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Poetic injustice, seems like

04-Apr-10

Half-delivering on my promise from last entry, here’s the New Yorker’s podcast of authors reading the works of other authors.

Early last week, I was afflicted with Sudden Hearing Loss.  It’s getting better, but I’m still very out-of -sorts.  Descriptions are difficult, but I’ll attempt anyway: bass distorts, voices sit behind walls, everything generally sounds badly mixed.  The refrigerator’s hum sounds as though it’s being blasted out of a teenager’s car.  Dina’s been worried about me, and understandably so – I’ve been pacing the house, unresponsive, trying to get a grip and, it must be admitted, mostly failing.   She even wants me to see a doctor, much to my surprise (she’s no fan of doctors).  I don’t know.  Something clearly needs to be done, but times are pretty tight.  Scared of how much this might cost me, especially since I don’t have insurance.

Probably the most terrifying aspect of the whole thing so far, though, is how unbearable it’s become to play my guitar.  All of the nuance is gone, replaced by cavernous inner ear feedback.    Five minutes with the thing gives me a headache.  (Likely one of the major reasons I’m failing to get a grip.)

Anyway, enough bad news.  Here’s some good: I finished my taxes today and managed a pretty nice refund.  Something like $350.  Not exactly a king’s ransom, I know, but after several years of paying the government over $1500/yr (I was self-employed), it’s extremely refreshing.

Talking book(s)

31-Mar-10

As a postscript to the last post, I thought I might link a couple of the author interview archives I like to sift through while at my day job.

Wired for Books is a collection of interviews that radio host Don Swaim did ca. the 1980′s and early 1990′s.   His interviewees include such literary heavyweights as William Gass, Susan Sontag, Margaret Atwood, William Styron, T. C. Boyle, and Kurt Vonnegut, to barely scratch the surface.  Swaim isn’t a great interviewer – in one particularly wince-inducing instance, he spends nearly a fifth of his interview with Ann Beattie droning on about how she should trade in her typewriter for a Mac – but the interviewees usually manage to navigate his clumsiness, and on the whole the archive is, in my opinion, an invaluable resource.

Next in line is Bookworm, a wonderful program hosted by Michael Silverblatt on Santa Monica’s KCRW.  Silverblatt has a certain amount of renown within the writing world – he’s a reader’s reader, a very thoughtful soul, the sort of man that tends to impress guests with his depth of insight.  To me, he’s simply the ideal interviewer, routinely extracting far more from his guests and their texts than any listener would have a right to expect from a promotional interview.  My only problem with Bookworm – and it’s not even a problem with the show itself – is that so much of its online archive is sewn up in RealAudio, so little of it in mp3.

I also hoped to post a bunch of examples of writers reading their own writing, but the prep time outstripped my free time.  Maybe next post.

Consider the audiobook

30-Mar-10

Why don’t more writers perform their own audiobooks?  I ask this not only as someone who just listened to the whole of DFW’s Consider the Lobster (well, not quite – it was abridged) today and loved it, but as someone who finds Sylvia Plath’s recitation of “Daddy” exponentially more arresting than the work on page; who has often practiced that distinct Dylan Thomas lilt in the shower; and who spends nights tracking down radio interviews with any and all writers he’s even remotely interested in because he wants to hear it, the voice, the human behind the texts.   On reflection, I think this has a lot to do with the personal investment that inheres in these performances – no one on earth is quite so invested in what an author is saying as the author him/herself is.

Take “The View From Mrs. Thompson’s” from Consider the Lobster, for example. This essay is essentially a series of anecdotes describing how DFW and the Midwestern folks in his vicinity/community reacted to 9/11 – a solid piece, whether read aloud or not.  In DFW’s voice, however, it transcends. We get to hear his reactions – the tenderness, the listlessness, the guilty detachment – and, most appropriately, it’s all delivered in his unmistakably Southern Illinoisan drawl.  There’s a rich new dimension present that isn’t, simply can’t be, on the page.  And while it’s true that this effect is likely heightened by the genre, it’s not hard to think of fiction that might benefit from the same approach as well.  (Lethem’s Fortress of Solitude and Robinson’s Housekeeping immediately leap to mind.)

What’s your take on this, readers?  Am I in a minority here?  Are you as annoyed as I am that you’ll never get to hear Donald Barthelme read one of his own short stories?  More importantly, can you recommend some good author-read audiobooks to me?

On the passing of J. D. Salinger.

28-Jan-10

Salinger was a big deal to me. Franny and Zooey may’ve saved my life once or twice, certainly influenced the way I wrote and what I wrote about for a long while. It occurs to me that my only published work even features a character summarizing the plot of “Teddy” at one point. I’ve thought about his stories a lot, is what I’m saying. He was an incredible short story writer, really something else.

Salinger stopped publishing stories about 18 years before I was born. That always rubbed me the wrong way, but I can’t argue with it – it’s a strange life, these things happen. Like anyone else, I’m tongue-tied, having not the slightest clue what the man believed in, what he hoped for, what his life meant when he was at home. But 91 strikes me as a good old age. So goodbye to you, Mr. Salinger. You were one of the best.

05-Nov-09

Been writing a lot of material over the last few weeks, none of it public. Was slowly going insane so I took up writing daily journal entries again. Turned out to be exactly the cathartic activity I needed. Also in the midst of NaNoWriMo presently and have churned out some 6,500 words for that so far. Though it seems overkill and possibly even dangerous to my art when looked at from the outside, I’m actually finding it very useful. The quotas provide a wonderful excuse to practice the craft for 4-5 hours a night.

12-Aug-07

I’m listening to the Dirty Projectors’ new album, Rise Above. I say matter-of-factly that this album is the best thing they’ve ever put out. It’s not an any-mood record, nor is it remotely flawless – it’s too dubiously “conceptual” for that – but suddenly the Dirty Projectors seem to have a considered sound rather than a wank-off mess, and that’s kind of cool.

As you may’ve heard, the album was constructed from singer/composer/whatever Dave Longstreth’s memories of the Black Flag album Damaged. Advice: try not to listen to it that way, you’ll be better off. The source material was direct, energetic, and exciting, but Longstreth’s recasting is more of a dizzy kitchen-sink attempt at pastoral, almost diametrically opposing the original in terms of urgency and even meaning.  It’s very, very good.  Take this as a personal recommendation, folks.

Ryan
xoxox

06-Aug-07

I’m leaving August 13th. Lisa will be with me. I’m shipping most of my belongings with only my luggage, amp, guitars, and desktop computer in tow for the car ride.

09-Jun-07

So long, New York City! Hello, reality!

At least, that’s what it feels like. You know what happened when I went to Iowa City earlier today to drop off Alena and eat at Z’Mariks and look at trees? I felt so overwhelmed and grateful I almost cried. It was so warm and there were so many people with color in their faces. Couples were sunning in the park. And it kept happening like that… you Midwesterners don’t know how green it is here. I keep touching the grass and trees when I’m walking around because they don’t look real. They look too alive.

And I have a car! I don’t have to stay here all day or wait around to be taken somewhere else. I can get in my car and drive and listen to music and go somewhere. I feel like a newborn.

More later!

Ryan
xoxo

06-Jun-07

I carried four 30-40 pound boxes a total of 14 blocks today; my arms, as you can imagine, are rigid with pain. But then, I suppose that’s moving. I’m going to have to deliver at least two more similarly-loaded boxes a total of four blocks tomorrow. Then comes loading the car, treating my benefactors (Alex and Alena) to lunch or dinner, driving in shifts, driving driving driving. At the end I’ll have to drive Alena home, and then I’ll be somewhere new, officially.

Well, somewhere old, officially. But somewhere new comparatively.

It would be ridiculous to claim that I won’t miss New York City. It’s ridiculous in the way claiming you hate your ex from a long-term relationship is ridiculous. It’s way too complicated. I won’t miss the palpable cautiousness people have here – in fact, I’m hoping it’s the first attribute I’ll shake off. I won’t miss the noise, either. What I will miss is the access. I saw some damn fine shows, exhibitions, films, and general events here. I know I won’t likely have that level of access again – that is, unless I move back, which is very definitely not in the cards at this point.

Even then, all that access, it’s not that good. It doesn’t square well with my nature. I like to hunt for my food, so to speak. And I like to savor it.

It’s kind of awesome to be moving. I like everything involved with moving. You have to take stock of your situation in a serious way. You have to prioritize. Sometimes, as with this move, you have to travel long distances through lands you rarely ever get the chance to see. And don’t forget that fresh-start feeling. When you move somewhere else, you are a blank slate to these people. If you’re psychologically equipped to do so, you can become a new and wholly more effective person.

This will probably be the last entry from New York, fellas. Á demain.

Ryan
xoxo

01-Jun-07

Anacortes totally won. I move to the Department of Safety in August.
(I’m moving in with Lisa next year, though.)

Exciting? Yes. I’ll reprint the details from my other journal later.

Ryan
xoxo