Friday, February 24, 2012

The Parking Lot Movie


Great movie. A bunch of disgruntled grad students, skate-boarders and malcontents administ The Corner Lot in Charlottesville, Virginia. A marxist critique of the American service economy, as well as a juvenile attack on the fraternity system. Essential.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

February 22 2012

A Sketch of the Great Dejection
by Thom Gunn

Having read the promise of the hedgerow
the body set out anew on its adventures.
At length it came to a place of poverty,
of inner and outer famine,
where all movement had stopped
except for that of the wind, which was continual
and came from elsewhere, from the sea,
moving across unplanted fields and between headstones
in the little churchyard dogged with nettles
where no one came between Sundays, and few then.
The wind was like a punishment to the face and hands.
These were marshes of privation:
the mud of the ditches oozed scummy water,
the grey reeds were arrested in growth,
the sun did not show, even as a blur,
and the uneven lands were without definition
as I was without potent words,
inert.
I sat upon a disintegrating gravestone.
How can I continue, I asked?
I longed to whet my senses, but upon what?
On mud? It was a desert of raw mud.
I was tempted by fantasies of the past,
but my body rejected them, for only in the present
could it pursue the promise,
keeping open to its fulfilment.
I would not, either, sink into the mud,
warming it with the warmth I brought to it,
as in a sty of sloth.
My body insisted on restlessness
having been promised love,
as my mind insisted on words
having been promised the imagination.
So I remained alert, confused and uncomforted.
I fared on and, though the landscape did not change,
it came to seem after a while like a place of recuperation.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Life Times by Nadine Gordimer

Again and again she seems to effortlessly cross the imaginative line between a patronizing liberal sympathy and a truly creative and understanding empathy with the victims of apartheid in South Africa.
"The Soft Voice of the Serpent," the only non-racially-centered story so far, a gentle, tragic portrayal of a young man in a wheelchair feeling his limits.
"The Amateurs," about a white theatre troupe going into the camps to perform Oscar Wilde, not realizing until too late just how vast the imaginative distance is between themselves and their audience.
"Six Feet of the Country" about the struggle of a black family to get back the dead body of their child, an illegal immigrant, in order that they can bury him appropriately.
"Face from Atlantis"
"Which New Era Would That Be?" about a
"The Smell of Death and Flowers." That was one of the things she held against the missionaries: how they stressed Christ's submission to humiliation by the white man.
"Not for Publication"
"Through time and Distance"
"A Chip of Glass Ruby," about a widowed Hindu mother of five and adoptive mother of four more, who has married a Hindu widower, and she gets arrested for her work organizing and participating in anti-apartheid activies for the black population.
"Some Monday For Sure." It reads like a Frank O'Connor story about the IRA. A young man becomes involved with the anti-apartheid forces through his sister's husband, who drives a "dynamite truck" for a construction. He participates in an armed robbery of the truck, and escapes with his sister and brother in law to Rhodesia, where they are forced to live for years. Odd long second half, after the robbery, where the husband has returned to South Africa, and the sister and her younger brother remain in exile, the boy hopeful and optimistic that he will return to freedom-fighting, but his sister despondent about the loss of her previous life.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

To End all Wars by Adam Hochschild


Incredible documentation of the intersection of the war industry and peace forces mostly in Great Britain during the run up to World War I and throughout that horrendously destructive conflict.

The execution of several members of the Bantam Battalions, composed of men who were above 5 feet tall but less than 5 foot three inches tall, and so had missed the height minimum for the first round of conscription.

The proximity of the German and Allied lines during the first 18 months of the war, and how the opposing forces would declare impromptu cease-fires and socialize.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Color of Night by Madison Smartt Bell


Bell's Haitian novels are tremendous documents, exciting and soulful and desperate and dark. This slight novel, though, was disappointing to me. It seems to want to be his Don Delillo move, or even TC Boyle, but it had no power. The deranged former hippy chick obsessed with the twin towers falling, journeying back to her abusive childhood where she was raped by her brother from when she was 11 to 14, to her years as a drifter in the 1960s in Airzona and points west, and the Haight and LA, a sometimes hooker and then member of cult not unlike Charles Manson's storied Family: it sound melodramatic and pitch-friendly, like Bell thought it would be a movie on a page. But it's not. It stays on the page.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

King of the Badgers by Philip Hensher


A novel about privacy, society, obsession and civility. A young girl in a small town in western England is abducted. First everyone is suspected, and then, as the media horde loses interest, Hensher's lens moves in on the private lives of the town's citizen. Aint nobody squeaky clean

I enjoyed Hensher's The Northern Clemency but that did not prepare me for this. The swerve from a creepy-Church-of-Dead-Girls-suspense novel to full boxer-bunching gay orgies was unnerving. But I stuck with it!

Saturday, February 04, 2012

A Village Life by Louise Gluck and Chronic by D.A. Powell


First Snow
by Louise Gluck

Like a child, the earth's going to sleep,
or so the story goes.

But I'm not tired, it says.
And the mother says, You may not be tired but I'm tired-

You can see it in her face, everyone can.
So the snow has to fall, sleep has to come.
Because the mother's sick to death of her life
and needs silence.

This poem (for Gluck's very quiet, extraordinarily graceful volume of poems) had resonance for me. I've been struggling for some time over a poem for my very sick mother:

The Subjunctive Blues

by Sean Enright

If should could be finale of would…

We hiked on that sudden warming February day:
girls shrieking in the woods suddenly full of people,
dog splashdowns into the icy low creek,
plastic trash caught in fallen branches,
golden pools of thick scum-bubbles,
everything still dead, still completely gone, dull brown.

Ame spotted the severed foreleg of a deer
draped across a low branch,
we all circled back to look,
the white bone at the haunch showing,
the hoof and lower leg still covered with fur,
and I kept looking for other remnants as we walked back;

winter day that was the last moment of that death
before life was to begin again,
and I thought of the opposite,
the last moment of life, and you were in my mind
as you always have been this past year
who would never walk these woods again,
will essentially never walk anywhere again,

except little steps you watch from above
without any connection to your feet
this is ridiculous 1 2 3 4
and we put it to music take a little one step
two step three step come a little closer please

learning forward until something primitive in your mind
catches and your hips startle, knees quiver

and feet inch forward
always with your forehead down, searching for those steps
that got away, giving you an attitude of shame,
so cowed by your ordeal, don’t want to be seen,
and still it has not broken you; little pitfalls

of snowdrops seen here and there
through the transparent woods,
their faint sick antiseptic smell, but still,
born again, never again to die, until the next time,
free to live late winter long
like a crown on a corpse.

My poem first came after the hike with my family, and recalling this poem by Wordsworth:

To A Snowdrop
by William Wordsworth

LONE Flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

Chronic, poems by D. A. Powell, is more inscrutable to me, but I'm drawn to the poems, and titles, particularly the title "meditating upon the meaning of the line 'clams on the halfshell and rollerskates' in the song good times by chic."