Saturday, January 31, 2009

Read the news online? Great idea, 1981!

Via BoingBoing and BookFutures.

On the subject of football

This happened? For real?

Joe Meno

Can we please talk about Joe Meno for a few minutes?

I've posted before about his novel Demons in the Spring. I once recommended The Boy Detective Fails to a stranger at the Brooklyn Book Fair, and he loved it so much he wrote to me to say thank you. I dragged my roommate to see Meno read at the KGB on his Spring book tour, and she loved his reading so much she bought the whole book even though it was $27 in hardcover. An extremely thoughtful person I am lucky enough to know bought me a copy of Tender as Hellfire for Christmas and I recently finished it in an airport after my flight was canceled.

Here is what Meno always gets right: the complex and unusual way that characters think. There is a level of detail that he strikes that few authors can match. He never underestimates his readers. However, Meno's first novel is messy and unedited. It's a testament to his talent that his characters endure this, that they are as resonant as they are; that Val, the diner waitress whom Dough worships, can appear beautiful, disgusting, and tragic all at once.

Meno really hits his stride in The Boy Detective Fails, a book that combines the traditional with the modern. This book makes me think of The Royal Tenenbaums - it's equally dark and funny. Meno uses the traditional format of a children's mystery book, and practically opens with an unsatisfactory ending. He asks, what happens next? What does a famous detective do when he's past his prime? What happens when the source of your fame and identity unravels, and you feel it's all your fault? Meno weaves in a secret code on the bottom of each page, using ROT-13 (the geek term for A = 13, used in primitive computer coding). Not to mention the stories in Demons in the Spring, which are simultaneously heartbreaking and hysterical. The illustrations in this volume are the icing on the cake, making the book a valuable art object as well as a polished work of fiction.

You can read an interview with him on Bookslut, or listen to an interview with him on NPR.

He's also an excellent reader, and an amiable person. I believe firmly that he's got the right balance of traditional story-writing and the DavidFosterWallace/DaveEggers generation quirkiness to endure the weight of the recession.

I cannot tell you how excited I am to read his upcoming novel from W. W. Norton, titled The Great Perhaps.

His short story "An Apple Could Make You Laugh" was published in Ninth Letter, and you can listen to it read aloud on Ninth Letter's website. I would like to record this story aloud. I would like to read you, Dear Reader, a short story each week. I will think about this idea when I am back in New York with my (former boss's) Mac.

Honestly, he's worth it. Look into Demons in the Spring or The Boy Detective Fails when you next reach a bookstore. I'll let you know how Hairstyles of the Damned is when I've finished it - hooray!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Bad news for grammarians

This delicious image is brought to you by I Love Typography.

For fear of misplacing an apostrophe, Birmingham has decided to forbid using apostrophes on road signs at all.

The article is calling it a "safety" issue. Because signs are in danger of being wrong a certain percentage of times, Birmingham has decided to rule that they will be wrong 100% of the time. This is "safe" because it's consistent? Ick. (Thanks, Becky.)

Inauguration art

Nothing like Maira Kalman to make you feel happier about the state of the union. And red-eyebrowed museum guards and plastic flowers in the Walt Whitman rest stop. (Thanks, Katie.)

Monday, January 26, 2009

On the subject of hopelessness

PW laid off Sara Nelson!?

Is there no good left in this world? She is one of the biggest publishing rock stars I've had the luck to see in the flesh, albeit from a sizable distance. She's responsible for adding Lucky-esque circles to the weekly list of bestselling books. Why, publishing moguls, why?

Monday, January 19, 2009

How Books Are Made

Everything in this video is true. Via Andrew Sullivan. (Thanks, Mom.)

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Lady in Red

Photo via Photo Flash.

Saw Hedda Gabler on Friday at the Roundabout Theatre. The show has excellent costume and set design, and strong leads. It is, purposely, a little anti-climactic, and it was hard for theatregoers to respond as they exited the theatre. The first thing that came to me was this: Ana Reeder did an especially nice job of weeping half the show without defining herself as That Woman Who Cries All The Time; I was impressed she could show so much variety within a restricting role like that of Mrs. Thea Elvstead. She is also (arguably) the only innocent character in the show, and the one your heart goes out to in the end. This is unusual for a tragedy - one would expect the worst things to happen to good people; in Ibsen, though, the worst people get the most stage time. (You can read about the cast here.)

I was least fond of Paul Sparks as Ejlert Lovberg - his character was so built up before he was introduced, I wish he had lived up to the hype. His presence was not commanding enough to demand more attention than the other characters.

Mary Louise Parker is aloof and rather excellent. I initially thought her choice to present Hedda as so far gone - so reprehensible - from the beginning of the show that it took away from the ending. However, after reading today's review in The New York Times, I think it was Ibsen's choice, not hers. Hedda is a twisted and difficult woman, though she comes from certain circumstances that might have been sympathetic (she chooses a "safe" marriage over an exciting one, she feels trapped in her relationship, etc.) but our impression of her in the opening scene is that she's entirely materialistic and heartless. Helen Carey comes in as Miss Juliane Tesman, all bubbly and warm, and Hedda criticizes her hat, criticizes the house Miss Tesman paid for (though it is quite a financial stretch for the old lady), and manages to make Miss Tesman feel unwelcome in the new home.

It may have just been Friday's performance, but I wish she'd made more of her last line in the show. There are these great doors she gets to close, and she is in an absolutely beautiful dress (pictured above) that makes you want her to stand with her back to the audience the whole second act so you can look at it. But she does a nice job of blending a classical mood with an approachable, more modern tone - I enjoyed her performance.

The Times touched on two funny contemporary things that came to my mind as well: Sex and the City and Anne Hathaway. Michael Cervaris plays Jorgen Tesman, a modern Harry from Sex and the City. He is the kind, understanding, slightly goofy husband who dotes on his beautiful wife. They're both even bald. This is the perfect husband for a woman so selfish as Hedda - it's just a shame we have to watch him caught with such an awful woman (Charlotte is at least a little more sympathetic). The reason I thought of Anne Hathaway is that a role like Hedda would be marvelous for her career; this part is designed for beautiful women who always have to play the likeable leading lady. What a marvelous opportunity for Mary Louise Parker!

Though I would have liked to see a bit more of a character arc from Hedda, it was a polished production. Again, the tall windows, the long red dress with the V in the back, the revolvers, the "sunrise" - all of the visual elements were gorgeous. If you get the opportunity, it's worth your time.

Friday, January 16, 2009

The falcon cannot hear the falconer

Surely you heard about the plane that went down in Hudson River this week. Apparently there are ways to keep birds out of planes (insert Superman joke here).

Here's a bad-ass video of falcons patrolling JFK. (via Gothamist)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Brooklyn Morning

I can't remember whether I've posted about it, but I've been completely in love with Youngna Park's work for about half a year now. I finally purchased a piece called Brooklyn Morning (above) from Jen Beckman's gallery. It not only captures the mood of my neighborhood, but some of the magic that's leftover here in early daylight.

Younga Park has an incredible archive that makes me wish I could thank the internet for granting me access to such beautiful, high-res photos.

Check out her sense of light and geometry:

Her sense of space, color, and mood:

The way she uses simple props to construct a narrative:

And her unusual use of focus:

All photos courtesy of her archive. If you too want to wake up to a street full of confetti, check her stuff out.

Books I Read in 2008

I am missing a book list, but here are the ones I have been able to think of:

Gone Tomorrow by P.F. Kluge
Netherland by Joseph O'Neill
White Noise by Don DeLillo
Magic For Beginners by Kelly Link
Demons In Spring by Joe Meno
The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno
Astroturf by M.G. Lord
Haroun and Other Stories by Salman Rushdie
Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier
Bottomless Bellybutton by Dash Shaw
Call Me By Your Name by Andre Aciman
Animal Crackers by Hannah Tinti
The Last Life by Claire Messud
The 13 Clocks by James Thurber
The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff
The Goldbeater's Skin by G.C. Waldrep
The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel
Don't Bump the Glump by Shel Silverstein
The Pick-Up by Nadine Gordimer
The Implacable Order of Things by Jose Luis Peixoto
A Simple Heart by Gustav Flaubert
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
Persuasion by Jane Austen
Oroonoko by Aphra Behn
The Wanderer, The Seafarer
Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Paradise Lost by John Milton
The Collected Poems of John Milton
The Collected Poems of John Donne
The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson

She Stoops to Conquer by Oliver Goldsmith
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs
Sula by Toni Morrison
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje
Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot
The Collected Poems of William Wordsworth
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
As You Like It by Shakespeare
Hamlet by Shakespeare
In Defense of Posey by Philip Sidney
Opened Ground by Seamus Heaney
The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy
Max Makes Millions by Maira Kalman
Two Kinds of Decay by Sarah Manguso
The Maytrees by Annie Dillard
The Branch Will Not Break by James Wright
Big Machine by Victor LaValle
Last Night At The Lobster by Stewart O'Nan
How To Be Alone by Jonathan Franzen
My Antonia by Willa Cather
People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks
Tooth and Claw by T.C. Boyle
The Human Fly and Other Stories by T.C. Boyle
New Sudden Fiction edited by Robert Shapard and James Thomas
Flash Fiction Forward edited by James Thomas and Robert Shapard (their names are listed in different orders - perhaps to make things even?)

Books I am still only halfway through, but have not abandoned (in fact, some I only treat myself to on special occasions):
The Collected Stories of Peter Taylor
Timbuktu by Paul Auster
What We Talk About When We Talk About Love by Raymond Carver
The Portable Dorothy Parker
Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich
Demonology by Rick Moody
Twilight by Stephanie Meyer
Alma Mater by P.F. Kluge
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin

This week I am working through Not-Knowing by Donald Barthelme. More on this soon.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Yes Pecan!

It is better if you pronounce it PE-can for the sake of this ice cream.

Ambient Intimacy

A nice post by Leisa Reichelt about ambient intimacy, her term for those people you know on the internet more than anywhere else.

Urban Boyscout Badge #3

Image via Chancre Photo.

My computer was out of ink (it printed precisely five liney pages before both $40 cartridges died all together) and I had an interview yesterday morning. One problem with being laid off is you have to revise your resume, thus making the twenty copies you made on nice paper rather worthless.

The interview was in Midtown, so I stopped in the lobby of a fancy hotel and used their office space. This is really not a bad idea. It takes five minutes and costs much less than those fancy Kinkos stores. Also you can spend five minutes pretending this is the lobby of YOUR fancy hotel, where you regularly stay on business trips because you run your own company and give yourself a generous salary with all sorts of perks. And you live in a place with much lower taxes than New York, so you can spend money seeing plays or eating in fancy tourist restaurants and pretending you live in the city instead of actually trying to live here.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Word problems for your 20s

Image via Culinary in the Desert.

1) When your wireless internet goes out in the middle of the night right before a job interview (and you have crucial information regarding this interview in your inbox), and your neighbors' wireless won't work for you, and their neighbors' won't work for you, and nowhere in your section of Brooklyn that is open has wireless internet available, where do you go and what do you have to pay for it? Please list all possible solutions. Extra credit if you don't have to leave your building.

2) If 35% of your income goes to taxes, is your income for your part-time hostessing job less than or equal to the amount you could get for unemployment in the state of New York?

3) If your significant other's car is broken into while you're visiting a city many miles away, and you had pretzels from Sheetz in the car at the time of said break-in, is it safe to eat these pretzels, or do you suppose they will coat your throat with shards of glass?