Tuesday, June 8, 2010

What I've been writing: Little poems that look like this. Perfume reviews.

What I've been reading: I'm between novels. I read the first ~25 pages of Stoner (which is about a small-town professor, not a pothead), and the story seemed interesting, but I couldn't stand the writing. There were way too many summarizing sentences like this:
His parents were happy to see him, and they seemed not to resent his decision. But he found he had nothing to say to them; already, he realized, he and his parents were becoming strangers; and he felt his love increased by its loss.
I kept thinking, "Stop just telling me everything!" It felt like a (nonfiction) biography, not a novel. Also two different tables within the first 10 pages were described as "gleaming" "dully." Stuff like that bugs me. Had to abandon. I'm starting Howards End.

What I've been watching: John has a special talent for renting the worst movies ever made. This week: They All Laughed, a Peter Bogdonovich "film" from 1981. What a garbled mess. It has all the trappings of a movie, including John Ritter falling into fountains and Audrey Hepburn playing Audrey Hepburn. But it lacked a certain ... reason for being.

I'm starting to feel bad. I know Matt Cozart liked Stoner. I hope this isn't one of his favorite movies.

What I've been wearing: Cropped pants. "Boyfriend" chinos. L de Lolita Lempicka. Rosy scents, e.g. Agent Provocateur.

What I've been eating: Lots of summer fruit (strawberries, cherries) and frozen fruit bars. Lots of feta. Full-fat Fage yogurt (tastes like whipped cream). Quinoa salads.

What I've been drinking: Water with fresh mint. (If you let it steep long enough, it almost tastes like ice cream.) Bourbon, campari, and ginger beer. Not all at the same time.

Etc.: We went to Provincetown. We went to South Hadley. John had a book release party. I got a cold. I still have a cold. This cold is my nemesis.

17 comments:

  1. oh you're breaking my heart...i loved stoner! every word of it. it's exactly the kind of prose i like. very midwestern.

    a lot more likable than lolita, that's for sure.

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  2. whoa...i wrote that comment before i read the part where you mentioned me. ha.

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  3. Ha! Sorry. I really wanted to like it! But I felt like nothing was actually happening, I was just getting reports after the fact, if that makes sense. It probably gets better, but I grew impatient.

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  4. i think of it as the prose of a farmer. the dryness of it. i mean you're sort of right about "nothing happening", in the sense that it describes the life of a fairly unremarkable man from birth to death. there's an academic controversy, and a marital controversy, but neither are too out of the ordinary...but that's ok. i mean the guy has a somewhat sad normal life, except he loves being a teacher, and loves knowledge in that old school kind of way. i mean to me the book is sort of about the time when people who studied literature actually loved literature, rather than now, when all professors want to do is criticize and theorize it to death.

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  5. I didn't mean nothing happening in terms of the plot. I just meant it wasn't in real time. Like in the example above, instead of letting me infer that his parents resent him and that he loves them anyway, by showing me their actions/dialog, he just flat out tells me. It's all collapsed. This is just your basic workshop cliche, "Show don't tell," but here I kind of felt like it applied.

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  6. I thought the plot seemed interesting.

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  7. oh. i don't know. that doesn't bother me. i think there are some things you can't really "show".

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  8. I focus a lot on voice so I tend to prefer either first-person narration or more dialog.

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  9. i think i'm more of a 3rd person guy. i like having the detached storyteller. that way it feels like i'm two people reading the book. with 1st person i feel like it's just me reading the book.

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  10. Holy shit, those new poems!

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  11. Hey, thanks! Jon W is that you? Did you catch the Sleep Is Death ref?? (I mean, if it's you, then duh.)

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  12. Curse my blogger profile settings, yes it's me and I hella caught the reference. I've started messing around with Sleep Is Death a little bit -- I got lost just in the music editor for like 2 hours, which is obviously missing (or postponing) the point of the game.

    Have you been reading Ben Lerner lately? Your new poems remind me of Angle of Yaw.

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  13. I like Ben Lerner a lot. I just read Mean Free Path, but I started this project before that. Probably Angle of Yaw was well and steeped into my subconscious though. Of course. Need to add that to the short list of prose projects that inspired me.

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  14. Enjoyed the poems -- they all felt like the beginnings of interesting conversations, and I kept wanting to make comments in the comment box, but there wasn't one.

    I haven't read Stoner, though your brief description of it made me think of The Catcher in the Rye (and I have no idea if the two books have anything in common).

    The Catcher in the Rye was one of those books that was notorious when I was in high school, as much because of its reputation for constantly being banned from some school library somewhere as for the merits of the book itself. I finally got around to reading it just within the past year or so, and liked it enough to breeze through in in a week or so, but it didn't leave a strong impression on me, I was kind of like, eh. Same thing you described, lots of summarizing sentences, the narrator character talking about what he was talking about. Etc.

    The last novel I read (sometime in the 1990's) that really grabbed me and held me was Treasure Island, yeah the classic by R. L. Stevenson. Couldn't put it down. (Couple of years ago I finally read the Lord of the Rings trilogy, which I'd known of in great detail through various fellow geek friends over the years but had never sat down and read. I liked it.)

    Apart from that I recently read Poeta en San Francisco by Barbara Jane Reyes, which I really liked. Wrote about it in my blog here if anyone wants to go take a look.

    Word verification is "wakehoup". Makes me think of some kind of new pancake or waffle in one of those chain restaurants that have bogus European-sounding names.

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  15. Funny you should say that, Lyle -- I partly conceived the manuscript I'm working on now as a way to approach poems more like blogging, since I seem to write more blog posts than poems.

    I loved Catcher in the Rye, but I think it's one of those books you have to read when you're young. If I read it now all of Salinger's silly tendencies in terms of character would get to me (the whole "We're perfect and precious and better than everyone else" thing...)

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  16. yeah these poems are awes, esp the failures of the body one, 'cept for its last line, to which i take exception

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