short stories aimed at younger readers. The stories were later collected in a hardcover which, by the time I was buying Oz stuff, was very expensive. There had only ever been one printing. I was thrilled to pieces when a publisher decided to bring out a new edition, thus making it possible for me to own (& read).

The text is on the web, but no pictures! A Google search suggests that you can download the text as an ebook and read it on your mobile phone. I’m sorry; I’m having trouble getting my head around that.

Del Rey, which had brought the Baum books back into print as mass market paperbacks also started bringing the sequels by Thompson back to print, though in a slightly larger format. They didn’t sell. So Del Rey never did get all the way through Thompson’s oeuvre. Some Thompson books are currently in print in handsome editions. Most aren’t, so are as expensive as ever, though, with the resources of the net, are a bit easier to find.

Friday, July 08, 2005

An Early Frost

From the diary: “November 11, 1985

“[S]ettled in for NBC’s AIDS drama An Early Frost. Hey. Was good. A tearjerker that actually brought tears to my eyes, made my nose itch. Glad [the protagonist] didn’t die in the course of the movie. Sure, it had its TV-movie-isms but blessedly they were few and lacking in virulence. Unfortunately the most sensual scene I’ve seen on TV between two men was in last night’s hokey vigilante movie when the leader of the bikers’ gang – a rapist, a real sicko – reaches through the bars into the next cell, takes a cigarette out of the mouth of the man sitting in the next cell, rests his hand there on his shoulder. The young man [one of the bikers] leans his face gently against the hand, touching it with his lips. That was nice. The two lovers in [An Early Frost] hardly touched. And Peter (the one without AIDS) proved that not all gay men are good dressers. Couldn’t they get him anything that fit? Also had a very likable character who dies in the hospital – he had a lot of funny lines – camped to keep his spirits up. Good movie. Had its problems – but good all in all.”

I’ve skipped over mentions of movies in the diary. Books! We do books here. But I remember the scene in the holding cells in the “hokey vigilante movie” better than I remember An Early Frost. Same sex sensuality is used as a signifier of evil. That was the problem Frost had. The moviemakers were trying to make the gay men sympathetic, but if the lovers were actually shown being physically affectionate they would be unsympathetic, they would be like those jailed biker creeps, they would be evil.

I still remember that jail scene as one of the tenderest, most erotic moments between two men on broadcast television. But maybe that had much to do with my needing to see something like that at the time.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

The Wonderful Cut-Outs of Oz

From the diary: “Friday November 8, 1985

“Got a letter yesterday from Doug Greene inviting me to review The Wonderful Cut-Outs of Oz. … Doug Green said John Fricke described me to him as ‘the new editor of The Oogaboo Review and a good writer.’ That made me feel good.”

Doug Greene was the book review editor for the Oz Club publication The Baum Bugle. John Fricke is a cabaret singer in New York City. He has published books on Judy Garland and Oz. I met John at the Winkie Convention.

I tried to write a this-book-is-good-because sort of review, but everything I wrote sounded dumb. What did I know? Rob Roy MacVeigh was working on an animated version of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz that would closely follow the story in the book. The MGM musical version is fairly faithful to the book, if one considers how unlike its source material a Hollywood movie often is. But if you’re a big fan of the book there are going to be things you wish had been respected. Dorothy is a little girl, not a teenager. Oz is a real place, not a dream. A big fan of animation and of Rob Roy’s art I was really looking forward to his movie. Rob created the cut-outs book partly as fundraiser (though I doubt it made much money) and partly as a showcase for the character designs. And partly, I hope, for fun.

I had fun with it. I cut out all the figures, affixed their bases, glued on the pennies (like it said in the instructions) in order to keep them balanced, and put them on display. They were on display for years on the top of a bookcase at my mother’s house. Currently they are in a paper bag upstairs. If I hadn’t been asked to review the book I probably would never have let scissors come near it. But once I’d cut out all the characters I felt like playing with them, like a kid with his new action figures. So that’s what my review ended up being, a little story about playing with paper dolls.

I think Rob told me he liked the review. It was different, he said.

We lost Rob Roy MacVeigh to AIDS.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Teen Titans

from the diary: “Thursday October 10, 1985

“Bot comics, stopped collecting Teen Titans.”

Teen Titans was sort of DC’s version of Marvel’s X-Men, well-written and featuring an artist that could really draw. I stopped collecting the comic a few issues after artist George Perez left the Titans.

They keep making and remaking Batman and Superman movies and TV shows but they seldom mine the rest of the DC universe. Of course it was long the case that the only media versions of Marvel superheroes were in videogames and TV cartoon shows. The rights to the Marvel characters were tied up in all sorts of legal knots that only fairly recently got loosed.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Dr. Fulton's Step-By-Step Program for Clearing Acne

from the diary: “August 25, 1985

“I’m reading an excellent book on clearing up acne that has told me so much I never knew.”

I have noticeable acne scars. If I’d found Fulton’s book a few years earlier I think I would have suffered less. Benzoil peroxide is his main recommendation, but make sure the cream is water-based because an oil-base, says Fulton, greatly cuts the medication’s effectiveness. I did find a water-based product, but it was a brand I sometimes had to special-order. And it was very helpful. Unfortunately it will bleach your clothes; it is a peroxide.

I don’t think the book I read is still in print. But Fulton has other books (and products).

Acne isn’t just ugly, it can be painful. I still get the occasional pimple but nothing like I suffered with in my late teens/early 20s. These days I find vitamin E oil helps heal a pimple quickly.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Black Water: the book of fantastic literature

From the diary: “July 13, 1985

“Yesterday Mom & I spent the day with the Averas at Caz. Lee finished his do-it-yrself awareness book and is trying to find an agent to handle it for him. Mom paddled about in the pool a bit. I dunked my feet – brr – read from Black Water: the book of fantastic literature. Damn thick brick of a paperback.”

I was much impressed with Black Water. It was the first anthology I remember reading that didn’t have a disappointing page in it. And there were lots of pages! I’ve piled up anthologies edited by Alberto Manguel, including his anthology of gay fiction. But, egad, have I really not read anything he put together since Black Water?

BW contained lots of classics, and famous authors from around the world. I read “The Monkey’s Paw” for the first time. (Stephen King’s Pet Sematery is a modern version of the story.) I was fascinated by “Lady into Fox” in which a man falls in love with a woman who turns into a fox; unlike a werewolf she doesn’t change back. But he still loves her! She, on the other hand, eventually finds love with another fox. Great stuff.

Jean Avera was an old friend of my mother’s. They’d known each other since second grade. Lee Avera was a chemist. He’d worked for Skippy peanut butter and I understood that he’d invented the hydrogenation process that kept the oil from separating. Because he was an employee at the time the company took the patent and Lee didn’t get rich. Didn’t that happen to the guy who invented the coathanger? Lee continued to invent new processes and products in his retirement, including DriWater.

Lee also investigated consciousness and esoteric knowledge. I remember him telling me about the third eye, that there was an eye-like structure in the brain that could pick up images when the eyes on our face are closed. Supposedly there are even light receptors somewhere in the skin of our backs. I remember once Lee got a flashlight and had me cover my eyes while he shown the light on my back. “Do you see any light?” he asked. My eyes seemed to see a thousand sparkles of reds and greens and yellows but they always seemed to do that.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Pride & Prejudice

From the diary: July 11, 1985

“Finished reading Pride & Prejudice.”

This was the first time I read Pride & Prejudice. I read it again three years later when it was assigned by an English professor at SRJC.

Women love Pride & Prejudice. Among the Stick questions was, “Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?” How many women answered, “Darcy!”

I’ll eventually work my way through Jane Austen. I enjoy her prose; she can be quite funny. I can’t say as I number Darcy, the available/unavailable suitor of P&P, among my crushes.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

The Dehumanization of Man

From the diary: Sunday June 23, 1985

Return to Oz is the dehumanization of Oz. I read The Dehumanization of Man by Ashley Montagu & Matson a few days ago – this movie fits a lot of the symptoms.”

Since I don’t remember The Dehumanization of Man and I talked about Return to Oz in my last post I’ll mention a few other things I’ve been seeing in my diary. I was working furiously on my first issue of The Oogaboo Review, hoping to have it ready for the Oz Convention. I videotaped my brother & his friends in their first parachute jump (sadly, there was some glitch and only the first blossoming of the chutes and the landing ended up recorded). I went to the gradnite party of a friend two years behind me in high school. I had bad acne and fought with my mother over going to a dermatologist – I still had no regular job so couldn’t pay for it myself and Mom was contemptuous of medical doctors. Mom was going to city council meetings about saving the Sebastopol laguna and stopping McDonald’s and other civic stuff.

Friday, July 01, 2005

Return to Oz

From the diary: “June 3, 1985

“I’m reading Joan D. Vinge’s novelization of Return to Oz [the Disney sequel to The Wizard of Oz]. This is rather too dark. The whimsy and simplicity of the Baum books is gone. The predicaments pound on & on with little humor. But then I hate movie novelizations.”

How many movie novelizations have I read? This one. Any others? A movie picture book or three, but any other prose novels? I’m not saying none but none I can remember. So this “hate” was mostly prejudice; I didn’t (& don’t) like the idea of movie novelizations. Aren’t they just redundant? And what sort of leeway does the author have to make the tale interesting prose, rather than a writing out of the screenplay with a few he-saids and glancing descriptions of the landscape? I’ve heard William Kotzwinkle’s adaptation of E.T. is worth reading.

The Return to Oz movie brings the 2nd and 3rd stories of the Oz series to the screen. Dorothy does not appear in the second book, The Land of Oz, but nobody’s gonna want to see an Oz movie without Dorothy (Baum found that out with the books), so the producers mixed Land together with Ozma of Oz in which Dorothy gets washed off a ship in a big storm and drifts off to fairyland. Although Return is not a musical the moviemakers knew they had to include elements from MGM’s Wizard of Oz. So they picked up the idea of Oz-Kansas analogs – to a fault! Just about everything (or everyone) that Dorothy sees in Kansas ends up in Oz in a new guise.

But the reason I found Return disturbing was the electroshock. They made an Oz movie in which Dorothy is to be tied to a table, her brain zapped with electricity? Why? So she’ll stop talking all this Oz nonsense? Brr.

The electroshock machine seems to have a face and makes a clock-like tick tock. After escaping from the sinister quack to which the concerned Aunt Em and Uncle Henry have brought her, Dorothy and another escaping little girl are swept away in a storm-swollen river. When Dorothy washes up in Oz the other girl has disappeared. But Dorothy comes upon a friendly clockwork man whose works go tick tock; thus his name, Tik-Tok. The scary electroshock machine has become our old Ozian friend Tik-Tok. Brr. And what of the other girl swept away in the storm? In Oz she turns out to be Princess Ozma. But in Kansas? A figment of Dorothy’s imagination? Or a girl who actually was lost and drowned in the river? When the story in Oz ends happily and Dorothy is returned to Kansas via Ozma’s magic why is it Dorothy wakes up muddy and disheveled on the bank of the river, as though she has dreamed the whole thing? If she weren’t crazy and Oz were a real fairyland why didn’t Ozma have the grace to return Dorothy clean and dry?

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Follow the Wild Dolphins

From the diary: “June 2, 1985

“I just finished reading Follow the Wild Dolphins by Horace Dobbs. Was incredibly moved by the accounts both joyous and horrible of Donald the Dolphin & other dolphins friendly to humans.”

I remember this book. Author Dobbs wrote up dolphin-human friendships. There is the rare free-living dolphin, it seems, who becomes interested in people, hangs out where people enter the water, and will even build a friendship with individual humans. As I recall these are almost always young male dolphins that are not living in a pod – pods tend to be harems with one dominant adult male running the show so young males can be shut out. Being social animals they seek company and maybe they recognize in people a similar life and intelligence and a reciprocal interest. Sadly, humans do not always behave kindly toward their fellow creatures (let alone members of their own species); idiots with guns will take potshots at dolphins, but incidental dangers like boats and nets are more frequent killers.

I see Dobbs has an “Adopt a Dolphin” page on his website. Dobbs lists some of the wild-living human-friendly dolphins he wrote about in Follow the Wild Dolphins. Dolphins are long-lived creatures. Nobody knows for sure how long is typical, but 50 and 60 years is not uncommon. (Of dolphin longevity one site says they live “up to 40 years.”) There’s a website devoted to Fungie, a wild Irish dolphin who likes to play with visitors to his bay. All of a sudden I want to visit Ireland.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

the story so far

I write all the posts for Dare I Read in a Word file before I post them. The word count, as I write, has topped 30,000.

Does DIR have regular readers? I think so. Two.

This month Simon DeDeo shut down rhubarb is susan, the blog in which for each post he writes a critical essay about a poem published in an online journal. I wanted my “Viewing and Reviewing” links to be idiosyncratic takes on creative works, more personal than not. I included ris because I liked the idea so much (thoughtful responses to very contemporary poetry!) and because I liked Simon’s writing. I hope a reader or two found his site via DIR.

In his farewell post Simon says, “The main reason I'm leaving [the blog world] is that my efforts increasingly feel like shouting into a void.”

Sounds like a quote attributed to Don Marquis, “Writing a book of poetry is like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.”

God watches the petal fall and hears the thunder when it strikes the earth, the boom of the echo off the canyon walls. What could be more important than talking to God?

Since February at DIR I’ve worked my way through my junior high and high school diaries. I’m now exploring what I read (or what I bothered to note about what I read) in 1985. I was Depressed, poor, living at home, lonesome, and working my brain. I was reading, writing, and trying to think. If I could go back and change things to make that Glenn’s life easier I would. But I was making something. And here I am taking up that material and making something new out of it. 30,000 words in five months? I’ve thought idly that I might be making a book. Would that matter?

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Love & Rockets

The house next door to us caught on fire. On May 10, 1985 I wrote, “Mom woke me, calling out something about a fire and how she was going to look out one window rather than another. So, as I stay in dreamstate after I wake up, I got hung up on windows and didn’t understand the fire part. But Mom kept shouting and she kept shouting ‘Fire!’ so I jumped up and threw on a pair of pants. Looked through the kitchen window, smoke pouring out [of the roof next door], followed by flames – so very close, just at the end of our roof it seemed.” We later measured the distance between the fence that separated our patio from the neighbor’s house. Three feet. And by patio I don’t mean a big open space; the supports for the patio roof touched the property line fence in a couple places.

“Mom went running out. Policeman came to the door, said, ‘Anybody else in there?’ I said, ‘No. I’ll be out in a second.’

“I ran into the bathroom, started combing my hair, realized how totally ridiculous that was, so I rushed into the bedroom and shoved a pair of socks and shoes over my toes and dashed into the yard putting on my coat. Don’t know where Peanuts [the cat] is. Undoubtedly scared and hiding out. The fire trucks were arriving. Fire wasn’t spreading beyond the house. … [A] couple apple trees [next to the burning house] were crumpled from the heat & the fence was blackened & charred.

“The fire had stayed in the back room add-on mostly. Just heat [& smoke damaging] the front rooms.

“Windows breaking. I was shivering & shaking out there. Mom & I went [across the street] to Hopkins’ – they and Blakeys were watching from [the] yard. Got a glass of water and sat inside staring across the street as the firefolks killed the last of the fire. Nothing of ours was touched.”

The neighbors who lived in the burned house were bad eggs. I remember the man had tried to convince Mom to allow him to repair cars in a corner of our yard (the corner had once been a graveled parking place) and I thought Mom was crazy for even considering it. He didn’t seem like a bad guy in the I-like-to-do-evil sense, rather he liked to drink and didn’t seem to able to get his act together. Things had progressed to the point Mom, according to my diary, had been one of a group of neighbors who were hoping to get the city to condemn the house.

The house was eventually gutted and redone.

Meanwhile, back in reading land, I “read all the unread Love & Rockets and EPIC.”

Love & Rockets was a comic series that showcased the work of Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez (and occasionally third brother Mario), Southern Cal chicano boys. Ever alert for a gay thread I was happy to find Jaime’s characters Maggie & Hopey more than just friends. Unfortunately their friendship moved to the platonic and their interests toward boys, though there were usually a few characters in Gilbert’s or Jaime’s stories that were pleasingly queer. Jaime’s stories are mostly set in a version of a SoCal barrio. Gilbert’s stories are set in a fictional Mexican/Central American town called Palomar.

An English rock band snagged the name Love & Rockets because they thought it sounded cool. The Hernandez brothers were miffed. The musicians hadn’t asked for permission. And the Hernandez brothers didn’t think much of their music. I own both L&R comics and L&R records.

EPIC was an anthology comics magazine published by Marvel, the publisher responsible for Spider-Man and The Avengers and so on. It was supposed to be for mature readers so allowed a bit more cleavage and blood and fewer superheroes.

Sunday, June 26, 2005


From the diary: “May 2, 1985

“Red sum comics. Cerebus’ latest is great.”

Cerebus is a success story. Published by the author/artist himself it survived 300 issues. Dave Sim decided at some point that 300 issues was it, and that Cerebus the Aardvark would die in the last issue. I read Cerebus for several years. Sim writes fun dialog. I liked the art. And he was creating an interesting separate semi-medieval world and watching him explore it kept my interest.

Gradually Dave Sim himself seemed to get weird then weirder, publishing insane diatribes against feminism in the back of the book. These rants dragged on for pages in small print prose. Sim’s ideas didn’t infect the Cerebus stories too much. There were bad women and there were good women, just like everywhere. Fact is, it often seemed to me Sim’s animosity to feminism was pitched to such a ludicrous wail I was sure it was intentional camp. (Did Sim have a schizophrenic break?) Anyway, I usually skipped Sim’s longer essays.

It was only when Dave Sim started including long prose passages in the comic stories that I seriously balked. These weren’t essays, for the most part, rather the comic became more an illustrated novel than a comic. Which would have been okay, I suppose, but Sim can’t write. He could write comics but his prose needed editing real bad. A third to half the words should have been cut from each page. By the time Sim was indulging himself thus I was in college in Berkeley (this was early 90s) and didn’t have the money to buy bad writing.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

The Case for Animal Rights

From the diary: “Monday April 22, 1985

“Am reading The Case for Animal Rights. Round and round in philosophical arguments that can get quite trying on the eyes (and mind) but sometimes are quite droll.”

Animals have rights. If people have rights then animals have rights. Do people have rights? We say they do. And it’s a very good story to tell ourselves, I think.

Do plants have rights? Sure. Why not? If they don’t then what?

Stones? The air? Does this planet, too, have rights?

Friday, June 24, 2005

Dolphin Dolphin

From the diary: “Friday April 19, 1985

“Bin redding a buck on dolphins called Dolphin Dolphin.”

The title is not evocative. Thinking, thinking. Nope, nothing. has a listing for a book by this title, author Wade Doak. The description sounds sorta kinda familiar, sounds at least like the sort of book I’d read. “Doak [writes about experiences he] and his family had with Bottlenose Dolphins. … [H]e sold his house … bought a boat - and devoted his life to … Dolphins, founding the still-existing Project Interlock.“

Whales and dolphins have long fascinated me. Photos of dolphin brains show extremely sophisticated-looking blobs of matter, much like human brains. Photos of most other animal brains look relatively smooth; the convolutions of the brain surface in humans and dolphins seem to suggest these brains have a lot going on in them. And the bodies of whales and dolphins seem so beautifully designed, no extraneous parts, perfectly shaped for zipping (or plowing) through the sea. They are not fish but they don’t walk; they are suspended in a medium that reaches deeper than any we on the surface can access.

Save the whales. What else?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

The March of Folly

From the diary: “April 13, 1985

“I have now read all the newspapers of 1985. I still have 10 months worth in my bedroom to go thru – 1984. … I’ve been reading The March of Folly, but it’s slow going. I may quit. Too much like a school text. Too dull.”

I still pile up newspapers, only these days it’s mostly the free gay weeklies from San Francisco. If I subscribed to the daily paper you know I’d stack it up. If I’m paying for it, I’m going to read it, even if what I’m reading is months old. So I make sure I don’t subscribe to the paper. Plus I do manage to throw out the free papers that are getting yellow and cat-scratched, even unread. Often I’ll cursorily flip through them just to assure myself their existence hasn’t gone wholly unnoted, their contents no more a complete mystery. Even so I seldom see things I would’ve hated to have missed. You can’t read everything.

I am not going to read every page of my New Yorker subscription; issues will have to pass by in which I do little more than flip through them. But it stacks up anyway. I’ve read a few pieces, many go unscanned. The cartoons? Not even all the cartoons.

Books. We’re going to read books.

As though books were, by virtue of their bindings, of greatest value/importance/timelessness. I steer myself away from fluff. And tedious prose. But I’ve forced myself through lots of dull books, haven’t I? For the information, I tell myself. The duller they are, though, the easier it is to forget everything I read.

In The March of Folly: from Troy to Vietnam historian Barbara Tuchman reviews bad policies governments cling to even as events show the policies were bad from the beginning. Especially when the policies were bad from the beginning? With Reagan’s misadventures in Central America in mind I thought this a good idea for a book. It wasn’t long before I got lost in the details of the crooked Popes, however. A problem with history for the storyteller is that history isn’t one story. It’s many intersecting stories and many of the incidents don’t really fit into something you could call “story”. In order to craft a narrative, particularly one from which she can draw conclusions, the historian has to prune the mass of data and clip it to a constructed plot. I didn’t feel drawn into any of Tuchman’s plots; they stayed a mess of names and dates, details that I had a hard time remembering as the pages crept by.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Heretics of Dune

From the diary: “April 4, 1985

“Am reading Heretics of Dune. It’s an adventure/coming of age story like Dune and Children of Dune. Much more readable than Dune Messiah (ugh) and God Emperor. So far. I’m only halfway. Soon Chapterhouse: Dune will be out. I don’t know why I’m addicted to this series.”

Addicted? I don’t know. I tend to read every book in a series (or every movie or episode if it’s a TV series or issue of the comic or whatever) so long as the stories are decent and available. Fact is, I push on until I’m disappointed repeatedly. But I do learn to quit if what I’m seeing isn’t rewarding. I also fall out with a series when there are long waits between episodes.

Of the Dune books I can say I really enjoyed the first. I’ve read it two, maybe three times. The last books, the ones Frank Herbert churned out not long before he died, were pretty lightweight, I understand. Heretics certainly was. I never got around to Chapterhouse. After the weighty concerns of the earlier books, Heretics was a surprise. I don’t remember much of it, but I do remember the story galloped along full of incident instead of picking its way along through inscrutable monuments and court intrigues.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Avengers

From the diary: “April 2, 1985

“Stopped in at [the typography shop]. Hasn’t wked there in a week and a half. Rebecca says they’ve been swamped with complicated stuff. She’ll call. Stopped and bought a scoop of Tin Roof Sundae at Candy Apple/Bud’s. Got the latest Avengers at Pease.”

The Avengers was the first comic I started to collect. My brother had already been buying Spider-Man for ages. I preferred supergroup comics because if you dig one colorful costume why wouldn’t you love a crowd of them duking it out among the ruins?

I remember when we discovered the TV show The Avengers. I was so excited! When it turned out not to be Thor, Captain America, the Vision, the Scarlet Witch, and so on, but Mr Steed and Mrs Peel I was pretty darn disappointed. Happy to say I got over my little misunderstanding and grew to love Emma Peel – a woman who could fuckin’ kiss ass. (When Diana Rigg’s Peel left the series she was, sadly, replaced by the much wussier Tara King.) Steed was no hottie, pity. (Maybe I would’ve liked him better if he’d been Ralph Fiennes from the beginning.)

Pease was a pharmacy that had a rack of comics “for the kids!” The Pease building currently houses a little theatre.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Consenting Adult

From the diary: “March 31, 1985

“Am reading Consenting Adult by Laura Z. Hobson who also wrote Gentleman’s Agreement."

The previous week I’d watched the movie adaptation of Gentleman’s Agreement. I wrote, “It wasn’t bad. Anti-anti-semitism. They did their propaganda better than Making Love. Movie was made in ’47. … I had a hard time [with aspects of the movie]. Even considering the era … the women were very subservient, no blacks, no other visible ethnic groups. Main character was waited on by women hand-and-foot. I’d rather they’d made a movie like Anne Frank with Jews running into anti-semitism in daily life. Instead they make people into an ‘issue.’ The message is the story. That’s propaganda.” The story is an argument, the characters merely props to illustrate points. I’d seen Making Love on TV not long before and was hoping I’d enjoy it. I remember wanting to see it in the theater but not having the nerve. At the time I had no idea how much they cut it for broadcast – the men making love did not make it to TV, just the talk about it, and all so earnest. I’m curious to see an unchopped-up version of Making Love. I was never hot for Harry Hamlin but what the heck.

Consenting Adult was also made into a movie. For TV. Starring Mary Tyler Moore as the mother. The story is about the mother. Her grown son comes out to her and she has to figure out how to cope with it. I think the story is based on author Hobson’s own experience. It’s a woman-coping story. Of course she has a hard time with it at first. Lots of what-did-I-do-wrong and you-can-change-can’t-you, followed by mother overcoming her shame & revulsion to see things from her child’s point of view, then understanding, compassion, and, ultimately, loving acceptance. This synopsis suggests I remember more about the book than I do. It’s just that it's an examplar of the coming out genre, parental subset.

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Writer’s Digest

from the diary: “March 19, 1985

“Just a bit ago I typed some poems for Writer’s Digest. I’ve been ODing on Market Listings. I got the latest issue of The Writer in the mail today.”

I think the subscription to The Writer was a (requested) gift from my mother. I was also receiving Coda (now called Poets & Writers Magazine) at about this time. I did not have a subscription to Writer's Digest. I'd flip through it at the library. I often had the feeling Writer's Digest was just shy of being a scam. Make money writing in your spare time! Be a travel writer -- make that school trip pay! The advice in the articles wasn't bad, but then advice to writers is pretty standard issue.

I was writing nearly every day. Poetry.

You can make a career in poetry. Sort of. Usually it’s teaching poetry. My mother was an elementary school teacher. Although I think she had many good ideas and I think I’d do a decent job teaching, teaching as a career is not one that calls to me.

Still, whatever career I could cobble together, I knew the first step was to get known and to get known one had to get published and to get published one had to do a lot of research into what magazines and (ultimately) book publishers liked the sort of thing you did. I also tried my hand at producing the sort of thing it looked like some of these places wanted. I was quickly disappointed by the results of that experiment. If I was going to be rejected anyway it might as well be for the work I liked doing.

Writer’s Digest was having contests for poems about writing poetry and I threw a few poems at them, poems that, it seemed to me, fit the theme and were good. It helped that they didn't charge an entry fee for the contests. So I didn’t have to pay to lose.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Valley of Horses

From the diary: “March 17, 1985

“Finished Valley of Horses.”

I haven’t gotten any further with Jean Auel’s Earth’s Children (TM) series. I read Clan of the Cavebear because it was a bestseller -- remember I said I’m always up for trying what somebody else thinks is great? and isn’t bestsellerdom an indicator of greatness? or much-likedness anyway – and because someone recommended it to me saying Auel had done a good job of recreating prehistory. The Neanderthals were perfectly intelligent, as I recall, but because they didn’t have speech-friendly constructs in their mouths & throats they used a lot of sign language. That was a theory I knew about, that early humans perhaps signed before they switched over to spoken words. There’s not really a way to test the theory but it gained currency not long after the sign languages of the Deaf were recognized as “real” languages, not primitive versions of English (or whatever spoken language surrounded a particular Deaf community). Even if the Neanderthals really didn’t have the equipment for speech (and that’s an if all right) one can’t say with certainty that they didn’t have language. Sign languages also got some glory for being featured in ape language studies – chimps and gorillas do not have the vocal equipment for speech but they do have hands which can shape recognizable signs. And chimps and gorillas do use the signs they are taught or pick up on their own.

One thing I remember about Clan of the Cavebear was stumbling over Auel’s extensive research. I’ve since encountered this sort of thing elsewhere, usually in Mysteries, the undigested lump of research regurgitated into the reader’s path. This can be interesting, but usually isn’t because not integrated into the story in a way that makes you think thank-god-I-learned-that. You know it from the monster movie when the scientist stops the action dead to give a little lecture full of technobabble that supposedly explains everything. That over with we’re back to the monster munching on the premaritally sexual.

The heroine of Clan and Valley of Horses, Ayla, is an orphaned CroMagnon girl who is adopted by Neanderthals. In Valley she’s all grown up and ready for romance with one of her own kind. Before reading Valley a friend warned me that it wasn’t as good as Clan. It wasn’t.

Friday, June 17, 2005

Meeting Allen Ginsberg

From the diary: “March 15, 1985

“Went to the Luther Burbank Center … for Helen Luster’s memorial service. … Paul [Mariah] started out by read 3 of Helen’s poems … Then he introduced Allen Ginsberg who sang a song [accompanying himself on the harmonium, which instrument I was seeing for the first time] … [After several others reminisced] we all joined hands and Paul read a poem he’d written [for the occasion].

“I was introduced to Ginsberg twice. He called me ‘Sport’. [Both times] I was introduced I was called ‘great,’ ‘talented,’ ‘poet.’ groan Introduce me that way when I deserve it.”

“As Mom and I were leaving we noticed Ginsberg and his companions (Wendy somebody and a Japanese (?) man) had a flat tire which they were trying to change. I was a clod. I told Mom, ‘What can I do?’ and didn’t offer to help. Now I feel like a fool. Why didn’t I at least offer?”

For those curious about such things, I was 19.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Green Fuse

From the diary: “March 13, 1985

“Somebody called me from Green Fuse, told me they were taking ‘Sun Dance’. Hafta send a bio.”

Green Fuse was a new poetry zine published right there in Sebastopol. The editors were looking to publish poetry that celebrates the natural world and/or decries maltreatment of it. I got a few poems in the zine over its lifetime but I rarely write the sort of thing they were looking for – my oh sublime seascape bucolic meadow fantastic forest poems are few. And the closest I get to scolding is lacerating self-criticism, which doesn’t quite fit the finger wagging at enviro-crooks mold. I’ve tried to match poems to themes at other magazines, too, and have seldom had luck with it. Do my poems not have themes?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Laughing Space

From the diary: “March 9, 1985

“Read a couple stories from Isaac Asimov’s SF Humor Anthology Laughing Space; neither story was funny. The one he wrote about the Goose That Lays the Golden Eggs was positively boring.”

It wasn’t only Isaac Asimov I was dissatisfied with. I began confiding in my diary again, using it as a way to think. “This day has been such a waste,” I continued. “I’m sick of lying in all morning. … I’m letting the newspapers pile up again. And I’ve got tons of library books to read. What am I doing to myself? It’s like I’m trying to deny being human. Every time (nearly) I build up my confidence for something I easily talk myself out of it. … I’m trying hard to hold onto my writing because that seems to be the only light in the tunnel. … I’m feeling lonely. The rain splattering the roof, the cat curled up on newspapers by the TV. He bores me. He’s like 1/4 of a person. Just enough to be there – not enough to be fulfilling.”

I was living with my mother. This day she was gone visiting friends. But she was after me to get a job – and I would have loved to have landed one. Often unable to get out of bed until midafternoon, awake until 2 a.m. or later (occasionally sleepless all night), getting headaches, eating only to shut down the hunger, isolated and feeling lost, man, I was Depressed.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Mrs Bridge

from the diary: “March 5, 1985

“Am reading Mrs Bridge by Evan Connell. Am really enjoying it.”

Mrs Bridge is a novel. Connell later wrote Mr Bridge, which, if I remember correctly, covers the same period as Mrs Bridge only from the husband’s point of view.

The books were made into a movie, Mr and Mrs Bridge, starring Joanne Woodward and Paul Newman. I haven’t seen it.

I’ve said before that I tended to prefer fiction with a fantasy element because I was sick of the mundane world and didn’t want to spend my reading time there, too. I don’t think there’s any fantasy element in the Bridge books. Gradually I came to appreciate prose style over subject matter.

More or less.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Dead Poets

from the diary: “March 4, 1985

“Helen Luster died today of cancer of the liver. Boschka Layton and Jim Montrose both died of cancer in the last couple years. Poets dying just as soon as I’m coming up.”

I posted about Jim Montrose a few days ago.

Boschka Layton was the poet I supposedly disrespected by Writing during Creative Writing Class. It was her poem I was to say something about, or, if I had nothing to say, to sit quietly on my hands while no one else did either. I googled Boschka and found a poem of hers heading a profile of her ex-husband, the Canadian poet Irving Layton. First I’ve heard of Irving Layton and the most biographical information about Boschka I’ve yet seen. Boschka half scared me because she had some sort of nerve or muscle damage in her face that caused one side of her mouth to droop. This made her face limited in its expressions and not pretty. I would say she was nice enough but what do I know? I think we exchanged three words.

Helen Luster hosted (and co-led with Paul Mariah) the Poetry Workshop I’d been attending in Santa Rosa. I see in my notebook that I wrote a poem to Helen. I’m not going to reproduce the poem here. Since I don’t think it’s successful, but I like some of the details, I’m thinking about posting it on LuvSet for revision. It would be another of those challenges, impossible because, though I intended the poem as a tribute and as a portrait, I didn’t know Helen well at all, and knew almost nothing of her biography or even her poetry. What could I say?

Saturday, June 11, 2005

Piedmont Literary Review

From the diary: “February 28, 1985

“Got a reply from latest haiku submission to Piedmont Literary Review. [The editor] says she’ll accept one if I change a couple words. I agree with her suggestions, so I’m gonna do it.”

I was sending work out, trying to get my poems in print. I’d never seen a copy of Piedmont Literary Review but if they were willing to publish me I was willing to have them publish me. The magazine had editors for different genres. The main poetry editor seemed uninterested in what I had to offer so I turned to the haiku editor. I assiduously counted syllables for the 5-7-5 syllable lines and tried to capture a nature moment in that wee net. (For a haiku purist there are rules upon rules for making haiku, from the necessary “season word” to the absence of metaphor to … I forget what all.)

Did they publish only one of my haiku? I think they took two or three.

When I got my contributor’s copy I was surprised by how much the editors crammed into the magazine. I was disappointed by the poetry for the most part – but that’s not a particular knock on Piedmont Literary Review as I seem to dislike much of what I see on the printed page. But my haiku seemed lost among those print-dark pages.

Would I have preferred rushing forth against a crowded and narrower gate, likely not getting published so quickly (or ever)? I told myself so. I don't know.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Poets of the Vineyard 1983

Poets of the Vineyard is a chapter of the Chaparral Poets of California. The Chaparral Poets are a society of poets. I don’t quite get what it is, but maybe that’s cuz I’m not much of a joiner. I remember reading tiny announcements in the newspaper about the awards the Poets of the Vineyard offered each year. There was always an entry fee and I was suspicious of entry fees (I’m still suspicious of contest fees). Nevertheless, I was curious about the Poets of the Vineyard and took one of their anthologies home from the library. In my notebook I copied out a couplet from a poem by Mary Bryant. I believe I chose the lines by way of a capsule review … not a flattering one:

My hands caress this faded page
And slowly, gently close the book.

-- Mary Bryant

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Anthology of Magazine Verse and Yearbook of American Poetry, 1984

From the diary: “February 27, 1985

“Finished 1984 Anthology of Magazine Verse and returned it to the library.”

The Berkeley Library has volumes from this series that were published back in the 20s and 30s. Was there a 50 year period in which Anthology of Magazine Verse was not published? I expect I’ll tackle one of those 80 year old anthologies one of these days. These would, I expect, epitomize what Ron Silliman calls (after Edgar Allan Poe, Silliman says), “The School of Quietude.” These are the poets who know what poetry is, dammit. It’s what they write. What those wacky beats or langpos or modernists are writing isn’t poetry. It’s page clutter. It’s yelping. It’s … whatever. Not Poetry.

I’m always curious to try out what somebody else thinks is hot stuff.

I remember, despite the fatness of the book, Anthology of Magazine Verse was a quick read. Yeah, I had deadline pressures, what with it being a library book and one not allowed to renew without limit (though I doubt anybody else was panting for the book), but I recall this anthology going almost as fast as prose. Poetry tends to be richer than prose and I often reread as I go, so I expect to spend a lot longer at a book of poetry than any other book.

This was before I started my copying-out project. I think this was the first time I put a placemark next to a poem so I could return to it later. I didn’t copy out any poems but I read a few several times and contemplated ways to hang onto them – memorize? copy out by hand? type up? photocopy?

The Berkeley Library also has the 1984 Anthology. Maybe I’ll read it again, see if I remember which poems impressed me twenty years ago.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Spring Breeze on Purple Iris

I’ve been quoting from my February 1985 diary. At the time I was intermingling diary and poetry. I title my poetry notebooks. This one was named after the watercolor on its cover, Spring Breeze on Purple Iris by the 19th Century Chinese artist Chi Chu-t’ung. I began writing in the journal January 12, 1985 and filled it February 15, 1985. While the prose certainly added a few pages most of the book is poetry. I filled an entire notebook in one month.

I haven’t written at that pace in a long time.

Anyway, I was trying all sorts of stuff, some of it serious, some of it just to keep my pen moving, viz:

be mean
make a scene
on the train
as it rumbles
as it tumbles
down the narrow lane
in pain.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

The O. Henry Awards 1983

I went through a patch where I tried keeping up with the annual short story anthologies -- The O. Henry Awards and The Best American Short Stories. They were an education in taste. I learned that I wasn’t going to like everything in an anthology, no matter the supposed bestness of the contents. This lesson proved helpful when I moved on to poetry anthologies. In poetry one often wonders if the difficulty is the reader – am I too stupid to read poetry? With stories one has the idea the story ought to deliver. When it doesn’t the reader doesn’t usually feel at fault. The reader of poetry ought not feel at fault either.

I was hoping by reading a lot of short stories that I would get the knack for writing them, too. Poetry doesn’t sell (with the rare exception, right Seventeen?) but there are places that will buy fiction. If I could make a living as a writer that’d sure beat a regular job, I thought.

In a Feb 11, 1985 diary entry I noted, “renewed O. Henry Awards 83 … wrote poetry … got WRITERS OF THE FUTURE contest rules in mail.” The Writers of the Future was a contest designed to encourage new science fiction writers. The contest was the inspiration of L. Ron Hubbard; was it funded by the Church of Scientology? I entered the contest once or twice. I didn’t win or place.

Monday, June 06, 2005

My Oogaboo Review

Eric Gjovaag said he was going to stop doing his quarterly Oz newsletter, The Oogaboo Review. I’d been wanting to do something like it for some time. (I still like the title I'd come up with, The Yellow Journal, the western country of the land of Oz being yellow-themed and the slightly unsavory connotations of “yellow journalism” being appealing to me.) Figuring I might as well save a going concern if I was going to do it anyway, I offered to take over The Oogaboo Review. Eric sent me the OR archives and treasury and subscription list.

I used up just about all the money on the first issue which I typeset and laid-out myself at the typography shop where I’d recently gotten work. (Have computers killed off typography?)

In a Feb ’85 diary entry I was making plans: “I copied an item from a magazine for my new ‘Oz in Strange Places’ [column] I intend to make a regular part of The Oogaboo Review.” You see Oz used as a metaphor (primarily MGM’s Oz) everywhere -- in political cartoons, in sitcom jokes, whatever – once you start looking you see Oz references all the time. I thought it’d be fun to gather up the strangest of these references for a regular column. One of the OR subscribers – Earl C. Abbe – was very helpful in this regard, stuffing envelopes with interesting clippings.

Sadly I only ever did two issues of The Oogaboo Review.

Eric had started a serial in OR, Queen Ann of Oz, the further adventures of Queen Ann of Oogaboo (since her first appearance in Baum’s Tik-Tok of Oz). I wrote a chapter and introduced a new character, Jody Buttons. All the people in Oogaboo have a last name that reflects the crop they grow. The Buttons family grows buttons in their orchard. Jody’s a tough little girl who wants to go out into the world and make a name for herself. She’s not going to be a “Buttons” all her life. When the serial died with OR Eric and coauthor Karyl Carlson finished the story; they kept a chunk of my chapter. I’ve seen the book but I don’t own a copy. I wonder if Jody chose a new name.

Eric Gjovaag maintains an Oz website that’s visited thousands of times a day. He’s also recently started a blog about life as a school teacher.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

2010: Odyssey Two

from the diary: “February 5, 1985

“Went to Poetry Workshop in Santa Rosa at Rusty [Jorgensen] and Paula [Viale]’s new place. … Rusty and I got into a long critique of 2010.”

When I caught up with Arthur C. Clarke’s next two 2001 sequels, 2061: Odyssey Three and 3001: The Final Odyssey, it seemed like I’d read the first two books fairly recently. So. Twenty years past seemed fairly recently? If I’d realized that much time had gone by it would have made more sense that I didn’t remember much from 2010. Rusty and I were talking about the movie, as well as the book.

I remember my brother David saying the book 2001 explained a lot that was mysterious about the movie 2001. Maybe it did. I remember expecting more than I got. I found 2001 the movie beautiful, magestic, convincing, frustrating, and often dull. The end is pretentious but mysterious and I’m up for mysterious. The solution to the mystery can be a letdown. Not in real life. In real life solutions usually offer up a bunch more interesting questions. In the movies solutions are usually too simple, end up seeming not worth the build up.

I recall liking 2010 the book. I think what got Rusty and me going was my disappointment with the movie. I didn’t hate it. It was an adequate sci-fi movie. But after the grandeur of Kubrick the sequel was pale. There were instances I loved – the original spaceship rotating, end over end, above the swirling clouds of Jupiter, hearing Hal’s voice again. But I don’t remember the movie as big. The book wasn’t huge either but it had a bit more dimension. I was convinced the movie could have included a little more mysteriousness, a little more of the unknown.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Tracks in the Widest Orbit

from the diary: “February 4, 1985

“Highlight of the day: went to tonight’s RRWG (N)Erotic/Romantic Poetry. Fun. Read one of mine (which was applauded) and read a couple from J.H. Montrose’s Tracks in the Widest Orbit. Somebody came in and videotaped most of the evening.”

I believe Jim Montrose helped found the Russian River Writers’ Guild. I don’t remember having met him, but I probably did. The book, Tracks in the Widest Orbit, was published posthumously. It has a picture of Jim on the cover standing before a fighter jet in his military flight suit, smiling, helmet tucked under one arm. I liked the book. For a collection of a life’s work it seemed tiny … but I think he didn’t really get serious about poetry until late.

I probably read this one:

“Last Rites”

When a codger named Tim caught the flu,
his lady, Miss Sadie, did too.
They took to their bed
and stayed there till dead,
a very sad story it’s true.

Now, the quaint little couple were struck
in flagrante delicto, worse luck!
When the children came round,
they were finally found
saddled up for a last good-bye fuck.

Rigor mortis had seized them mid-lay
in a truly disgusting display;
she had such a lock
on his rusty old cock,
mortal hands couldn’t rip him away.

And their withered old corpses were dry
as the tear in the mortician’s eye;
their bones were so brittle
they broke in the middle
when he grabbed them and gave them a pry.

The solution he finally found
was bizarre, yet basically sound;
you don’t see too often
a double backed-coffin,
but it worked, and they’re safe underground.

-- J.H. Montrose

Friday, June 03, 2005

Ms. Tree

from the diary: “February 3, 1985

“Read six Ms Trees today.

“Slept way late. As usual. Visited the graveyard – on a predinner walk – only spent five minutes. Met two WWII casualties. One who might’ve died in WWI, tho [the marker] dint say so.”

The diary also mentions Mom giving me driving lessons. Those were unhappy affairs. We’d get really frustrated with each other. As I’ve said earlier she wouldn’t let me drive the car on my own until I could afford to pay the insurance, which, for a 19-year-old male, would have been hideously expensive even had I regular employment.

Ms Tree was a mystery (get it?) comic following the hard-boiled adventures of a female private investigator. One thing I remember about Ms Tree was the ongoing argument on the letters pages about homosexuality. (Tree was a tough bitch but totally straight.) Eventually writer Max Allan Collins had one of the minor characters come out and howls of protest were printed. I recall a few thank-yous as well. The comic was published by a small press so could get away with a little more “controversy” than the major publishers which still trembled before the innocence brigade and their threats against peddlers of supposed children’s lit like comics should they dare produce something somewhat adultish. Sadly the creeps seem to be in charge of the country right now. Ulysses is waiting to be banned again, right?