Saturday, August 24, 2019
Tonight is the 40th anniversary party for Square Books, so it is highly appropriate that even though I do not "blog" anymore, a chance occurrence yesterday, related to that august institution previously named, brings me here to confirm, by compulsive necessity, my controversial theory that every book has an owl in it. So it happened that Bill Boyle and Megan Abbott and I were crowding up the landing on the stairs at Square Books, huddled as we were over a volume that Megan had plucked from a display for our delectation. "I am in this book, telling the story of a ghostly encounter," Megan said, or words to that effect. Naturally, Bill and I were startled and delighted! "Quickly, quickly, let us move in all haste up the stairs, retaining this book in our possession for further study," I exclaimed. My cheerful plan was accepted by all. For you see, I had spied Richard Howorth entering his benevolent domain, and I did not wish for him to glance upward and conceive of me as a person who would in any manner impede the traffic that wends its merry way up and down the hallowed stairs of Square Books, the establishment of which we celebrate, yea, this very eve. Megan, Bill, and I settled ourselves, therefore, in the conveniently situated coffee section of the shop and in just such a spot it was confirmed, as might well be expected, that indeed Megan, a person of notable honesty already, was telling the truth, as is her wont. Yes, yes, there she was, appearing as a character in someone else's book! And on the same page, "a spooky owl in midflight." (See also.)
Wednesday, August 14, 2019
I don't "blog" anymore. But I remain psychically compelled to "blog" every time I read a book with an owl in it, because I keep a big, long list of every book I read with an owl in it. So I was reading a Clarice Lispector book called AGUA VIVA, and what sentence should I run across but "It would never occur to me to have an owl, though I have painted them in caves"? And I thought, gee, that sounds familiar. (Parenthetically, the title of this "post" derives from the fact that I was originally going to call it "Gee Your Owl Seems Familiar," which reminded me of a shampoo of my youth called "Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific.") So I searched the "blog" and sure enough, I found ANOTHER Clarice Lispector book in which she claims "it would never occur to me to keep an owl" (note the subtle variation in the verb, which may be nothing more than a matter of translation). I wondered... did she have the same thought twice? If so, despite her protestations, it seems that very often it occurred to her to keep an owl, or at least that the possibility of having or keeping an owl was not out of the range of her imagination. In fact, one could argue that it ALWAYS occurred to her to have an owl or to keep an owl, to such an extent that she eventually had to make a decisive decision against it. Now, was AGUA VIVA simply quoted in the other book, or perhaps the other way around? Did one contain fragments of the other? Well! As you know (sure you do!) we bought a house not long ago and I threw the books onto the shelves in a willy-nilly order, as quickly as I could get them out of the boxes. And I don't feel like nosing around until I find the other book, just for the sake of comparing the two passages and drawing the sort of the ignorant conclusion that is my specialty. In parting, I will note that a wet washcloth was accidentally deposited on top of AGUA VIVA, and, as it is a thin book, it has been water-damaged through and through. Ironically? (Because of the title!) And it still hasn't dried out! Life is a constant adventure.
Monday, August 12, 2019
the apple tree from the blog?" writes McNeil. "Well, I had to cut it down. It was half dead and the squirrels were using it to get into the attic." I don't "blog" anymore, as you well know, but I had to come back this one last time to say goodbye to the faithful old apple tree from the "blog." Please enjoy this old photo of the blossoms on the old apple tree in the gentler times of old.
Sunday, August 11, 2019
I don't "blog" anymore but sometimes I have something in my head and nowhere else to put it. For example, I finally watched THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, which I put off for a long time, because who wants to watch a movie about unpleasant people? And last night or the night before, I thought, well, haven't I watched lots of movies about unpleasant people? And also, maybe isn't everyone unpleasant now? And at one point Leonardo DiCaprio tells his sales team he is giving them "the tools to be Captain Ahab." And someone on the sales team says, "Captain who?" What Leonardo DiCaprio means is that he is going to help his sales team target "whales," by which, in turn, he means potential customers with a lot of money. Now! I have a column on the website POPULA, in which I read MOBY-DICK and talk about each chapter into a digital recorder, transcribing the dubious results in weekly installments. And certainly, under ordinary circumstances, "Leo's" riff on Captain Ahab would have gone into one of my "columns," as I do generously call them. But, having completed my reading of the novel on July 4th, and subsequently turning in my final dispatches, I knew that this passing allusion to MOBY-DICK in popular culture would remain forever unremarked upon, at least by me, unlike the time Elvis picked up his mic stand and brandished it like a harpoon during his famous 1968 comeback special, and said, "Captain Ahab!" I saw it with my own eyes when I was staying at that Elvis-themed hotel one time, and I do believe the sighting made it into a yet-to-appear edition of the so-called column about which I continue to yammer. "Captain who?" reminds me of the song Dr. Theresa and I used to sing quite a bit early in our courtship for reasons that fade from memory as time goes on: "He said captain/ I said what/ he said captain/ I said what/ He said captain/ I said whatcha want?" I know the title of that song is "Wot," not "What," but I can't bring myself to type it that way lyrically, though I seemingly harbor no similar misgivings about "whatcha." Anyway, when you think about it, it is funny to give someone the tools to be Captain Ahab.
Tuesday, July 23, 2019
I won't lie to you: last time I went to the Emmys my tuxedo pants kept falling down. I'm not good with those tuxedo waistband adjusters, as I assume they are called. So this year I decided to buy some suspenders. Upon a close examination of my order, I realized I had purchased "button suspenders," which require suspender buttons to be sewn into the pants. "Oh no!" I exclaimed. "Am I going to have to sew buttons into my pants?" Reader, I just went to the bedroom closet and checked, and I am happy to inform you that my tuxedo pants already have buttons sewn inside for just such an occasion. I thought about "tweeting" this, but imagine what an insufferable "tweet" that would be. So, even though I do not "blog" anymore, I placed it here, where no one will ever see it.
Friday, July 05, 2019
It's very true that I don't "blog" anymore, but I felt obliged to mention that it's not an eagle that Tashtego nails to the mast, as I so erroneously reported yesterday on our nation's birthday. It's a sea-hawk. I cannot account, except perhaps by means of some twisted patriotic inclination, or general deterioration, how my brain turned it into an eagle within the matter of mere seconds after I closed the book and before I disseminated the inaccurate imagery.
Thursday, July 04, 2019
a Fourth of July some years ago when I was reading about werewolves, and a Third of July some years later when I was STILL reading about werewolves, and I just now finished reading MOBY-DICK, which is not about werewolves, but does strike me (the reading of it) as a patriotic act in ways that reading about werewolves does not, especially seeing as how Tashtego NAILS A FRICKING LIVE EAGLE TO THE MAST as the ship goes down, which really says the Fourth of July to me, especially this year. Yes, I'm going to put the fish label on this "post" because Ishmael insists that whales are fish. I know what I'm doing!
Saturday, June 08, 2019
As you very well know, I don't "blog" anymore, but I do have a sick need to record every time I read a book with an owl in it, because it seems to me that every book has an owl in it. As you also know, equally well, Megan Abbott and I have a little club, its membership dwindled to two, in which we read a literally endless parade of celebrity biographies. Right now we're reading a new one about Mel Brooks, in which we meet Sid Caesar's first agent, "a hunched, owlish man," according to the author.
Tuesday, June 04, 2019
Hey! In HUNGER by Knut Hamsun, which I read on the airplane at the suggestion of Katelyn from Square Books, our narrator is trying to sleep in the woods, but is distracted by "the eternal song of wind and weather... I listened so long to this endless, faint soughing that it began to confuse me; it could only be the symphonies coming from the whirling worlds above me..." Such thoughts begin to make him nervous, so, to cheer himself up, he says aloud, "The hell it is! It is the night owls of Canaan hooting!" Now, I don't know what the night owls of Canaan are, or why they would cheer you up any more than, say, the symphonies coming from the whirling worlds above you, which sound pretty nice when you put it that way, but I DO know that I keep a list of every book I read that has an owl in it.
Monday, June 03, 2019
I don't "blog" anymore, but I usually tell you if I go to Los Angeles and all the wonderful things that happen there in the magical city of broken dreams. I went to Los Angeles recently, but much of the "material I gathered" is going straight into a secret project I'm working on with McNeil for actual publication. And the rest, well, I thought about using the "interesting details" in a novel, but then I thought, oh, that sounds hard, writing a novel, maybe I won't do that. 1. Scallops at an Elvis-themed hotel. Does that sound like a good idea? Ordering scallops at an Elvis-themed hotel? As you know, I often stay in Memphis the night before a flight, for easy access to the airport. And sometimes I stay in an Elvis-themed hotel. And this time I ordered scallops, which, even as I was doing it, seemed like the last thing a person should order at an Elvis-themed hotel. Well! I'm still here. The scallops had an aggressively candied flavor. 2. At the Elvis-themed hotel, my hotel door wouldn't shut all the way! Well, I put on that latch thing they have at the top of many hotel doors and hoped for the best. 3. I lost my favorite pen somewhere in Los Angeles. Almost immediately! Why bring your favorite pen on a trip? On the other hand, why settle for a less-loved pen? Don't you want to feel happy? A grown man ought to be able to keep track of a pen. Should a person of a certain age, however, have outgrown notions like "favorite pen"? 4. By a weird coincidence, I was in town on a national holiday, just as it occurred in 2015 (please do yourself a favor and "click" here for corroboration), so the office was closed on Monday, and I found myself in the EXACT same bistro in which Kent and I had a green chartreuse before going to see 50 SHADES OF GREY together at the movie theater next door, so I had a green chartreuse in Kent's honor, though Kent lives in Vermont now, and I was all alone, it was a desperate sight, let me tell you, drinking a green chartreuse all alone and thinking of Kent. 5. "My twin will hug me... sometimes." - Hilary Florido. 6. Dan Tana's, just the place for dinner with my brother! I got there a little early, so I sat at the bar waiting. I listened to a guy who seemed to be on a first date telling a woman that he was directly descended from William Bradford. He was telling her all about what kind of wine to order after her martini. A Malbec will be velvety and heavy, but without the tannins of a cabernet, he yammered. Whereas a "pinot" will be "fluffy." See? This could have all gone in a novel. Anyway, it wasn't a first date, because he suddenly asked, "What's your name?" She said her name was Lurleen, a name I know because it was the name of the wife of the awful governor of Alabama, George Wallace, who briefly became governor herself, and I was born in Alabama, so we know the name Lurleen. But this guy was enraptured. "WHAT A BEAUTIFUL NAME!" he rhapsodized. Ha ha! If this were a novel I couldn't use the word "rhapsodized." I'd be kicked out of the novelist club. Then he said something that surprised me: "My wife's name is Melody." I didn't see that coming! But he was still trying to pick up Lurleen, I'm pretty sure. "WHAT ARE YOUR PASSIONS?" he oozed. Ha ha, I hate my verbs today. I hate them so much that I sort of love them! She said she liked to paint and what do you know, this guy's brother is a famous artist! "I could do you a lot of favors in the art world," said the putative descendent of William Bradford. "And do you know why? Because my brother loves me! HE LOVES ME!" How the rest of the story went, I just don't know, because my own brother showed up, speaking of brothers, and we were escorted to our table. 7. As my brother and I were eating I glanced up and thought I saw Thomas Middleditch, star of TV's SILICON VALLEY, sitting at the bar. I asked my brother, "Hey! Is that that guy?" My brother said I had to be less obvious so he could find a reason to stare inconspicuously. So I looked in the opposite direction, which frustrated my brother! "No, you have to look in sort of the SAME direction!" he said. So I looked at the TV over the bar, where there was a car race going on, which seemed like something a person would look at, and my brother was able to stare properly at the person whom he indeed confirmed to be Thomas Middleditch. 8. But then, later, out on the sidewalk, after dinner, we seemed to be walking behind that same guy, and I humorously remarked that he would think we were stalking him. "That's not the same guy!" my brother said. I insisted it was the same guy who had been sitting at the bar. "He's wearing the same suit!" I said. "Yes, he's wearing a black JACKET!" my brother replied dismissively. Trouble in the family! So I thought the guy had never been Thomas Middleditch, and my brother thought the guy sitting at the bar had been Thomas Middleditch and this was a different guy we were looking at now. I suppose we'll never know, unless Thomas Middleditch gets in touch. I will just say that the guy at the bar, whom we both took to be Thomas Middleditch at the time, was really making a meal out of his knuckle. He was gnawing ravenously on the knuckle of his right forefinger like there was no tomorrow! 9. Reading a book in translation and the translator uses "trooper" when he means "trouper." How can I trust him now? 10. Back at the hotel in Burbank, I returned to find my hotel room door cracked partly open! If you will glance up at #2, above, you will see that a theme for the trip had formed! I gently and suspiciously pushed the door the rest of the way open, like a person in a movie would do. Nothing was amiss. 11. Cole Sanchez taught me the word "subluxation," meaning a hyperextension of the joint, and I asked him what a hyperextension of the joint was and he said it was when he, Cole, made someone's elbow or knee go in the direction it doesn't want to go. Ouch! It's all part of of what I believe he called "Brazilian jiujitsu," which he practices. He also told me about choking people until they pass out. Don't get me wrong, it is another move in the same sport! "They can submit," he explained, meaning that the person can tap out before they become unconscious. I asked whether there were people who refuse to submit and Cole said that yes, some people are so annoyed that you got past their defenses they would rather just let you choke them unconscious than undergo the humiliation of submitting. 12. I went to see Dianne Wiest performing her magnificent and inexhaustible heart out in Samuel Beckett's great play HAPPY DAYS. I made up a funny blurb for it: "It's a different kind of 'Cheers' for THIS Sam and Dianne!" I eavesdropped on the people sitting in front of me. They have stopped eating octopus because they met a really smart octopus. The guy had a long gray ponytail and was wearing a bracelet that said "RESIST!" Anyway, it's funny because Julia Pott had just been talking at dinner the night before about not ordering the octopus for similar reasons, though to my knowledge she has never met an octopus in person. I'm skipping over most of the dinner with Julia because it's going undiluted into my project with McNeil, alluded to in the introductory paragraph above. 13. During the Beckett play, a certain segment of the audience would go HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! whenever Dianne Wiest, as the character Winnie, said something like, "One forgets one's classics." HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! "One forgets one's classics." HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA! They were laughing like it was the farting scene in BLAZING SADDLES. Naturally it made me think of what Kierkegaard said about farce, which makes me no better than them. 14. There was a guy in the hotel bar two nights in a row who also laughed HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA, but I don't know what about. His laugh suggested he was either an opera singer or Paul Bunyan. Booming, highly articulated and distinct HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HAs. He really pronounced each HA. "Boy, that guy really enjoys life," I said out loud to myself, bitterly, alone at the hotel bar.
Friday, May 10, 2019
New York Times, a movie review suggested that a certain documentary might discourage the viewer, had that viewer ever "entertained Green Acres-inspired reveries on the joys of farm living." Each time the New York Times displays such an abysmal fundamental ignorance of the themes of GREEN ACRES, I hasten to twitter, where I inform Laura Lipmann. I also used to keep a record of such grievous infractions on this very "blog," but as you know, I don't "blog" anymore. It occurred to me today with a sense of some regret that my tweets on the subject may be but chaff in the wind, whereas this "blog," while entirely defunct and universally ignored, might provide a sturdier repository for a list of New York Times misrepresentations of Green Acres. How many priceless examples have been lost? Who can say? But at least I'm preserving this one. Now! One may argue that the reviewer DOES understand Green Acres, and that he is referring in his analogy to Oliver's own "reveries on the joys of farm living," which he (Oliver) indeed most explicitly expresses in the theme song to the series. BUT! Even a passing familiarity with the source material would come with the knowledge that "farm living" gave Oliver, in actuality, nothing but grief, disillusionment, surreal and even psychotic bafflement, and a constant state of frustration bordering on unbridled rage. The reviewer should have stated more clearly that the documentary under consideration might discourage those who, "like Oliver Douglas of Green Acres, once entertained reveries on the joys of farm living." But even that doesn't make sense, because the body of the text itself (GREEN ACRES) has already accomplished the purpose on which the reviewer so wantonly hypothesizes.
Thursday, April 25, 2019
VISIT TO A SMALL PLANET, Jerry Lewis, in historical costume, has trouble sitting in a chair because of his sword, in a gag that recurs some years later in the Coen Brothers film HAIL, CAESAR!, in which George Clooney, in historical costume, has trouble sitting in a chair because of his sword. Coincidence, you say? That is as may be! But in a later scene in the latter film, Clooney mentions Norman Taurog. And who is Norman Taurog? Only the director of VISIT TO A SMALL PLANET. I don't "blog" anymore but what do you want me to do with my life? I'm serious, tell me.
Saturday, April 20, 2019
Easter is big! People love to go out and have a nice dinner the night before Easter, probably, and one such person is Ace Atkins, I guess. Look what he saw on the wall of a restaurant: some sort of dish towel with advice on it. If you ask me, an owl supposedly giving you advice (the theme of the dish towel in question) is just distracting you in preparation for an attack with its razor-sharp talons and bone-crushing beak. Also, some of this stuff isn't what I think an owl would say. Like, does an owl have friends? Not to mention which, some of it is not technically advice. I hate to be so critical of a dish towel.
Tuesday, March 05, 2019
this Bricktop book she refers to Anna Magnani as "a real sport and a night owl." I almost gave up. I thought for sure we would have had some night owls already in this book. As you know, I don't "blog" anymore, but I did start keeping a list when I noticed that every book ever written has an owl in it, and the list never stops, no matter what else stops, which is everything, everything stops.
Saturday, March 02, 2019
Big Bad Breakfast and was not really surprised to see that the omelet named after my novel is no longer on the menu. The novel has long been out of print, so why not the omelet? And the restaurant has expanded its geographic and philosophical reach beyond esoteric localized allusion. (See also, however, via this "hyperlink," the time our photograph was unceremoniously removed from the wall of an Italian restaurant.) Next to me at the counter, a young woman looked at her phone and shouted, "OH MY GOD! MY FATHER CANCELED MY BATHING SUIT ORDER!" Her boyfriend then described his mother's homemade lemon cake frosting in what I would call almost gothic detail. Then he referred to the time he had gone for underage drinks with his father the greatest night of his life. And I thought, well, you know, maybe he's just a guy who likes his parents, is that a crime? I don't "blog" anymore, and should really put this young couple in a novel instead, but I'm too tired.
Wednesday, February 20, 2019
As part of my ongoing program of adult education, I am reading Bricktop's autobiography along with Megan Abbott. Bricktop (left) reminisces about "the type of place where gin was poured out of milk pitchers." And I wondered why it mattered out of what the gin was poured. And I still wonder! It did put me in mind of a fact relayed long ago by Megan Abbott, namely, that some people would use cream pitchers decorated with Shirley Temple's face to make martinis, using a handy mnemonic for the perfect recipe: "Gin to the chin, vermouth to the tooth." There, the motivation for using the pitcher is clear. And while I was typing all this, I recalled the lyrics to Screamin' Jay Hawkins's "Yellow Coat," in which the eponymous coat, as part (I believe) of its manufacture, is "laid out in milk and gin." As I prepare to hit the "publish" button, it occurs to me that I have no idea why I have always heard that lyric as explicitly referring to the yellow coat's origin, although the garment's magical and legendary properties are certainly extolled by the narrator. It might just as well be that the coat, with, perhaps, its owner still inside, are supposed to be lying in some milk and gin after (during?) a celebration of some kind.
Monday, February 18, 2019
this Philip Roth novel, to my surprise, he tells the exact same story about George Plimpton I once told on this very "blog" ("click" here for more information - I know you won't!). Furthermore, it would appear that he has the story from the same source. I guess this guy just goes around the country telling about the time he was hanging out with George Plimpton and George Plimpton took off his t-shirt and threw it in the air to attract bats. Wouldn't you? Tell the story, I mean. I didn't mean to imply that you would take off your t-shirt and use it to attract bats. Who would do such a thing? George Plimpton, apparently. In roughly the same passage, Philip Roth compares himself to Jerry Lewis, in that they are both "affronters" (his word), or really Roth's first-person narrator Nathan Zuckerman obliquely compares himself to Jerry Lewis, but come on! Hey! That reminds me. Last night I noticed for the first time a direct allusion to THE NUTTY PROFESSOR in MEAN STREETS. Both films contain scenes of people lined up like bowling pins, and there's a clattering bowling pin sound effect when the the people are knocked over en masse. I REST MY CASE.
Saturday, February 16, 2019
As you know, I don't "blog" anymore, so how could you know that lately I have had no time to "blog"? We moved into a new house. There was some delay with the TV, telephone, and internet. I was opening boxes of books and putting them into what seemed like the appropriate bookcases. I was going to put this one Philip Roth book in a bookcase in the living room, and I thought, "Huh! I never read this one! That seems like false advertising. Well, you know what? I should go ahead and read it. It's pretty short. Then I can put it on a bookcase in the living room without feeling like an imposter. The living room seems like a place for books you could discuss if somebody asked you." So I checked the copyright page, because I wondered how long this book had been around without me reading it: 2007. I must have purchased it at Square Books when it came out. A bookmark was in there, one of the short Square Books bookmarks from the old days, which you may recall from when I used to review bookmarks, back when I had a "blog." The great irony is that the living room bookcases have been filled and there is no room for this book upon them any longer. Anyway, now I've read most of the book, because books are great, they just sit there for countless years.
Friday, January 18, 2019
I don't "blog" anymore, except when Lee Durkee tells me about farting on the moon, or when I read a book with an owl in it, because I keep a list. Megan Abbott and I are reading a book about celebrities in Rome in the 1950s, in which it is claimed that King Farouk's "tiny round spectacles" give him "an owlish aspect." I tell you, people's tiny round spectacles are always giving them an owlish aspect, I can't count the times I've seen an author resort to that image... well, you know what? I could probably count the times, I mean, maybe that's why I've been keeping my list all along. But it sounds like a lot of work. For your information, King Farouk also appears in the book I wrote about cigarette lighters, though his spectacles do not, despite the fact that three of the books in my bibliography are SPECTACLES, LORGNETTES AND MONOCLES by D.C. Davidson, FASHIONS IN EYEGLASSES FROM THE FOURTEENTH CENTURY TO THE PRESENT DAY by Richard Corson, and THE STORY OF OPTOMETRY by James R. Gregg. You see, the question I felt compelled to address is whether glass lenses were originally made for magnification or to light things on fire. I probably didn't bother to draw any conclusions. Once again, it sounds like a lot of work.
Thursday, January 17, 2019
Tuesday, January 08, 2019
Speaking of cigarette lighters, as I was some weeks ago, I should mention that this Larry Brown novel spends a solid four pages on the lighting of a cigarette, culminating in the double entendre, "Honey, you can flick my Bic all day long." Brown's four pages, I should say, cut a veritable swath through numerous subjects covered in my book CIGARETTE LIGHTER. If only I had read this before writing that.