brothercyst: 2006

Thursday, December 28, 2006

this will be a week of incredible slothfulness

And I will entertain no thoughts of substance.

Therefore I will be watching movies.

I saw
Apocalypto. I liked the running part. You know, when they ran.

Speaking of Mel Gibson, Lethal Weapon was on Cinemax last night. I had forgotten what an awesome and awesomely brutal movie it was. Really the ultimate eighties action film.* [update: No, you know what, I saw it again and decided it sucks except for any scenes in the last twenty minutes involving Gary Busey.]

And Point Break** was on, too. Another of the maybe seven or eight great modern action films. [update: I saw Point Break again, too, and it only gets better. What a delightful movie.]

(A list which also includes: Die Hard With a Vengeance, Raiders of the Lost Ark [more an "adventure" than an "action" film, but still],
maybe Speed, definitely Terminator 2 and Aliens...)

Also, Vizzini is trapped in Prague and becoming a danger to himself again.


* I love how they're called "action" films. I mean, they are, after all, "moving pictures."


** Kathryn Bigelow's
Point Break is the most underrated action film. It contains not only what I consider the single most pleasing chase scene ever filmed (Keanu Reeves in pursuit of a tuxedoed bank robber in a Reagan mask), but also a climactic confrontation between skydivers (one with a parachute, one without) that is uniquely ingenious, at least in my viewing of action movies.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

christmas movies

Having just watched the original Black Christmas (weak, but the young Olivia Hussey is a stunning woman) I want to simply acknowledge that the best Christmas movie ever is Joe Dante's Gremlins.

Home Land

On the bus ride home* I read most of Home Land, which I've been hearing about for well over a year. I've got maybe fifty pages left, but I love it. A Confederacy of Dunces has always had a special spot on the mantle of my heart, both because of its New Orleans setting and because I read it when I was very young, and Home Land is just as funny, just as good (all judgments pending my actual completion of the novel). I've heard other readers express exasperation with its wordplay and seemingly arbitrary plot but I had no problem with any of this. The wordplay is wonderful and patterning of language is almost Nabokovian. Sam Lipsyte is the first modern writer in a long time--since maybe Edward P. Jones--whose writing has made me think, "This guy has it--fully developed voice, talent, maybe genius."


*Fuck Greyhound. A 3.5 hour bus ride turned into 7 hours. First the police had to come on board to take away some horrible woman who refused to get off the bus after blatantly cutting in line. Our surly, trembling-with-rage driver could have handled this a lot better. Beside me a loudmouth obese lady was reading a paperback titled Soulful Strut. Later, we had to get a wheelchair-bound woman on board at another stop, and they couldn't figure out how to operate the lift, so we sat there for an hour or so...until she stood up from her wheelchair and just walked on board. And a great murmur arose as every passenger said to his or her seatmate, "She can walk?"

Saturday, December 23, 2006

moth smoke, bus, sea urchin

A horrible five-hour bus ride home. Caterwauling babies, purple-faced, punching the air...a fat lady belching, softly singing "karma cham-ee-lee-on" along with her iPod...people cutting in the line to get on and angry mobs ejecting them...horrible. I had a pleasant conversation with the fellow sitting next to me, however. I read Mohsin Hamid's novel Moth Smoke during the ride, and it was good. Effective both as a character study and a sketch of class issues in contemporary Pakistan. Its nonfiction counterpart (which is far more gripping and which has dug a comfortable niche in my memory) in my recent reading history is Bernard Henri-Levy's book Who Killed Daniel Pearl?, which explores nuclear-age fundamentalism and terror in Pakistan. I'd recommend both highly.

A while back I wrote about a mysterious sushi bar I had heard about--the "best sushi in the city"--that was up some stairs and had no sign, etc., and I couldn't locate it...well, I found that place. It's by no means hidden or secret, just... unobtrusive. I had the location wrong. I was two doors off.

On Thursday I went there and had astonishing sushi. Sea urchin--"uni"--and toro so exquisite the brain salivates in recollection. (That toro was the best food I've ever eaten. No use to try description.) Have you ever seen sea urchin, naked and raw, prepared for you to eat it? It looks exactly like a bright, orange human tongue. In many restaurants it is gross but in this one it was incredible. With regard to taste and texture--if chilled--it might best be imagined as sort of creamy foie gras ice cream.

Doesn't that sound delicious? If you doubt me, I'll have sushi with you there anytime. You pay.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

kgb blog entry

Oh, I just noticed they put up a thing on the KGB blog about Saturday's reading. Here it is. Cool, very nice. People keep asking about the video...I DON'T KNOW ABOUT THE VIDEO. I just woke up from a nap. It's 4 in the morning, I meant to wake up like six hours ago. Also, bad things are happening with the IRS, but I don't feel like writing about that now.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

a short story

I read this short story by Helen Oyeyemi a while back and loved it. I haven't reread it since its official publication, but if it's like it was before, it's awesome. Go read. Something looked in the window as it passed by.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

kgb last night [updated with pictures & dog]

Last night's reading: a success. The crowd was far bigger than I had expected--people were backed up in the hallway outside the bar. The only time I remember seeing the place more packed was for Mark Z. Danielewski when Only Revolutions came out. Also, I have to say I was pleased at how many people I know showed up--EJ (of course), Richard Grayson, Mina K., Mina K.2, Lexy, Knighton, this guy, these guys, and many others to whom there are no immediately obvious hyperlinks.

The whole thing was videotaped and is being edited. Eventually (soon, I hope) video will be available.

It's fortunate that Suzanne hosted because otherwise there might simply have been too much young maleness. Ned read an extended, graphic, wry sex scene. Noah Cicero, as promised, appeared to have a breakdown/freakout on the dais, slamming the lectern so hard it sounded like something cracked--either a bone in his hand or the wood below. Noah,
who I met in person for the first time last night, is very fucking cool. I read two short sections of Fires. Tao went last and read a handful of his poems, including several of my favorites, like this great one.

To the people who couldn't come to the reading but emailed me to buy one of the commemorative proofs: thank you, and I will mail them on Monday. They should arrive very quickly.

Fires is now available to pre-order on Amazon.com.

Here are some pictures [some people are having trouble seeing the pictures but when I click the links it looks fine to me...hm, sorry, well they'll be on the KGB website in a couple days anyway]:

The four readers.

Me reading.

Readers and friends.

Poets Tao Lin and Ellen Kennedy.


A random moment from my company's holiday party.

Dog is blind. Who will help?

Have a relaxing Sunday.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

emails with my mom

On 12/12/06, Mom wrote: Hi. Send me a copy of your book as soon as you get your hands onone. I will pay you. I am sorry I didn't buy the used galley that came up on ebay the other day. Wonder who bought it?How are things going? When do you plan on coming home forChristmas? Looking forward to seeing you again and hearing in 1stperson about new orleans and about the movie you were on the set of. Miss you. Love you,Mom


On Dec 12, 2006, at 9:53 PM, Nick Antosca wrote:are you fucking with me? there was a galley on ebay?


On 12/13/06, Mom wrote: Dear, do NOT use that language with me please!!! Love you, Mom No, I was not _________ with you. P.S. You got 6 letters from the IRS! Ouch. One a week or so ago, that i accidently opened thinking it was for me, 5 more yesterday. Do you want me to forward them or open them and tell you what they say? I only skimmed the first, then realized it wasn't mine. Sorry. Let me know what you want me to do.


On Dec 13, 2006, at 9:22 AM, Nick Antosca wrote: Oh sorry, I was just excited and tired. Six letters, what the [expletive deleted]? [expletive deleted] yes, open them please. Is one of them my [expletive deleted] federal tax return???? Or am I being audited? How did you see there was a copy on eBay???

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

soy milk, which i love

Crazy article. I drink probably half a container of soy milk every day. Ian D., please confirm that this isn't, you know, altering my sexual orientation.

books

Okay, for the record:

Fires has an official release date of December 31. It is at the printer right now.

However, there will be some copies on sale at the December 16th reading at KGB.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

New Orleans to New York

Returned last night from Louisiana. The city is really a husk now. About a third of the population remains, and you can feel it when you walk around. Restaurants and stores close early. I tried to go to Mandina's, one of the restaurants I remember from when I was younger, but it was nowhere to be seen. There are few cars on the street and we passed a number of houses with the telltale markings on them, including one with "DEAD DOG" scrawled in red paint. When some family friends returned to their street after the storm last year, they said there were dead dogs hanging in the trees.

On Friday night we drove around for a while and ended up in the French Quarter. For a time we were on Bourbon Street and for a time we were on other, darker streets. Bourbon Street at night is a surreal place now, more surreal than before. The street itself is bright and noisy and relatively populous, but when you are there you can feel the darkness surrounding you on all sides. One street over in any direction it is dark and empty. I thought of images from The Martian Chronicles when we were there--the towns of human settlers with their noise and carnival lights surrounded by the huge sad darkness of the dead civilization. The "ancient bone-chess cities...the old canals."

Later that night and for the entirety of the night before, we hung out with the cast of Last Resort in Covington (about forty minutes outside of New Orleans, across Lake Pontchartrain). The guy at whose invitation we were there, Danny Franzese, is not only an excellent and hilarious actor but a genuinely nice person. I'm talking above and beyond: the guy is just really fucking cool.

It was (quite characteristically) generous of my godfather Jon to put Ned and I up for two nights, and it was great to see him after so many years. We spent some time with him on Thursday after we arrived, then on Friday he had to go to Florida. Ideally I'll go back to Louisiana in a couple months and we'll meet up again.

Last night I spent five hours on a plane back. I enjoy flying at night. When you descend and are close enough to see not just the streetlights but the soft pools of glow below them, it looks like the earth is leaking eerie green from its center. I slept a bit but mostly I was awake.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Covington, Louisiana

It is freezing. Lingered and observed on the set of the horror movie all night. Turned out at the end of the night we are staying in the same hotel as the cast and filmmakers. New Orleans is ghostly. I'm exhausted.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Diala in Rwanda

My friend from Yale started a page about her life and experiences in Rwanda, mostly so she doesn't have to answer email asking if she's alive. It promises to be pretty interesting, go look at it.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Set

This morning I went for an amble on the set of a popular TV show. Wandered around the sets that weren't being used. Technically wasn't supposed to be there, maybe. Whatever, though. Dr. Melfi's office was too dark to take pictures. But here's T's bedroom. And Meadow's bedroom.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

A night in Brooklyn. Surreal. Furious argument on a train turned into furious argument on a street corner. Someone stalked off into the freezing night. Have to be discreet here. Felt very bad. Then a dinner party, hard to concentrate. Then a bizarre event where people dressed as Rubik's cubes. Then a crowded place, very hot, the air full of STDs as big as horseflies. When we got home, we saw our cab driver assaulted by his next "customers": some hale and swaggering frat boys who kicked his mirror off and hit him. Told a cop who nodded silently.

In the afternoon, I finished the "final" revisions of something which I will now with great relief send to the patient recipient.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

last night & biblio

Last night I was stuck at work late and then went directly to EJ's house because we were going to the Guggenheim. We were supposed to meet my roommate and her friend, who would then be able to wait in the member's line because I'm a member. But EJ and I smoked a lot and she has a problem where, when she smokes a lot, clothes confuse her and she can't decide which ones to put on. And then we were late, and in the cab over we got caught in traffic, and some tourists were ahead of us, and the little kids in the back started waving at us, and we were waving back and making shadow puppets and it seemed to go on for like ten minutes, I think the parents got a bit concerned--anyway, we ended up being more than a half hour late. By that point my roommate and her friend had gotten kicked out of the member's line since they weren't with a member, so they were stuck in a line behind maybe a thousand people. So I felt bad about that. Even the member's line took forever. Inside it was horribly crowded. But I was pretty out of it and had a good time. I had seen the exhibit once before when it opened, but this was like seeing it brand new. Then we left and went to eat, but we ate so much that we got sick. I still feel strange and things echo when I touch them.

Also, oddly, here is Biblio with Fires already. Trevor emailed me to ask when it'll be available...don't worry, soon. The physical books haven't even been printed yet (so, clearly, they won't be by December 15th, although there will be 15 "commemorative" copies printed up specially for the Dec. 16th reading, so if you show up there you can get one). It'll be available online for pre-order in a bunch of other places soon, should be the major ones plus the Impetus website, and by spring it should be available in stores like Barnes & Noble, etc.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Very busy days. A review of Jen Banash's Hollywoodland is on KGB right now. The reading Weds. night went great. Yesterday we had a company party. The president of the company is a large shaggy genius. I think I'm going to New Orleans next week.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Richard Grayson reading; deranged vagrant at B&N

Christ, I am bored at work.

I saw Richard Grayson read last night. His story was excellent ("it's like a choice between hedonism and Hasidism" is one line) and I ate some crab and artichoke dip. You should read this collection by Grayson, and this one.

Afterward I was very far from the subway so I decided finally to walk over to KGB. There was a reading there but I didn't really like it. Then I went to Barnes and Noble to look for a book. As I walked in, two skinny girls about my age were in front of me. They weren't my type (their hair was deliberately grubby and they wore those spectacularly unflattering, supertight tapered hipster jeans that you used to see only on severely mentally disabled children) but they were young and cute enough that I noticed them. I also noticed them because a deranged vagrant was following them and hollering, "Yeah, yeah, I'm gonna follow you, yeah, yeah." His tone wasn't lascivious or mocking; he seemed to think they were friends. He was walking too close and they looked freaked out. This odd trio went up the stairs to the cafe (this was Astor Place B&N) and the girls tried to find seats where the vagrant couldn't sit by them, but he grabbed a chair and dragged it over, yelling, "Here, I got one for you, sit down, sit down." By now the whole cafe was was watching. The girls looked profoundly embarrassed. What I really wanted to do was grab the vagrant by the arm and exclaim, "Dad! I've been looking all over for you!"

Monday, November 27, 2006

What is the healthiest food you can eat?

Sunday, November 26, 2006

saturday in DC, at the Phillips

Back in New York as of late last night. Managed to pirate wireless signal while in transit and spent part of the trip going over final text layout of Fires.

A large part of Saturday was spent in Washington, D.C., wandering with parents and brother. The Phillips Collection is one of the better art collections I have ever visited. (It caused my mother to say what she says whenever we go to a gallery: "Huh, this makes me want to go do art.") We saw some memorable Paul Klee pieces like

The Witch with the Comb:




and

Figure from the Oriental Stage:



Another piece that made me happy was Fugue by Nicolas de Staƫl, but it is useless to post an image, which can't convey the pleasing texture.

Friday, November 24, 2006

less violent than thanksgiving football, technically

If you're between the ages of 15 and 30 and you grew up anywhere near skateboarders (that is, pretty much anywhere in America) there's a decent chance you've seen this obnoxiously scored video clip of pro skater Mike Vallely getting into a parking lot brawl with "4 [j]ocks" who called him a "skater fag."



(Trivia: one of the guys standing around who breaks up the fight is Tony Hawk, and the cameraman is Bam Margera.) The clip is notorious for Vallely's apparently unflinching reaction to facing four aggressors and how quickly and brutally he knocks the grins off their faces. Now
here's one of the "4 [j]ocks" on the news, years later. He has a lot of gel in his hair. Apparently he just heard about the video and decided to sue, claiming he and his friends never said anything to provoke Vallely. I don't know. Vallely seems like an unbelievable hothead. But I find the guy's claim hard to believe. As one of the Youtube commenters says, "What a crybaby. If Vallely had been the one who started the fight, those douchebags wouldn't have all been circled around him with dumb grins on their faces."

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Distribution

Fires, it turns out, is going to have good distribution and be at the very least available all over the place. So either it'll be on hand in your local bookstore, or you can order it from your local bookstore (and of course online)... anyway, excellent.
Been exhausted for the past week. No more than five hours of sleep any night until Sunday. Dylan concert and Guggenheim opening (Spanish painting; EJ and I proved our philistinism; her observation re: a nude circa. 1800--"Look, she's had a Brazilian"; my analysis of a gorgeous Dali--"Makes me want a pomegranate") were much-needed respites from work but still contributed to exhaustion.

Struggling to create decent jacket copy for Fires even as publication date approaches. So excruciating to summarize one's own novel. Must get it done so the motherfucker can be published, though. Fell asleep on the subway this morning.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Not a 007 fan, but not only is Daniel Craig a superb James Bond, Eva Green is without peer as a Bond girl. The final act of the flick, though, is tedious. Except for the nail gun thing.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Bob Dylan at Meadowlands + Jack White

Saw Dylan play last night with Jack White--of the White Stripes--and the Raconteurs.* Very good show: Dylan turned "It's All Right Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" into a grinding, cruel hard rock song that was probably the single best number of the night. "All Along the Watchtower" was terrific, too. He played about half the new album. It was harsh, alive. White did a rambling, grimy cover of "Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)." The difference in styles between the two performers was extreme. White hops and jumps and jokes all over the stage like a natural rock star, while Dylan still does his stoic bluesman act, never moving from his keyboard, not even really facing the audience, and not speaking except to introduce his band at the end. His voice is in stronger-than-expected shape, however, and at least to my untrained ear, both his band's playing and the arena's sound system were absolutely tops.

*Thanks, EJ.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Lost mind today. Work so excruciating...endless avalanches of numbers...what the fuck do I know about finance. A thirteen hour day...hours to come...then swimming...line-editing of Love Misery coming along...losing mind again and again...Transparent Things pleasing on the subway. Fuck! Darren Aronofsky last night, good talk at the Apple store. Reading Jen Banash's book too, almost done. What do other people like to read when they write?

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Left eyelid has been twitching uncontrollably for about eight hours. What does this mean.
Left eyelid has been twitching uncontrollably for about eight hours. What does this mean.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

reading, artemis

So, reading tonight. Come see. Thanks.

***

Memorable night. I'm taking off work today (mostly because I have a ton of stuff to do, including go to the doctor, go to Fed Ex, and pick out a scene to read tonight, but also because of my toxic-of-late work environment, where I am stuck in an office alone with an ex-girlfriend for eight hours a day) so I was able to stay out very late last night. Ned and I went to a party at the Hotel QT, which is a great place to go because unlike a normal bar, this one is adjoined by a swimming pool and sauna, so you can go swimming, then walk through crowds of elegantly-dressed people while barefoot and wearing nothing but dripping swim trunks (or in Ned's case, boxer shorts) and no one bats an eye. We had wandered into a birthday party for some short gay guy wearing a beret who knew lots of really tall women. We met a couple of particularly interesting people. One or two we may meet again. Early on in the evening I took a break from the party to talk via cell phone to Willy Blackmore of Impetus for a while about final design details.

After we left, we were sitting on the train when this guy beside me started yanking some of the subway advertisements out of their metal and plastic cases. After the second one, I said, "What are you planning to do with those?" and Ned said, "Yeah, are they valuable?" And the guy says, "Soon to be!" Then with a blue ballpoint pen he starts sketching us on the back of one of the posters. The whole time, he's talking about Picasso and how this is what Picasso use to do--scribble a lot of lines, and then the lines would come together. He also mentioned his admiration for "that hispanic guy"--it turned out he was talking about Basquiat. Oh, and his name was Artemis. Artemis finished his sketch just in time, as we reached Chambers Street, and then I offered to buy it from him, an idea which unsurprisingly he didn't reject, and we continued talking for a bit.

He said, "You know how it's like, you go to the airport to get on a plane, and you go to the desk, and they like, 'That's your flight that you got to get on,' and you like [whispers with skeptical face] 'That ain't the flight I was planning to get on.' [Eyebrows raised, voice low.] That's the plane to hell."



I'm the one on the left that looks like George W. Bush. Ned is on the right, bearded like young Santa Claus. Don't we look gentle? Not a bad sketch, considering that he did it in roughly eight minutes, sketching with one hand while gripping the paper in the air with the other and holding a rapid conversation the whole time.

***

Considering that control of the Senate has now come down to Virginia, I'm particularly glad I spent some time in the past week calling Virginia voters in support of Webb, who is ahead by about 8,000 votes right now. His Republican opponent, George Allen, is "a bigot and a bully," as Hendrik Hertzberg wrote in
The New Yorker last week. Hertzberg also perfectly described Allen's selective use of violent or sexual passages from Webb's novels to smear him as "a tactic that combines prurience with philistinism."* Now let's hope the cabal of Republican lawyers that have surely already descended on Virginia will not manage to drag 8,001 elephants out of their hats.


* Hendrik Hertzberg. Bigot bully. Prurience philistinism. Did I stutter?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

curriculum

I am told Fires is going to be taught in some Intro to Lit classes this spring alongside Less Than Zero, which is highly pleasing. (No, not at Yale. At a large midwestern state school. I will post details at the beginning of the spring semester. Superstition discourages me from doing so earlier.)

Saturday, November 04, 2006

reading & release date

Two things. If you're reading this you probably got an email about the reading I'm doing next week. Info below. The Boxcar Lounge is small and strangely shaped, so arrive on time for decent seats.

November 8 - New York, NY
Class of 2007 Reading Series @ Boxcar Lounge
w/Nick Antosca
Tyler Antrim
Jami Attenberg (Host)
Ellis Avery
Bob Powers
8 PM


The other thing is that in the email I sent out, I got the release date of the novel wrong--it's not in two months, it's in like five or six weeks, so before Christmas. Like December 15. Cool.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Fidelity

This is a great music video--and she's beautiful--except that it's a mistake to have a second human face appear. They should have made the guy who shows up at the end wear a mask.

Monday, October 30, 2006

9/11 apocalypse dream, impetus blog, and other things

I realize I've been describing a lot of dreams lately, and they are by definition of interest only to me, and no one wants to hear about my stupid dreams.

In that spirit, here's one I had last night.

I was back in high school, but it was in California and it was a boarding school that resembled Calhoun College. It was afternoon of graduation day and everyone was bustling around, waiting until we could go outside for some sort of barbecue event. Then news started trickling in--via other students, then parents who started arriving--that there'd been some kind of catastrophic plane-related disaster in the eastern United States. A plane had hit something on the ground and exploded, and the explosion was on a nuclear level. It wasn't like 3,000 people had been killed, it was like the Eastern Seaboard was razed. People couldn't quite believe it; we were going about our daily schedules saying, "What happened...does anybody really know what happened?" We kept preparing the graduation barbecue in the courtyard. My dad's car pulled up on the lawn and he jumped out and said, "This is serious. This is serious." But people ignored him. Then everyone saw that the sky was dark red outside the window. We went outside and saw a huge red-black cloud rolling in from the east. People were scared. They knew that cloud was going to kill us. Something spilled out of the cloud, an avalanche of skulls--thousands of human skulls arced forward into the courtyard and covered the grass. I picked one up. Because they were so ash-covered and smooth we hoped they might be old skulls, not from people who had just died (implying that we were about to), but then I turned one over and found a knot of fresh, squishy flesh still stuck to it*.

More news began to spread about the plane that crashed--its fuel had been replaced with some kind of accelerant that caused the massive explosion and red incinerating cloud. And now it was thought that this had been done to lots of other planes still in the sky. So at any moment there would be more explosions, and the red cloud would burn across America in every direction, and the whole country would just be covered in so many bones you couldn't see the grass. A plane came screaming across the sky, in flames, and landed somewhere outside the school, but there was no huge explosion. Someone said, "We got lucky with that one," and people started eating the barbecue. My dad took me aside and said, "We need to get out of here. The only way we're going get ahead of this cloud is if we fly to Japan. I've made arrangements for us [meaning our whole family]. We need to go now, so say goodbye to whoever you want to really, really fast." I said, "I don't want to say goodbye to anyone, let's just go." Then I woke up.

*remember when you were a kid and your baby teeth came out? and sometimes there would be a little wet knot of red flesh still attached to the root of the tooth? that's what this looked like.

*****

Impetus Press has a blog now: theimpetusblog.blogspot.com.

Pleasing! Go read it. Will have info and regular updates.

*****

I went to another Moveon.org thing on Sunday, but this one sucked. They wanted us to call callers, not voters, and get them to commit to calling at certain hours...I don't know. I didn't feel comfortable bothering people like that, so I got up and left. I'll call actual undecided voters again sometime, though.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

You would think MoveOn.org calling parties would mostly be staffed by energetic young people in black-framed glasses

Yesterday I went to a "calling party" run by Moveon.org. We were calling people in Virginia about the Jim Webb/George Allen senate race. Earlier this weekend, the George Allen campaign (Allen is the incumbent Republican, Webb is the Democrat [who used to be a Republican and is a Vietnam vet and bestselling author]) pulled some seriously pathetic shit. They dug through all of Webb's novels, picked out sexual passages, and tried to make it seem like he's a pervert. Who the fuck are these people?

In any case, the calling party was held in a volunteer's Manhattan duplex penthouse on 14th Street. This was one of the most
stunning apartments I've seen in New York. Staggering view. He also had an entire wall full of old LPs and a huge turntable set-up for DJing. Forty people, roughly, showed up, and were sitting everywhere just calling on their cell phones. I'm pretty sure I was the youngest person there. Most of them were friendly, charming women in their fifties and sixties, and there was slightly lower but still significant attendance from the disheveled fifty-ish intellectual male contingent. Just about everyone was really nice and they ate a lot of grapes and drank soda. So we called Virginia voters nonstop for a couple hours and encouraged people to go vote for Webb in November. Now and then people would hang up on me, but a fair number of people were like, "I just hate George Allen," to which I would be like, "That's cool, just make sure you actually vote for the other guy."

I'm going to another such event today at the Moveon.org headquarters in midtown, if I can make it.

UPDATE: MoveOn.org asks bloggers to post the link or whatever to their Call for Change program. For the record, it's a good experience, it's really easy and user-friendly, and it isn't stressful.


Call For Change


***

On Friday, I saw Cocaine Cowboys, a mesmerizing documentary about the cocaine trade in Miami in the seventies and eighties. These random people just started making unimaginable amounts of money by importing tons upon tons of cocaine into south Miami when lots of people still didn't even know what the drug was. A hit man for the Columbian cartel is interviewed (as described in the link above). He's in jail for thirty murders and is suspected of many more. He talks about how his people got into a dispute with some New Yorkers, so they sent him up to New York for a day, and he killed eleven people in twenty-four hours. The thing about this guy, Rivi, is he doesn't seem scary--he has what you might call kind eyes. He really does. When a cop describes another killer as "Rivi without the class," you understand how he could say that. This Rivi person was responsible for extreme cruelty, but if you met him without knowing what he was, your instincts wouldn't tell you to be afraid.

***

Halloween. I told somebody not thirty-six hours ago that I never go out for Halloween or New Years parties, which was true until last night. Went to three or four, one in a beautiful, ramshackle apartment on Chrystie Street, where I met a Russian girl and was humbled by her ability to match and outdo me in a conversation about books. A guy I know from school has just returned from teaching in Korea for a year (something I might like to do) and he came with us. Teaching in Korea you get paid over $30,000, tax-free, and your housing is free. That's better than I do now. And you don't even have to speak Korean.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

a pleasing feeling

I have a galley of Fires (which arrived this morning in a package from Impetus) in my hand. It is a curious feeling. I tend to think of my books as things on a computer. I flip through the galley and the font looks good. The paper feels right. Excellent. I'm like, Shit, I remember writing this. Oh, this part, too. Huh. Wow.

UPDATE: I keep showing the galley to people. This is also a pleasing feeling.

birds did it

I just woke up from a strange dream in which I went to a Jewish-themed party where they were serving mashed potatoes and sauerkraut (which I'm fairly sure is not traditional Jewish food). In Brooklyn. People I knew were there, and war veterans gave short speeches, but no one clapped. A beautiful brunette got in the elevator to leave, so I got in the next elevator down. But the elevator tilted, and the further down it went, the more it started getting crushed, so the walls were closer and closer and metal was screeching. A little kid screamed. Downstairs, I got out shaken but alive. The girl was gone. I started wandering the city streets--in the rain--trying to get back to Wall Street. Someone pointed me toward a parking garage. Inside, I met a woman who spoke mostly Spanish and was trying to get home to her kids. Together we looked for the way out, but we were going lower and lower. Everything was filling with water. A ramp ended, blocked with wrecked cars, and we started climbing down some poles that were beside the ramp, trying to get further into the garage. But we were horrified to see that we weren't in the garage anymore, but sort of a half-swamp, half-junkyard. The poles were really trees, and everything below them was water. It was like the Everglades, the trees just coming out of the water, and no land to stand on. We had nowhere to go, and the garage and ramp had disappeared. The woman who spoke only Spanish was up to her mouth in water. Disgusting fish swam around in it. There was something wrong with them, they were bloated and could only swim very slowly. I was higher in the tree than the woman, who kept gasping, and I noticed that in a tree beside me, only two feet away, there was another person--an older guy with white hair. He was tied to the tree by his neck, with tight copper wire. He couldn't move. I said, "How did you get here?" And he said, "Ornithology."

Thursday, October 26, 2006

inventory

This past month has been stressful.

Time for bullet points.
  • I was really sick, almost delirious.
  • Galleys stuff is happening, slowly. This is exciting.
  • I stopped seeing someone I was seeing for a long time.
  • Revising the other novel is making tears of blood come from my eyes. But I like it.
  • I got angry at someone in line for a movie and grabbed his neck and someone pulled me off.
  • A chubby person took all the furniture from our living room. How bad is it that when I'm angry at a fat person for something unrelated to their fatness, I repeatedly point out their fatness?
  • She wouldn't even be pretty if she were thin.
  • I bought so many books and they're sitting beside the bed, looking at me, like dogs, expecting me to read them.
  • It's hard not to grab people by the neck when they're pushy.
  • I stare at the ceiling a lot and feel full of rage.
  • I received an amount of money that seemed to me tremendous, and already it is gone and I have less money than I did before.
  • I went to an event where there were some people I really needed to talk to about something, and for some reason I didn't talk to them, and they left, and now I have to wait two weeks to get it over with. Fuck.
  • Somebody I trust keeps telling me I'm a horrible person. It's true.
  • I worried that Fires isn't going to be in many bookstores. And that people will have to already know it exists to buy it.
  • My roommate got hit in the head and her scalp was stapled and she seemed to be in a lot of pain.
  • It's cold.
  • I want to strangle almost everything I see, including intangible things, like good judgment. I'm going to lure good judgment into a back room with friendly talk, then strangle it slow.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A pretty remarkable election season

Article subhed: "GOP frontrunner: I have never had sex with a man"

dead prostitute

A friend I haven't spoken to for a long time emailed me yesterday saying this:

Nick,
I had a dream the other night that someone found a dead prostitute in your room, and I was trying to convince everyone that you were really a great guy and that you'd probably befriended her and were in no way involved with her death. What do you suppose that means?


Probably nothing, don't worry about it.

Monday, October 23, 2006

October 2006, the Martian Canal

I'm rereading The Martian Chronicles yet again. The chapters are all dated, as the book takes place over a period in the future as Bradbury envisioned it. The last chapter is...October 2006.

This actually lends a certain additional poignancy to the book, which is pretty haunting anyway.

***

I had lunch yesterday with my friend Alex, who I haven't seen in a long time, maybe a year. Dinner with another Alex. Wandered a bookstore. Saw Todd Solondz.

Except for that lunch and dinner, I didn't leave my apartment this weekend.

***

My roommate went to The Knitting Factory last night and one of the performers threw a bottle into the crowd. It hit my roommate and she had to get her scalp stapled. She came home covered in blood.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Galleys: exist



I like my publishers. They sent camera-phone pictures to my cell phone when the galleys arrived from the printer.

Monday, October 16, 2006

behind the green door

Apparently there's a stellar sushi place on 47th St.--"the north side of the street, between 5th and 4th"--where there's no sign, only a green door, and no external indication whatsoever of a restaurant within. I heard about it from this old guy in my regular sushi bar who got really drunk and started talking about it, and who also unexpectedly picked up my fairly exorbitant check. He told me a bunch of other, in some cases quite disturbing, stories, but never mind that. This green door place, he claims it's the best sushi in the city. So I went looking for it today. I couldn't find it, so I stopped into one of the diamond stores in the area.

To the old woman there I said: "Odd question, sorry to bother you, but have you ever heard of this sushi restaurant around here...there's no sign, it's just a green door..."

Old Woman (heavy Israeli accent): "Uh, no idea, sorry..."

Young Woman Assistant, sidling over: "Best sushi in the city, right?"

Me: "Yeah, that's what I'm told."

YW: "I've actually heard about something like that, it's supposed to be right down there. No sign..."

So I go over in the direction she's pointing, and sure enough there's a blank storefront with a green door. Indeed, the whole front of this building is covered in this weird green metal pattern (the address is 15 W. 47th St., right by the Mercantile Library) and on the door there's a tiny piece of paper taped that says, "Call [number without area code] to be let in the door, thanks!" I try a bunch of area codes with the number, even though it should be 212 given the location, and none of the combinations connects me to anyone who has any idea what I'm talking about. I ask a woman from the Mercantile Library what the green place is, and she says, "Used to be a Japanese restaurant...I think they closed."

So I gave up for the afternoon, but I'm far from finished. Maybe I have the wrong storefront, or maybe I've been tricked.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

epigraph page for Fires


click for big, then expand.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

if I were a high school senior this might make me not want to go to Yale

Shit, I remember hearing about this Aleksey Vayner guy almost two years ago. And I remember hearing all these bizarre stories secondhand, mostly from my ex-girlfriend who had a class with him. The ironical townspeople of the internet are roasting the guy alive right now. I don't like the tone of glee; the whole thing seemed hilarious when he was just a joke on campus, but now that it's inexplicably national news, everything about it feels distasteful. I wonder if he believes the things he says? Maybe they will make his story into a movie starring Leonardo DiCaprio or someone.

Monday, October 09, 2006

sick again

Fires went to the printer for galleys tonight. Soon they will exist and reviewers, I guess, and other blurb people will start getting them. Cool.

Our living room looks bizarre. One wall remains hideous pink, and there are some folding chairs and a shitty beanbag chair filling in for whatever sofa or chairs we get to replace the Ikea stuff the roommate took. But in the middle sits a beast of a table that's so heavy it may one day crash through the floor. Who knew glass could weigh so much? The tabletop--the massive slab of glass--isn't attached to the base in any way, so it appears you could just lift it up, even if just a little. But put your hand under it and try to lift, and your mind will at first refuse to comprehend the level of resistance. "What is this?" your mind will say, "Nothing's holding it down...mere glass couldn't be this heavy...is this...is it...kryptonite?" You could jump on this thing and it wouldn't break.

My head is full of cotton and weeds lately. Can't even think remotely creative thoughts. Partly this has to do with being sick, I think, but also there are just, you know, cycles of wretchedness.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

muscles hurt

We hauled a beautiful 200+ lb. glass & iron table into my apartment yesterday evening; I'll be honest, it nearly broke me. I was in pain this morning. Unfortunately this morning I was also supposed to raft down the Hudson, from 56th St. to Battery Park. And I did. The rowing was fun but there was no rest. Now my muscles are screaming.

At midnight I saw the Borat movie at the New Yorker Festival. I enjoyed it, then returned to thinking about how good The Departed was.

Yesterday morning our vaguely bovine ex-roommate came (towing her vaguely, uh, glirine boyfriend, I think) to our apartment unannounced and took a bunch of furniture. That was a nasty thing to do. And yet, to paraphrase an insult dubiously attributed to Winston Churchill, in a week or two we'll have new furniture, but she'll still be fat, squealing, stupid, living with her parents in Jersey, and under the impression that hot pink is a really great color.

I think I might go see Departed again tonight. Or maybe go see Kelly Link at KGB Bar.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

This is just to say

that I have seen The Departed, which came out last night, and it is so fucking good I can't believe how fucking good it is.

Forgive me, I don't mean to overhype the thing, but EVERY MINUTE IS DELICIOUS. I was twitching with glee by the end.

Scorsese's last two movies have been mannered and interesting. Aviator was architecturally solid but never really, so to speak, lifted off the ground. A good movie but you could anticipate everywhere it was going and it was "good" in standard ways. The Departed is a nutty, digressive, ferociously colorful movie, though, and you'll know it right off--as soon as the first lines of Nicholson's philosophical narration turn into a racist rant, and when moments later we see him casually shoot a woman in the head and then chuckle, "She fell funny." This is, like, the first two or three minutes. Later on Nicholson just goes to crazytown and builds a condo there. It's not the land of Howard Hughes and Katherine Hepburn--and thank heaven. Scorsese's best since Goodfellas? Absolutely. (Incidentally, I also liked it much more than Infernal Affairs, of which it's a remake.) Maybe even his best since Raging Bull. And unquestionably his most purely entertaining movie ever. God, it's good.

Seriously, go see this thing. It kills.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Fires cover art, posted


Here is the cover art for Fires.

As I noted earlier, it might still be tweaked a little and of course the text on the back will be different since the book will have flaps but the galley won't.

I like the cover image a lot.

Monday, October 02, 2006

weekend

Had dinner last week with Richard Grayson, author of the excellent With Hitler in New York and I Brake for Delmore Schwartz, among other things. Grayson reminds me a bit of one of my best friends, to whom Fires is dedicated. With Hitler in New York is probably the best short story collection I've read in the past year or so(although it's several decades old, if I'm not mistaken) since Last Night.

Saw the BODIES exhibit, which was really informative and I learned a lot. I learned that the Chinese government has lots of dead people lying around, and that bodies are disgusting.

Saw Army of Shadows Sunday afternoon. Good movie, though it felt long. Not quite as pristine as Le Samurai, but more vital-feeling (as well as more conscious of death--hardly a coincidence). Ate delicious ravioli afterward.

Revisions on an intermediate novel formerly titled both Love Misery and The Graves are taking place right now. Excruciatingly slowly due to Fires and life in general. But to be completed in six weeks or less, I hope. Midnight Picnic is in stasis, simmering.

Last night I dreamed Fires came out and someone reviewed it--a former classmate, though a fictional one existing only for the purposes of the dream*--and wrote something like "His novel is all right, but his blog is better." Literally my worst nightmare in memory.

*I hated most of my Yale classmates but I could have kept it better hidden. Now they are all media interns or journalists.

Friday, September 29, 2006

In my dream last night a very popular film came out and contained a scene where something really bad happened to someone--I'm not sure what it was but it happened in a grocery store line and was done by a person in a Phantom of the Opera mask and was very violent. Everyone saw this movie and couldn't stop talking about it. Finally I went to see it. Then I saw that I was the person in the movie to whom the bad thing happened. I kept saying, "That's me, can't you see that? This movie is a threat! They're saying that's going to happen to me!" But people didn't believe me.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

I also dream that I go to a subway station and the train doesn't come and the crowd is full of people with ugly faces.

having strange dreams

Man, I am having the strangest dreams lately. A lot of my dreams involve me having to crawl through very small spaces--like the house I live in will have a door the height of my knees and I'll have to crawl through it every day while wearing a backpack--or walk down extremely rickety staircases. In one dream, 50 Cent was performing outside the window of a house while I had to walk down a crazy staircase inside. I also dream a lot about big dogs, usually swimming or just staring.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Tao Lin writes about his life as a hamster.

Tao and I were roommates in New York for a while; now he lives in Florida and angers people with his blog.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The brash but now charmingly domesticated (by his girlfriend) Marty Beckerman was in town yesterday from D.C., so naturally we went to see Jackass Number Two. Marty and I are pretty different writers but we've known each other for a while now and get along well, despite intense political differences in the past. I'm looking forward to his next rambunctious book, whenever it comes out (Simon and Schuster utterly screwed him over and he's looking for a new publisher). Jackass Two has a guy sticking a fishhook through his cheek and jumping in shark-infested waters. Anaconda bites look painful. The elderly people skits always make me laugh the hardest. We went to Brooklyn and got lost a little; that was kind of painful as well. Also we saw a terrible martial arts movie about magic elephants or something. Good times.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Crowley news

The 25th Anniversary Edition of John Crowley's Little, Big from Incunabula is confirmed. It is a subscription edition and the tremendous cost meant they wouldn't produce it unless a lot of people signed up first. A lot of people did, including me, and now it is going to happen.

The "Trade Edition" ($95, 1,800 copies, I ordered one) and "Numbered Edition" ($250, 300 copies) are not completely sold out and people can still order them at the first site linked to above. The "Lettered Edition" ($900, jesus christ, only 26 copies) is sold out.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

...

Man, Modern Times is such a terrific album. Sublime--and far better than the last two, which were good but not great. "Workingman's Blues #2" is fast becoming one of my favorite Dylan songs ever. Tracks 2, 8, 9, and 10: also stellar.

Modern Times and The Greatest are my favorite albums of recent years, I think.

***

Internet denizens will often seize upon some offhand sentence in a "mainstream media" article and use it to both attack the author and to ostensibly demonstrate the breadth of their own intellects. Here's a particularly baffling example. Notice this guy's list of "experimental fiction"--which includes such formalistically radical books as The Corrections, Underworld, and CivilWarLand in Bad Decline. His list serves as evidence against his own argument.

Monday, September 18, 2006

weekend

Although I woke up with a sore throat this morning, this past weekend had to be the best time I've had all year. Pure hedonism from beginning to end. Indifference to consequences. There's carnal pleasure in spending money carelessly. Late Saturday night EJ and I were in Central Park and there was a convention of police dogs. I'm just stating a fact: there was a convention of police dogs. Before that we ate an exhausting amount of sushi and oysters. On Sunday morning we had a breakfast of lobster bisque, crepes, eggs norwegian, hazelnut waffles, creme brulee, and sorbet. Last night we ate more. I'm reading a good book although I didn't read any of it this weekend.

Sunday afternoon on Spring Street a woman took pictures of us with an antique camera and we bought two of them. Here's a glamorous-looking one. The photo is so fuzzy and softened that you can't even tell I'm wearing glasses.



Tonight, of course, I am reading with other Impetus authors at KGB. If you're reading this you probably got the email about it. Either way you're invited. Should be interesting.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

I forgive Brooklyn

I've been feeling very irritated with certain aspects of New York in the last 36 hours.

Last night and this morning I went to
Brooklyn Book Festival events.

The first one was a reception last night prior to the Festival. It was in DUMBO, Brooklyn, in a place called the Tobacco Warehouse. I have a preexisting contempt for this venue for reasons related to my day job that I won't go into here. It is a ruined old warehouse with no roof that sits under a bridge--a place only trolls should go, really. To get there I only had to go one or two stops into Brooklyn, but it still took me an hour because the area is not clearly described on maps (at least the ones I found on the internet) and pedestrians were giving me the wrong information. I walked around for maybe half an hour before I found it, which doesn't sound so awful, except that it was pouring rain and the wind was slashing around and beating up my frail little umbrella and I was wearing jeans that seemed to be made from sea sponges and the streets all had violent little ponds in them. And as I trudged around, looking at my increasingly sodden map but unwilling to give up because after all I had come to Brooklyn already (it is a great distance psychologically if not geographically), my mind was chanting, "I hate being in Brooklyn. I hate being in Brooklyn. I hate being in Brooklyn. "

Please understand that I am not insulting the people of Brooklyn or those who love it. It is simply a matter of taste, like hating Indian food (which I do). Brooklyn has always reminded me of the bland, low cities in Maryland near the place where I mostly grew up. Or even Bayonne, New Jersey. It looks to me like Nowhere In Particular. I don't like the skyline and the hipster infestation only reinforces my bias.

The event itself, location notwithstanding, was cool and I enjoyed myself. Lots of food, nice people to talk to, etc.

Then this morning I woke up and it was time to go to the festival itself, mostly because I wanted to talk to the good people of Impetus, who had a table there and were selling Hollywoodland and The Dream Sequence. After convincing myself to actually go, I stepped out of the train station at Borough Hall and the weather was beautiful. My destination was immediately in sight and there was no chance of getting lost. Everything was bright and warm and the area kind of actually looked like 14th St.-Union Square. I felt great. I immediately and ashamedly forgave Brooklyn for the previous night.

***

On a more general note, the MTA is a wretched and infuriating organization. I tried to get a downtown 6 train from 33rd St. today, only a few hours ago, and found myself waiting for almost thirty minutes. (Fucking unreliable bastards...you wouldn't see this shit happen in Seoul, dammit.) Finally I went back up to the street to try and get a cab. But there weren't any to be found. So I descended into the subway again just as the train was pulling in. I tried to swipe my card but for some reason (although it is unlimited ride) it wouldn't work. There was no time to fuck around or I'd be waiting another hour or something. So I jumped the turnstile. I heard a guy, presumably an MTA employee, yell behind me, but I was already jumping on the train just as the doors closed. Fucking assholes. If the MTA were a single person, I would want to kick him repeatedly in the throat and genitals.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

about to sleep, but

I'd like to note that I just got a quick look at the rough cover for Fires, and it is fucking killer.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Cat Power good, Irving Plaza bad

Last night: Cat Power concert at Irving Plaza. At the end, when the concert seemed to be over, she kept singing and they lowered a screen down in front of her face while she was still singing, blocking her from the audience. She peered around it and continued to sing for a minute or two, but to Irving Plaza I say: very poorly handled, my friends.

Chan Marshall herself: all smiles. Backed up by the Memphis Blues Band. Her voice in terrific shape. On-stage freakouts of the kind about which I'd been warned in advance were not to be seen (no squirrel-chasing), and her childishly inept twitch-dancing was actually pretty sexy. Without the band, she played about four songs combined into one on piano, starting out on "I Found a Reason" and wandering into the others. Then the band returned and "Naked if I Wanted To" became "Nude as the News" and, later on, a seemingly spontaneous cover of "Satisfaction." Then the band started leaving and she began to sing "Crazy" by Gnarls Barkley, which is a much, much better (and less annoying) song when sung by Cat Power.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

strange dream involving "water tigers" and my past

Sometimes I write down my dreams right after I wake up, and this one was so vivid and odd, I think I'll post it:

9/10/06: In the dream I was about 18 or 19. My family went to visit the home of some people we've been friends with for a long time (in "real life" they were our neighbors when I was very young). I'll call them Dave and June. In the dream they had a kid who was about my age (this kid was also someone I used to know outside of the dream, although he was not the son of our neighbors). The home where we went to visit them was out in the woods, newly built. It seemed to be just outside of Houston, Texas. We walked around in the forest with them outside their house. The other kid, whose name was Evan, was saying rather menacing things to me. I couldn't get rid of the feeling that I was in serious danger. There were three dogs around us, all of them large and brindled, like pit bull mixes, but bigger than pit bulls. Then the father, Dave, took out a massive gun--it was a gun the size of that huge rifle the villain uses at the end of Robocop. (This is based I think on an incident from my childhood where I went over to our neighbors' house--the same neighbors featured in the dream--and he showed me an unbelievable collection of weaponry. I was about seven, I think. He worked for the government and had a small arsenal in his home, including assault rifles that it would be unthinkable for a regular citizen to own.) He fired this massive rifle at a patch of ground some distance away. It blasted a little crater in the earth, and in the crater a sort of jellyish skin formed. It was a little bigger around than a manhole cover and it was slightly stiff, so that when I went to retrieve it and pick it up, it retained its shape. It was like a giant, thick contact lens.

I lifted it up to the sky and looked through it. It distorted colors and the sky was purple--it was like being in a swimming pool and looking up at the sky from underwater. Then something happened--I entered what seemed to be a dream within the dream. To the best of my knowledge this has never happened to me before. In the dream within the dream, I was still in the woods outside Houston Texas. But something very bad was going to happen. The sky was dark and when I looked into the distance there was a mountain covered in yellow grass and a dog or a man (I can't remember) was standing on the top of it, looking at me. Either the dog was very dark and brindled or the man was wearing a long dark fur coat. Whatever it was had glowing eyes that had no white, they were just pupils. I started to run. Whatever it was was chasing me. I ran toward a concrete compound that seemed to be in the desert, and it changed into a rock formation that was like a rock formation I remember climbing on with my dad as a little kid. Then I realized that I was being chased not through physical space but through a landscape of my own memories. This thing that was chasing me--it seemed at this point to be in the shape of a human being about my age--could leap very far. I could leap too, but not as far, so I had to try and outwit the thing. I ran across an open field but the thing was behind me and could go faster and was quickly closing the distance, so I ducked inside

a building that had many underground passageways. The building was the library I went to when I was young. I tricked the thing that was chasing me by doubling back many times, and when I emerged from the library I was in an idyllic field with a nice, shady tree. There was a naked, motionless woman, possibly a very realistic statue, holding a banner that said, "High School." That made me strangely relieved. I could feel that the thing was still chasing me, but it didn't know where I was.

Then I woke up from the dream within a dream. I was not awake in "reality" though, I was just in a shallower level of dreaming. In this part of the dream my family was in the news. Apparently while driving through Houston (in the dream, Houston was a coastal city, and driving through it you could look out your car window and see huge waves in the ocean) we had managed to kill something called a "water tiger" that lived in the ocean by booing at it. We didn't even know what a "water tiger" was. It turned out that it was a regular bulldog that had somehow become an aquatic creature. When we looked out on the ocean outside Houston, we could see bulldogs paddling around in the ten-story-tall waves. I wondered what they ate out there and then I saw a bored-looking one eat a floating kiwi fruit, and I wondered how many floating kiwi fruits there could really be in the ocean off the coast of Houston, Texas. It seemed that "water tigers" were very beloved to the people of Houston, and my little brother had booed at one, which somehow caused it to get covered in bloody scars and die, and then its carcass washed up on the beach, and the city of Houston was angry at our family.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Impetus interview at PopMatters

Pleasing: Impetus Press-masters Jennifer Banash and Willy Blackmore are interviewed here at PopMatters. Go read it. I'm about to. Also come to the reading on September 18th at KGB.

new Amis story

Martin Amis has a story about Muhammad Atta. He talked about this story a little bit at the New Yorker festival two years ago, but it sounded then like he was talking about novel. Or maybe I'm misremembering.

I keep trying to read it and somehow my eyes wander away and my brain goes numb after about five sentences.

Uh, somebody else read it and tell me if it's good.

I liked his story about the Saddam Hussein doubles , "In the Palace of the End," that came out a couple years ago.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The Shield is one of the best stories being told in the 21st Century

This post has nothing to do with novel-writing or novel-reading (although right now I'm rereading The Black Dahlia... more on that later, maybe). I want to ramble about the only TV show that I think is or has been great since the mid-nineties Simpsons.

The Shield, an hour-long police drama airing on the FX Network and set to begin its sixth season in a few months, is one of the most complex and profound American stories being told right now. Most TV sucks but a few writers in the last fifteen years have taken advantage of the unique long-form storytelling possibilities available in the medium. I watched the first two Shield episodes again last night at a friend's house and was reminded of how skillfully and with what affecting results the show's creator, Shawn Ryan, and staff writers have followed Faulkner's edict that "the young man or woman writing today" ought to explore "the old verities and truths of the heart...love and honor and pity and pride and compassion and sacrifice."

(And here I ought to note that crucial plot details lie ahead. Probably. This being blog-writing, it's off the top of my head.)

The Shield's
protagonist, Vic Mackey, is both a cop and a cop-killer. The show's pilot episode ends as he and another cop pull off the calculated murder of their new teammate. (And disturbingly enough, Mackey is no outright villain, no Tony Soprano character. Let me digress here and note that while I enjoy and respect The Sopranos, I feel it is vastly overrated. The Shield has it by the balls in every way. As The Sopranos has slowly declined in quality over the years, The Shield has increased, building to epic levels of betrayal and tension in the fourth and fifth seasons. Even in terms of daring content, The Shield comes out on top despite the constraints of appearing on basic cable. Nothing in The Sopranos, even Tony sawing off Ralphie's head, can compare to the scene in The Shield's third season where the proud and politically ambitious police captain David Aceveda is raped at gunpoint by a gangster. Or Mackey holding the child-rapist Armadillo's face to red-hot oven coils in season two. Or Anthony Anderson's drug lord murdering a little girl in season four and forcing two cops to watch--in one of the most powerful episodes of any show I've ever seen air on television.) That cop-on-cop murder was a bold way to launch the series, and while the issue seemed to be resolved after Mackey managed to cover it up, it returned with a vengeance in later seasons--when the intricacy of the show's narrative truly started to show through.

Indeed, it didn't really become apparent until the fourth season what a profound show The Shield was. (Fortunately, I started watching while the fourth season was underway and caught up on all the earlier seasons after the fourth concluded but before the fifth started. I never watch shows in their first season. Who knows if they'll end up sucking?) The first three seasons are powerful and entertaining, but only in the fourth do the intricate and tragic character arcs begin to curve downward. You start to realize that all these people are going to be destroyed for the things they've done. The stakes for everyone have gotten progressively higher as they build families and make allegiances, and some of the people who've participated in ugly things are genuinely good people, but in the end they're going to suffer.

The fifth season, which ended this spring, eschewed the one-case-per-episode formula of cop shows and instead worked basically as a miniseries (it's only ten episodes) about the noose slowly tightening around the necks of Vic and his three partners. Forrest Whitaker's insane season five performance as the sweaty, obsessed Internal Affairs investigator trying to turn Vic's men against each other was truly sublime. (In the penultimate episode he screams about Mackey to his superiors: "He's pissin' all over us! Okay? Do you feel that? What does that taste like to you? Because to me it tastes like piss.") The only guest performance that has rivaled Whitaker's is Anthony Anderson's (yes, the guy from Kangaroo Jack and Agent Cody Banks) in season four. Anthony Anderson, believe it or not, is a genuinely great actor. In The Shield, he was a ferociously brutal drug lord who stood on the neck of a crooked cop, took his gun, and used it to shoot a little girl in front of him--then buried the girl and the gun in an unknown spot to ensure the cop's loyalty.

The betrayal that ends the final episode of season five is one of the great character deaths in television, and it set up what ought to be a gleefully intense sixth season. I plead with Shawn Ryan and the show's writers not to chicken out (by allowing these guys to escape their seemingly inevitable fates) or drag the series on for too long. The story, as it left off, is at a feverish level. I'd rather see the writers produce ten more episodes at or near the level of the spectacular fifth season than thirty more episodes with the intensity dialed down a notch. Let them not pull an X-Files. A story this gripping and complex ought to flare out, not fade away.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Friday, September 01, 2006

I will now begin a period of ascetism, celibacy, and isolation.
Saw Victor Lavalle read on Tuesday night at KGB. He read half of an excellent short story about a troll following a man on a sightseeing trip through Iceland.

Not doing much. Sluggish. Watched, with mounting incomprehension, Little Black Book on HBO or Showtime or something. Brittany Murphy is short.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

George Washington: Fucked the Shit Out of Bears

Apparently attracted by my reference to the totally unrelated David Gordon Green film George Washington, a commenter points out this video by Brad Neely.