P-p-p-p-p-p- Pages! Turn and face the strange p-p-p-Pages!

I’m always surprised whenever I read or write something. Even though I enjoy both, I wonder if each time will be the last time. Do I still have the patience, the willingness, the ability to become totally absorbed, swept up, completely alone with the voice in my head? Will I be smart enough, can I understand, will I be able to feel? It’s hard to concentrate, to narrow focus, to pay attention in a world that pushes and pulls. I wonder when I’ll find the time. I wonder if I’ll make the time.If I do, if I can, I know I’ll be rewarded, and I’ll be proud that I bothered.

Right now I’m reading three books, so I’m beaming. I like them all. They’re healing, like soup on the couch after the fever’s broke. (I’ve been laid up lately.) They’re rich and hearty, white butter on black bread. They make me talk like this. They keep me up at night. I think I want to marry them. (The doctor gave me some drugs. They didn’t do much for pain, but I think perhaps the doors of perception are opening. That reminds me: “When life shuts a door, open it. It’s a door. That’s how they work.” I think Ted said that in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Ted’s the smart one. http://variety.com/2015/film/news/frank-zappa-documentary-alex-winter-1201546906/ )

The first book was Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. It’s a group of stories about familial relationship, be they blood born or chosen. I like it, especially Part II, which has a trilogy of stories about interwoven families that span time and place. Critics love Lahiri’s work; the NYT Book Review chose Unaccustomed Earth as one of the best books of the year in 2008,  http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/14/books/review/10Best-t.html as did The Washington Post, the LA Times, Time, Newsday and People, and she won a Pullitzer Prize for another book, The Namesake. I like how she spends a lot of time on character development, and that they defy stereotypes. Many of them are Indian or Indian- American, and I like the cultural background that infuses the stories. They are all about real life, and so the stories are kind of quiet and easy to relate to. However, I think I must be missing something; the reviews say things like “shimmering”, “revelatory” and “ferociously good” –  I don’t see it. She gives meticulous, detailed back-story, which I appreciate, but sometimes it’s a slog to get through, and after reading the book, I barely remember some of the stories. I enjoyed reading it, but I don’t have any urge to revisit it. Revisit it I will, though, as I read it for a class that I’m about to take, so maybe I’ll get a different perspective on it.

The next book I read is Colum McCann’s new collection of stories, Thirteen Ways of Looking. I tell you what, I love me some McCann! Come on, Colum! The title piece and first novella of three in this grouping just blew me away.McCann really lets the reader get to know the characters; you live with and even inhabit them, as much of the story is a stream of conscious narrative from the protagonist’s point of view. I loved the protagonist, a retired judge in his nineties – so smart, so witty, so unique, so human! It is the story of just one of his days, and I was sad when it ended…and happy when I realized I still had more stories to go. 

The plots held me and sometimes baffled me with their content and construction. They are imaginative and well-wrought, each different and compelling  I remember them all, and I think about them unexpectedly. And the way he writes! I found myself reading, then rereading, then getting up compulsively in the middle of the night to get a pen to underline words, sentences, whole passages. McCann is the opposite of small and simple. His prose is lush, extravagant and musical, fat and chewy with images, sounds and rhythms. For example…

“Curious thing, the snow, They say the Eskimos have eighty words for it. An articulate lot. Slush and sleet and firn and grain. Hoar and rime. Crust crystal vapor blizzard graupel. Pendular permeable planar. Striated shear supercooled. Brittle glazed clustered coarse broken. An insult of snow, a slur of snow, a taunt of snow, a Walt Whitman snow, a bestiary snow, a calliope snow, it’s snowing in Morse code, three longs, a short, a long again, it’s snowing like the ancient art of newspaper, it’s snowing like September dust coming down, it’s snowing like a Yankees Day parade, it’s snowing like an Eskimo song.” (p.56)

I know this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but just the way the words swirl around you, how some of them go by in a blur, until, unexpectedly, your eye catches on one or two of them, a phrase, and you see it for what it is – so specific, evocative, pure – they way the words grow from flake to storm –  dare I say ‘shimmering’? Damn, McCann, you kill me!

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/10/12/books/review-colum-mccanns-thirteen-ways-of-looking-stories-linked-by-unease.html

So, yeah, I loved that one. My mom gave it to me. She knows how to pick them!

The last book I’m reading is The Devil In the White City, by Erik Larson. I’m pretty sure I’ve started this one before and never finished it. I’m into the subject matter – clever serial killer uses Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair to lure hapless victims to their death; what’s not to like, right? It’s got history, mystery and a Ferris Wheel. Still, I’m finding it hard to get into, again, so more on this as it develops, if it develops.

Since I started this post, David Bowie died. Like so many, I loved him. He was so brave, dramatic and bold. He was never content to be just one thing, and he welcomed transformation and evolution. He spoke to us all, and we all thought he was talking just to us. He was magnificent and artistic. The way that he orchestrated his death, commingling it with the day of his birth, and the birthday of his latest album in a genre that refuses to be defined, all kept under wraps until the glorious, shocking, tragic reveal – life and death as art. There’s this word, ekphrasis, which means visual art transformed into verbal form. Bowie was fantastic ekphrastic.

Here is one of my favorite Bowie songs, though there are so many great ones it’s hard to choose. I love the opening lyrics in this; they’re like a movie, and the double meaning of “pull” pleases me. It takes you from sort of melancholy nostalgia tinged with regret to anthemic triumph –  also, it has one of my favorite two word phrases of all times in it – “religiously unkind”. I can’t say I understand it all, but I sure do love how it makes me feel.

My Death

By Jacques Brel

My death waits like an old “roué”
So confident i’ll go his way
Whistle to him and the passing time…

My death waits like a bible truth
At the funeral of my youth
We drank for that – and the passing time…

My death waits like a witch at night
As surely as our love is bright
Let’s not think of that or the passing time…

But whatever lies behind the door
There is nothing much to do…
Angel or devil, I don’t care
For in front of that door…there is you.

My death waits like a beggar blind
Who sees the world through an unlit mind
Throw him a dime for the passing time…

My death waits to allow my friends
A few good times before it ends
Let’s not think about the passing time

My death waits there between your thighs
Your cool fingers will close my eyes
Let’s not think about the passing time…

But what ever lies behind the door,
There is nothing much to do
Angel or devil I don’t care
For in front of that door… There is you

My death waits there among the leaves
In magician’s mysterious sleeves
Rabbits and dogs and the passing time…

My death waits there among the flowers
Where the blackest shadow cowers
Let’s pick lilacs for the passing time…

My death waits there, in a double bed
Sails of oblivion at my head
Let’s not think about the passing time…

But whatever lies behind the door
There is nothing much to do
Angel or devil…I don’t care
For in front of that door
There is…me

Rolling Stoned

Well, it’s 12-12-12. Hot damn! That is a string of highly similar numbers, if I ever saw such a string! Not only that, but today, somewhere, maybe even at 12:12, someone is turning twelve. Insane, clown posse!

So what am I doing to celebrate, you ask? “Enough,” you say, “Enough about catfish and other demon-scourge! Enough of jellyfish and the other immortals, like Bob Hartley and his everlastingly hot wife Emily! Let’s hear about you, AVR,” you clamor. “What are you up to on this fine day?”

Ah, peeps! Thank you for asking! I have acutely felt, of late, a void- nay, an abyss – that has broke under my feet and threatened to consume my soul; and the maw of oblivion is, indeed, my lack of opportunity to talk about myself, to elucidate my glories and to gloss esoteric about my vast cache of ideas and life gleanings. (My mom recently read one of my essays – yeah, I write essays! “Spouting some verbiage,” she commented. “Like an Orca,” I replied.)

So, here’s some of what’s been going on.

1. I’m in college. Did I tell you that? I quit my job, dyed my hair, and went to school to get my Masters. In debate. Master Debater. Just kidding. Already had my degree in that. Just kidding. Inappropriate. And TMI. Still, a girl gets lonely. Wait, what are we talking about? College. So who do you know that is currently in college and has a 4.0 GPA? Me! I made an “A”. That’s the highest GPA I have ever had. Let’s face it, that’s the highest GPA anyone has ever had. Doesn’t get much higher than that, nosiree, Bob! I have only taken one class so far. In that class I learned that you don’t HAVE TO do all the readings, and that truly, I am not a very good student, on account of my fair-to-middlin’ work ethic. But none of that matters, cuz my my bullshit is bedazzlin’ and I MADE AN A!!!!! Yay, me!

2. I quit listening to music. I don’t know how it happened. One day, I’m tap dancin’ in the shower, and the next day it’s nothing but Diane Rehm. It took my awhile, but then I realized; ain’t no sunshine in my life. Made me real – wah, wah – sad. But I didn’t get the music back until I watched a documentary on the Rolling Stones called “Crossfire Hurricane”.    I loved it. It was filmed right before the tour that celebrates their fiftieth year in the business. The documentary people went into a room and interviewed the Stones about the whole strange trip of their careers, but with no cameras. The interviews were then synched with archival footage and ephemera; it was so cool! (Did you know that ‘ephemera’ is plural for ‘ephemeron”, and that it probably is not the correct word to use here, but who among you is going to look it up in either of its forms? Not you, stinky shoe!)

I’ve been a fan of the band for years. My dad had some Rolling Stones albums, mostly early ones, and I discovered them when I was about twelve. It was the first music I found that was my own. Nobody told me it was cool; I just heard it, and it struck a chord. A D Major 7, I think. Anyway, I felt it was all mine.

My first real high school boyfriend was also into the Stones. His friend Jamie had a Trans Am, and we would ride around, getting high, and I would watch them pretending to be Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, preening into the side mirror and singing to me at stoplights. “I wonder what it is…C’mon, little baby…you make me feel all right…you make me feel…so GOOD! Yes indeed! I feel pretty good! I feel pretty good! I’m all right!”

When I went to college, my best friend ditched me and I was left to a dorm room all by myself. She joined a fraternity as a little sister and I didn’t know anyone, didn’t totally get the concept of higher education, and didn’t really know how to be by myself; I had always had my family around. Needless to say, I was floundering in sea of angst and insecurity. Whoa, whoa, woe, woe! I listened to “Moonlight Mile” from Sticky Fingers every night as I fell asleep: “Now I am sleeping under strange, strange skies/ I’m just about a moonlight mile/ on down the road…”

As I got older, the Stones remained a part of me. I’d bring them out when I was sad or happy, when I was cleaning the house or on road trips. But not too long ago – was it five years? Ten years? Who knows?! Some years ago, I went to a big Rolling Stones concert,  in a park, maybe at a lake. It was a big concert, with tons of people and a huge stage. I went with some great friends, including my best friend from when I was in middle school, Weenie, and it was in Austin, my vacation playground; good times!

Because the concert was sold out, you couldn’t park anywhere near it.We had to take a shuttle bus that dropped us off at the the edge of a grassy area and form there it was a long trudge; nay, it was a slog, a slog to a bridge, that led over a paddock to a prairie to a field to a huge wall of port-o-potties to a large grassy areas where all manner of old and infirm were slowly and deliberately making their way. I was enchanted.

Now, I quit smoking the ganja long ago. It’s not that I have anything against it, and I raise a lighter to those states that have decriminalized it. One day, I just lost the desire to smoke out, and that was that. But every once in awhile, on a few blue moon occasions, it seems like the right thing to do. And in that field, with kindly gray cotton candy heads nodding their grizzled encouragement and approval, smoke the ganj I did.

Here are some lessons that can be learned by toking it up after a long interlude of not getting high, from the point of view of the subject:

A. When one is high for the first time in a long time, everybody in the vicinity will want to know how the experience feels, as all those nearby may have forgotten what it’s like to be high for the first time. It is the duty of the newly-wasted to tell everyone else what’s going on, blow-by-blow and minute-by-minute. Tell them. They want to know. Say things like, “Wow, I don’t think I have ever been this thirsty in my entire life,” or, “Don’t you think ‘kizmit’ is a funny word?” or “Run? I can’t run! Running is crazy!”, or “When I get high, I think my eyes get squinty! No, really? Isn’t that weird! Look at them! They’re so small I can’t even see you! What? Open them? Oh, right!”

http://www.marijuana.com/threads/funny-things-said-done-while-high.190268/page-45

B. It is possible for two people to have a long, in-depth conversation with each other at a loud, rock and roll concert, that can last upwards of twelve minutes, with many meaningful back-and-forth exchanges, gestures, raucous laughter, and significant glances. After such a warm human experience, it is also possible to realize that one or both parties was unable to hear and therefore understand any of the discussion, but enjoyed it perhaps more than any other dialogue they have ever had.

C. It’s fun to dance, especially if you are in a big crowd where everybody is having a good time. Part of the fun is that there is no right or wrong when you dance. All you have to do is just feel the music and let your body take over. But wait! What does that mean? Feel the music? Which part? The bass line? The drums? Heavens to Betsy, am I supposed to be feeling the back up singers or the guitar solo? Am I dancing a melody? Was Melody the name of the drummer in Josie and the Pussycats? Why am I thinking about this? And what am I talking about, let my body take over?! How? Which body part? My hands? Am I fist pumping to the piano? Do I look like I’m at a Dead show? That would really piss me off! Does my body have to piss RIGHT NOW?  Are my feet supposed to move AT THE SAME TIME as the rest of me? What does it mean to ‘keep the time’? What time is it? Isn’t it time for me to NOT be high anymore? How do you dance? It think her name was Melanie, not Melody.Who knows? She didn’t dance anyway. She was the drummer. She got the beat! Wait, am I still moving?  Am I just standing still with my head in my hands in the middle of a huge field full of old hippies because I can’t figure out dancing? Is everyone watching me? Where is the bathroom? I wish I could unstick my tongue from my top teeth so that I could ask someone to dance me over to the port-o-potty… 

D. If one is at a concert and one gets confused about dancing because one is too high, one should calm oneself by trying to relax and just listen to the music, especially if the music has always been a source of pleasure and comfort. There…that’s better.You know this song! You know all the songs! I’ll bet you can tell which song this is from the first five notes! Try it!

And that is when smoking marijauna ruined the Rolling Stones for me. I started really listening to the music and discovered that many of the Stones songs kinda sound alike. I mean, they have hundreds of tunes; some are bound to be similar. But here’s the thing – I never noticed before. I was so disappointed. And then it was just not the same to me. I felt like I’d lost a friend.

Until I saw Crossfire Hurricane. Damn! That is one good documentary! And while a lot of Stones songs sound the same, lots of them don’t. Yay! Welcome back, you dear old bastards! I missed you!

3. I started listening to music again! There is so much great music out there! Right now I have Herbie Hancock, Divine Fits, Diana Krall, Pleasure Club and Tom Waits in my cd player. I’ve been dancing in the living room, and guess what? It’s easy and fun!

 Me, in the living room. If it was 1978. And I was someone else.

  This is one of my favorite movies of all times. Here are a couple of interesting facts: Gene Kelly had a fever of 103 (Hot blooded!*) when he did this scene, and he had to be wet for so long that his wool suit shrunk!

*If you can link this reference to the band Foreigner, you are cold as ice! Well played,  70’s dork!

4. I’ve just started reading two good books. The first is This Side of Brightness, by Colum McCann. You know how much I love him! I’m only on page 97, but, as always, the simple poetry of his writing is equally as fascinating as the story he is telling. This is an early novel, from 1998, and it’s interesting to see the stylistic things that have changed or remain in his more recent books.

http://www.nytimes.com/books/98/04/05/reviews/980405.405mccull.html

The second is by William Gay – that’s his name, don’t wear it out! It’s called i hate to see that evening sun go down, and it’s a collection of short stories. (He didn’t capitalize that “I”, so neither did i!) I’m really enjoying it, though it is pretty darn dark. So far the characters are all Southerners with sad, dusty lives, but the narratives are all really well laid out and compelling. I’m all sucked in, and I love his style.

http://www.pastemagazine.com/articles/2012/02/remembering-william-gay.html

5. I haven’t been watching much tv, but I did catch the 12-12-12 concert that was on to raise money for Hurricane Sandy. I liked it. The Who was my favorite band. They said “Fuck” twice. Kanye didn’t say it once. Pussy.

6. I saw a really good documentary called The Flat. It’s about this guy who finds out all of this weird stuff about his family when he helps his mom clean out his grandmother’s apartment after the grandmother’s death. In addition to that, it’s about how people  accept/acknowledge/understand information while simultaneously and subconsciously rejecting/forgetting/denying it; what Orwell called “doublethink” in 1984, and relationships, and ripples of time.

Here’s a trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z94u_5qLxXU

It’s not what you expect!

Also, if you didn’t get a chance, watch Beasts of the Southern Wild. It’s about families, too, and mythology, and creating narratives that help us to make sense of the world.

So, there you have it! Me this week! Pretty fabulous, right?

 

NOTE- I started writing this on the 12th, and planned on finishing it in a timely matter, but that didn’t happen. When the massacre at Newtown happened on the 14th, I didn’t feel like writing.Today, a week later, I’m still upset, but it’s Frank Zappa’s birthday and the end of the world, so I thought I’d go ahead and finish it up.

Live good lives, everyone. Tell people you love them. Be happy. Be nice. Peace to us all.

 

 

Numerous Opportunities for Me to Reference Myself

You know, being ahead of the trend really requires a grace that few of you will ever have to  achieve. One must possess tact and feel a sense of noblesse obligé when others come, excited about news or hip new fads, and I, princess of politesse that I am, do not yawn, roll my eyes, or belch at them – sometimes it’s fun to burp when you are bored or annoyed – because their exciting little tidbit is, frankly, passé, to me.

Of course, I understand that there is a certain degree of natural synchronicity in the universe, but, to be honest, I do believe that much of the time, I come up with an original, never-before-imagined idea, and the rest of the world just copies me. I know, I know… it’s the most sincere form of flattery, blah, blah, blah. Still, all I ask is for the proper credit, perhaps a little praise for my prescience. And monetary compensation. That’s more than reasonable, non?

For example, NPR recently called me. I usually only answer when it’s that sassy, randy minx, my Marketplace manfriend, Kai Ryssdal, calling. (Sample conversation: “What’s the market doing now, Kai… do I see that little NASDAQ going up? My, how your portfolio is increasing! Who’d like to make an investment?!”)

I thought it was Kai-Kins, so I picked up. Quel horreur! It was that wretch, Nina Tottenberg, attempting yet again to best me. This rivalry has been going on ever since Garrison Keillor tried to lure me to his prairie home, while completely ignoring her awkward, pathetic advances.

“AVR, Darling, I believe we have finally scooped you! My Weekend Edition team found the most adorable little coffee shop, full of the most delightfully real people, in which to do an election piece! You’ll simply never guess where it is!”

I thought long, but not hard, which I think would be a great title for an older adult contemporary concept album.

“Did you go to Trudy’s Diner in Idaho City, Idaho, Nina?” I asked.

The initial shocked silence on the other end of the line was satisfying, but when Nina started shrieking hysterically and calling me names I simply can’t bring myself to mention here, my victory grew a bit tiresome. I ended the conversation the same way I end most of my dialogues with Ms.Tottenberg, or, for that matter, with that slutty Diane Rehm.

“Idaho, Nina? Let’s be real, shall we? You da ho! Everyone knows whoClick and Clack, The Tappit brothers, are really tapping! Good day!”

My faithful readers will recall this recent post http://smalleradventure.com/2012/09/what-up-idaho-city in which not only did I bring Idaho City to you, but I also had a special shout out to my friends at Trudy’s. That’s because I am a real journalist and cutting edge trend-setter. Here’s the NPR piece.  Nina was so upset she had to get her lackey, Rachel Martin, to do it. http://www.npr.org/2012/10/21/163336898/election-2012-brunch-in-idaho.

Of course, you know that two of the books I reported on have been made into major motion pictures this year. Perks of Being a Wallflower, the young adult novel by Stephen Chbosky is currently in theaters. http://smalleradventure.com/2010/11/before-i-get-up/

Cloud Atlas, by David Mitchell, is coming out October 24th. It’s huge! I mentioned it way back in 2011 here: http://smalleradventure.com/2011/08/all-the-buzz/ Back then I hoped the movie didn’t suck. I still do.

Speaking of good books being turned into movies that hopefully don’t suck, Let The Great World Spin by Colum McCann is in production now, with J.J. Abrams of Lost fame at the helm. Could go either way. One of the great things about that book was Mr. McCann’s gorgeous prose, and I don’t know that the big screen will be able to capture that. One of the great things about Lost was Desmond.  Damn. I just love me some Desmond, brutha. Even dirty, bloody and sweaty. Hell, who am I kidding? Especially dirty bloody and sweaty! Don’t judge me! At least I didn’t get his face tattooed on what appears to be my slightly hairy upper thigh. Yet.  Hey, Click on this: http://www.girlgonegeekblog.com/2012/04/tattoo-tuesday-lost/ No, seriously! Click on it!

OK, back to the highbrow lowdown you’ve come to expect from me. Here’s Colum McCann’s website: http://www.colummccann.com . His new book, Transatlantic, comes out next year. You can hear him reading from it here: http://www.newyorker.com/online/2012/04/23/120423on_audio_mccann

I’ve been reading a book of short stories by Etgar Keret, an Israeli writer, called Suddenly, A Knock at the Door. Mr. Keret’s imagination is truly inspiring, and the depth of the stories he manages to tell in just a couple of pages is amazing. I was going to tell you all about him, so you’d be the first on your block to know, but then Selected Shorts scooped me big time! Crap’s Ass! Anyway, listen to him speak about writing and hear one of his stories read here: http://ec.libsyn.com/p/5/a/9/5a92f4fbc0989752/Pcast_SS201204.mp3?d13a76d516d9dec20c3d276ce028ed5089ab1ce3dae902ea1d01cd873fd5c158a089&c_id=5062094 When you are finished listening, scrape up all of your money and send me to NYC to hear him and Gary Shteyngart (http://smalleradventure.com/2011/06/tuesdays-goal-appreciation) speak on April 17th. I’ll make it worth your while!

Finally, you know how many times I have warned you about birds. They are dirty, full of mites, have flat, beady eyes, and sharp pecky beaks. They fly, which means they are capable of- and enjoy!- dive bombing missions, and they believe the world is their toilet. Their legs are made of dinosaur-snake skin (Evolution, my dear Watson!) and they have talons to claw at your eyes and rip out your vocal chords so that you can’t scream for help.

But here’s the worst thing: They are getting bigger and bolder. Think about it; there have always been big blackbirds, but when you were a kid do you remember grackels the size of a terrier? Do you remember them standing their ground in the street and staring into your car’s grille, just daring you to hit them? No sirree, Bob, those feathered footballs have grown huge bird balls, and they are coming for you! I took these pictures recently to illustrate my point.  Notice how the birds line the telephone wires. That’s pretty horrifying. They are listening to our conversations. They are watching. Watching and waiting. Preparing to wing off to their leader. Freaky. Weirder still is the way they are hanging out on the parking lot, pacing. Why are they there? I go in a little closer to investigate.

 I’m not gonna lie. I was spooked, and my camera got a little shaky. There was no food on the parking lot, no nest building materials, nothing sparkly. Why would they be hanging out on the ground?

I looked around. Nobody in the lot but me. The streetlights were about to come on, providing a glow to the dusk. I scanned the surrounding signage; one of them said “STOP!”, which seemed like a good idea, and another said “Park, Lock and Hide.” Then it hit me; those birds were just waiting for some sucker to forget to lock his Lexus and then they were going to jack that ride! Fuckers! They are afraid of nothing, and people, they will steal     your     car!! No lie, GI!

I know what you’re thinking. Has it come to this? I, too, thought perhaps I might be slightly paranoid. There was only one thing left to do. I needed to stare those beasts right in their flat, beady, red eyes and judge their true intentions for myself. I was terrified. But I’m a journalist, and that’s what we do.

I crept up to one of the beaked bastards carefullly, quietly. I steeled myself and tapped him on the shoulder. Slowly he turned….this is what I saw. Judge his intentions for yourself.

 

I know. Hideous. Birds are Beelzebub. You heard it here first. I hate to tell you I told you so, but…well, suffice it to say, being right all the time is a bit of a curse.

Of course, I am not the first to notice the increasingly hostile attitudes of the feathered fiends. Daphne Du Maurier brilliantly chronicled their homicidal natures in her famous short story, “The Birds”. If you haven’t read it, it’s really good; it’s a wonderful example of build and suspense. Here is how she describes the birds for the first time in the story:

In spring the birds flew inland, purposeful, intent; they knew where they were bound; the rhythm and ritual of their life brooked no delay. In autumn those that had not migrated overseas but remained to pass the winter were caught up in the same driving urge, but because migration was denied them, followed a pattern of their own. Great flocks of them came to the peninsula, restless, uneasy, spending themselves in motion; now wheeling, circling in the sky, now settling to feed on the rich, new-turned soil; but even when they fed, it was as though they did so without hunger, without desire. Restlessness drove them to the skies again. 

Black and white, jackdaw and gull, mingled in strange partnership, seeking some sort of liberation, never satisfied, never still. Flocks of starlings, rustling like silk, flew to fresh pasture, driven by the same necessity of movement, and the smaller birds, the finches and the larks, scattered from tree to hedge as if compelled. 

It only gets worse from there.

HBO has obviously been reading this blog, and has realized that what interests me interests the world, and so they have just aired a made-for-tv movie called “The Girl”, which is about the single-minded, relentless obsession Alfred Hitchock had with his leading lady, Tippi Hedren. I haven’t seen it yet, but I’ll bet it’s pretty good, so I give HBO my blessing – this time. But it was my idea. http://smalleradventure.com/2011/11/all-the-things-that-fall-in-the-cracks-of-the-couch/

One last thing: a quick review of a movie I have seen, Seven Psychopaths. It’s good, real good! I give it a solid “A”. It’s beautifully shot, interesting and oddly funny, and the cast is fantastic. Props to KW for picking it out and making me go see it. KW, I will never doubt you again! I can say that confidently knowing you won’t hold me to it, as you’ll never read this, since it’s not on Facebook.

One other last thing: Daphne Du Maurier also wrote a story called “The Doll” about a young woman’s obsession with a mechanical sex doll. I’ll investigate it immediately.

Lost In Translation

Robert Frost said, “Poetry is what gets lost in translation.” I quite like this quote, as well as the movie that references it, but I can’t figure out if it means that one can never really capture the poetry of a situation, because it always gets lost, or if poetry emerges when something is lost – meaning, perhaps? Clarity? Comfort? Order? – in translation; in other words, when expectation or analytical significance is lost, poetry is gained.

Oh Frost! So simple, yet so complex!

I have recently finished one book, and reread another, both of which stunned me with their poetry and creativity. The new book is Black Swan Green, by David Mitchell, who is the author of Cloud Atlas. Here is a picture of swans.

The black swan in the picture is really just a duck, but you probably knew that. 

Black Swan Green is the story of a year in the life of a boy, Jason Taylor. It is a coming-of-age story, or, as they say in Germany, a bildungsroman. (Yeah, that’s right! I know that word! I said it, and I know what it means! Of course,  I don’t know why anyone who is writing in English would ever use it instead of “coming-of-age-novel”, which is a perfectly good and completely comprehensible term, but I like to be pretentious, and then show that I know that I am pretentious, thereby establishing myself as down-to-earth and adorably self mocking.)

I love the story of the novel, and the way the characters are built. It is funny, poignant, profound, surprising, captivating and universal, though it is set in a very specific place and time. But that’s not what really got me about this book; what makes this book so amazing is the language it is written in, the poetry of it. Mitchell is brilliant (or ‘brill’, as Jason Taylor would say). He is so original, so creative, and so true to his own stylistic devices and perspective that the two books I have read by him are different than anything else I have ever read.

I underlined half the book. Here’s how Jason describes skating by himself in the early morning: Round and around in swoopy anticlockwise loops I looped, a stone on the end of a string. Overhanging trees tried to touch my head with their fingers. Rooks craw…craw…crawed, like old people who’ve forgotten why they’d come upstairs.

Here’s another brief passage: The world won’t leave things be. It’s always injecting endings into beginnings. Leaves tweezer themselves from these weeping willows. Leaves fall into the lake and dissolve into slime. Where’s the sense in that?…The world never stops making what the world never stops making.

That’s nothing. Here are some more random lines:

A cow of an awkward pause mooed.

A shame bomb blew my head off.

[I] held her opal brooch over one eye. I looked through it at the sun for secret colors nobody’s ever named.

New leaves oozed from twigs in the hedges.

Maybe I heard a poem, seeping from [the garden]. So I stood and listened, just for a moment, like a hungry robin listening for worms.

“Probably” is a word with an emergency ejector seat.

Sunlight on waves is drowsy tinsel.

These jewels that glint under the bright light of scrutiny don’t do justice to the music of the book, the song of the words, and the melody of the story. This is a case of not being able to catch the poetry of getting lost in the pages. I can’t give you the poetry, because I lose it in the telling. You’ll just have to read it yourself.

The other book is Dancer, by Colum Mcann. I adore this book. It is absolutely one of my favorites of EVER. It is so unbelievably well-written, so innovative, so glorious. It’s about Rudolf Nureyev, and it combines all kinds of different forms of expression; lists and letters, shifts in subject, time and perspective, history and story, fact and fiction, prose, and poetry and some of the richest, most evocative imagery and diction I have ever had the pleasure of discovering. One chapter, which runs for 32 pages and spans less than 24 hours and is made up of one, single, unbelievable sentence (Suck it, Proust!), makes me almost laugh out loud with the insane, ecstatic purity of it, with its rhythm and swagger, its highs, lows, slow builds and crescendos, with it’s sheer genius – I am left breathless at the end of the chapter, panting. And then I turn back and read it again.

I would give you a taste of this chapter, as it illustrates perfectly the second possibility of my Lost In Translation question – that maybe what it means is less important than how it feels, and how it feels is the poetry of it all – but I have learned my lesson in trying to translate. You’ll just have to read it for yourself.

Plus, like I said, it’s long. I don’t have time to read and think and write for you, now do I?! I got a life to lead, Cha Cha! Now get outta here and leave me alone!

Special thanks to Jonny-Boy, my fahrvergnugan wunderkind, who knows how to use a smartphone like a raketenwissenchaftler and widens my weltenschauung everytime I see him!

Look at these gorgeous black swan dancer (ah, serendipitous synchronicity!!!) posters by La Boca Design http://www.laboca.co.uk/

 and to see more waycool posters, check this site out: http://flyergoodness.blogspot.com

Maxwell on Memories

Ever since yesterday, when I discovered that I am the most dedicated follower of my blog, I have been re-examining what it means to have and keep this cyber-diary. Really, why do it? It’s not a way to keep up with friends and family; I see them, or call, or even write letters, and quite frankly, even though they love me, nobody is that interested in my battles with a tomato hornworm (bastards!), or my musings on duck genitalia (though it is fascinating!), or even my handy information regarding lady pirates (aaarrrgghh!). It’s not really to get me to write; I keep a real diary, and I do write, lots. I can’t really type, so it can take hours for just one post; it would seem I had something better to do. But here’s the kicker…I don’t. I like the blog. I like to write it and read and re-read it. I like using images that I find or create, and I like putting up the work of my friends and family. I think about the blog sometimes, and I go back and look up things that interest me or I get new ideas about things I want to explore or research or write about. I write for myself, so it makes sense that I am my biggest fan. Yay, me!

That being said, I have decided to dedicate the next few posts to things that other people have said that have made an impression on me. I have done this before:
and I really like these posts, especially when my friends sent their favorite quotes in, or I got to quote them. That’s some good stuff. So send ’em if you got ’em, to my email or to the comments box, and if they’re real cleverlike, I’ll pretend like I said ’em myself.
This first one comes from William Maxwell. He was an author who died in 2000, after publishing a number of highly acclaimed novels, short story collections, children’s books, and even some non-fiction, but he was also an editor for the New Yorker for forty years, where he worked with writers like Nabakov, Cheever, Welty, Updike, Salinger, Singer, and John O’Hara. This is from his novel So Long, See You Tomorrow:
What we, or at any rate, I, refer to confidently as a memory – meaning a moment, a scene, a fact that has been subjected to a fixative and thereby rescued from oblivion – is really a form of storytelling that goes on continually in the mind and often changes with the telling. Too many conflicting emotional interests are involved for life ever to be wholly acceptable, and possibly it is the work of the story-teller to rearrange things so that they conform to this end. In any case, in talking about the past we lie with every breath we draw.

He kind of looks like Sherman T. Potter from M*A*SH, right?

Though this idea -that memory is personal and mutable- might not exactly be a major revelation, I like this quote for several reasons. First off, it’s well said, and I enjoy both his use of the comma and the dash. Second, I am fascinated with the moments of memory, and how they become infused, in a flash, with so many factors – mood, physicality, location, what came before, expectation, desire, age – the list of what goes into a moment is endless. Also, memories are both lasting and ephemeral, and I love how they are constantly mutating and solidifying with every remembrance. They are, almost by definition, a collage of experience; ideas, attitudes, facts, emotions, images, intangibles all juxtaposed and overlapping; layers of life compacted with alternate layers of meaning, perception and misinterpretation; and all of it simultaneously retained and discarded to emerge suddenly and unbidden from the mind’s closets, maybe once, maybe again and again obsessively…well, yeah, like I said, the concept of memory fascinates me. I could go on; I haven’t even gotten started on group memories, false memories, blocked memories, memory loss, muscle memory, Alzheimer’s, dreams, or memes. Some people have ubermemories, some have synesthesia which gives a whole new spin to memory, and some people can’t remember faces, so that they constantly fail to recognize the people they love. Dang, y’all! Is it any wonder that when I am thinking about all of this, I forget to flush the toilet, turn left, or call you back? I got a lot going on in here, people!
Third, I like the idea of a storyteller rearranging memories – even if they are not her own- so that they fit into a format that is “wholly acceptable”, even if that means changing or imagining an entirely different story than what was inspired by the original moment that had to occur to set the ball rolling. The storyteller creates a new scene that will go down in the memories of the readers; one memory gives birth to unlimited possible new memories. It’ so Proustian, and also so Beatlesque; after all, “There’s nothing you can know that can’t be known/ nothing you can see that isn’t shown….”, but oh, the things we can create from what we already have!

Finally, I found this quote at the front of a fantastic book called Dancer, by Colum McCann, who also wrote Let the Great World Spin. I really liked Let the Great World Spin, but I loved Dancer. It’s about Rudolf Nureyev, and it’s brilliant. I think McCann is such a wonderful writer. I could go on and on about him, also…he’s just so good. He’s also my kind of F-I-N-E, fine. Grrrr, in an intellectual kind of way. You should read his stuff, really.

The next one of his I’m going to read is Zoli, which is about a gypsy. Then the new one by DeLillo. But before all of those, my Mom’s memoirs, which, as you might recall, brings us nicely back to Maxwell, on memories.

Snippets

Harvey Richman (c) 2010 “Bad News”

According to my interpretation of a definition from Dictionary.com of the word, ‘news’ doesn’t have to be interesting or important. That’s good, cuz interstin’ an’ potent, ain’t really my thang, if you feel me, blood. What, what! Holla! Look at my shoes!* That being said, here is all the Smaller Adventure News for this moment in time. Enjoy!

*This is how an ex-student of mine, Deonte, used to talk. He was HI- larious with a capital HI. One time he came in to class right after getting a new hair cut. He stared at himself in a little mirror he always kept with him and couldn’t concentrate on anything that was being said, which was not even remotely unusual. After about 45 minutes he began to wave his hand around wildly. I was pleased that something I said had finally triggered some academic curiosity in this – I kid you not – three time freshman. “Miss! Miss!”
Though I had Deonte in class a total of 5 times – again, no shit – he never manged to learn my name.
“Miss! Do my head look like a butt?”
I miss Deonte.

1. 2010 has started off with a bang! I went to a great wedding and became, for a short while, that middle aged lady at the reception who can only find one shoe. Yeah, I like to party!

2. I installed a program on my blog that let’s me see a map of from where people have accessed my blog. I am proud to report that Tulsa, OK, Glen Mills, PA and Dayton, OH have all checked in. California, Connecticut, New York and Alabama have recognized my brilliance. Ontario, The British Virgin Islands and Viersan, Nordrhein-Wesfalen, Germany have also represented. I think they took a wrong turn in Googleville and ended up in a strange and frightening land. I am most popular in the Lone Star State, with fans from Sugarland to San Angelo, Austin to Arlington, and Lewisville to Laredo. (OK, not really Laredo, but I was doing a poetic licence kind of thing.) Don’t think that all of this TRANS-GLOBAL attention is going to my head, though. I remain the same, humble, down-to-earth genius you have come to depend on to brighten your mundane, Kafkaesque lives. It’s what I do, people. Also, did you notice I have a new counter at the top of this page? I don’t pay any attention to it. It’s just a number, not a mark of my popularity or vast readership. However, I have noticed that when you go in and out of this site multiple times in any given day, a fabulous prize is delivered to your home within 7-10 business days! It’s totally amazing! Try it, why don’tcha!

3. I am reading this book called Let the Great World Spin, by Colum McCan, and I lovelovelove it! I also like the name Colum. If you give your son that name, he will be destined to become a pillar of society. It’s true. I once knew a girl named Velvet Vulva, and guess what she turned out to be…
4. My niece and nephew have created their own television network that you can only get on ImaginationTV. It’s called SPL, which stands for Simplicity of Potty Language, and features the hit new series, “There Was a Boy and Then He Farted.” I would totally tune in, if I had an imagination.
5. Spoon has come out with a new cd. Spoon is wicked cool. I think the lead singer, Britt Daniel, ( Hello, group. My name is AVR, and I’m a name dropper…) has a crush on me.

Oh yeah. The name of the cd is Transference.

6. Some of you may recall that my mom, a woman as elegant and sophisticated as she is intellectual and talented, is prone to mangling words and phrases in the English language. She’s French, but that’s no excuse. She loves to sing, but never knows the words, and the chorus to all of her favorite songs, from Brel to the Beatles, is “lalalalala.” She calls me every morning to make sure I am awake for work. (So?! You use an alarm clock, I use my mom! Same diff!) Here is a recent morning conversation:

Mom: Good Morning! Rise and Shine! How are you?

Me: Mmmpff.

Mom: Oh yes! I did sleep well! Really well! Exceedingly well, in fact! Like a – how do you say it? I slept like a raccoon! A beaver? One of those animals that smells?

Me: Did you just say you slept like a beaver, Mom?

Mom: No, you know, an animal that sleeps peacefully!

Me: You slept like a lamb?

Mom: No! Don’t be stupid! Why would I say that?

7. Em is a hero. Chm Chm is a writer. Denichiwa is rewarded for excellence and soaring once again. KB is a soon-to-be-frequent reader. Yay! E.D. is refusing to follow the god of rock flute any longer. Wise move. McAdams made it to the home of Furniture World, Nebraska, and is reportedly cold. Paul is in Switzerland, skiing. Wheeee! Eduardo is…well, you know what you are!