Friday, December 26, 2008
I also loved Absent by Betool Khadairi, an Iraqi woman writing (in French, I believe) about life in Baghdad in the 1990s, in between the two American invasions. The story is obviously "political" in the sense that you can't write about life in an invaded/sanctioned country without incorporating elements of this into the milieu; but the book isn't out to make political statements in the conventional sense. It's more concerned with the narrator, a teenage girl who is growing up in these difficult situations and is concerned with relationships, with boys and her parents and how she looks and what she's going to do with her life. With the same concerns as the rest of us, in other words, but in an especially poignant setting.
I also loved Delirium by Laura Restropo, a Colombian writer whose ornate, long-winded sentences perfectly matched the subject matter of her book: a young man finds his fiancee in a state of near-catatonia following her return from a visit to her home town. He spends much of the book trying to figure out what has happened to her, and so do we, as Restropo doles out the story, and the history of several key characters, a little at a time. This was the first book I had read by this author, who apparently is much repected throughout Latin America, and I'll be looking for more.
The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips came out a few years ago and it's a shame I didn't get to it sooner. It's a big, funny, sinister, mysterious, multilayered book about archaeologists digging in Egypt in the early part of the 20th century, and it's fantastic. Phillips pulls off the trick of having several different narrators involved, either speaking directly or through their journals and letters, and it gradually dawns on you that not all of these people are entirely trustworthy. Or maybe none of them are... By the time you figure out what's going really going on, you're in so deep there's no turning back. Did I mention it's funny as hell? Besides, it's about Egypt, which for me--as I think for many people--holds an enormous appeal. Tombs and sarcophogi and heiroglyphics and all that. Great stuff, great book.
Finally, Watch Me Disappear by Jill Dawson was a very powerful evocation of childhood, of the unreliability of memory, and of the difficulty we have facing up to unsavory events in the past. A British scientist living in the US returns to England for a family gathering, only to be confronted by something that happened to her as a child, when one of her friends was apparently abducted and killed. The body was never found. Dawson avoids all the easy expectations in this book as she writes about something that, sadly, has become so common that we barely even spare a thought for the missing children when they show up on milk cartons or wherever. It's a heavy book, and an emotionally intense one; not a lot of laughs here. But she's a great writer, and like her earlier book Wild Boy, this is deserves a far wider readership than it has gotten.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Music. The Black Angels are still my new favorite band, with new album Directions to See a Ghost only marginally inferior to their 2006 effort, Passover. Droning guitars, occasional organs and other keyboards, thudding bass and percussion, gauzy stoner vocals. Love it. Love it. They manage to edge out The Black Keys for Best Discovery of 2008 honors, even though the BK and their guttural, fuzz-heavy, blues-from-the-swamp sound is, more or less, what I tried to invent for myself during 20-odd years of guitar noodling. (Especially true on their earlier records Rubber Factory and Thickfreakness.) Honorable mentions include Bettye LaVette's Scene of the Crime CD--her best yet; Brightblack Morning Light's Motion to Rejoin, which features ultra-stoner, ultra-mellow but layered sonic soundscapes; Crooked Still, a Massachusetts-based country/bluegrass band whose third album, Still Crooked, is pleasantly morbid and grim (imagine The Handsome Family with an ethereal female singer and acoustic instruments); Sasquatch, a power trio that channels Alice in Chains but with better guitar playing; and Funkier Than a Mosquito's Tweeter, a compilation of Ike and Tina Turner from their late-70s rocking heyday. I never knew Ike could play guitar like that, but he could--and Tina could sure holler. This is nothing like the soul music I've always associated with Tina; this is rock & roll, sure as Janis is. Meanwhile, Senegal's Bassekou Kouyate & Ngoni Ba came out with Segu Blue, the best African music I've heard in quite a while, featuring bouncy kora playing, multilayered vocals and propelling basslines. And let's not forget Junior Kimbrough, inspiration for the above-mentioned Black Keys, whose record Most Things Don't Work Out is a standout. But really, any of his collections of swamp-boogie-trance-groove music hit the spot just fine.
Please note: not all these records came out in 2008. Some did; others I just didn;t discover till recently.
Coming soon: 2008's best books, movies and, like, experiences, man.
Seriously, though, this is a pretty great book by a guy named Stuart Archer Cohen, who lives "up in Alaska, there" and posits a USA maybe 10 or 15 years into the future, when the corporations have taken over everything (more than they already have), a private army named Whitehall works for the government (more than Blackwater already does) and natural resources like water and forests are being carved up for the private sector (more than than they already are). Cohen raises some interesting questions about how far one should go to resist such developments, and what the difference is between a revolutionary and a terrorist, and to what extent violence is justified in acquiring/defending freedom. It's all wrapped up in lively thriller-esque plot, too, which makes it go down mighty easy. He doesn't have the "high lit" cache of Crace or Thomson but I like his book a lot better. It has both the big picture and a lively plot. Imagine!
Monday, December 22, 2008
Which brings us to these past few years, and this sudden raft of dystopia novels by "respectable" lit-fiction writers. There is of course The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which well and truly rocks, and also Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood, The Pesthouse by Jim Crace, Jamestown by Matthew Sharpe, Divided Kingdom by Rupert Thomson. They're all men except for Atwood (who tried a different riff on the future-disaster idea with The Handmaid's Tale, years ago) and everybody is white; but Crace and Thomson are Brits, and Atwood's Canadian, while MacCarthy and Sharpe are Americans. So the interest continues to cross national lines, at least, even if it continues to apparently mainly interest men, and white men at that. (If you'd like to write your thesis about this, please feel free.)
So anyway. I'm in the middle of reading all these books, and what have I learned?
I've learned that McCarthy leaves everyone else in the dust. At least, everybody I've read. The Road is relentless in its grimness, it laconic linguistic power, and its mood. It's like reading the blueprint of a story, with all the embellishment burned away. (Appropriate image, that, given that the landscape itself is utterly incinerated.) There are two characters, a man and his son, and a few others who come and go. Everything is horrible to being with, and gets worse. It's a great book, in its totality of pessimism. He also writes like the Dickens, which keeps things from getting dull.
On the other hand we have The Pesthouse. Jim Crace wrote a couple great books, Being Dead and Quarantine--which is problematic in itself, but for other reasons--but he really falls down on the job here. For me, one of the joys of dystopian fiction is the way it frees you up to explore the big picture, the oh-shit-I-can't-believe-it's-come-to-this-ness of things. Unfortunately, apart from a few suggestions, Crace really doesn't take you very far. Essentially the story follows--like The Road--a road, as characters walk from west to east, hit the shoreline, and turn around. Then they head back. The story never strays very far from the road, which maybe helps the forward momentum (of which there isn't a great deal) but it also means that the big-picture view is pretty much forgotten. There's an interesting bit with a religious cult, which is for me the most interesting part of the book, but that's about it.
Currently I'm reading Divided Kingdom, a story in which the UK has been broken into four quarters corresponding to the four humours of ancient medicine--sanguine, phlegmatic, choleric and melancholy. The population has been forcibly relocated to live in these quarters. In my world, that's what I call an ass-kicking premise. Then in the course of the story, the main character contrives to visit all these different quarters, and see what's been developing in each of them, which turns out to be... hmm, somewhat underwhelming. I mean it's sort of cool, and it's just the kind of big-picture stuff that Crace's book lacks altogether. But it feels like a lot less than it could be. I mean, given the premise, he really could have taken it to extremes. But apart from a few cases (the melacholics' Museum of Tears, for example), he doesn't do it much.
So anyway, that's where I am now, about 20 pages out from the end. After this I'll read Jamestown, which seems a wackier book than any of these others, and give a full report. Somewhere in the hazy distance lies Oryx and Crake, but I'm not a huge Atwood fan so that may take a while. And after that I guess I'll read some different stuff. But you want to know something, none of these high-profile books can hold a candle to We.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
And/or download a song from download.com:
And party on, Garth.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
"In 1977, native American writer Leslie Marmon Silko wrote a book called CEREMONY. This is a quote from the book, in which a World War II veteran is reflecting on why he cannot explain the war to an elder of his tribe:
"‘In the old ways of warfare, you couldn’t kill another human being in battle without knowing it, without seeing the result. But the old man would not have believed white warfare – killing across great distances without knowing who or how many had died. It was all too alien to comprehend, the mortars and big guns; and even if he could have taken the old man to see the target areas, even if he could have led him through the craters of torn earth to show him the dead, the old man would not have believed anything so monstrous.’
"Killing across great distances without knowing who or how many had died. Silko was speaking about a war sixty years ago. Now we have become so used to this kind of warfare that killing across great distances without knowing who or how many have died is perfectly ordinary. Neither US presidential candidate has indicated anything other than a complete endorsement of continuing with such killing. One of them may want an end to the war in Iraq, but he has said repeatedly that he believes in shifting the war to Pakistan ‘to get Al Qaida’, as if Al Qaida rests on the shoulders of 160 million Pakistanis. It does not. And if 160 million Pakistanis fail to find and hand over the bogey man Al Qaida, he has threatened repeatedly to take ‘direct action,’ including direct military action. When this action is taken – it is not a question of if this action is taken but when – whether by McCain or Obama, it will be yet more killing across great distances without you knowing who or how many have died.
"I would like you to know the cost of this war to Pakistan so far.
"Since 2001, the Bush administration has regularly been launching missile strikes across the Afghan border and into Pakistan. This particular year, this election year, the US strikes in Pakistan have increased alarmingly. There was one just yesterday. Eleven people died. As with all the other strikes, this one was ostensibly to take out a Taliban leader, but the leader got away, while innocent people died. The American missile strike in Pakistan last month killed 23 innocent men, women, and children. Between August 23 and October 10, at least eleven missile strikes killed more than a hundred people. This is according to Fox News, by the way. So if Fox can acknowledge it, the numbers must be even higher. This is in addition to the thirteen people killed on January 29. The twelve people killed on February 28. The eighteen people killed on March 17. The twelve killed on May 14. The eleven killed on June 10. And the numerous faceless, uncounted others killed this year, because as I’m sure you know, this is only a very partial list.
"Aside from the bombing of villages and the killing of innocent civilians, there are other ways in which this war is ruining the lives of ordinary people you are not meant to see. It is estimated that around 5,000 Pakistanis suspected of being 'terrorists' have been illegally detained in military torture cells both inside and outside the country. Any one in Pakistan will tell you that most of those who've disappeared have nothing to do with Al Qaida. They are being held either for no reason other than as evidence of 'peformance' for the US Empire, or because they threaten the internal interests of Pakistan’s rulers. Most of those who’ve been illegally detained come from poor, rural areas that are rich in natural resources, particularly in minerals and natural gas. Among those who’ve gone missing are journalists, poets, political activists and their families, and students and their families. Only 200 have been taken to court. None are proven terrorists. A few are released: all tell horrific stories of torture.
"What happens when you routinely see US drones flying over your home and watch entire villages being bombed and your families killed and your siblings kidnapped and tortured?
"Well, when I left Pakistan a few months ago, I knew peace-loving folks who didn’t even know any Taliban but who were beginning to gradually and grudgingly suppport them. That is in the cities. In the rural areas, more and more young angry men and women are taking up arms. Many of them had never even held a gun till the US ‘war on terror’ began. As one Pakistani recently put it. "This is the biggest gift of George Bush to al-Qaida." A country that as a child I knew as ethnically and intellectually dynamic, spirited and for the most part, peace-loving, now has a suicide-bombing just about every day, resulting in more deaths in Pakistan this year than in Afghanistan or Iraq. There were no suicide bombings in Pakistan till this war began.
"If we want change, shifting the war to Pakistan is not going to accomplish it. Peaceful, democratic, secular, tolerant societies never grew from intimidation, missile strikes, kidnappings, torture. Change will only come when the United States acknowledges who and how many Iraqis, Afghans and Pakistanis it has killed since this war began and commits itself to engaging with our countries as partners not targets."
Monday, October 27, 2008
For what it's worth, I had predicted a 10-6 season and a first round exit in the playoffs. That could still happen but, this assessment now seems a little harsh. Given the relatively easy schedule down the road, 11-5 or even 12-4 seems possible.
Of course, this season, everything is going bonkers, so who knows. My original picks for Super Bowl XLIII (after Brady got hurt) were Dallas and Pittsburgh, which is looking increasingly unlikely, at least insofar as Dallas goes. Pittsburgh, hmm, maybe...
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Thursday, October 23, 2008
Last night I heard a talk given by Susan Nathan, author of The Other Side of Israel. Nathan is an Israeli Jew who, upon growing increasingly concerned about the treatment of Israeli citizens of Arab descent, moved from Tel Aviv to a small Palestinian-Israeli village called Tamra in 2003. (I say "village" but it's got 30,000 people crammed into a tiny allocation of land.) There she lives, as an Arab citizen of Israel lives; it's not an easy life. I won't try to paraphrase her talk, because I think her book should speak for itself. I will say, however, that conditions are appalling. You can read about it on Amazon, here:
Nathan was an ardent Zionist originally from Britain, who lived for a time in apartheid South Africa before moving to Israel. (In South Africa she was a member of the ANC, Mandela's party, and served jail time for her activism.) She's not someone who had an ax to grind or who set out to prove something about the country, which, I believe, makes her ultimate disillusionment with it that much more powerful. She was a true believer, until she got there and experienced what was happening.
Last night's talk was, predictably, interrupted by a loud, angry outburst, as an elderly couple stormed out in the middle of the lecture, hollering about "one-sided bias" and "hate speech." I guess hate speech, in this case, is defined as questioning the policies of the Israeli government towards its own minorities. But given that Nathan has lived in Israel for years, while the people who noisily interrupted the presentation last night were residents of a quite comfortable Hawaiian island, I think I will accept Nathan's observations over theirs.
She did have some good news, hinting that social pressure is building within Israel itself, from both Jewish groups and Palestinian ones, to try to redress what she calls the "second-class citizenship" of the Arabs. We'll see what happens.
IN ENTIRELY UNRELATED NEWS, today is my nephew and godson Paul's birthday. Happy birthday, Paul!
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
...is the name of the book I'm currently reading. I first heard about it on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (hooray!) and it's pretty great. It's written Hooman Majd, an Iranian who grew up in the States but who has retained ties with Iran and visits often. This book is, more or less, his attempt to de-mystify the country for the many Americans (and other Westerners) who view the place, and its president, with feelings of alarm, if not horror.
And there's plenty to be horrified about, but there's also plenty to appreciate. Iran (as Persia) is a culture that goes back a couple thousand years, has its own aesthetics and traditions, a lively social life, and a government which, although not a democracy in the western sense, nonetheless contains elements of representative democracy. This is all interesting. It also contains plenty of dissenters, atheists, opium smokers, free love advocates and diehard true believers. These groups are not mutually exclusive.
Majd doesn't try to whitewash Ahmadenijad's silly denial of the Holocaust, nor does he defend his threats to destroy Israel. On the other hand, he makes the point over and over that these comments carry far more weight in the west than with Iranians, who are mainly concerned with economic issues. Most Iranians, he points out, learn little European history in school (about as much as the average American learns about Iranian history, heh heh) and so cares little about WWII or the events surrounding it, except insofar as those events somehow led to the creation of Israel and the displacement of Palestinians. So barking about israel gets Ahmadenijad points on the street, while denying the Holocaust doesn't particularly resonate (but annoys the west, which he enjoys doing). Nuclear power, meanwhile, is seen by most Iranians as an example of haq, which can be translated loosely as "rights." Given that the west, and the States in particular, has literally thousands of nuclear warheads--and Israel has a couple hundred, too--it strikes Iranians as hypocritical that they are being pressured, under threat of sanctions and war, to drop their program.
Whatever your thoughts on Iran may be--good, bad or indifferent--this is an interesting and engaging book to pick up. Majd's style is anecdotal and conversational; he's not out to belabor his points or pile on the statistics, and he is just as likely to make snide remarks about government ministers or religious zeal as he is to take a stand that some would describe as "apologist." Given that Iran is very likely the next country that we will bomb (if you take it, as I do, that Pakistan is already being bombed), it seems like the least we can do is learn something about these people before we proceed with killing them.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Please read this essay by an American Muslim of Pakistani origin. For those of you who haven't been keeping up, the Pakistani army was recently issued orders to fire upon American soldiers who cross into Pakistan. This followed many raids, bombings, missile strikes etc inside Pakistan's territory, which resulted in the deaths of hundreds of Pakistani civilians. One of the latest killed something like 50 villagers, none of whom were, um, terrorists.
This little bit of brilliance puts it all in perspective.
On the other hand, who cares? It's just more "collateral damage" in the "war on terror"...
Sunday, August 17, 2008
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Monday, June 9, 2008
1. Went to Provincetown Mass recently and had a terrific time. May I recommend the Somerset House Inn if you're heading that way anytime soon.
2. Hillary dropped out of the presidential race, which is okay, leaving Obama (motto: "Let's bomb Pakistan!") to fight it out with McCain (motto: "Let's bomb everybody!") Excuse me if I'm not terribly excited about the election this year. Yes, we must elect Obama, but I wish he was a trifle less bloodthirsty regarding the country in which I live and about which he knows nothing.
3. David Cook won American Idol. How do I know this? Lord knows. I believe it happened while I was in Provincetown, however. (For the record, I was rooting for Syesha.)
4. Uzee and I recently watched Chinatown for the first time. Great movie. We may be going through a vintage-Jack-Nicholson phase; Five Easy Pieces is sitting on top of the TV.
5. Celtics are in the process of hosing the LA LAkers, currently ahead by 2-0 in the finals. Now I don't care a great deal for basketball, but I'm enough of a local boy to like it when the New England teams win. Tomorrow they play in LA and, hopefully, extend the streak. Go Leon Bowe!
PLEASE TAKE THE POLL AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE!
Saturday, June 7, 2008
For the record, the other two standouts that leap to mind are
Jane's Addiction, Tucson, AZ, 1989 (following the release of Nothing's Shocking); and
Baaba Maal, Rabat, Morocco, 1996 (in an outdoor arena that his big voice completely filled).
Honorable mentions include Koko Taylor in a jammed club in Tucson; Lucinda Williams, ditto; and The Tragically Hip, ditto again. These were all in the early '90s, which is when I went to the bulk of my concerts. The Black Keys were also great, last month in Boston, as I mentioned in an earlier posting.
But Bettye... oh man that woman can rock. She also came out to the lobby after the show (in a tiny theatre, 400-odd seats) and signed CDs and called everybody "honey" and was generally adorable.
Here's another clip from YouTube, just because I can't resist, from a TV appearance a few weeks back.
Saturday, May 31, 2008
That clip wasn't one I took, but it does get the idea of the show (at the Orpheum, May 17 2008) across pretty well.
Tomorrow, we're heading down to Long Island--a place I've never been to--to see the one & only Bettye LaVette, a soul singer from the '60s who's undergone a real revival over the past few years, since she's started releasing records on the intriguing Anti- label. She can holler with the best of them, and in my admitted valueless opinion she blows the competition out of the water (including the revered Aretha, who really hasn't been doing much of interest for the the past, oh, 3o years). But don't take my word for it...
Bettye was born in 1946, which means she's 62 now... I can only hope I rock half as much when I'm her age.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
I've read comic books since seventh grade, which is what, 32 or 33 years ago. I read them through high school, Marvels mainly, then stopped in college when I became (ahem) serious, then picked up again in my late twenties (around 1990) and kept up for about five years. When I left for Morocco in 1995, I stopped, and only started again recently, as I'm in Massachusetts for a few months with a couple good shops nearby.
But man--stuff has changed since Kamandi, the Last Boy on Earth (Jack Kirby's Planet of the Apes riff, with talking tigers, rats and seafood as well as monkeys) or even Frank Miller's Daredevil. When I left the country, Image was the hottest publisher going, with Spawn and Savage Dragon selling in big numbers (essentially, these were superhero books with a "dark" edge and/or some supernatural content to lend them an air of gritty seriousness). Make no mistake, there are still piles of superhero comics out there, but there's loads of other stuff too. The market has fragmented hugely, much like TV. Instead of three channels plus PBS, these days there are now hundreds of cable options, and in the same way, instead of Marvel and DC and a few undergrounds, there are now loads of small, independent publishers putting out quirky books. This is, I think, great, although I wonder if there are still one or two huge titles out there that everyone reads, more or less. Probably not, just as there's no longer a TV show like MASH or The Mary Tyler Moore Show that everyone watches, more or less. (I read somewhere that the only sitcom I watch, The Office, draws something like 9 million viewers. In the 70s, this would have gotten it cancelled; today, it's in its fourth season as a huge hit.)
But, comic books.
WASTELAND is an ongoing series written by Antony Johnson and drawn by Christopher J. Mitten. It's currently at issue 16 or thereabouts. As soon as I figure out what the hell's going on, I'll let you know. We are, apparently, about 100 years after some huge cataclysm called "The Big Wet," which destroyed civilization and left everything, paradoxically, a desert. A group of people abandon their town Providens and make their way to Newbegin, a fabled city somewhere to the west. There are zombie-like ghouls out there, and mysterious wanderers called Ruin Runners who live off the land, salvaging trinkets to barter at the towns, and a group of priests--mutants maybe?--who have their own elaborate set of rituals and theology. You'll notice I've barely mentioned the story, partly because it's extremely intricate. The folks from Providens eventually make it to Newbegin, where various disasters ensue. Adding interest is the narrative strategy of concurrently telling different threads of the story from different times. This is what baffled me for a while; you'd see people X and Y doing something in Newbegin; then turn the page and there would be X talking to Z in Providens. A nifty way to restructure time and present a narrative in a nonlinear mode. But I wasn't ready for it; geez man, it's a fucking comic book.
The art is good, sometimes very good, and getting better. It's a black and white book.
NORTHLANDERS, written by Brian Wood and drawn by Davide Gianfelice, is a much more traditional book from a more traditional copany (DC/Vertigo). It's set a thousand years ago, and it's about this guy Sven who returns to his Viking home in the Orkneys or thereabouts to claim his heritage (his Dad used to run the place, now he's dead, evil uncle has stepped in, shades of Hamlet). We're 5 issues in and there's already been plenty of swordfights, moody landscapes and (gasp!) sex, and we're starting to get the lowdown on Sven's background, why he left home all those years ago and why he's come back now. There's a shape-changing witch, if I'm not mistaken, and various dark secrets from the past. It's lightweight stuff compared to Wasteland but it's a quick read with great full-color art (muted tones that well serve the twilight-y environs) and a certain endearing earnestness to it all.
PAX ROMANA, written and drawn by Jonathan Hickman, is my favorite book out there right now, maybe ever. There are only 2 issues out so run out right now and buy them. Talk about a premise: 50 years from now, the Catholic Church is in deep trouble, faced with dwindling congregations and competition from atheism and Islam. So the church does what any self-respecting religious organization would do: it invents a time machine and sends a platoon of genetically-altered Marines (good Catholics all of them) to A.D. 300, in time to prevent the split of the Holy Roman Empire, and then hang around the next several hundred years, specifically to knock off Mohammad before he can gain political influence. Any other unforeseen developments threatening to challenge the primacy of the Church are also open to intervention. Sadly for the holy fathers, the Marines sent back in time have a slightly... heterodox understanding of their mission. Once successfully transported back (with a certain amount of materiel) they do indee prevent the Empire's split. However, after that, things very quickly go to shit.
Hickman is a very text-dense writer; there's always plenty of conversation in his books, most of it well done; sometimes entire pages are devoted to type. It can taken an hour to read one of his books, a rarity these days. The artwork is killer too, and rewards lingering. If there's one book out there that demonstrates the potential of the form, as well as potential lived up to, this is it. He has another book called TRANSHUMAN, about genetic modification of human beings, which is lively too, though not quite as bleedin' warped.
Have fun, kids.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
So anyway, that's what I've been doing--various projects which are now in various states of semi-done-ness, or barely-started-ness, or spilled-out-in-a-rush-ness. But there's not much I can really talk about yet, which maybe gives the impression that I'm not doing a great deal... when actually I'm doing about five things at once. Oh well.
Current read: The Ten-Cent Plague by David Hajdu. A history of early comic books, from the appearance in the early 1900s through the 1950s, when they came under increasing attack from various quarters, notably the Catholic Church and opportunistic politicians who wanted to be seen as enacting meaningful legislation agsinst social ills (juvenile delinquency paramount among them) without actually having to experience any of the side effects themselves--because none of them read comic books. It's an interesting window into 1950s America in all its McCarthyesque myopia, and the descriptions of book-burnings, orchestrated by numerous Catholic schools and presided over by the nuns, are quite chilling. (Contemporary commentators pointed out that the Nazis had orchestrated similar events 10 or 20 years earlier.) All in all it's a lively, readable book, appealing I think to anyone with any interest in this art form.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
First, thanks to everyone who came out to Border's in Farmington on April 20. There were maybe 15 people there who came to pepper me with tough questions ("So... why was it backwards, anyway?") and I had a good time answering them. I had an even better time not reading from any of my books; reading is okay but I'd rather just have a conversation, which is what I did. People asked about movie and TV sceenwriting (which I haven't done, yet) and about my thoughts on the current state of the publishing industry... I met a gentleman who is keen to start a writing career, and another who is getting back to one he set aside in order to make some movies. Perhaps most bizarrely of all, I met a police officer named DAVID MAINE, who said he gets pages of results for me, every time he googles himself. He was kind enough to set his annoyance at this aside (I'm joking) and asked me to sign one of my books, which I did: "For the real David Maine..."
The following weekend I was in Newburyport, Mass., reading this time to a group of about 40 people who also asked interesting questions. Then I went over to listen to a cheery woman named Lauren Weinstein talk about how she makes comic books, which we're all calling "graphic novels" these days, but which are actually comic books. She's very bubbly and great fun to listen to, and her stuff is unique (take a look at Girl Stories on Amazon). In between my own reading and Lauren'd talk I met an old roommate from Oberlin College--yes, that reunion-23-years-later thing, with the formerly D'Artagnan-haired but now quite respectable-looking Eric. It was nice to see him, and to meet his partner Kim, and to sit around discussing screenplay ideas (he has a great one) and 9/11 conspiracy theories. He also inspired me to go home and put in some time on my own screenplay idea, which I've been doing since then, so thanks, Eric.
So at this point, there are no further publicity events on my horizon. This could change, so stay tuned. This could also change if someone reading this contacts me and requests an appearance somewhere... It's not guaranteed, but it's possible, especially for a festival-type event. So don't be shy.
In other news, it was 88 degrees in western Massachusetts a couple weeks ago. Yesterday it was 48. I don't know if this is global warming, or just global weirdness.
Friday, April 18, 2008
...Until their very kind review of Monster, 1959, which I mentioned a couple of days ago. Now the paper has followed up with a brief interview of me, complete with photo. Here's the link:
They were kind enough to mention the event at Border's bookstore in Farmington, next to Westfarms Mall, which is happening Sunday (April 20) from 2:00 to 3:00. Be sure to swing by if you are so inclined: I'll be happy to sign books and answer any questions you might be able to dream up. And even if you can't make it, but an extra copy or two of the Courant. They've earned it, heh.
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
To get an idea of what you missed (unless you were there and didn't bother saying hi), here's a 90-second clip of "Monkey Man" taken by one other than myself. I like to call it "Dave's Earthquake-Cam." Pop a Dramamine and enjoy.
The sound quality maybe isn't so hot. What can I say, I used this tiny little digital thing. And in case you're wondering, I am definitely NOT the guy who jumps up on stage and, um, "dances" along with Toots. I've got nerve, but not that kind of nerve.
Monday, April 14, 2008
I should mention that I was in Oklahoma City for a couple of days back in, oh, 1995 I guess it was. Nice little town. I seem to recall a park with a rose garden. Or was that Austin? Oh hell, it was a long time ago... I know for sure there was a museum with lots of cowboy sculptures. Who's that guy, Remington, who does them all? Lassos and bucking broncs. The kind of stuff you see lots of in Connecticut. Or Pakistan for that matter.
Wednesday, April 9, 2008
I'll be reading at 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, the 26th of April, at the Newburyport Public Library. Where is this, you ask? I have no idea, but how tough can it be? Don't answer that question. I'll be reading from Monster, 1959 but there will be an extensive, I hope, Q+A and of course I'll be happy to take questions about any of my books (or anybody else's books, for that matter). Plus I'll sign stuff if people would like. At first I was like, "Ten in the morning, yeah right, I can just picture the mob we'll have." But looking over the schedule, it seems like there's stuff going on all day, beginning at 8:00 a.m. (oy) and continuing through till evening. So maybe we will have a decent early-rising crowd after all, and hopefully you will be a part of it.
In case a weekend in eastern Massachusetts is not part of your immediate future, I will also be appearing at the Border's Bookstore in Farmington, Connecticut on Sunday, April 20 at 2:00 p.m. This is the Border's next to Westfarms Mall, and it follows a very nice review in the Hartford Courant (see previous post) so let's hope some people turn up for that one too. An interview in the Courant is in the works for the Thursday before.
And if anyone reads Publishers Weekly, this week's issue contains a review I wrote of Tim Winton's Breath. Winton is an Australian writer who has never broken very big in the US, but I liked this book pretty well.
ONLY 200 DAYS LEFT TO TAKE THE POLL AT THE BOTTOM OF THIS PAGE!
Sunday, April 6, 2008
And another one to the more reserved New York Times Book Review:
Wednesday, April 2, 2008
"Maine’s creative prolepsis of Samson’s thoughts before destroying the temple begins, like Milton’s, with an important simile"
Well sure! Doesn't everybody's? He also says this:
"Rather than emotionally driven, Maine presents Samson as a logical person attempting to deduce the will of God through reason"
Which is, to say the least, a surprise to me...
But I shouldn't make fun of it--the guy's put some thought into my book, which I appreciate, and what the hell, I've been compared to worse people than Milton. (Although I guess he was sort of a shithead, if I'm remembering my Junior-year Milton class right. Didn't he treat his daughters like dirt?) And anyway this kind of writing puts my own academic career to shame--my college papers sounded like, "I really like Anne Sexton's poems I think they're really really good."
Anyway if you're interested, here's where you can read what the kids are saying about Dave Maine these days:
And if you're feeling nice you can even leave a comment. But no nasty ones, okay? I can't afford to alienate my, ahem, academic fan base.
DON'T FORGET TO VOTE IN THE POLL AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE!
Monday, March 31, 2008
Buddy's 72 years old and has been playing since the '50s, so he has, as they say, chops. For my money, his records Stone Crazy!, Damn Right I've Got the Blues, Feels Like Rain, Slippin' In, Heavy Love and Sweet Tea are some of the best records--not just blues records--ever made. He played for about an hour and a half on Saturday night, not a very long show, but what the hell, he's a senior citizen.
He also rocked. He played any number of great songs, like "Fever," "Love Her With a Feeling" and "Drowning on Dry Land," and ended with a somewhat sloppy version of one of his prettiest songs, "Feels Like Rain" that led into Ray Charles' "What'd I Say." In between he jammed on long guitar solos and played around with his keyboard player his other guitarist and even brought some child prodigy onstage for about fifteen minutes. Oh and he sings amazingly too. Halfway through "Drowning on Dry Land," he walked off the stage and up the aisle--singing and playing the whole time--stopping to flirt with the women, then walked out of the auditorium and upstairs into the balcony, where he kept it all going. They went, needless to say, nuts.
In case you need more convincing, check out some of his pages at Amazon and listen to some clips:
Rock on, Buddy! Here's hoping you play another 50 years...
Saturday, March 22, 2008
My next "event" will be at the Borders Bookstore in Farmington, Connecticut--yup, my hometown--on Sunday afternoon, April 20th, at 2pm. This will be followed on the weekend of the 25th by an appearance at the Newburyport Literary Festival, something for which I still have no information whatsoever. I'll post it when I get it. But if anyone is in central Connecticut on April 20th, come on over to the Borders near the Westfarms Mall and say howdy.
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Bless me father for I have sinned
She has big brown eyes & silky skin
Bless me father, I couldn't resist
Father, you have no idea what you've missed...
Sunday, March 16, 2008
Or there's a link from her own blog:
Please take a look... even if you're a supporter of Obama. Maybe especially then.
DON'T FORGET TO TAKE THE POLL AT THE BOTTOM OF THE PAGE!
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
I wake up this morning and it's cloudy. I go to the market to shop for groceries and it's actually flurrying snow, and by the time I get out of the Big Why the snow is coming down fairly thick and I'm thinking, "Man, I thought we were done with this." More fool me. And I know I've only been here for a month and a half or so, but I've already had my year's fill of winter, I think.
So I put the food away and start walking down to the library which is about 35 minutes from the house. Still snowing but as I walk the snow segues into drizzly rain before petering out altogether. And then I'm downtown and five minutes away from the library and what do I see pecking around in the front yard of someobody's house? Robins. Red bosoms and all, two of them no less. Male and female? I dunno. But there were two, and were strolling around in the recently-fallen-now-melting-but-not-yet-fully-melted snow, looking like they expected things to get much nicer very soon. And I thought "Aw shucks. Spring is on its way, maybe."
It was nice.
Sunday, March 9, 2008
And for those of you in western Massachusetts, don't forget that I will be appearing at Odyssey Books in South Hadley (on College Street, right across from Mount Holyoke College) on Thursday, March 20 at 7:30pm. This is a reading/q+a/book signing event. So come on down and tell me if you think the Post got it right...
Saturday, March 8, 2008
Ford Madox Ford apparently once said something like: "Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." This is a fun idea and maybe even a true one, since certainly there are propensities that a writer will reveal on any given page, as well as particular strengths, weaknesses and so on. But is it true? Well I don't know. It's kind of like saying that any two minutes of a movie will show the quality of the whole movie, which is patently untrue (or else trailers would never give an inaccurate view of the film). Or like one joke will tell you whether you'll enjoy the comedian, or whatever.
On the other hand, there are books of mine--I'm thinking of Samson here--which do have a kind of unity in their tone and outlook and treatment, such that if you did open randomly to page 99, well, maybe you would form an accurate impression of the whole thing.
As it turns out, there's a fellow named Marshal Zeringue, and he has an entire blog devoted to this idea. He asks writers to comment on their own books' page 99, and decide whether Ford's axiom holds true or not. What a great idea. He asked me to do this for monster, and I did, and he posted it, and here's the link:
If you read it and then hit "Home" at the bottom of his blog, you go to his homepage, which has not only my essay but many others by many other writers talking about their books. What's interesting o me is that there's a real range of responses to this page 99 idea. And you thought the internet was only good for You Tube...
Thursday, February 28, 2008
It is, as I say, generally positive, though there are some weird turns of phrase in there too. Ah well... I'm guilty of that myself, from time to time.
Monday, February 25, 2008
Janet Maslin at the New York Times has given a thoughtful, though mixed, review of Monster, 1959 in today's edition of the paper. I won't claim that it's entirely positive--it's not--but there is certainly a blend of both admiration and doubt. Anyway, it's food for thought, and she does say enough nice things to make me feel like maybe I picked the right career after all. (Your mileage may vary.) Here's the link.
Special mention must be made of my number one fan, Lori from Pennsylvania, who drove up from the Poconos to attend the first evening's reading at the B&N on the Upper West Side--the event that got cancelled. I went up to that store anyway, on the off chance that some people might show after reading this blog, and lo! there was Lori and her pal (now my pal too) Sunshine, looking baffled at the guy behind the counter who was explainig patiently that nope, Dave Maine wasn't due to appear that night... Anyway we ended up sitting for coffee for an hour and, once again, having a great time talking about just about everything. So that was time well spent--thanks, Lori & Sunshine.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
My sincere apologies to anyone who was inconvenienced by this. If it were up to me, I'd be there anyway. Thanks for understanding and I hope to see you tomorrow.
Monday, February 18, 2008
FEBRUARY 19 (Tuesday), Barnes and Noble at 82nd and Broadway, THIS EVENT HAS BEEN CANCELLED.
FEBRUARY 20 (Wednesday), Barnes and Noble in Greenwich Village, Ave of the Americas at 8th Street, 7:30pm. Same deal: Reading, q+a, signing. Come along and ask me something really confrontational and snotty. Make it fun!
Maybe I'll get a photo or two from these events to post next time, along with a funny story. Hey, it could happen...
Also in store:
FEBRUARY 23 (Saturday) brings me to Rhinebeck, NY, and Oblong Books on 6422 Montgomery Street (Route 9), also at 7:30pm for a similar event. For those of you who prefer your lit'rary events outside the big city.
MARCH 20 (Thursday), in South Hadley, MA, home of Mount Holyoke College, has a reading at Odyssey Books, 9 College Street. 7:30, same schedule.
That's all for now. Hope to see you on one of these evenings.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
Happy Valentine's Day, sweethearts.
So here I am at my mom's house in Connecticut, sitting in front of her Ferrari-esque computer (motto: "More computing power than the Apollo missions had") in scenic yet wintry Ye Olde Newwe Englande. And what better way to celebrate, um, mid-February ("only six more months till winter!") than by whipping up a pan of tasty yet delicious bay scallops, buttery and tender and melt-in-your-mouth-tastic:
1. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan, enough to coat the bottom. Drop in a couple tablespoons of butter and let it melt.
2. Dice as much garlic as you can stand, and toss that in. (I use 5 or 6 cloves.) Let it start to sizzle, then add a little salt and pepper.
3. The whole mess is pretty hot by now. Pour in some white wine, which will sizzle and snap in a most satisfying manner.
4. Add about a pound of bay scallops. Be sure to slice off the little stem-like foot beforehand, otherwise this bit will grow rubbery when you cook it.
5. Stir the scallops around in the pan for about 90 seconds. Don't cook them too much. They will go from translucent to white, and that's when you're done. If you can bother yourself to flip them, so both sides are cooked through, that's nice.
6. Remove from heat. You now have a pound of delicious scallops and a bunch of gravy. Slop it over some rice and dig in.
REMEMBER: SEA FOOD = BRAIN FOOD. THIS IS IMPORTANT, BUT I CAN'T REMEMBER WHY.
Monday, February 11, 2008
Saturday, February 9, 2008
All this is in addition to the two Barnes and Nobles readings on February 19 and 20 in New York City, and Feb 23 in Rhinebeck, NY (see my entry below, at the start of January). I'm also still confirmed for the Newburyport Literary Festival, but have no specifics as to exactly what I'll be doing, or when.
I will return with a special bay scallops edition of Cooking Tips for Bachelors in the near future, so, stay tuned.
Monday, February 4, 2008
So there I am, sitting in my new, temporary, sparsely-furnished living room, with a cable-less 21" TV that I had to go buy a plug-in aerial for, squinting through the snowy reception to watch the Big Game, and what do I see? Tom Brady knocked onto the ground. Again. And again. Again. Bad pass, great coverage, Brady on the ground. Repeat until bored, then watch it several more times. And it's only the first half.
What can I tell you? The Giants played better, had a better game plan maybe, and seemed to suffer from nerves less than the Patriots. You can't blame the refs for this one. So congratulations to them and their fans. (The Giants I mean, not the refs.)
On a happier note, Uzee and I spent yesterday afternoon wandering around downtown Northampton, Massachusetts, a place I"ve heard much about but had never been to before. Great bookstore there called Raven Used Books, a terrific diner called Jakes, and more funky jewellery, ceramics, art supplies, cappucino and kitsch than you can shake a Jesus Action Figure at. Yes, I actually saw the famous Jesus Action Figure in the window of one shop. "With moveable arms and realistic gliding action" or something like that. There was also a Moses Action Figure, for those of you interested in collecting the whole set.
Also we discovered, real, genuine, honest-to-God bulk tea at a crunchy health food place; Uzee was most relieved. And much more that escapes me in the pos-Super-Bowl haze of dismay that I find myself surrounded by this morning, alas.
Hey... just wait till next year.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
In other news, Uzee and I have relocated to the US for the time being so that I can do some publicity for the new book, among other things. Some upcoming events are listed a few entries down the page; stay tuned for additional news as I get word of it.
Currently reading The Egyptologist by Arthur Phillips. Oh man what a great book. Funny and smart and complicated, reads like a thriller or a whodunit but the characters are impeccably drawn. I'm maybe halfway through, so, maybe it'll crash and burn before the end but I don't think so. It reminds me somewhat of Matthew Kneale's English Passengers in its tone, and coming from me that's high praise indeed. Kneale's book is one of the best I've ever read.
BTW, this site has the time wrong. As I write this it's 4:45. Go figure.