Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Wonderful Cut-Outs of Oz, part II

for Part I go back in time.

from the diary: “Friday 2/21/86

“Can y’believe I’m actually cutting out the Cut-Outs? It’s taken me an hour and a half to cut out half the book. And I haven’t glued any of ‘em yet.”

Then on the 24th I wrote, “[F]inished cutting out the Oz characters. Now hasta glue ‘em. And do the review and send it in tomorrow or the next day.”

On Tues 2/25: “I have one day – tomorrow – in which to glue all the Oz cut-outs and write the review. arg. and mail it, too.”

On Wed 2/26: “I’m working on the cut-outs review. I just did the first version and marked it for revision. I finished glueing all the characters’ bases this afternoon. Boriiiing. I’ve gotta wait till tomorrow to finish the review and type it. The pasting was what I did most of the day.”

On Thurs 2/27: “More misadventures in the life of the Cut-Outs review. I’m still working on it.”

On Friday 2/28: “After yardwork I took a shower and returned to the Cut-Outs review. I finished it. Took me about two hours and I don’t much like it, but I typed it and went down to the post office and sent it off to Doug Green [the editor of the Oz Club’s Baum Bugle]. I hope he finds it satisfactory. I’m on the verge of hating the thing. I mailed it today, one day before the deadline. It probably won’t arrive till Monday or Tuesday, two or three days late.”

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Sex and Destiny, part II

from the diary: “Wednesday 2/20/86

Sex and Destiny just got interesting. Too bad it’s the end of the book – all that I waded through, but I think the conclusions may be worth the time. Homo Occidentalis may very well fade out, stop reproducing and fade away as the folks who aren’t so squeamish about bearing kids carry on and carry on. That means 3rd World people becoming Only World people. Provocative.”

Homo Occidentalist would be Western Industrialized People, right? Germaine Greer would hardly be the first to predict the end of (a) civilization.

I remember holding this book, its gray and white cover, a paperback with a hard plastic durashell glued to it (library book). I remember reading much of it sitting up on the couch, ill. (The jpg is pretty much how I picture it in my memory though I would have said more gray than sepia.)

Meanwhile I was trying to keep The Oogaboo Review going so was soliciting work that never saw print. And I entered the Writers of the Future contest, sponsored by L. Ron Hubbard. “I hope L. Ron Hubbard’s death doesn’t affect the contest,” I note in the diary.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Sex and Destiny

from the diary: “Tuesday 2/18/86

“The Hwy 12 bridge out of town toward Santa Rosa is under water. …

“Mom returned the second [wet/dry] vac this morning and rented another. This one worked fine. …

“Reading Sex and Destiny by Germaine Greer. I’m reading it compulsively. I don’t know whether it’s because the book is so good (it’s not bad) or because I can avoid other things while I’m reading.

“The library was closed again today. I finally got out of the house, did some walking around town [Sebastopol, California]. The wind wasn’t bad and the rain intermittent so I didn’t get real wet. Walked down past Pellini Chevrolet but there was a cordon at True Value Hardware. Just a half block away the water had crept. Half swamped the deli parking lot – the businesses behind and lanes were covered.” Well, not covered covered. Surrounded by water.

Sex and Destiny is the only book by Germaine Greer that I’ve read. She’s most known for The Female Eunuch, published in 1970, which helped galvanize the Women’s Movement. As I recall Sex and Destiny was a history of the birth control movement and how its origins are linked with eugenics. Eugenics is selective human breeding. Sterilize the stupid, discourage the reproduction of the inferior races. One of the ideas that formed the complex that justified the industrialized genocide of World War II Germany. Greer seemed to use that historical conjunction to tar birth control with the evils of eugenics. And I sympathized with her notion that in the non-industrialized world women are more free than in the industrialized world, even though they had no birth control. But their relative freedom and social status isn’t because they pop out babies all the time. It’s because, as Hilary’s book has it, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Child-rearing in pre-civilized culture was communal. A child didn’t have just one Mommy but many and men were more involved in caring for children. In civilized industrial society the basic unit is the individual (or an atomized version of the family, “nuclear” anyone?) rather than the tribe. If you have kids you alone are responsible for them. Since my mother and father broke up when I was small, all I remember growing up was a single parent. She struggled for money; and I have often felt a sense of deep loneliness (which may be associated with the loss of my father and older brothers and sister, or may just be me, who knows). Humans probably do best in small and close interdependent units, units that are linked to larger groups through language and genetics and trade. I’ve spent the day by myself so far. I think it’s time I went out for some lunch, allow myself proximity to people.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The Cider House Rules

from the diary: “Monday 2/17/86

“[M]ost of the day spent wrangling over wet/dry vacs. The one we got yesterday turned out to be a water sprayer. The motor vents – after the initial buckload – started ejecting water in forceful little jets. So we took it in and exchanged it for a smaller model which was not on sale, but cost the same. That one worked better. It got a full load and a half before its vent started to spray water, but this vent pointed straight up so it was like a misty rain. Immensely irritating. So there’s still a lot of water [flooding the basement] furnace room.” And most of the rest of the basement.

“Just finished The Cider House Rules by John Irving. Long Book. Not bad.”

I think I haven’t read a John Irving book since. I read World According to Garp and The Hotel New Hampshire before Cider House. I’ve rather intended to read more Irving but there’s always plenty to read, isn’t there? I remember liking Garp but preferring the movie version both because it captured the funny, odd personality of the book and because it dispensed with the author protagonist’s fiction, which had gotten in the way in the novel. Hotel New Hampshire’s screen version, as I recall, was quirky, too, but didn’t quite manage to avoid being a bit creepy as well. As I recall, ever searching for a gay character, that there’s a butch lesbian in Cider House who ends up stalking somebody, the main character?, but I still thought her sympathetic, as peculiar John Irving characters go. I wonder if she made it into the film? I haven’t seen it.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Beyond the Chocolate War

from the diary: “Thursday 2/6/86

“Finally finished Breaking with Moscow. Am reading Beyond the Chocolate War.

“Mom and I went to the art show reception at the library this eve. Ron Megorden and three others. I wanted to talk to Ron, but couldn’t gather the nerve to say anything while his friends were around. So I only said, ‘Hi,’ when I came in. I talked to one of the other artists, Sam somethingorother (Sam, short for Bruce, no actually for Margaret, which she hates). She did marvelously detailed vivid paintings. She’s done some children’s book illustration, which was on display in original form and two printed books – one by Isaac Asimov called Did You Know (I think) filled with clever trivia for kids to wow over. The drawings were fun. Mom annoyed me by introducing herself as my mother, me as her son, anyway, and saying I was a big science fiction fan (which I’m not). This was after I’d talked to her [that is, thought the conversation over]; Sam said, ‘You didn’t tell me you were into science fiction.’ She offered to give me some old sf books from the forties. I said thanks but no thanks, I wouldn’t know what to do with them. I told Mom when we got home that I wasn’t and never really had been ga-ga over reading science fiction. I don’t read that much sf, D[avid]’s always read much more than I.”

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Breaking with Moscow; coming out to Mom II

from the diary: “Friday January 31, 1986

“I was reading Breaking with Moscow by Arkady Shevchenko, sitting in the rocking chair, Mom came in and sat on the hat box.

“’When did you start feeling like you couldn’t get along with girls? Early? Or in high school?” Not interrogating, just curious tone.

“’Mom, I love girls. Girls are great people.’ Most of my best friends are girls.

“I don’t remember what she said next, but my answer was: ‘Ever since I’ve had sexual feelings they’ve been for men.’

“She expressed some reservations on the wisdom of the ‘choice.’

“I said, ‘Mom, I wish God had lined us all up before we were born and said, “Here, I’m giving you a choice. You can be a white, upper class American male or you can be a female Untouchable in Indian.” Now, that’s a choice. Too bad we can’t make these “choices.”’ Nice evasion, don’t you think? That way I didn’t have to say I would rather be straight but God burdened me with being gay. This way you can read it the way you want and I can still believe being gay is not my bum rap, it’s being scared that’s the shits. I still got the same feeling of anger and fear like a hot stone in my stomach when she asked me about getting a job.”

Monday, December 18, 2006

Coming out to Mom

Twenty years ago I came out to my mother. Here’s the account I wrote in my diary that night. [Don, mentioned below, was the therapist Mom was paying for me to see.]

from the diary: “Thursday, 1/30/86

“I told Mom. Used Don’s phrase, ‘I think I might be gay.’

“’Might be getting … ?’ she asked.

“’Jee. Ehyee. Wahyee.’

“’Oh.’

“Let me tell you how this happened.

“I’ve had this recurring (physical) pain in my right shoulder for, what, a week or so. It usually only hurt when I moved my arm a certain way and I didn’t move my arm that way very often so I tended to forget there was anything wrong. Well, last night I went to bed around two, trying to reverse the trend of going to bed later and later – if I got enough sleep maybe I wouldn’t waste the entire morning abed, plus maybe I’d feel better, maybe f’rinstance this pain in my shoulder would go away. Even before I went to bed it was getting pretty bad. But the longer I lay there, the more I tried to relax, the more I tossed and turned the worse it got. Finally the pain (like a constant excruciating pulling inside my right shoulder, upper arm and neck stretching up to my chin) got so bad I started whimpering and moaning and tossing frantically in bed; of course none of that worked. Mom heard my cries and came in. I asked her to massage my shoulder – more like begged. Went out to the couch and lay on my stomach. She started gently rubbing my back and I said, ‘No! no! my shoulder, massage my shoulder. My shoulder!’ I was hurting. She got the idea and the manipulations helped some. She ran a hot bath then came in and gave me hotpacks of ginger tea on the shoulder. I put on Bengay and a tshirt and she got a hot water bottle. By that time if I didn’t move my right arm my shoulder was just an ache. A bad ache, but bearable. Mom suggested acupuncture and I agreed. As I told her later, I would’ve agreed to anything. She called Dan Kenner [her acupuncturist] and he had a spot at 10:45.

“In the bath I got it into my head that my body was blackmailing me. Or perhaps torturing me for a purpose. ‘Tell Mom,’ it was saying, ‘or I’ll maybe you scream like this forever.’ Whenever I told my shoulder, ‘All right, I’ll tell her I’m gay,’ the pain seemed to lessen – only to return when I didn’t say anything. Finally I said, ‘Mom.’

“’Yes.’ She came in. I was lying on the couch.

“’I have something I want to say that’s been bothering me, tying me up in knots inside for a long time. I think my body is trying to tell me something.’

“She said, ‘Oh,’ concerned. ‘You mean about getting a job and how you’re having difficulties.’ Pause. ‘Maybe I shouldn’t say anything. You go ahead. I won’t prompt.’ She sat on the hassock.

“’Mom,’ I said. ‘I think I might be –‘ this came out fast. I let in another pause and felt like Fonzie on Happy Days saying he was wro – he was wro – he was wrong. Slower. ‘I think I might be gay.’

“She absorbed that a second while I stared at my fingernails thinking they needed cutting. This all seemed very comic. I suppressed a … smile.

“ … be getting … ?’

“’What?’

“’You might be getting … ?’

“’G … A … Y …’

“another pause.

“’How long have you been thinking this? For the last year?’ The questions weren’t rapid. ‘In high school or before? For the last ten years?’

“I said, ‘I can’t pinpoint a time.’

“’Have you talked to Don about this?’

“’Yes.’

“She went out of the room and called Dan again as the first time it’d just been the answering service. She was not taking it like I’d dreamed. Where was the pathos, the passion, hurt, anger, suspicion? Hell, I don’t know … drama? She was taking it light I’d told her something mildly distasteful (her lip didn’t curl or anything) but more that I’d told her something that didn’t really interest her, that didn’t really concern her. She wasn’t shocked. She said she had wondered when I asked her to stop kissing on the lips. I shook my head, saying that really had nothing to do with it, something about repression or suppression and my uncomfortableness touching people. She also wonders about David, his never seeming to have anything but friendship for all these girls.

“After she left the phone, [having gotten] the appointment, she said, ‘I think the world would probably be better without sexplay. If people just didn’t think about it so much it wouldn’t be such an issue.’

“She said something about being careful if I ever got involved in ‘sexplay.’

“Is Mom ASEXUAL? Does she not understand sex at all? She seems to think it’s pretty stupid. I suppose that makes homosexual sex dumber than heterosexual sex because at least hetero sex is nominally procreative, for at least that seems to be the paramount reason she engaged in it (and, I assume, to please Dad). Gays then engage in ‘sexplay’ for the sake of ‘sexplay’. And yet she doesn’t have a righteous fervor, she doesn’t condemn sex for sex’s sake as immoral or a mortal sin. But, minus Hell, she’s got the same idea.

“Like I said at the beginning, I’m bewildered. That was so flat. I was expecting something … else. Where was all that stuff I read about? ‘Get out of my house!’ ‘How could you do this to me?’ ‘All my hopes are ruined!’ ‘I don’t know you anymore!’

“After the conversation she seemed to forget it ever happened. Seems it would be stretching to say she was covering her despair, her anguish.

“Am I disappointed? I can’t say that. I didn’t want recriminations. But I am let down. Have I been basing my life of strife, tragedy, and trauma on a construction of my own mind? What is this? What’s going on?

“Now that I’ve told her, what happens? Do I subscribe to the Advocate [a gay news magazine]? I didn’t think about it until now, but I guess I could. I want to ask her, ‘What do you really think? Are you mad? Sorrowful? Do you not care one way or the other?’ She doesn’t seem to be thrilled for me (‘Oh! JOY!’) but neither does she seem upset (‘Oh! Woe!’).

“help.

“I guess I don’t have a big, bad, terrible secret to hide any more. What will I do now?

“I got dressed, bundled my scarf around my neck, and went to Dan’s. Mom acted as usual, said she hopes she gets a sub job tomorrow [Mom was a substitute teacher]. So do I, I said.

“I was still in physical pain. Dan had me lie on one of his slabs, take off my shoes and socks and shirt and he poked me with slender needles.

“(all this morning a commerical jingle and the phrase ‘diatomaceous earth’ had been fighting for dominance in my head. After I revealed my terrible secret to Mom they were replaced by ‘They’re coming to take me away – ha! ha!’ [a song by Napolean XIV])

“Acupuncture is really somethin’. I didn’t even notice most of the needles, but a couple he stuck in my hand and shoulder – thunk – felt like direct injections of novocaine. Muted, tho. Like cotton covering the pain. My shoulder seems a little worse than before last night. If I keep it relaxed it doesn’t hurt. No sudden moves or exaggerated gestures. Writing seems okay.

“And that was it.

“We came home.

“I napped.

“Ate dinner.

“Watched Hill Street Blues.

“Mom went to bed.

“I finished up the dishes.

“And wrote seven pages in my journal.”

Sunday, December 17, 2006

coming out stories

I don’t recall my mother making disparaging remarks about gay people or homosexuality. I remember my dad pointing out some guys on the street, calling them "pretty boys." And I knew he was saying they were boys who like boys. But Dad didn’t live with us. My parents divorced when I was 3 1/2. Dad lived in Alaska. He would visit when he could (a couple times a year when I was little) but he wasn’t a constant presence in my life. I remember as a teenager walking with Mom’s old buddy Jean in Alameda and Jean pointing out a house where the family had broken up because the husband had "gone gay." I don’t remember Mom saying anything. Murmuring sympathetically maybe.

So I can’t point to any specific attitudes at home that led me to fear her rejection should I come out. It wasn’t until I started reading some personal testimony recently that I remembered how many coming out stories included big grief, including total rejection by previously loving parents. And certainly whenever a gay person is featured on a talk show or news program there always has to be the "balance" of some censorious bastard who must assert the ridiculousness of love and acceptance.

I’ve been reading my old diaries and I found a full account of coming out to Mom. I’ve been considering posting it.

Coming out stories are the soul of gay literature. They are central to gay culture. There are lots of places on the web where coming out stories are collected and/or invited.

Here are a few:

Comingoutstories.com

Coming Out Stories Gallery

Gay Stories

Outpath

Coming out stories at Avert

Human Rights Campaign collection of Coming Out Stories

A Hero's Journey

GLBTQ encyclopedia

Saturday, December 16, 2006

the Malayan jungle c.1965

Now & then I rescue a book from the library discards. Ronald McKie's The Company of Animals: a naturalist's adventures in the jungle of Malaya has probably been out of print for decades and it's not the source you turn to if you want to know the current state of the forest but the writing is engaging. I was struck by this description of the soundscape:

"The jungle sings, whistles, rings bells, squeaks, squeals, buzzes. It plays scales, pipes, hoots, howls, scrapes in a dry sandpapery way. One cicada I came to know well gargled so monotonously that one almost pleaded with it to spit. Another, the postman, waited just long enough between whistles to reach the next house. One chimed so that it was forever Sunday. One was a dentist with a water-cooled drill. One went 'Ha-he' up and down, up and down. And among all this noise there was still space for other sounds -- steam presses, grinders, squeaking wheels -- an entire foundry collection, metallic and harsh."

...

Later his guide alerts the author to a bird call. "I failed at first to pierce the insect wall. It was like listening for a special voice one has never heard in the chatter of a theatre foyer between acts. Then out of the noise came a new note, clear and different. My ears snatched it, held it, and let go. A little later I heard it again; and then still another, different call, faint but distinctive. I was beginning to penetrate the curtain and, with Jim's help, to recognise some of the more common bird sounds: the 'kuang' of the beautiful Argus; the 'pangan-pakau' of a Malay cuckoo; the dismal sermon of the brain-fever bird -- a long call followed by more tuneless descending notes, repeated and repeated."

Friday, December 15, 2006

Redwood canopy

I continue to work my way through the New Yorker subscription, little read when it first arrived.

Richard Preston, author of The Hot Zone, that scary book about ebola that was the big thing a few years ago, has an article about coastal redwoods in the Feb 14 & 21, 2005 issue. Guided by Steve Sillett, a professor at Humboldt State, Preston takes to the trees, using a gentle-on-the-giants climbing method, soft ropes, no spikes, a lot of dangling hundreds of feet in the air.

Some excerpts:

"As a young redwood reaches maturity, it typically loses its top. The top either breaks off in a storm or dies and falls off. A redwood reacts to the loss by sending out new trunks, which typically appear in the crown, high up in the tree, and point at the sky like fingers of an upraised hand.

...

"The general opinion among biologists ... was that the redwood canopy was a so-called 'redwood desert' that contained not much more than the branches of redwood trees. ... The old-growth redwood forest, Sillett found, is packed with epiphytes, plants that grow on other plants. They commonly occur on trees in tropical rain forests, but nobody really expected to find them in profusion in Northern California. There are hanging gardens of ferns, in masses that Sillett called fern mats. The fern mats can weight tons when they are saturated with rainwater; they are the heaviest masses of epiphytes which have been found in any forest canopy on earth. Layers of earth, called canopy soil, accumulate over the centuries on wide limbs and in the tree's crotches -- in places were trunks spring from trunks -- and support a variety of plant and animal life. In the crown of a giant redwood named Fangorn, Sillett found a layer of canopy soil that is three feet deep.

...

"Sillett and his students have found small, pink earthworms of an unidentified species in the beds of soil in the redwoods. A Humboldt colleague of Sillett's named Michael A. Camann has collected aquatic crustaceans called copepods living in the fern mats. ... Sillett said, 'They commonly dwell in the gravel streams around here.' He can't explain how they got into the redwood canopy. A former graduate student of Sillett's named James C. Spickler has been studying wandering salamanders in the redwood canopy. ... Spickler found that the salamanders were breeding in the redwood canopy, which suggests that they never visit the ground ...

"Old redwood trees are infested with thickets of huckleberry bushes. In the fall, Sillett and his colleagues stop and rest inside huckleberry thickets, hundreds of feet from the ground, and gorge on the berries. He and his students have also taken censuses of other shrubs growing in the redwood canopy: currant bushes, elderberry bushes, and salmonberry bushes ... Sillett once found an eight-foot Sitka spruce growing on the limb of a giant redwood.

...

"Redwoods occasionally shed whole sections of themselves. Sillett calls this process calving. The tree releases a kind of woodberg, and as it collapses it gives off a roar that can be heard for a mile or two, and it leaves the area around the calved redwood looking as if a tank battle had been fought there.

...

"Trees are horrible to one another, and redwoods are viciously aggressive. They drop large piece of dead wood on smaller neighboring trees, which typically shatters the tree. Sillett calls this phenomenon 'redwood bombing.' In this way, a giant redwood suppresses and kills trees growing near it, including hemlocks, spruces, Douglas firs, and big-leaf maple trees. A giant redwood can clear a DMZ around its base, an area covered with redwood debris mixed with twisted and dead trees of other species.

[I'm not sure what the difference is between "calving" and "bombing" ... scale, perhaps?]

...

"At two hundred and ninety feet, I encountered Sillett. He was sitting on a branch inside a spray of huckleberry bushes, and he had a thoughtful look on his face. The main trunk had split open near the branch where he sat, and the opening revealed dead and rotten wood inside the trees. 'This beast is full of rot pockets,' he said. 'These huckleberry bushes are putting their roots through the scars into rotten wood in the center of the tree. One summer, we had half the normal rainfall, but these bushes still put out a full crop of huckleberries. They're getting their water from rotten wood inside the tree.'"

A redwood can be significantly hollowed by fire or, as described above, riddled with rot, but live on and live on. The living part of the tree is just under the bark. Even in an intact tree the core is not really alive.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

today's comics

Has it been another month already? I bought the latest (& last) of the Vertigo/DC published American Splendor. Harvey gets the neighbor to fix his toilet, Harvey has a flashback to getting laughed at in high school, Harvey buys junk food at the supermarket, Harvey is haunted by his youthful lack of quality control, Harvey worries about whether people will still be reading comics in five years -- and I'm only halfway through!

John Porcellino includes more than the usual number of strips of himself lying in bed worrying. King Cat Comics #67. Charlie Brown did that a lot, too.

I haven't yet read the first issues of the two new mini-comics: Let's Do This by Jeremy Arambulo (that's Jeremy above) and Monsters by Ken Dahl. Both look like autobiographical comics. Let's Do This has an original pen-and-ink drawing on the cover (smack in the middle of a "Hello my name is" sticker). I bought the one with the big wow happy face (somebody else will have to buy the sulking and irritated faces). Looks like Monsters is about getting genital herpes. I see it won an Igntaz.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

writing about

So I write about every book I read. And I'm kinda slow about it. So I'm waaay backed up. I have a stack of books to write about so tall I don't dare keep 'em all in one pile. They would fall and hurt somebody. Hey, I could list all the books I've read but have yet to write about. Pile of Finished Reading. Only, that means I'd have to shlep 'em all out here to make the list. And I am not going to do that.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Matter

The new issue of Matter arrived. It has a poem by me in it.

When I read one of my own poems in a magazine it always seems different. Not quite mine. It's now partly theirs. The editor has given it a context having nothing to do with me or my life.

I read my poem for the first time in this new position, familiar old poem. And I wonder how it would strike me were it written by someone else. It has some turns of phrase that stand out. It has an appealingly long title. After awhile I will post the poem on this blog or LuvSet. I'll let Matter be the only place you can see it until then.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

ur-vox

Famous poets must get a lotta free stuff. Editor Lee Ballentine has sent me ur-vox before. It's a good looking magazine. I've added it to the stack of read-nexts.

"A dry soul is best because combustible" -- Andrew Joron

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Poems for the Millennium


I'm a few pages away from finishing the second volume of the Rothenberg/Joris anthology Poems for the Millennium. The anthology attempts to capture, as the publisher has it, "the revolutionary concepts at the ... heart of twentieth-century poetry."

I'm partway through another fat anthology, World Poetry. I haven't touched it in several months, devoting my time to Millennium instead. I found Millennium more rewarding, but World Poetry, as a reading experience, was getting more interesting the closer it got to the present, so I look forward to getting back to it. I think I left off on the verge of the 20th C.

I like reading anthologies. I have more piled in the library. Primary Trouble, A Controversy of Poets, The Other Side of the Century come to mind.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Happy Birthday to me


When we got home from our Hawaiian vacation I found among the drift of election mailers a package from my brother. He picked up a copy of the first number of the new Houghton Mifflin "Best" series, The Best American Comics. I guess he went to some bookstore event as he got a few contributors to sign the book. Series editor, Anne Elizabeth Moore even writes, "HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!! You've always been so wonderful." and includes a little heart next to her initials. Aw. She's right. But how could she know?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

pile of reading

In Cold Blood by Truman Capote ... Did you know a new movie has been released covering the period Capote spent researching the book? I still haven't seen the last one.

Castle Roogna by Piers Anthony ... I bought a few Xanth books twenty years ago. I think I only read the first one. They are somewhat like Oz books in that somebody goes wandering around this land that's full of magic both hazardous and fairly ridiculous. I read Centaur Aisle recently. I'd brought the Xanth books home from my mother's house. I read Centaur Aisle first because I was sure it was one I hadn't read. Nothing about Castle Roogna is familiar either. Except the basic plot. Which has been used a million times.

Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson ... yes, I'm only a few pages in. Still. Because I just couldn't get into the adventures of a pizza delivery man and the possible tragedy of a pizza delivered late. Maybe I'll take it with me on a trip.

Twinkle and Chubbins by L. Frank Baum ... I've been thinking about rereading the Oz books. But when I nosed at my collection I rediscovered Baum books I still haven't read. Remedy that! Twinkle and Chubbins is a collection of magic tales set on the American prairie. Baum published them under a pseudonym, Laura Bancroft.

Searching for Mercy Street: my journey back to my mother, Anne Sexton by Linda Gray Sexton ... Anne Sexton comes off a mess. It was a mild year when she only had to be rushed to the hospital two or three times to get the overdose pumped from her stomach. She was sexually abusive, too.

Berkeley Poetry Review #35 ... This is a couple years old. As former editor I'm always curious about how a BPR will turn out. So far the poems have evaporated once I've turned the page.

Confessions of the Other Mother: nonbiological lesbian moms tell all edited by Harlyn Aizley ... In the first essay Amie Klempnauer Miller says, "At my favorite coffee shop, a young guy who works behind the counter frequently wears a T-shirt that says YOU MAKE ME FEEL LIKE A NATURAL WOMAN. Every time I see him, I feel reassured. If he feels like a natural woman, then there might be hope for me."

Matter #8, a literary journal published out of Fort Collins CO ... Just finished Elizabeth Gilbert's short story about a young woman's obsession with a cult novelist. She makes a pilgrimage to his cabin in the woods and stands in the snow in its burnt out husk waiting for something to seize her (literally & figuratively).

A Bunch of Keys, selected poems by Mutsuo Takahashi, translated by Hiroaki Sato ... a gay Japanese poet whose work I've read recently in a couple anthologies. He's written ecstatic religious poems about public restroom sex.

Poems for the Millennium, vol 2: From Postwar to Millennium edited by Jerome Rothenberg & Pierre Joris ... If this book were 660 pages long I would have finished it already.

Living Free: the story of Elsa and her cubs by Joy Adamson ... The further adventures of Elsa the lioness. After Born Free I kept my eye out for the next book (I actually already have the third). I was in no hurry but when Living Free showed up at Half Price Books for six bucks I was able to talk myself into it.

Swann's Way by Marcel Proust, translated by C. K. Scott Montcrieff ... Sometimes I laugh out loud. Other times I have to reread the paragraph to figure out where the subject is.

The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath ... amazing the number of faceless women in Plath's poems. Faceless, "bald as an egg".

Thursday, October 05, 2006

stolen books


I've been reading John Maxwell Hamilton's Casanova was a Book Lover. It's a stitching together of all sorts of book related trivia. In his chapter on stolen books Hamilton says, Ask a librarian which books are most frequently stolen and you'll get this answer: "Shhhhhhh!"

"Everybody steals books," he says, and follows that up with anecdotes about Popes and professors, Academy Award nominees and tourists.

On the other hand, "In 1992, looters of a Sunset Boulevard strip mall had their way with Circuit City and Trak Auto. They did not touch Crown Books."

But do libraries keep records of which books are stolen? "In 1978, Princeton found that more than 4 percent of its library holdings were lost, along with about 10 percent of the books in the branch libraries. ... In the 1990s, the New York Public Library inventoried its 132-mile-long research collection, from which books cannot be checked out. About 1.5 percent of the books were missing. ... But who is to know for certain? ... It's not always easy to distinguish between what is overdue, what is lost in the system, or what is stolen."

He goes on, "By calling attention to book thefts, librarians can put the problem higher on professional crime-fighters' agendas. Unfortunately, news of active crime fighting suggests that books are being stolen, which is bad publicity. Taxpayers might become angry about the management of public libraries. ... For the same reason, libraries don't tell the public that each year they discard many books that are no longer in demand to make room for books people want," that is, "to steal."

This week a patron at the BPL's Claremont branch brought to the reference desk a medical diagnostician's guide and pointed to the pages he wanted to read, or rather, pointed to the place in the book from which the pages he wanted to read had been excised. The edition was eight years old so we ordered a newer one. But this patron was also looking for our Physician's Desk Reference, which is a guide to pharmaceuticals. I couldn't find it either. Has it been stolen?

I wonder if the Claremont branch, being a block away from a hospital, is more prone to losing this particular kind of book.

One of the daily tasks these days is hunting up books patrons have placed requests on. A library user can ask to have a book transported from any BPL branch to a more convenient BPL branch. We run about the stacks twice a day gathering these up. We tend to get between 20 and 30 requests each day. Most days we are unable to locate one or two of these. That seems like a lot. But I'm not going to say the missing books were all stolen. Many an item will turn up, often when another patron steps up to the desk to check it out.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

new stuff


Yesterday the books I ordered from Hungry Tiger Press arrived:

The Living House of Oz by Edward Einhorn, illos by Eric Shanower

The Scarecrow and Tin-man of Oz, text & illos by W.W. Denslow (this volume collects stories the original illustrator of The Wizard of Oz created for newspaper funny pages after he broke with L. Frank Baum and the Broadway adaptation of Wizard was a big success.


Downtown today I picked up The Gay Metropolis, a history of gay New York of which I've heard good things. It was $1 on the clearance shelf.

And I bought Harvey Pekar stuff. The new issue of American Splendor and the new paperback of The Quitter.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Chattahoochee Review

The Winter-Spring 2006 issue of The Chattahoochee Review arrived today. I don't know why. I don't have anything in it. There's a letter included that asks for subscribers. I've written a poem on the back of it. Which I probably won't send to Chattahoochee Review. But who knows? Maybe I've sent them work in the past. I do like the word "Chattahoochee" and I went through a period I sent first to magazines with names I liked.

Only a few contributors look familiar. Leonard Susskind has an essay about not alienating Christians just because they're stupid (hey, he says, evolution has saddled scientists with human stupidity, too!) The poets Martha Zweig and Lola Haskins ... I know I've SEEN these names before. Not that I could characterize their work. "Her son vomits as he crawls / downstairs, and they know he may not / live this time, but they laugh because / he looks so comical -- fifteen and not / mastered walking yet." -- Haskins. Francisco Aragon. Which I recognize as I name I've confused with a Bay Area poet or two: Francisco Alarcon?

I'm often struck by how dull the opening line of a poem is. "I could fold laundry every day" ... "Who would have guessed, loves" ... "Down the street from my sister's house" ... "We were hauling boxes of supplies" ...

What makes these interesting as lines? A line, to justify its being singled out as a unit by the line break, ought to give the reader something more than if it were presented as prose.

The first I quote does give us a second line that offers up an excuse for the first's banality. "I could fold laundry every day / for a thousand years", it's a set up but the third line is the real punchline, "and never satisfy the women in my life." (Richard Peabody, "Folding Laundry in My Dreams")

Usually, though, the second line isn't much help. The second first-line quoted above turns out to be mid-sentence. The title begins the sentence: "The Muse // Who would have guessed, loves / To hear stories about Roberto ..." I suppose for those who've heard of him the third line offers up a punchline of sorts when it reveals it's Roberto Clemente that the Muse likes to hear about. Apparently he is somebody one might have heard of. The voice of the poem builds up to a casual slangy sauciness. Looking through the poem I can see lines that are interesting as lines. Seems like to me the poem could have been structured to put one up top. ("My Muse", Rick Campbell)

"Down the street from my sister's house / Where I am staying for the summer" ... If I resolved never to read past a dull first line then told myself, oh just this one time Glenn, and found myself stumbling across line number two here ... sheesh ... what can I say? ("Retards", George Bilgere)

"We were hauling boxes of supplies / from our boss's old office to Tifton, the dark" ... I don't know that it helps that Liz is being smothered by a "blanket of morning" ... ("Almost a Love Song Close to Tifton, GA", Liz Robbins)

Monday, September 18, 2006

what I bought at the Petaluma Poetry Walk

Geri Digiorno has been putting together the Petaluma Poetry Walk for the last ten years. I'd heard she had a new book from Red Hen Press. So I was hoping she would have copies for sale. It's nice looking, though I'm a bit puzzled by the book designer's choice to completely elide her face. I'm also a bit disappointed that so few of the poems are new to me. Oh well. Maybe I should think of White Lipstick as Geri's Collected Poems.

I also bought the second issue of North Coast Review from its editor, Vince Storti. He said he had run out of the latest issue. The review is not filled with A-listers but I do recognize many names from the Bay scene, some of whom I quite like (some I don't): Lucille Lang Day, Jack Foley, Dale Jensen, Kit Kennedy, Ivan Arguelles, H.D. Moe.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

what I bought at the SF ZineFest


We're just back from SF where Kent & I dropped in on the ZineFest, organized by John Porcellino. He did the fest promo design. I've been buying his self-published mini-comics for 15 years. I've never written to him, though I toyed with inviting him out to lunch or something when I learned that he had moved to San Francisco. Turns out he & wife Misun will be moving back to Denver in a month. They came to town so she could study acupuncture.

ZineFest was like a mini-APE. Because I was buying from the creators I tried to be freer with my money. Yes, I can afford it these days, have to remind myself.

So let's unpack the bag:

Couch Tag, a mini-comic by Jesse Reklaw & Brandon MacInnis.

An Inside Job, a collection of dream comics by HOB/Eli Bishop.

Quagga #5 and Hut-Jack'd by Alixopulos.

Speak Now, or Forever: Friends #1 by Francois Vigneault. I own #2 & 3 so why not?

Not My Small Diary #11, a mini-comics anthology of autobiograhical shorts edited by Delaine Green.

Manic D Press had a table so I picked up the just published new book by Justin Chin, Gutted, and Beth Lisick's This too can be yours, two for the price of one!

Kent went for Mary Van Note's Bradley, a stick figure graphic novel. Its subtitle: "a story of seduction" ... "Bradley" in cross-stitch on a swatch of white material is stapled to the front cover.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

new


I picked up the new issue of American Splendor, surprised to see it published by Vertigo, DC Comics' non-superhero/mature readers line. They can't have looked at publishing Pekar as a chance to cash in. Inside there are two 2-pagers and two longer pieces. The longest piece chronicles a day in which Harvey is trying to get the New York Times to cough up the money for something he did for them while trying to get his 16 year old daughter to keep him apprised of her movements (she just disappears!) and coax in the housecat who escaped when daughter left the door open. An eventful day! Kent laughed at the inappropriateness of the cover ads for PlayStation games.

I bought Katharine Roger's biography of L. Frank Baum at Half Price. I saw it last time I was in and passed it up. I've read a library copy. But I decided I ought to have a good Baum bio and I did like reading it so I went ahead and bought it this time.

Yesterday I passed a box of books left at curbside and fished out You'll Never Eat Lunch in This Town Again, which is supposed to be a hilarious indictment of Hollywood. 600 pages?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

two lit mags

I walked up the hill to Euclid for lunch today, had a chef salad at Stuffed Inn then browsed Analog Books. I haven't been buying literary magazines in a long time. Part of it was I would bring them home and they'd sit around unread. Part of it was I didn't want to buy magazines if they weren't going to publish my stuff. 'S the truth.

Anyway, I've been wanting to add some current literary magazines to my browsing paperbacks collection at Claremont plus I've actually been reading magazines again, working through my New Yorker subscription, Parthenon West Review, Beeswax Magazine, Matter. So at Analog I picked up the Spring/Summer 2006 issue (#58) of West Branch and the Summer 2006 issue (#2) of A Public Space.

I started reading West Branch over coffee & a cookie at the cafe across the street from the bookstore. I got through the first five poems. Four by Mike White (editor of Quarterly West, says the bio) and one by Aleda Shirley. Were I editor I would not have published any of them. What, they're Awful? No. But I know the magazine received better poems and chose not to publish them. Death shows up in one of White's wearing a "rumpled smock" and displaying "empty hands", prepping to work once more on the Sistine Chapel of White's inner skull; "Nocturne in Black Monochrome" the title of the painting. I can't think of anything to say about the poem other than Death could be doing better things with his/her time. Aleda Shirley seems to like pairing words, "solid & consecutive", "refractory & lissome", "fulgent & resolute" ... seems she's thinking about a "friend who died suddenly at forty" (ooh, my age) and how this friend's "refractory & lissome residue" has to compete with "planes / pulling banners advertising happy hours & water parks, / with satellites & space debris & ovals of ozone" on its way to heaven. I misread "ozone" as "ovaltine" ... "ovals of ovaltine" ... There's an edit for you! This is one of those poems I'm tempted to rewrite ... "planes drag the sad names of bars through the muck of a sky indifferent even to a boot" ... whew, my god, "refractory & lissome" cramp up like words-of-the-day getting their first exercise after lying abed for months in a convalescent hospital.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies

So what did I learn from the Winter/Spring 2006 issue of the Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies?

Michelle Bachelet, the new president of Chile, is a pediatrician. "Together with her mother, she was arrested and tortured in 1975 at the Villa Grimaldi, one of Chile's most notorious torture centers." Her father had already died in prison. He was an air force general under deposed president Allende. "Due to her family's personal ties with the military, Bachelet and her mother were released later that year, after which they were smuggled out of the country." Her cabinet is 50/50 male/female.

"[I]f her administration is mediocre or worse, she ... may ... damage the principle of gender equality." Unlike all the all-male administrations which, when completely idiotic and incompetent, cruel and assaultive, do nothing to "damage the principle" of male superiority.

An article about the inequities of a guest worker program for Mexicans in the United States ... An article about criminal violence in Brazil ... It sucks to live in Colombia during its neverending civil war ... and it's tough to find a market for a movie not made in Hollywood (in this case a Chilean movie) ... mm hm, nothing new here.

An interesting article about Mexico's "generics revolution". It seems a businessman has decided to open cutrate clinics and pharmacies. The pharmacies specialize in generic drugs. "Refusing ... to sell Laboratorios Best products to the public sector [that is, the Mexican government?], Gonzalez Torres dramatically offered to sell at a further 25 percent discount any medicine that patients were prescribed by IMSS [Instituto Mexicano de Seguro Social, which would translate to Mexican Social Security Institute, I believe] but could not get their hands on in the still understocked public sector pharmacies." Understocked because his company refused to sell to them or because they are inefficient government entities or ..? Gonzalez Torres declares, "'I'm Che Guevara in a Mercedes!'" The article terms it "a businessman's revolution" and "populist consumerism." I'm not quite sure what to make of it but it doesn't sound bad.

Monday, August 07, 2006

pile of reading

the Winter/Spring 2006 issue of Berkeley Review of Latin American Studies (in which I learn that Chile has elected its first woman president. Kent told me this some time ago and I remember thinking, Oh? I ought to find out more about that.)

Spontaneous Combustion, a thinly fictionalized autobiographical novel by David B. Feinberg (the incidents in at least the first third recapitulate incidents in Feinberg's first novel, Eighty-Sixed)

924 Gilman, edited by Brian Edge (a sort of oral history of Berkeley's famed collectively run punk rock club; the book's repetitive and rarely exposes a prose style but I'm enjoying it)

In Cold Blood, a nonfiction novel by Truman Capote (I've been meaning to read this forever and it's a little premature to say I'm reading it since so far I've only read the first sentence about five times; while it was lying on the couch Kent took it up and got to the fourth page)

Parthenon West Review, issue 3, a poetry magazine out of San Francisco

Swann's Way, the endless novel (with endless sentences) by Marcel Proust

The Work of a Common Woman, poems by Judy Grahn (Grahn agreed to read as part of the Poetry & Pizza series this fall -- yay!)

Long Walk to Freedom, the autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Funny in Farsi: a memoir of growing up Iranian in America, by Firoozeh Dumas (the "Berkeley Reads" book this year; I tried to read along with the community book the first year they announced one but stalled out on Ellison's Invisible Man midway through the first chapter)

Snow Crash, a virtual reality novel by Neal Stephenson (as with In Cold Blood it is premature to say I'm reading this, really, but Stephenson keeps getting the hype and, um, I see by looking at page 211 that there's a librarian in it)

Poems for the Millennium, Volume Two, edited by Jerome Rothenberg & Pierre Joris (if this had been a 430 page anthology I would have finished it already)

Snapshots: 20th Century Mother-Daughter Fiction, edited by Joyce Carol Oates & Janet Berliner (I've read two of the stories; maybe now that I'm between New Yorkers I will read a third)

The Collected Poems by Sylvia Plath (I read the bio Bitter Fame but I find I keep pulling Plath biographies down from the bookstore shelf and flipping through them for fresh anecdotes; "It took three days driving north to find a cloud / The polite skies over Boston couldn't possibly accomodate.")

For those of you not up to looking, the books that have hung on since last pile are: Plath's Collected, Snapshots, Parthenon West, 924 Gilman, Poems for the Millennium, Long Walk to Freedom, and Swann's Way.

Other books have fallen into and out of the pile in the meantime but I'm not going to go tote those up.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Eyak

Useless to go back there.
My uncles too have all died out on me.
After my uncles all died out my aunts next fell,
to die.
Yes,
why is it I alone,
just I alone have managed to survive?
I survive.


The above is a translation of a "lament" recorded in 1972. The poem/song was composed in Eyak, an Alaskan native (Indian) language that, as of summer last year had one remaining native speaker. Having no one to talk to in her language the elderly woman typically uses English and Tlingit, a native language that, the author of the article I'm looking at (New Yorker, June 6, 2005) speculates, may in the absence of English have displaced Eeyak. When Europeans arrived Eyak speakers were a remnant population and Tlingit speakers were becoming ever more dominant in the area.

The extinction of languages distresses me. I do remember when I was a kid being delighted by the idea of global language and enough of a chauvinist (& lazy?) to hope that that hegemonic language be English. As I studied other languages (such common ones as Spanish & Portuguese and the relatively exotic American Sign Language) and discovered different ways of organizing thoughts my dream of the triumph of English began to seem distasteful. Gradually the frustration with hearing unintelligible language gave way to an appreciation for their musicks. The change had something to do with my growing appreciation for poetry and exploration in language. Much poetry is difficult, even impenetrable, and, I discovered, there are varieties even of English that I just can't grok. Unfamiliar languages came to seem new technologies, fresh tools, and I like gizmos, too. I like it when science "discovers" some animal (typically well known to the also overlooked locals). Why shouldn't I be fascinated by the novelties of other languages?

The Eeyak version of the first two lines of the above goes (roughly, as I don't know how to reproduce some of the typography -- an "l" with a line through it, an "x" with a subscript period):

K'aadih ulah uuch' q'e' iili'ee.
SitinhGayuudik sixa' iinsdi'ahl.

Monday, July 17, 2006

The New Yorker short story

So I've been reading my subscription to The New Yorker, right?, now that it's been lapsed for a year or more. Just finished the third of the stories in last June's "Debut Fiction" issue.

There's a photo of the three debutantes, "Uwen Akpan, 34; Karen Russell, 23; and Justin Tussing, 34" posed in what looks like the storage room of "the Strand Book Store." Uwen is black, perhaps an African immigrant -- one might guess that from his story, which is set in Nairobi, Kenya. Karen is a bright-eyed mousy blond, her long pale arms bare. Justin has rectangular glasses, a shadow on his jaw.

None gives a story to which I wish to return. Not saying they're bad. They all do that New Yorker short story thing where the story doesn't resolve so much as it stops. I'm getting used to it, sort of. A situation is presented, characters drawn, conflicts grow and begin to make things difficult, then a complication arises. As the characters realize they are facing a new situation, the story stops and the new situation is not quite addressed.

In Uwen's story the oldest boy in a street family is the hope of the family. They're putting aside money so he can go to school. Even his eldest sister who is hooking saves money for his sake. The boy is conflicted, ashamed to be so favored when all the others (especially the elder sister whom he looks up to) are obviously stuck, no school, few prospects. Sister is planning to move out (the family lives in a storage box); when she comes to get her things, the boy runs away. End of story.

In Karen's story two brothers (one of whom narrates) are searching for their little sister's body. She was swept out to sea and the brothers blame themselves. There's a mysterious element in that the older boy finds a pair of water goggles that supposedly reveal ghosts. Will they see their sister's ghost? No. Unless that glow that suffuses the grotto is her ... I guess this story comes closest to resolution. But Karen's young. I'm sure she'll wise up.

Justin's story has a teen boy developing a crush on his pretty young teacher. There's a crazy wise hobo who speaks like an oracle, penetrating yet inexplicable. There's a family that's just a touch quirky. Just when it looks like the (secret) relationship with teacher might develop into something deeper (or she might dump him) she tells him her ex-husband has called and is threatening to come to town. "'I'll protect you from him,'" he says. "That's the type of life I wanted to lead when I was seventeen." Boy and teacher hold hands. End of story.

It's easy to imagine each as a novel excerpt. That they end where they end doesn't seem at all inevitable. The stories don't wrap up. In fact with many NYer short stories I have the feeling more is about to happen than we've so far been allowed to see. Having invested in the characters, having taken the time to get to know the situation they're in, I confess to feeling a little frustration at this abrupt manner of closing up shop. Well ... what happened then? How'd it turn out?

Endings are artificial, I suppose. But then so is a story. In a sense I've come to like that little feeling of frustration. I would prefer resolution. But it's kind of like leaving the table hungry, you know. You want more. You think more, maybe. And, playing that metaphor out, you end up snacking.

Monday, July 10, 2006

books bought

I walked downtown about noon to go to the gym. I was feeling kinda blue but physically felt pretty good. When I have a day without obligations and I’m not sore & worn out I get to the gym. That’s about once a week. I did the FitLinxx routine on the weight machine – I punch in my code and the computer tells me when last I lifted weights then at each station tells me how much weight I lifted that last time and how many reps. It’s nice not to have to remember.

I ate lunch afterward at Panini -- an artichoke hearts sandwich, a cup of coffee, and one of their rich chocolate cookies. I wrote in my diary and read a couple pages of The Ohlone Way, a book about the lifeways of the people who lived in the SF Bay Area before the arrival of Europeans.

I haven’t been to Comic Relief in two or three weeks so I figured I’d poke around there on the way home. First I stopped at Half Price Books. I checked out the clearance shelves and there were a lot of mildly interesting books filling the clearance shelves. A worker was boxing up books that had sat too long and refilling the space with new clearances. I drifted by the children’s section and there was a new Oz thingie, something called, I think, Everything Oz, which quotes from various Oz books and Oz-related sources and features illustrations & doodads from around the world. I slid it back onto the shelf. Since I read Born Free last year and since I own the third book Joy Adamson wrote about Elsa the lioness, Forever Free, I’ve had my eye out for Living Free, in which Elsa gives birth to and raises a litter of cubs. A handsome hardcover was waiting for me today. I flipped through it. I’d been hoping for a cheap paperback but just yesterday I’d been wondering if I ought to fill out a want slip at one of the town’s used bookstores. What, I’d asked myself, was I willing to pay? Ten bucks? This copy was $5.98. I tucked it under my arm and made a final swing by the graphic novels and DVDs.

At Comic Relief I let myself be seduced by De: Tales, a collection of “stories from urban Brazil” by Fabio Moon and Gabriel Ba. The artists are twins. Long heads and bodies and big facial features. The drawings match. And I like the way the perspectives are often looking down from above or up from below. I recently read an anthology called Autobiographix that included one of their stories (the story also appears here). I also bought Alixopulos’ Mine Tonight. Alixopulos is a local and I first became aquainted with his work via a self-published mini-comic I picked up at Comic Relief. His art is scratchy and hungover-looking.

A block later I did a doubletake at the stationery store which is closing. Big signs announced, “50% off marked price.” One can always use office supplies, right? Cheap blank books are good, too. And I found a cheap blank book with an “ostrich print” cover. Plucked ostrich skin? I also bought a spiral notebook for my book log and a USB cable. I saw Joyce Jenkins, who had some new pens in hand. She says she’s putting the finishing touches on a new print issue of Poetry Flash. “There’s always something more to do,” she said. I told her I was working on the Poetry & Pizza calendar for the fall. She said she would try to make it to a reading.

For the last paragraph Sutra has been in my lap. He seems to be tolerating my typing. But he pokes my arm with his nose; why aren’t I rubbing him up?

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

thoughts on reading

Used to be I would only read one book at a time. It was a resolution. I couldn’t plunge into a new book until I finished the one I was reading. So what changed? What made me switch from a single book to a mini-library?

What made me think I could only read one book at a time? Maybe I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep different books separate in my thoughts? I still try to avoid reading more than one novel at a time. Not that I’m fastidious about it. I was just reading Steinbeck’s Pastures of Heaven and that’s certainly different enough from Proust’s Swann’s Way that there’s little likelihood of the two getting mixed up in my head.

One difficulty came with long books. I’m not a fast reader. Was I to stack up comic books while I forced myself to attend only to Tom Jones? Did I really restrict myself to the deathbed edition of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass until at last I closed the cover on the final page?

Poetry was a big reason I threw aside the notion I could keep myself to a single book. I decided forcing myself to read poem after poem after poem without a break was doing nothing for my appreciation of poetry. Especially when it was difficult or I wasn’t sure I liked it or I plain didn’t like it but felt I ought to keep reading so I could learn something about what not liking meant.

Comics were, too. Many a comic story is played out over several issues. And nobody’s expected to save up all the parts to read at one sitting. If you buy more than one series you’re immersed in more than one ongoing story. It’s not hard to pick back up where the story left off a month previous.

By the time I was going to college, of course, there was no way I would be able to restrict myself to a single book – each class had its own list of books to hurry through. And there were plenty of things I wanted to read that had nothing to do with my classes. I remember thinking I would limit myself to five books – one book of poetry, one book of nonfiction, one novel, one book of short stories, one graphic novel. Something like that.

A book will come along and take over and I’ll just read that until I’ve finished. Then there will be the evenings I read a page or two from each of eight volumes. Books – particularly anthologies of poetry, short stories or whatever – will be pursued regularly then forgotten for a month or so. There are probably a few books I’ve started and never will finish. But I like to get all the way through a book. I finger the pages, look at the thickness of what’s been read, what waits, ponder what needs resolving in the story or whether I’ll enjoy more of the poems to come than I’ve enjoyed what’s passed.

Monday, July 03, 2006

pile of reading

Tropical Truth: a story of music & revolution in Brazil, by Caetano Veloso

Eyes of Desire: a Deaf Gay & Lesbian Reader, edited by Raymond Luczak

Long Walk to Freedom, the autobiography of Nelson Mandela

The Pastures of Heaven, by John Steinbeck

X-Men, vol 3: nos 22-31, by Roy Thomas & Werner Roth

The New Yorker, the Debut Fiction issue from June ’05

Swann’s Way, by Marcel Proust, C.K. Scott Moncrieff translation

Poems for the Millennium, vol 2: From Postwar to Millennium, edited by Jerome Rothenberg and Pierre Joris

The Collected Poems, Sylvia Plath

924 Gilman, compiled by Brian Edge

Kona Village Resort: a Village is a Family, an historical account published by the resort, although no author is credited, “We would like to acknowledge Lani, our Kona Village historian, who worked so tirelessly on this book …”

Liaison, by Joyce Wadler

Parthenon West Review, issue 3, Fall 2003

Snapshots: 20th Century Mother-Daughter Fiction, edited by Joyce Carol Oates & Janet Berliner

The Company of Animals: a naturalist’s adventures in the jungle of Malaya, by Ronald McKie

Saturday, July 01, 2006

D. Jayne McPherson

Material Lost

I forfeited my first and only LTD
to the junkyard in East Palo Alto
my first love to his mother's wishes
I was robbed of my silver coins by
a landlord's son; my federal paycheck
in the mail; of two borrowed IBMs and
one down mummybag by Marilyn in Mendocino

Things disappeared right in front of me
the cross-country snow trail during sunset
those nature lithographs stored at Mother's
my wallet in a phone booth near Boston
that 16th birthday, blue sapphire ring

As punishment, others drifted away
my best friendships Peggy and Sue
from my living out of state; walk-to-school
mate, Terry, from her husband's gunshot
wound; puppy Heidi in old age

But once I lost my voice, my name, my home
Perhaps I must face it: this body
too, slowly dissolves. But who would
be left to count it up
as only recombinant material lost?

-- D. Jayne McPherson


... Got a call from Jayne today. Sorta outta the blue. But it was nice reconnecting. Made me ponder what of hers I might have in the house. My eyes lit on an issue of The Tomcat, a poetry zine. It was sticking out of a box of papers I need to file. There were, what, five or six issues of The Tomcat. It declares itself, "a literary showcase for Northern California poets." I knew many of the poets editor Richard Benbrook published (& I knew Richard). I like Jayne's poem better than the poem of mine that appears in the same issue. My poem was from a series of poems in which a character named Bert used the telephone in various (metaphorical?) ways. I remember writing several Bert poems, writing them quickly so I would have more poems to mail out to magazines. I thought they were as good as/better than many of the poems I was seeing in the lit mags. Someday I'll revisit them. The one in Tomcat isn't bad. But I would have to fiddle with it some before republishing.

I like the catalog of things in "Material Lost" ... I don't like the word "recombinant" ... I remember not knowing what an "LTD" was ...

There are poets I didn't know back in 1990 (when this Tomcat was published) that are now familiar to me. Dorothy Jesse Beagle runs a poetry reading series at a cafe in Berkeley. John Selawsky ... is he the Berkeley School Board member and Green Pary activist? Jaimes Alsop started the webzine, The Alsop Review. Gary Mex Glazner ... same poet who first hosted poetry slams in this area?

There are poets who have since have died: Judy Stedman, Paul Mariah, William Talcott ... I knew the first two and met the third more than once.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Victorian prudery

My sister Bernice was in town last week. We had opportunity for long talks and one of the things that came up was whether the Victorians were really so repressed as we've long been told.

There's a post up at Grumpy Old Bookman on the topic. Among other things GOB says, "In 1857, the medical journal The Lancet estimated that the capital could offer over 6,000 brothels and about 80,000 prostitutes: one woman in every sixteen -- of all ages -- was a whore."

So what makes us think they were prudes? The two men most known for the morals crusade, GOB says, were also "proprietors of the two most successful commercial lending libraries; and the libraries were huge buyers of fiction."

Now and then we hear about how evolution (or some other Christian-right opposed fact) has been reduced to a few mealy-mouthings in school textbooks. The publishers of textbooks know they won't be able to sell anything truthful (which would be controversial) to the biggest buyers of textbooks, which would be Texas and, despite its reputation for liberalism, California, and suchlike. Would a reader of U.S. textbooks take away an accurate view of science (or anything much else?)

The publishers of the Victorian era had to look out for two things -- the law (they could be -- and some were -- imprisoned for publishing sexually explicit works) and their biggest customers (who scoured new books for improprieties). The Victorian literature we have to read today, does it really reflect Victorian society?

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

I

I filled the poetry notebook I’ve been working in for the past year. The first lines in the book were written on June 27, 2005. The last were written last night. A year.

The first lines were written at a bed & breakfast in Calistoga. I was sitting on a lounge chair on the little patio by the pond.

The last lines were written sitting on the edge of the bed. I was thinking about this book as a unit. As with the dates making a unit, June to June, one year, there were so many sheets of paper bound together making this book. I don’t know how many. I haven’t counted them. I don’t know how many poems I wrote in the book. They are contained, like the days, in one unit. A book.

The title, a title I gave it somewhere past halfway, is: I

The first two lines on page one go:

I could say something,
but that would be telling, wouldn’t it?


And the last two sentences of the piece I wrote last night:

Its title is on the unbending spine: your name. Or is that the author?

Friday, June 23, 2006

Well-Versed: poems for the road ahead

A few days ago I posted about the poetry chapbook anthology produced by Starbucks. I’m only writing about Well-Versed: poems for the road ahead because it is more what I would expect from a corporate poetry anthology. The booklet fell out of one of the New Yorker’s from last year. The AIG logo is prominent on the front & back covers, “insurance / loans / retirement.” There are eight poems in AIG’s anthology and an illustration for each poem (in one case two short poems share an illustration). The pictures illustrate the poems, that is, the poem that talks about looking in the mirror is accompanied by a drawing that shows a man holding up a mirror. There are the tired old anthology pieces – Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken,” Rudyard Kipling’s “If,” Edna St. Vincent Millay’s “First Fig.” No doubt they seemed harmless. There’s a Rainer Maria Rilke (“Future, who won’t wait for you? / Everyone is going there.”) and an Edgar Lee Masters (“In my youth my mind was just a mirror / In a rapidly flying car, / Which catches and loses bits of the landscape.”). Philip Booth and Lucille Clifton get to represent contemporary poetry with poems of bland exhortation (“may you in your innocence / sail through this to that”). It seems to me Frost’s “Road” is a very dry joke (the path “less traveled by” shows wear “about the same” as the one not chosen and “that has made all the difference”?); either that or he was just being sloppy. There’s a poem by a poet of whom I know nothing. David Filer’s “I Worry More” was first published in Rattle, issue #21. I wonder how it found its way into AIG’s poetry anthology? “I worry more now that my son is out / On his own, earning a handsome salary / Back east.”

Monday, June 19, 2006

The Playboy Interviews with John Lennon & Yoko Ono

from the diary: “Monday 1/27/86

“I’m reading The Playboy Interviews with John Lennon & Yoko Ono.

“I didn’t do anything today. Dropped by the library and read some Atlantic and some Ms. [magazines].

“Mom went to a Nuclear Free meeting but I don’t know what they did. She also took David to the passport office to clear up his sex. [D’s new passport indicated his sex as F.]”

A day later I wrote, “The Lennon/Ono interview book is a disappointment. boriiiiing.”

I like the Beatles. There are Beatles songs that I will never tire of. “Yellow Submarine”, “All You Need Is Love” … all together now! But I never felt like I needed to own (or even hear) everything the Beatles did and I was always a little foggy on which Beatle had done what after the band broke up. If I’d been steeped in Beatles trivia I suppose I would have gotten more out of this book. But I can be obsessive. Once I start a book I have to read it all the way through.

I just had the second volume of Alan Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentleman requested out from under me – that is, I won’t be able to renew it now. And it’s a good thing. Because I’d been trying to work my way through this long prose piece in the back of the book, a “Traveller’s Almanac” that seemed to be Moore’s summarizing of all the fantastic literature he’d read for research. The League consists of characters from Dracula, King Solomon’s Mines, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and so forth. The second volume incorporates elements from at least three H.G. Wells novels -- The Invisible Man, The War of the Worlds, and The Island of Dr Moreau. Moore also throws in allusions to more obscure tales during the narrative. But it’s in the Almanac that he goes overboard. His narrator takes readers on a tour of the world – on this island live the Skeezies, under this mountain live the immortal Boogers, a legendary city is said to appear out of the mist in this valley every hundred years. There’s only occasionally any story to it. And the writing is dry. So I’m glad the book’s been yanked away. Now I can stop reading it!

As I recall the Playboy interview with Lennon included a catalog of songs. The interviewer would name a song and Lennon was supposed to say whether he or bandmate Paul McCartney had written it. All Beatles songs written by Lennon or McCartney are attributed to both. Obviously many had to have been more John than Paul (or vice versa), right? I remember turning page after page of this going, I wonder if I know that song?

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Kiss of the Spider Woman

from the diary: “Sunday 1/26/86

I dropped by to say hello and “Ninnah & Adam … invited me to The Kiss of the Spider Woman at the Plaza in Petaluma. I’d been wanting to see this for a long time cuz it has two men kiss – Raul Julia and William Hurt.

“The movie was absorbing. I really liked the interplay in the cell. The movie fantasies were funny. I was never bored. But Molina (William Hurt) annoyed me. He spouted some lines that sounded as if they’d been lifted from The Naked Civil Servant (the film of Quentin Crisp’s autobiography of the same name) about always looking for a real man but never being able to find him because even if he did the real man couldn’t love him because a real man could only love a woman. He said at one point (about his penis), ‘If I had any courage I’d cut it off.’ I made some comment about the first point to Ninnah during the movie and she said, ‘That’s the eternal homosexual dilemma.’ (meaning the desire to be female, I thought). I bristled but didn’t say anything.

“Later in the car we discussed the movie. I told them I thought Molina was too close to being a clich√© and was too unrelentingly tragic – of course he had to die at the end, no faggot can ever be happy. Just another tragic misfit destined to come to a sorrowful end in a world where he can’t fit in. hmph. I enjoyed the movie until Molina left the cell, then I thought it became too much like one of Molina’s fantasies; slightly absurd and more than a little overdone. But the cell interaction was great. I love intimate conversations (like My Dinner with Andre). The close quarters, the two (or small number) interacting so you can feel their presence.

“But the kiss – I was knotted and nervous, my hands were cold, I got no jolt from it – the circumstances with Molina working for the authorities, Raul left to be tortured again.”

No, it’s not about a book. It’s about a movie. But it’s a more thoughtful response than most of the excerpts about books I’ve been posting.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Original Sins

from the diary: “Saturday 1/25/86

“Lisa Paulick’s new (used) car had konked out on Huntley across … from our house. … This is the same Lisa who has dropped by the house – once with Becky, and just after Xmas with Becky and Jim. [Lisa] called her dad from someone else’s house. He showed up and Dad and Mom and me and the man who is fixing our roof (whose name I have forgotten; don’t I feel like a bourjour (how the fuck do you spell that) creep in the midst of reading Lisa Alther’s second novel, Original Sins, that I don’t even know his name – this guy Mom thinks is great, oh boodle) all stood around trying to figure out what to do. [Lisa’s] dad got the car going while I was in the house getting a pizza bagel.”

This is such a mess of a piece of writing I find it has odd charms. Oh boodle?

I remember liking Alther’s first novel Kinflicks. She wrote sex scenes I found hilarious. Plus there was much bisexuality going on.

I’m not going to try to unknot the personal relationships in this paragraph other than to say I went to high school with Lisa, Becky, and Jim. And “bourjour”? Did I mean bourgeois? If I did, what did I think “bourgeois” meant? I guess I was exploiting the working class. In that I wasn’t working. I haven’t gotten any better at diagnosing cars.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Poems from the Coffee Lands

This is a chapbook anthology of poems from eight countries; it’s about the dimensions of a postcard, 32 pages including bios, publication histories of the poems, small guidebook-pretty pictures and a contents page. Says the introduction, “These countries, whose soil, topography and climate combine to produce the world’s best coffee beans are also lands with a rich heritage of poetry. A coincidence?”

I picked up this little book a couple years ago, having stopped in at the Starbucks a half block from the library for my morning coffee and croissant. It was a freebie and maybe it came with a bag of beans or a tiny scoop or something, I don’t remember quite. The poetry isn’t bad. Yes, I was surprised not only that the poetry wasn’t bad but that it also wasn’t familiar, that I recognized only three of the fifteen poets (Octavio Paz, Jimmy Santiago Baca, and Ruben Dario), and that most of the poems are translations. No editor is credited, though a note on the back cover says, “Prepared by TidbitBooks.” A Google search returns nothing.

It did sit around awhile before I finally read it through. “garden detached / from any idyll / or atrocity” – Duda Machado (tr. R. Alfarano) … “the sky walked / from eye to eye” – Eunice Odio (tr. M. Collins)

Too bad they haven’t made this a regular thing. On the other hand, it’s now time for me to throw it away. Toujours gai!

Saturday, June 10, 2006

Famous Ghost Stories

from the diary: “Wednesday 1/20/86

“Finished the book on beauty and am on Famous Ghost Stories edited by Bennet Cerf.”

And I ask myself, “Is there something I should do before / for my twenty-first birthday?”

Like, maybe, come out?

Friday, June 09, 2006

Face Value: The Politics of Beauty

from the diary: “Saturday 1/18/86

“I’m reading another provocative book -- Face Value: The Politics of Beauty. The authors tend to raise more questions than they answer: What is beauty? What makes a woman beautiful? Is beauty quanitifiable? Why is beauty so important?

“They make a good case for the importance of the questions but so far they haven’t gone a long way toward answering them. But then, they point out, nobody else much has either.

“… Whenever I hear or read about beauty or even when shown beauty (all of this usually being feminine beauty) I (consciously or unconsciously) run beauty past my mind’s eye in masculine forms. Female beauty, while it interests me and sometimes delights me, doesn’t have the powerful emotional oomph of male beauty for me. And yet I can’t admit it in words – even to myself in a great number of cases. Nonverbally and in private I can gasp at gorgeous men but in public, to anyone else, I hide, cover up, qualify.”

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

The Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals

from the diary: “Friday 1/17/86

“Mom and I talked about the Nazis and how horrible they were (this prompted by a TV special I saw last night, photos of the Third Reich. ick) I threw caution to the wind (from the stinking furnace) and showed Mom a book I’d checked out from the Santa Rosa library. The Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals. She read the captions under a few pictures.

“This was some bit after Mom read an article in the latest West County News about school AIDS policy – including sex ed. – and Mom says, ‘Would that mean talking about … (anal sex)?’ She makes a face.”

“Mom, you hate sex back, front, and sideways. You’re probably (how can this not be true?) one of the reasons I’m so hung up about sex.”

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

men and lambs

So one of the books I’ve been reading, Of Men and Monsters, discusses The Silence of the Lambs rather extensively. The confluences with Jeffrey Dahmer both in rough time period and in characteristics of the kills were enough to catch one’s notice. Hannibal Lector in fiction is a killer and a cannibal. Buffalo Bill, the killer at large, whom FBI agent Clarice Starling hopes to catch, is queer – if not gay or transsexual, at least a transvestite. He likes to wear women’s clothing. He likes to wear, as I recall, women’s skin. Jeffrey Dahmer, the real life killer, became notorious both for being queer (he was gay) and for being a cannibal (he dismembered and claimed to have eaten at least a token quantity of the flesh of his victims).

Richard Tithecott’s Of Men and Monsters also talks about how society and the media view the serial killer. In some ways, he’s the hero. He’s just acting out what many, too repressed, bound by laws, dream to do. Hannibal the Cannibal is a hero, isn’t he? He’s virile (straight), athletic, and oh so scary. Movie scary. Almost one of those misunderstood monsters of yore – King Kong, you know, or the Frankenstein monster. Could Jeffrey Dahmer be a hero? Even though he’s queer? Just because we abhor, says Tithecott, it doesn’t mean we can’t also admire.

I avoided The Silence of the Lambs for years because I didn’t want to contribute my own little bit of financial reward to the reinforcement of the killer queer stereotype. That plus I don’t care for serial killer horror movies. I like monster movies. Like The Blob or Valley of Gwangi. Nonhuman menaces from other worlds. And I didn’t figure I’d ever read anything by the author of Silence of the Lambs. Only, I find I have. Black Sunday is also by Thomas Harris. The same Thomas Harris. Thirteen years separates Black Sunday and Silence of the Lambs. I wonder if femme in a boy equals evil in all his books?

Friday, June 02, 2006

pile of reading

Walden / Civil Disobedience by Henry David Thoreau

Poems for the Millennium: the University of California Book of Modern & Postmodern Poetry, Volume Two: From Postwar to Millennium, edited by Jerome Rothenberg & Pierre Joris

The Collected Poems, Sylvia Plath

The Long Walk to Freedom, the autobiography of Nelson Mandela

Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust, the C.K. Scott Montcrief translation

The Woman in the Shaman’s Body: Reclaiming the Feminine in Religion and Medicine by Barbara Tedlock, Ph.D.

Tropical Truth: a story of music and revolution in Brazil by Caetano Veloso

Queer Crips: Disabled Gay Men and Their Stories, edite by Bob Guter & John R. Killacky

How We Die: Reflection on Life’s Final Chapter by Sherwin B. Nuland

Of Men and Monsters: Jeffrey Dahmer and the Construction of the Serial Killer by Richard Tithecott

Pictopia #4, a Fantagraphics anthology of art comics

Drawn & Quarterly #5, a DQ anthology of art comics

a May 2005 issue of The New Yorker

Saturday, May 20, 2006

critique

After high school I was a member of a couple different writers’ groups. One was an offshoot of the Russian River Writers’ Guild readings. This group only met a few times. In my diary (1/13/86) I recorded a critique:

“Stan brought the same thing he brought last time. We picked at his grammar and construction, transitions and such, all the way through. Then I wrecked his punchline. The philosophy went something like this: You (the man in the story) will not have any new dreams until you have made real the dreams you have already had. I said, “There are two different kinds of dreams in this statement. The first is sleeping dreams that, it is made obvious from the preceding, the man cannot have. But the second is dream in the sense of wish or hope as in The dream of universal happiness. Peace on Earth. Love between peoples. etc. 'Why,' I asked, 'cannot the man have sleeping dreams? These two different types of dreams seem to me unrelated. Why can’t the man have sleeping dreams?' Stan couldn’t answer. He said that wrecked the whole thing. I don’t really think it did, but I leave that up to him.”

Friday, May 19, 2006

Black Sunday


from the diary: “Friday 1/10/86

“I find myself identifying a bit with the luny who plans to blow up the Superbowl. He has/had a rotten self-image, only able to see himself in short pants, a sissy. I can only see myself ‘fay’ with long hair I push behind my ears, long slim fingers, folded legs, swishing. And I don’t swish. Try to replace this image with reality. at least.”

The next day, “I did today what I do most every day, sat around and read … Black Sunday (which was an okay book, but for a thriller it didn’t produce enough thrills). Then I went for a walk.”

Ach! I was being so fastidious about the chronology of the diary. Then! Today's entry was written before the Mother Tongue entry. And I overlooked it when it came time to post. My development as a person is getting all confused!

The right metaphor?

I don’t really remember anything about Black Sunday other than what’s obvious from the cover or the poster for the movie – something about bombing the superbowl from a blimp. But reading the old diary entry I’m reminded of the killer transvestite in Freebie and the Bean. I remember rather rooting for her. Yeah, she was an evil queer but a kickass fighter – and she kicked ass in a dress. Who else was I going to root for? Freebie? The Bean?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds

from the diary: “Sunday 1/12/86

“Almost every time I read a particularly good book on theories/histories of human development – cultural, emotional, physical – little clicks go off in my head as the previous theories are checked against the one I’m now reading. Inadequacies are discovered, fallacies struck out, gaps filled or opened. And they subtly shift and change to accommodate one another. That’s delightful. I’m not chagrined that no one theory works perfectly to explain all behavior, all human characteristics, because no one person in one culture can see everything at once. What thrills me is that so much can be discovered beyond the taken-for-granted. Even the taken-for-granted casts new shadows in a different colored light.

“The latest good book -- Another Mother Tongue: Gay Words, Gay Worlds by Judy Grahn. This book is helping me transform the shame. I can’t say ‘I’m proud to be gay.’ Because I’m still closeted. Still terrified of myself and the world. But it helps to know that ‘gay’ is not an aberration or an accident, not a failing [that needs] to be corrected or cured, but an essential, integral part of the human being. Modern Western civilization views the world scientifically, morally, socially through its own set of skewed spectacles. Perhaps what we need is not a polishing of our glasses, a new prescription, or an operation on our corneas. What maybe we need is a taking off of our glasses so we can see ourselves as we really are. But then again there rises the question – Who are we? And who’s got the answer?”

We should close our eyes sometimes. Even when that makes it difficult to read a book.

I’d like to read this book again. I bought it a couple years ago. It’s sitting upstairs in the library waiting to be filed. We need more shelves.

Gay men are called faggots, says Grahn, not because they were as cord wood to be thrown on the pyre but because the word recalls the role of firecarrier, firebringer for the tribe. Lesbians have long been teachers, healers, warriors.

I was damn grateful for a book that told me I wasn’t a biological curiosity at best, an example of “social deviance”, but a person and valuable. Poet is a gay role. And Grahn gave me permission to own the role Poet as well as Gay man.

One of Judy Grahn’s poems is included in the Berkeley Poetry Walk and at a reading to celebrate the installation of the poetry panels I shook the woman’s hand and said, “Thank you. I read Another Mother Tongue at a time I really needed it.” And she bowed her head over my hand quietly then looked me in the face and smiled.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Ox-Bow Incident

from the diary: “Friday 1/10/86

“Read The Ox-Bow Incident. Books don’t affect me the same way as movies. If I’d watched the hangings in a movie the thing would still be haunting me. As it is I’m reading Black Sunday and Ox-Bow is fading.”

It disturbed me at the time but, consonant with what I said then, I barely remember The Ox-Bow Incident. Wasn’t it about a lynching?

On the other hand the visual of the two teen brothers hanged for rustling in the Clint Eastwood starrer Hang ‘Em High throws itself up on my mental movie screen every so often and does not fail to disturb. That at the beginning of the movie Eastwood himself is lowered from a tree where he has been strangling after a botched hanging adds something (brotherly? fatherly? erotic?) to Eastwood’s watching the execution. He’d argued for their lives.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

book buying

Wednesday I went to the gym, checked my mailbox (I could go on an Olivia cruise, subscribe to The Lambda Literary Report or send money to The Pacific Center; plus a card from my brother who is going to be in town Friday); I ate lunch at the Jazzschool caf√© and wrote in my diary; then I browsed Half Price Books, mostly the clearance shelves. Surprisingly good shit turns up on their clearance shelves. I’ve even seen a buyer from one of Berkeley’s other used book stores filling up a basket at the Half Price clearance shelves. The books below (‘cept for the Dykes books which I paid more for) cost me a buck apiece:

Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel

More Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel

Celebrated Cases of Judge Dee: an authentic Eighteenth-Century Chiense detective novel translated and with an introduction by Robert Van Gulik

The Old Man in the Corner twelve mysteries by The Baroness Orczy

The Lost World by Arthur Conan Doyle

A Member of the Family: Gay Men Write About Their Families edited by John Preston

I do like poking around bookstores. The two mystery books are Dover editions and I have a fondness for Dover’s mission to rescue long out of print, public domain literature and make it available in sturdy editions. My first and favorite edition of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was a Dover edition. That thing stuck together through several readings (& much travel).

I guess I buy books for comfort. I imagine all those cozy hours tumbling through their pages. Then, of course, it takes me ten million years to get around to reading them. The library is cheaper. Free! But when you’re spending a dollar or less for a book isn’t it almost free?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Rumblefish

from the diary: “Tuesday 1/7/86

“I been reading Rumblefish, my first S. E. Hinton, so her and me’s style’s getting screwed around together. Not doin’ neither of us justice excuse me.”

Pretty early I noted the effect a strong style would have on me. Shakespeare was the worst. If I read any Shakespeare I would but unable to write anything but execrable Shakespeare pastiche.

These days styles are pretty much a jumble in my head. I switch between them almost as fast as Robin Williams doing stand-up (or just an interview, have you seen that guy?). It’s one of the things I like about poetry. I have more leave to mix things up than I feel in prose. Writing prose I think I’m supposed to maintain a consistent voice. And the longer I gotta do that the less likely it goan hapn. Y’dig?

Every time I pass Hinton in the library’s Young Teen fiction section I tell myself, I’ll read one of her books someday. And it turns out that one day was ten years ago. Boy, that takes the pressure off. I wonder, if I saw the movie version of Rumblefish, would any of it seem familiar?

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Caves of Steel

Twenty years ago I was living with my mother. My brother had moved out. My father lived several states away. I was having “Anxiety Attacks” and feeling, as I say below, “trapped.”

from the diary: “Thursday 1/2/86

“I’m starting to read Asimov’s Robot novels starring Lije Bailey. Only a few chapters into the first [The Caves of Steel] and it strikes me as historical fiction – “This is what they thought the futue would be like back in the olden days. But we know better now.” I wonder what the third one [Robots of Dawn] will be like, being as it was only written a couple years ago. Well, science fiction dates, sometimes easier than mainstream fiction. Asimov, though, is always a quick read.”

A few days later: “Finished The Robots of Dawn. That was a good series. I particularly like the titles, The Caves of Steel, The Naked Sun.”

The diary goes on, “Slept late. Didn’t wake up till 12:30. Did I already say I decided I’m agoraphobic? That’s ‘fear of the marketplace.’ Asimov uses it as ‘fear of open places/spaces’ in the Bailey books … but my phobia seems more a performance one, except that it relates directly to the marketplace – I’m too terrified to ask anybody for a job.

“A lady was on Donahue some bit ago … defining phobias. [She] gave the profile of a phobic. ‘Bright, creative, perfectionist, etc.’ don’t remember the rest, but it all fit. Yes, yes, amateur diagnoser me. But I’m not a hypochondriac, I don’t tailor diseases to my symptoms. I’d thought about phobias before and thought they didn’t really bother me. But now I’m trapped. I can empathize with the woman on the show who’d been cooped up in her home 30 years. but shit. I wanna get unscrewed up much, much faster than that.”