The world is shedding its thousand skins. The snake goes naked, and the needles of the pine fall out like the teeth of a comb I broke upon your hair last week. The ghosts of dead leaves haunt no one. Impossible to give you to the weather, to leave you locked in a killed tree. No metaphysic has prepared us for the simple act of turning and walking away.
I loved Conor then. I really did love him, and all the versions of him I had invented, in those houses, in my head, I loved them all. And I loved some essential thing too; the sense of him I carried around with me, which was confirmed each time I saw him, or a few strange seconds later. We knew each other. Our real life was in some shared head space; our bodies were just the place we used to play. Maybe that’s the way lovers should be - not these besotted fuck-witted strangers that are myself and Seán, these actors in a bare room.
“I walk through the Christmas city lights, not a taxi in sight and the town going crazy all around me, and I think how kissing is such an extravagance of nature. Like birdsong; heartfelt and lovely beyond any possible usefulness.”—Anne Enright, The Forgotten Waltz
“Our top 1% are a lot more cohesive than 3 million people ought to be. They go to the same colleges and prep schools; they sit on the same boards; they vacation in the same spots; and they are biologically related to each other. If the bottom 1% were that cohesive, things would be a lot different around here. (Hm. Gangs, organize in that sector, but only 1 million people—1/3 of 1%—and once they join, they usually make a little income, so they aren’t in the bottom 1% any more.)”—Sociologist Bethany Bryson (via nortonsoc)
"It’s changing the way that I’m reading," says Josh Christie, a bookseller at Sherman’s Books in Freeport, Maine. He’s talking about The Lifespan of a Fact, a new book by John D’Agata (the author) and Jim Fingal (the fact checker).
Listen to Josh, take a look at this sample page to get a visual of what he’s talking about, and mark your calendar for 2/27/12, the date we’re going to drop this “subversive” book in a bookstore near you.
This recording is a short excerpt from the excellent Bookrageous podcast (yes, they’re on Tumblr). Bookrageous is what you should be listening to in order to answer the age old question: what should I read next?
“The reader has a choice of three books: one is about a woman who falls in love; the second is about a woman who falls in love catastrophically because that is what love is; and then the third is about an adulteress and a liar and a home-wrecker and a man-stealer.”—Anne Enright describes three ways readers can approach her new novel The Forgotten Waltz and how it depends on their own life experience and personal morality in this interview with The Paris Review.
Highlights from the Salon Interview with the Director of the Iowa Writers Workshop
This weekend on Salon, Curtis Sittenfeld interviewed Lan Samantha Chang, the Director of the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and author of All Is Forgotten, Nothing is Lost (now available in paperback). Here are some highlights from their conversation:
On the subject of Iowa Writers Workshop grads that go on to publish books:
"There are a lot of recent graduates who have books, but can I just say, though, that for those of us who work and teach at the program, who see the Workshop as a quirky home for gifted misfits, we’re thrilled when people show signs of promise, but we also know that it takes a long time, sometimes decades, for talent to mature. All the hoopla over the program and the people who graduate from the program has very little to do with the mission of the program, which is to make writing the center of each writer’s life for the brief period of time when they are here.”
On the admission process:
"I want the admissions system to allow for quirks, because it seems to be that outliers are the ones who often end up being quite good. I don’t know what the difference would be between the people who get in and the people who don’t except sometimes I think it’s timing. A really promising writer in their early 20s who has just graduated from college and applies to the MFA, like straight out of college, stands a lower chance of getting into our program than someone who has been out for a few years and has had a chance to have some experience, and grow, and season, and write some more, and test their writing, and develop a larger body of work. That undergraduate who gets rejected from our program when they’re 22 could easily get in when they’re 26."
Advice to anyone who desperately wants to get into the program:
"Well, I would say turn in your best work. That’s the only advice. It doesn’t matter what your letters of recommendation say; it doesn’t matter what kind of grades you got. We just don’t look at that. We look at the work. We’ve done that always, and it’s still true."
"The child’s name is Melodie. Long ago, before Melodie was born, her pretty mother had had a stab at composing music." Trespass: A Novel by Rose Tremain
"Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe (1719) contains one of the most famous acts of improvising a measure of all time. Crusoe had been shipwrecked on a deserted island for 15 years when, strolling on the beach, he was ‘thunder-struck’ to see ‘the print of a man’s naked foot’ in the sand. After having lived for years without encountering trace of another living human, Crusoe was ‘terrify’d to the last degree.’ He retreated to his cave, tormented for 3 days and nights by ‘wild ideas.’ Was it Satan’s own foot? Tracks of cannibals? Could it have been Crusoe’s own footprint, and his fears but delusions? He could think of only one way to go on: ‘I should go down to the shore again, and see this print of a foot, and measure it by my own.’ Returning to the beach, Crusoe set his foot alongside the print of the other. The footprint was larger than his—much larger. Thanks to that measurement, he was sure that the island had been visited by at least one person other than himself. This discovery transformed Crusoe’s notions about his own safety and prompted him to fortify his cave dwelling, which he henceforth thought of as his ‘castle.’” World in the Balance: The Historic Quest for an Absolute System of Measurement by Robert P. Crease
Here’s my bright idea for life on earth: better management. The CEO has lost touch with the details. I’m worth as much, but I care; I come down here, I show my face, I’m a real regular. A toast: To our boys and girls in the war, grinding through sand, to everybody here, our host who’s mostly mist, like methane rising from retreating ice shelves. Put me in command. For every town, we’ll have a marching band. For each thoroughbred, a comfortable stable; for each worker, a place beneath the table. For every forward step a stumbling. A shadow over every starlit thing.
“In your tent, read a book, settle down. It’s a moment to yourself, a moment of clarity.”—Kassandra Ledesma, 18, high school dropout and patron of the library at the Occupy Boston encampment, reading “Night" by Elie Wiesel. From the New York Times: “Occupying Boston and Beyond, With Tent Libraries for All.”
“Poetry holds the knowledge that we are alive and that we know we’re going to die. The most mysterious aspect of being alive might be that — and poetry knows that.”—On today’s Fresh Air, poet Marie Howe discusses several of her poems, which deal with topics such as loss, love, spirituality, gender, sexuality and intimacy. (via nprfreshair)
"The flag goes to the filthy landscape, and our dialect stifles the drum. “On to city centers where we’ll nourish the most cyn- ical prostitution. We’ll massacre logical rebellions. “On to peppery and waterlogged countries!—at the service of the most monstrous industrial or military exploitation. ”Farewell here, anywhere. Well-meaning draftees, we’ll adopt a ferocious philosophy; ignorant of science, sly for comfort; let the shambling world drop dead. This is the real march. Heads up, forward!”
Arthur Rimbaud, from Illuminations Translated by John Ashbery, recipient of the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.
The animals have come down from the hills and through the forests and across the prairies. They are American animals, and carry with them a history of their slaughter. There’s not one who doesn’t sleep with an eye open.
Out of necessity the small have banded with the large, the large with the large of different species. When the dark comes they form an enormous circle.
It’s all, after years of night-whispers and long-range cries, coming together.
To make a new world the American animals know there must be sacrifices. Every evening a prayer is said for the spies who’ve volunteered to be petted in the houses of the enemy. "They are savages," one reported, "let no one be fooled by their capacity for loving.
Joshua Cody received his bachelor’s degree in music composition from Northwestern University and his master’s and doctoral degrees from Columbia University. He is a composer and filmmaker living in New York City. [sic] is his first book.
[sic] is a memoir about devastating illness, creativity, sex and drugs, and thirty-something life in New York. A cross between Susan Sontag’s Illness as Metaphor and Jay McInerny’s Bright Lights, Big City.
“That’s what we do, I remember thinking: we break things up and shatter them so we can put them back together, otherwise what would we do? Because we need something to do.”—Joshua Cody from [sic]: a memoir
“No one who has observed the American boy and girl of today can fail to note that they tend to adopt for their own reading many of the current books meant for their elders.”—The New Books For Younger Readers New York Times: December 15, 1940
First Lines from New Books Out Today: October 17, 2011
"Twelve sessions, one every two weeks; but you have no idea what this means, really. I mean how could you, and neither does anyone else, so everybody’s at a loss for words; and it’s ironically reminiscent of those lead grey—laden, amaranthine after-school afternoons of childhood, on the dusty playground, class is out but it’s still too early to go home, so you wait with the others, and there’s no need to speak and there’s the sense of communion. The big difference is that now, here, there is, palpably, the need to speak. Thing is nobody can. The unspoken words, ultimately, are ‘What’s it going to be like?’ And that’d be a funny question even if somebody could voice it: not what is it going to be, but what is it going to be like?” [sic]: A Memoir by Joshua Cody
"It is virtually impossible to overstate the railroad’s impact on American history, and the steam locomotive that powered it for more than a hundred years remains an object of profound curiousity." Steam: An Enduring Legacy: The Railroad Photographs of Joel Jensen by Joel Jensen with essays by John Gruber and Scott Lothes and an afterword by Jeff Brouws
"There is no one recipe for great leadership, sometimes the men and women who emerge as leaders are the ones who are the most firmly wedded to their vision and principles. At other times it is the more flexible and practical who thrive. Even traits that might seem to be obvious assets to leadership are sometimes not as important as we assume. Take, for example, intelligence. Often the connection between it and successful leadership seems shaky at best; there are even times when it seems like an inverse correlation. Our most influential presidents—George Washington, Franklin Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan—were not necessarily our smartest ones, but rather the wisest at the tricky art of balancing pragmatism and principle." Profiles in Leadership: Historians on the Elusive Quality of Greatness edited by Walter Isaacson
"Money talks in American politics, and what the financial industry’s money has been saying lately is that it will punish any politician who dares to criticize that industry’s behavior, no matter how gently — as evidenced by the way Wall Street money has now abandoned President Obama in favor of Mitt Romney. And this explains the industry’s shock over recent events. You see, until a few weeks ago it seemed as if Wall Street had effectively bribed and bullied our political system into forgetting about that whole drawing lavish paychecks while destroying the world economy thing. Then, all of a sudden, some people insisted on bringing the subject up again. And their outrage has found resonance with millions of Americans. No wonder Wall Street is whining."
“I suspect that whatever inventions the future may disclose for the novelist of 2017, it will be at root very much the way it was for Trollope.”—Alec Waugh, Speaking Of Books: The Future, Fifty Years Ago New York Times, July 30, 1967
“Catch-22," by Joseph Heller, is not an entirely successful novel. It is not even a good novel. It is not even a good novel by conventional standards. But there can be no doubt that it is the strangest novel yet written about the United States Air Force in World War II. Wildly original, brilliantly comic, brutally gruesome, it is a dazzling performance that will probably outrage nearly as many readers as it delights. In any case, it is one of the most startling first novels of the year and it may make its author famous.”—Orville Prescott’s 1961 NY Times review of Catch-22
That voice—from the tv—that voice, thick smoky cheese, or, no— dark as burnt flan, sweet, venison-sweet in the heavy smoke of a tavern hearth, and hot as brandy. I served that voice for months, in a theater on 13th near Third where losers are the ones who crack first. I gave you azured hours, nights, and you placed your soul, pretty as a dead mouse, at my feet. Gutturals, the candles guttering backstage. Your voice went everywhere you dared not put your hands.
“People often ask me when and how I knew I was a poet. There are several fancy responses and explanations but one certainly has to do with my longing for solitude. I can spend inordinate amounts of time alone in a room, living entirely in my thoughts and feelings.”—Pulitzer prize-winning poet Philip Schultz in this excerpt from My Dyslexia on Poems Out Loud.