Monthly Archives: March 2013

“Serpents”

Here is Patti Smith improvising on Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, on the anniversary of Woolf’s death.  You’re welcome. [Via OpenCulture]

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“The Forest Awakes”

See You in the Foggy Forest (2010): oil-based woodcut on paper by Katsutoshi Yuasa

So, through a happy accident, it looks like I’m going to have an artist’s book included in the exhibition Time, the deer, is in the wood of Hallaig, to be mounted at St. John on Bethnal Green this June.

I am super-excited about this exhibit (even though I won’t be able to see it in person), as Amy’s put together some truly stunning art and artefacts on the theme of forests, history and memory.  Check out the link to get a look at some of the beautiful work — including historical photos of submerged forests, artist’s books, and woodcut prints (like the one above by Katsutoshi Yausa).  I feel extraordinarily lucky to have my humble little book project in such handsome company.

If this project sounds as amazing to you as it does to me, please consider contributing to the exhibition’s Kickstarter page.  Donations will help defray the cost of transporting and displaying the works, as well as other incidental costs associated with the exhibition.

And if you happen to be in London in June, go check it out — and send me lots of pictures, please!

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“Carmen”

Here, have some 1960s Malaysian pop music, courtesy of my mother.  You’re welcome.

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“Lacrimosa”

I recently read a bit of Stephen King’s critique of the adverb, and while I take his point, also . . . no.

Says King:

Consider the sentence He closed the door firmly. It’s by no means a terrible sentence (at least it’s got an active verb going for it), but ask yourself if firmly really has to be there. You can argue that it expresses a degree of difference between He closed the door and He slammed the door, and you’ll get no argument from me … but what about context? What about all the enlightening (not to say emotionally moving) prose which came before He closed the door firmly? Shouldn’t this tell us how he closed the door? And if the foregoing prose does tell us, isn’t firmly an extra word? Isn’t it redundant?

Yes, context should do some of the work that adverbs do.  But while context may obviate the need for bad adverbs, it doesn’t invalidate their usefulness altogether.  Adverbs do, as King says, express a degree of difference.  They qualify, that’s what an adverb does.  And who doesn’t want to be more precise?

But more importantly, what’s up with this obsession over economy?  Maybe it’s because I’ve been reading about Gordon Lish’s editing of Raymond Carver this evening, but this mania for minimalism gets on my nerves.  Why does the word have to be “extra”?  In academic or professional prose, I can understand the emphasis placed on concision, but in literary writing?  No.  Why?  Where’s the room for idiosyncrasy and surprise if we’re always pruning out the extraneous words?  We don’t all need to be Ernest Hemingway.  Certainly expressing the same sentiment in fewer words can be effective — constraints are generative, to be sure — but are those other words “extra”?  Are they dead weight?  Are they bad?  I can’t bring myself to believe that.

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“Let The Day Begin”

Today I read:

Well, we had all these children out planting trees, see, because we figured that … that was part of their education, to see how, you know, the root systems … and also the sense of responsibility, taking care of things, being individually responsible. You know what I mean. And the trees all died. They were orange trees. I don’t know why they died, they just died. Something wrong with the soil possibly or maybe the stuff we got from the nursery wasn’t the best. We complained about it. So we’ve got thirty kids there, each kid had his or her own little tree to plant and we’ve got these thirty dead trees. All these kids looking at these little brown sticks, it was depressing.

— Donald Barthelme, “The School

Thanks, LiAnn!

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“Brenninsteinn”

The Tree of Life, oh my goodness!  My only regret is that I couldn’t see it in IMAX, because forget action fantasy movies, this is one film that deserves to be seen on the big screen.

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“Hole in the Middle”

Today I read:

Perhaps predictably, the cloud became enamored of a girl who came to visit it occasionally. The cloud adored her. She was both sillier and more serious than the other visitors. Instead of poking, she petted, curving her palm into gentle bowls. Rather than grab the cloud up, she turned her face from side to side, enjoying it against her cheek. The cloud changed itself into shapes to entertain and amuse her. When the weather grew colder and the cloud was stretched out, worn and wispy, it gamely shaped itself into a chicken that laid an egg that broke into a castle with glass walls and locked doors; a hippo that carried on its back an entire town; an oyster that ate a submarine; all her most favorite shapes.

— L. Chapman, “Cumulus,” in Lightning Cake

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