The Sense of an Ending

 

We saw the movie of this book. The book itself is a bit slow, and the movie was too, but Jim Broadbent carried the film on his shoulders.  He was a cruel boy who has become a man who loves his daughter.  As a boy, he was vicious and needy.  But as a man, he spoons along through life with his little cameras, his pregnant daughter; his life is small and unwrinkled. It was ugly when he was young, it is uneventful now. His hands have crushed things/people and now he wants to go back to reach into the sky of his life and be different.  He can’t change the past.  None of us can. I wish that I could, but we can only change the future.

 

In Germany at this time, the leaves are falling, in reds, oranges and yellows. I will see the leaves next week falling. I will collect a few for my room and I will dream of a changed future.

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Published in: on October 2, 2017 at 7:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Swiping Mr. Right

I saw this play last night, a one man show with Christopher Meehan, about his life and always looking for someone who might fulfill his every dream and make him feel amazing. He takes the audience through his journey of realizing that love isn’t a feeling, it’s a decision we make.

 

Whenever I think of someone who’s had an affair and regretted it and said, they were overcome by feeling, I think just that. You made a decision at some point. We aren’t governed by our hearts and bodies wholly, our brain gets a say.  We make a decision to be in love, to stay in love, to create love. I think that’s where he came to in the end. We make love happen by being lovers not by renting a Lexus or taking someone to an expensive restaurant or looking perfect.

 

Chris started the play in his boxers and while dancing, slid into jeans over his shoes.  He made it look easy so I’ve tried it a few times this morning with no success.

 

You’d think that afterward I would have simply congratulated him, but I quizzed him on Beckett and Martin McDonagh, and Eugene O’Neill.  I wanted to know what context he uses to write plays and what playwrights he loves.

 

Watching his play made me think about this libretto I’m writing and how I can slice in some funny parts. A moment to laugh in a play or opera is a moment to breathe.

 

The best acting in the play may have been when Chris went into a rendition of Top Gun which took one’s breath away.  I would see Chris Meehan in a play again in a minute.  Or in a movie for that matter. He’s got a self deprecating side which came through the whole play. One odd thing about human behavior is that if you think you’re the most important person in the room, you are probably alone in that opinion.  In this play, Chris kept poking fun at himself, making the play both endearing and comic.

 

Choose the life you’re living or change it. Be here, not some place else or with your phone. Open your eyes. Love might be right in front of you.

Published in: on September 30, 2017 at 7:03 am  Leave a Comment  

Chasing squirrels is joy for Zooey

When I walk the dog in the morning, she thinks about squirrels and trash talking Huskies and beagles. She has a special hatred for those dogs.  When a small dog barks at her, she averts her eyes, staring at the heavens as if she can’t be bothered.

 

But there is a gentleman we see every day in a rolling chair with a beagle and she loses her dog mind, leaping and struggling on the leash. I don’t know what goes through her head. When she chases squirrels, she often runs to the wrong tree and the squirrel talks smack down to her from its leafy home. I try to think. I try to simply be, but sometimes I make phone calls while I’m walking and then it’s harder to manage the squirrel chasing and beagle hating.

 

A dog’s life is not as relaxing as a cat’s. Our cats have no other jobs than to destroy our furniture which they are tearing limb from limb.  We yell at them when we’re home, and they wait for the hours that we’re gone when they will sharpen their claws on the orange chair, the white couch; they lie on our dining room chairs leaving hair.  Cats aren’t so clean. They fill a house with hair.

 

I’m off to London and Frankfurt next week, and while I’m gone, I don’t worry about the cats, but I worry about Zooey. Will they walk her enough? Will they remember to let her off leash? Her whole life depends on being able to chase a squirrel a day. Is that too much to ask?

Published in: on September 28, 2017 at 4:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Hen House

The new Hen House for Red Hen Press is under construction. I spent one day working on construction at the site and found out that I am not really that great at it.  I was on top of a ladder swinging a hammer taking down sheetrock, and I did bring the wall down very slowly. Swinging a hammer is not my top skill set.  The space is emerging, a great set of offices, an amazing community space. The new Hen House is beautiful and in it, we will make books. Books lined up, stacking up along the walls.  Books and stories, like eggs in a basket.

Published in: on September 24, 2017 at 8:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

300 Arguments

300 Arguments by Sarah Manguso published by Graywolf, is a spectacular little book, spilling out arguments and conversations inside Sarah’s head. It’s irresistible. I read it on the train, tripping through,

 

“Preferable to accepting one’s insignificance is imagining others hate you.”

 

“Rock faces, bodies of water, the crotch of a tree.  It’s harder to personify the sky.”

 

She deftly dances from thought to thought like skipping from one lily pad to another.

 

In an interview with The Guardian, Manguso talks about how, after her illness, she met with a boy but she wanted to make sure the boy knew she was sick.  She was afraid he would think she was the kind of girl who went to public school.  She was a private school girl, not a public school girl.

 

I remember dating boys in Virginia.  I had to explain high school; I was at special pains to explain that although I did not go to public school, I came from nothing. I was nothing. It took way too long. The whole story of the cult and its snow and brutality spilled out on dates until I couldn’t bear to date.  I would have said anything to make sure the boys of summer didn’t think I had fancy pants. In Arizona, it was easier, I learned not to talk about high school.

 

We defend our own tribe.

“People congregate according to their relative levels of luck,” Sarah Manguso writes.

 

I come from the tribe of strivers, of dreamers and workers. My tribal members have dirty boots. We comb our hair with our fingers.  We like fries and vodka.  We have written whole stories in mud.  We have woken up to sunrise; we have jumped off docks into cold water. Sometimes I think our whole life is cold water.

 

The tribe I come from is blessed. We have sunrises and sunsets.  We have the moon. We have our writing, our painting. We have the morning. We have stories.  We have our friends.

 

300 Arguments is fingers tapping on the ideas of the world.

 

I also read The Poor Clare by Elizabeth Gaskell on my travels. It’s a Gothic slow windy story in the tradition of the Bronte sisters.  We’ve got lost children, curses and saints.  It’s an elegant little book reprinted by Melville House.  The story is all sadness, the nuns dying in the dark. I like reading slowly, gingerly, like I am finding my way forward in the dark. Who’s there?

Published in: on September 23, 2017 at 8:00 pm  Leave a Comment  

BAD STORIES BY STEVE ALMOND, coming out in spring 2017

“The book argues that Trumpism is a bad outcome arising directly from the bad stories we tell ourselves. To understand how we got here, we have to confront our cultural delusions: our obsession with entertainment, sports, and political parody, the degeneration of our free press into a for-profit industry, our enduring pathologies of race, class, immigration, and tribalism. Bad Stories is a lamentation aimed at providing clarity. It’s the book you can pass along to an anguished fellow traveler with the promise, This will help you understand what the hell happened to our country.”

New York is a blur. Lunch at Gramercy Tavern with Larry and lots of buzzy talk about publicity and the new Steve Almond book we’re publishing. Meeting with the New York Times and talking about Steve Almond book, the NYRB, Florencia Ramirez on Sirius radio which I set up when I was here in August, the reading at Poets House, so amazing to hear Edward Hirsch read Gabriel and Elise Paschen and Ellen Rachlin were wonderful. Cornelia Street, a seamless organic event with Sebastian Matthews, Chelsea Clammer and Kathline Carr and then last night with Cathy Woodard who rocked it, Florenica who charmed us and Pope Brock, who carried the audience around in his pockets. We made it happen on a Saturday night at KGB.

 

Yesterday after breakfast with Phyllis Levin at Sarabeth’s on Amsterdam, I walked back to Chelsea. End of day: 28,000 plus steps. Today, I am walking to the Brooklyn Book Fair. If I lived in New York, I would be thin because I like walking here. A lot of excitement about our current books and about the spring season including Chloe Schwenke’s trans memoir, Debbie Moderow’s book Fast into the Night on dog sledding and Steve Almond’s book Bad Stories on what happened to this country.

 

“Like a lot of Americans, Steve Almond spent the weeks after the 2016 election lying awake, in a state of dread and bewilderment. The problem wasn’t just the election, but the fact that nobody could explain, in any sort of coherent way, why America had elected a cruel, corrupt, and incompetent man to the Presidency. Bad Stories: Toward a Unified Theory of How It All Came Apart is Almond’s effort to make sense of our historical moment, to connect certain dots that  go unconnected amid the deluge of hot takes and think pieces. Almond looks to literary voices—from Melville to Orwell, from Bradbury to Baldwin—to help explain the roots of our moral erosion as a people.”

Published in: on September 17, 2017 at 4:57 am  Leave a Comment  

And after it became obvious that the strange rain would never stop…

And after it became obvious that the president was doing everything

in his power to make the world safe for nationalism

his brilliant military mind having never realized

that nationalism itself was the idiotic superstition

which would blow up the world…

http://www.tucradio.org/TentativeDescription_Ferlinghetti.pdf

Published in: on September 4, 2017 at 6:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Eileen

Just finished the book Eileen by Otessa Moshfegh.   Everyone has a miserable life.  Some are more miserable than others.  There’s a kind of literature called pain porn.  This book is sad and it gets sadder.  There were no fun parts or funny parts.  Otessa Moshfegh is a really good writer.  She describes each scene with adroit elegance.   I’ll be interested to read her next book.  The book turned a turn a corner from darkness into darkness.

Published in: on September 2, 2017 at 8:09 pm  Comments (1)  

The Heat

The heat is unbearable. It was 110 degrees today in the Valley, the heat blistering the sidewalks, the steam rising.  Fires popped up all over the California map.  When I walked this morning, the heat sizzled through the palm trees.  Zooey walked along lightly on the sidewalk feeling the wind in the fur, but the wind carried heat.

 

I know the other morning dog walkers.  The guy in his wheelchair with the beagle, the elderly Japanese man with a cane, the Sikhs, the Russians, the Pakistanis and the Armenians. The one man said to me, “What is this heat?” He is from India and his wife speaks very little English.  They always seem very happy to see me.

 

“I don’t understand the heat,” the man with the Australian shepherd said. “Just remember,” I said, “There is no global warming.”

 

“Of course not,” he said. “it’s a liberal conspiracy.” We both smiled and the heat thickened the air.

Published in: on August 31, 2017 at 6:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

Hollywood Bowl, Pink Martini

The first time I heard Pink Martini in concert was at the Hollywood Bowl seven years ago.  It was the first time Ari Shapiro sang with them.  That concert had a flow and magic to it.  At some point, it felt that I’d always been there listening to the torrent of China Forbes’ music.  They sang the Betty song, and the whole concert was seamless like a symphony.  The next time I saw them in concert, was similar, a lilting story that I entered.

 

This time was more like a series of musical pieces strung together.  Each piece beautiful on its own way, but not a coherent concert.  At the point, they stopped and Thomas Lauderdale laid out everything they had to sell, I felt that the concert had really fallen apart.  I love China Forbes. Her voice feels like thrilling water pouring over you, but I think part of the point of a concert is being lost.  I’m also not sure about Storm Large.  Her branding is very different than Pink Martini’s.  Both are exciting and energetic, but somehow don’t seem to blend.  Thomas Lauderdale is beautiful, a genius, and a musical magician.  I look forward to the next Pink Martini concert.

Published in: on August 30, 2017 at 6:59 pm  Leave a Comment