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

Endless, Faint Soughing

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

Door Trouble!

Well, you know 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.