Monday, May 18, 2009

Fly, my wingèd monkey! Fly!

"Helping Them Take the Old Man Down" submitted to F&SF.

Presently reading:
Geoff Dyer, Yoga for People Who Can't Be Bothered to Do It
Annie Liebovits, At Work
David Eagleman, Sum
Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Finished and ready to send: "Helping Them Take the Old Man Down"

Begun, barely: "Bathrooms I Have Known"

Thursday, May 14, 2009

"A more complex ordering system appears in what is known as the largest encyclopedia ever printed: the Qinding Gujin Tushu Jicheng, or Great Illustrated Imperial Encyclopedia of Past and Present Times, of 1726, a gigantic biographical library divided into more than ten thousand sections. The work was attributed to Jiang Tingxi, a court proofreader who used wooden blocks with cut-out pictures and movable characters specially designed for the enterprise. Each section of the encyclopedia covers one specific realm of human concern, such as Science or Travel, and is divided into subsections containing biographical entries. The section on Human Relations, for instance, lists the biographies of thousands of men and women according to their occupation or position in society, among them sages, slaves, playboys, tyrants, doctors, calligraphers, supernatural beings, great drinkers, notable archers and widows who did not marry again."
—Manguel, The Library at Night, p. 49

Thursday, May 7, 2009

" . . . [M]y books know infinitely more than I do, and I'm grateful that they even tolerate my presence."
—Alberto Manguel, The Library at Night, p. 4

"'Why need I even speak of it, since it is imperishably held in the memory of all men?' wrote Athenaeus of Naucratis, barely a century and a half after [the library of Alexandria's] destruction."
The Library at Night, p. 27

[Athenaeus hadn't seen it, nor had anyone alive. He made it vivid through insistance, not recollection, like people's ideas of a better decade, a perfect past, a moment that wasn't.]

"In any of the pages in any of my books may lie a perfect account of my secret experience of the world."
The Library at Night, p. 29

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

"My Story of Us Looking for My Comic Strip, by Franklin James Nemeth" sent to GUD.

Monday, May 4, 2009

"Rufus T. Firefly was accordingly made president and at once began to rule in his characteristically flamboyant manner. Although Firefly was immediately popular with the people of Freedonia, his behaviour and attitude led to the resignation of some of his ministers.

"Nor was his appointment to the taste of neighbouring Sylvania or its ambassador Trentino. For some years Sylvania had been trying to subvert the economy and politics of Freedonia and Firefly's appointment was seen as an obstacle to these plans, as well as to Trentino's marrying Mrs. Teasdale, as Rufus T. Firefly had offered her a roofus over her head if she became his wife."

—"Freedonia," from The Dictionary of Imaginary Places, Alberto Manguel and Gianni Guadalupi

"I can't get the thumb tack in the wall. I've got the saddest life."
—Little Edie Beale, Grey Gardens (film)

"My body is a very precious place. It's concentrated ground."
—Big Edie Beale

"Everything's good that you didn't do."
—Big Edie Beale

When exactly does someone cross the line between viewing cat piss and feces as problematic and seeing it as part of what one expects in a household? For the Beales, when did raccoons tearing through the walls seem merely a natural event like wind? How could they not attach their feeding of the raccoons—Little Edie's moment of leaving the loaf of Wonder Bread sprinkled with cat chow—with the encroachment of the creatures into their living quarters? These are the questions I'm left with.
"Are You Looking At" sent to Virginia Quarterly Review.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

"Coleridge, it's often claimed, was the last person to have read everything. This voracious appetite for reading was matched, in his writing, by a chronic inability to finish anything. Walter Benjamin, an obsessive collector of books, thought that the most satisfying way to acquire volumes was to write them, but he, too, was able to bring only a few of his most cherished projects to anything like completion.

"It is a trait they share with Gedney. Although he reproached himself on occasions, for not making the best use of his time, this inability to bring any of his varied projects to completion was not the result of laziness but, paradoxically, of immersing himself so thoroughly in his work."

—Geoff Dyer, What Was True: The Photographs and Notebooks of William Gedney

The Kentucky photos are the most striking. The Benares photos possess some of the same qualities—the appreciation for the beauty of a human body in need, an eye for how people shape—unconsciously and unselfconsciously—their bodies against a background, a love of naturalism that carries no overt statement about its subject—but the KY photos hit me more. First, there's continuity—the same family viewed and reviewed, aging. The way people interact with each other. Their interactions with objects—often cars, but also parts of cars, cigarettes, their clothing (men's pants). And, too, I somewhat recognize these people. They remind me of my Frostburg relatives and childhood friends, or Nan's relatives out in Deer Park, with their rural isolation, the tales of violence and illness, the lack of forward momentum. They have no expectation of being remembered by the world. Gedney has remembered them (they seem aware of this in the letters to him, as if he summoned them). He gives those of us who deceive ourselves in regards to our importance—or who inhabit a world in which change is not only possible but expected—the opportunity to recollect how most humans live. His camera doesn't pull these subjects into the limelight. Somehow, they remain where they are.