Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Summer Reading

The problem when I try to read without an authority figure telling me that such and such a text must be read by such and such a day is that I begin reading three books which then end up being seven which then end up being ten and then I don't feel like I'm reading anything. I get the mathematical sublime when I am left to my own devices. I started reading "Call Me Ishmael" and I need to finish that in the next couple of days because Jocelyn Saidenberg and I are doing a Melville reading group this summer. We're going to read all the Shakespeare Olson talks about in relationship to Moby Dick then we're going to read Moby Dick. Then it will probably be September and it will be time for my Melville class with Priscilla Wald. Jocelyn is going to come read in the fall and then sneak into our class on Monday. Melville. All poets love Melville. Or at least they should.

Anyhow, in non-official reading last night, I opened Benjamin Friedlander's "The Missing Occasion of Saying Yes" and read "Covenant" (the book is a collection of F's early books, so "Covenant" must have been a chapbook). In any case, it's unbearably beautiful in that Dickinson way of syntactic twists. Given that I couldn't sleep and was thus reading poetry late at night, it is appropriate that my favorite poem from last night is called "Insomnia". It ends with the following passage:

mom-slam-the-door
a mad hatter
opens, I-Alice unawares,
the ruddy
punisher, deplored did
queer the deal
no one, nowhere else
no home
is ours is ours
to keep, is shown

stillness, ferrying bitch, take me through th rapids,
lash light--shine on



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I hope those linebreaks happen right (as in correct) when I hit "publish post". In any case, I am teaching creative writing this summer, starting at the end of June. I am trying to get some ideas for fiction readings. Alexander Chee, a super-cool guy and great novelist who I met at the "Emerging Writers Conference" at USF (we were suite mates and shared facial scrub) suggested I read Miranda July after he heard me read. I've been wanting to read her, as it seems everyone was walking around with her bright yellow book last summer, but, alas, I was reading things written by dead people all year. Not that I'm complaining. I love reading dead people. So yesterday my used copy of July's "No one belongs here more than you." came in the mail and I read the first story right before my first shift of sleep (pre-Friedlander Insomnia) and I really dug it. I read "The Shared Patio". The prose is spare, the settings banal but the storytelling very strange. The narration is sparely strange. Does that make any sense? The prose isn't ornate, the setting seems suburban, and yet everything is slightly surreal mostly because the narrator needs a hug. It works pretty well and I wish I was imaginative enough to come up with some of the situations July thought of for this story. I saw her feature film the other night. It had similar qualities. Most moving was the depiction of the loneliness of children. The least interesting narrative thread, I thought, was the one she played in herself. She was a lonely performance artist who worked as a cab driver for the elderly. She falls in love with a shoe salesmen. That storyline seemed the most strained, mostly because I couldn't figure out what was so interesting for her about the shoe guy. But the kids of the shoe salesmen were amazing. And the writing she did for their parts was wonderfully crazy. Especially the littlest kid. He is amazing. What's the movie called? "You and Me and Everyone we Know"

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