Tuesday, March 23, 2010

the corrections

Why I love The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen:

“Chip sat on a freezing guardrail and smoked and took comfort in the sturdy mediocrity of American commerce, the unpretending metal and plastic roadside hardware. The thunk of a gas-pump nozzle halting when a tank was filled, the humility and promptness of its service. And a 99-cent Big Gulp banner swelling with wind and sailing nowhere, its nylon ropes whipping and pinging on a galvanized standard. And the black sanserif numerals of gasoline prices, the company of so many 9s. And American sedans moving down the access road at nearly stationary speeds like thirty. And orange and yellow plastic pennants shivering overhead on guys.”

“He realized why, on Monday night, Aaron had come and unilaterally apologized for having called him “horrible,” and why Caleb on Tuesday, for the first time in a month, had invited him to play foosball, and why Jonah, on Wednesday, had brought him, unbidden, on a cork-lined tray, a second martini that Caroline had poured. He saw why his children had turned agreeable and solicitous: because Caroline had told them that their father was struggling with clinical depression.”

“There’s bacon, you like bacon,” Enid sang. This was a cynical, expedient fraud, one of her hundred daily conscious failures as a mother.

“Brian had moved through the world like a golden retriever.”

This book is hysterical (pyramids of shrimp, mixed grill, salmon in pants) and Franzen writes better fights than I've read elsewhere. It is also incredibly brave knocking at stereotypes and taboo.

great openings

I've been paying a load of attention to how openings work and here are some favorites:

"Early in the morning, late in the century, Cricklewood Broadway. At 0627 hours on January 1, 1975, Alfred Archibald Jones was dressed in corduroy and sat in a fume-filled Cavalier Muskateer Estate facedown on the steering wheel, hoping the judgment would not be too heavy on him."

White Teeth, by Zadie Smith

"The final dying sounds of their dress rehearsal left the Laurel Players with nothing to do but stand there, silent and helpless, blinking out over the footlights of an empty auditorium."

Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates

"In accordance with the law the death sentence was announced to Cincinnatus C. in a whisper."

Invitation to a Beheading, by Vladimir Nabakov

"My friend Levine had only a few months to go on his doctoral dissertation, but when, one Sunday afternoon at Acres of Books, he came upon the little black paperback by Dr. Frank J. Kemp, he decided almost immediately to plagiarize it."

Title Story in "A Model World," a collection of stories by Michael Chabon

"Though I haven't ever been on the screen I was brought up in pictures. Rudolf Valentino came to my fifth birthday party--or so I was told. I put this down only to indicate that even before the age of reason I was in a position to watch the wheels go round."

Opening paragraph of "The Last Tycoon" by F. Scott Fitzgerald

"The talk was that a new face had appeared on the embankment: a lady with a little dog."

First line of the story "The Lady with the Little Dog" by Anton Chekhov

mystic, connecticut

As a Valentine's gift to each other, Mark and I took the train to Mystic and passed along the seashore for nearly two hours. We decided to go to this sleepy seafaring village because there is so little to do there. We figured we'd read and write and not go shopping. Well, we bought 21 books at Annette's Antique & Treasure Shop.

Some highlights: The Jackson Pollock is a 1967 exhibition catalogue from the MoMA. The show was supposed to be directed by Frank O'Hara (love him) but he passed away and was replaced by William S. Lieberman. It cost me $2 and is a chronology of his life and work. The Eureka book is an amazing book from the 70's all about inventions. From The Picture Press is another MoMA catalogue from 1973 with amazing photo journalism.

The food was really the highlight. I am a new burning hearted adorer of the lobster roll. Such a simple idea, such deliciousness! As for Mystic Pizza, yes, we did. It's far cheesier than you can even imagine and I'm not talking about the pizza. They play the movie on three different screens, sell merch, and there are little head shots of horse-laugh Julia everywhere. I may be ribbing her a bit thick but I once played a drinking game in Portland, Oregon with friends where we watched My Best Friend's Wedding and took a shot of tequila every time she did that laugh of hers. We got drunk fast.

Lastly, throughout my weekend I had to read Native Son by Richard Wright for my class with E.L. Doctorow. It's really not a blast to read about two grotesque murders before getting pretty for dinner but it is for the most part a good book as it's chilly voice is so frightening I couldn't put it down. I'd say more specifically but I'd be giving it all away. It is profound that the main character Bigger actually admires Hitler's ability to control others. He is so oppressed he does not consider that Hitler is just another white man as a threat but rather finds him a strange hero. It's disgusting and says so much of the confusion surrounding civil rights which is my blood, sweat, and tears with my book. I'm writing a book that I hope reexamines those issues through a family and it's chilling to think how little civil rights has progressed. So many assume it has but even the health care team in D.C. is facing abuse similar to the sixties; that means bricks flying through windows and hate signs. Civil rights is devastating territory as we just can't govern morality.

Friday, March 19, 2010

flannery o'connor - childhood home

Flannery O'Connor's childhood home in Savannah on Lafayette Square. It neighbors the Hamilton Turner Inn and from the upstairs window there is a terrific view of the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist.

Flannery's Crib. I'm sure you are curious. The screen was to keep the baby from contact with insects, yellow fever, and obviously from falling out. It's like an airy coffin or a display case for curiosities which Flannery of course was.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

bonaventure cemetery

Bonaventure is a favorite place and I want to be buried here. If you think thats gothic, ahem, I've actually made out to Morrissey in this cemetery. It's lovely to come read by the river or just to walk amongst the ancient and gorgeous gravestones. The lovely redhead is my close friend Jesse whom I've known since high school and we were roommates freshmen year at the Savannah College of Art & Design. I just got a historical society book on the place so I will be updating this entry with some history soon.

savannah, i love you

I miss drinking tall PBR's at Pinkie Master's. I miss being knuckle deep in guache. I miss Spanish Moss drenched trees and ghost stories even when they're bad. I miss Bonaventure and the river. I miss Forsyth Park and porches. I miss excellent customer service and talking to strangers. I miss reading books at Gallery Espresso.

quotes from the fitzgerald's

“We grew up founding our dreams on the infinite promise of American advertising. I still believe that one can learn to play the piano by mail and that mud will give you a perfect complexion.”

 Zelda Fitzgerald

Family quarrels are bitter things. They don't go according to any rules. They're not like aches or wounds, they're more like splits in the skin that won't heal because there's not enough material.

F. Scott Fitzgerald

rich cohen - "closing time"

I love this essay on the automobile industry by Rich Cohen in The Believer and namely the talk of car salesmen:


Some favorite passages:

"In my early years, between the ages of seven and fourteen, this meant a trip to Steve Foley Cadillac on Skokie Highway, in Northbrook, Illinois, which I loved, as the showroom of Foley Cadillac, unlike the shabby, product-stuffed showrooms of today, was glamour and glitz, with each new Cadillac raised on a white pedestal, where it seemed to drift, as in a cloud, above the everyday world. At some point, though, I would slip away from my father and the back-and-forth taking place in the office that salesmen, as I later learned, call “the pit,” or “the hole,” and wander among the Cadillacs, slide behind the huge steering wheels, breathe deep the new-car smell, play with the 8-track and cruise control. I look back on those occasions as Adam in his later years must have looked back on his lazy days of doing nothing and wanting nothing to do in the Garden."

"A few years later, he brought me to buy my first car. This was done as I imagine fathers in other, exotic, more interesting cultures bring their sons for that first trip to the whorehouse. I did not go to the Cadillac dealer, of course, but to the used-Honda lot a few miles down Skokie Highway. Did my father stand a foot behind me as I made this deal, nodding, frowning, monitoring? Of course he did. I narrowed the field to a 1984 Honda Civic, a hideous fishbowl of a car. It scored well in twenty of the twenty-three categories on the checklist my father had given me, hand-printed in all-caps. As I was talking numbers, eating up time, preparing “the nibble,” my father called me aside. We stood under the streetlamp, lit to dispel the midwinter Chicago gloom, as traffic whistled past."

"The room is bugged—know that. A manager in back is eating a sandwich as he listens to every word you say."

Monday, March 1, 2010

sorry readers & an opening

I am devastatingly behind on this. I've been on two trips and have an army's worth of blogs to get together. Sorry to those of you who are faithful readers. In the meantime here's a friends opening I recommend.