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Oh Brave New Year December 31, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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“Oh brave new world that has such people in’t!”
— From Miranda’s speech in Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Your humble narrator stands ready to cast himself face first into the Hieronymus mosh pit of the brave New Year. If I don’t see you tonight, I’ll see you on the other side and we’ll take a right gude-willy waught, for auld lang syne.

Odd Words December 30, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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Let’s start with this: in a city where public drunkenness is a substantial market segment of our largest industry (the one we like to call beads-and-boobs), there is not much going on of a literary nature in the run up to New Years: that great competition in drunken public self-embarrassment we celebrate here in the City that Care Forgot by firing live ammunition into the air like Pancho Villa’s celebrating army. I once woke up and stepped out onto my porch to discover a slug smashed into the concrete six inches from my chair.

There’s nothing featured at the main bookstores, I haven’t gotten any notice of January events at the Maple Leaf or 17 Poets! or anywhere else for that matter and the plain fact is there is nothing of that sort going on. It is probably the perfect time to hole up and read something. I’ve already listed some books I read this year so I can’t go there. What I’m reading right now is my Christmas present to myself, Barry Hannah’s Long, Last Happy: New and Selected Stories. There is a great line in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in which the journalist tries to describe Savannah and it’s denizens: “It’s like Gone with the Wind on mescaline.” I think that comes close to summing up Hannah, who gives us the Faulknerian south advanced a generation or two, twisted through a slightly off-kilter filter that keeps you engaged with the strangest of characters, in stories with the deceptively simple polish, grace and style of a gonzo Chekhov or Cheever. If you’ve just come in from shoveling yourself out from the Great Blizzard of 2010 or whatever they will call it and want to escape that harsh climate, I suggest you slip and slide down to the bookstore and immerse yourself in Hannah’s balmy, barmy South.*

Since I mentioned John Berendt I have to ask: has anyone seen him around town? There was much chatter during the Q-and-A at the Tennessee Williams Festival lecture he gave two years ago, during which he broadly hinted that New Orleans might be his next subject. He does as fine a job at capturing what Walker Percy described as “the savor of the genie-soul of the place which every place has or is not a place.” And I’m glad Hannah put me in mind of that line which lead me back to the post I wrote about his lecture, which I need to print out and nail to the wall as a personal writing challenge I have not managed to step up to in the intervening year-and-a-half. And a comment on that post as I re-read it reminds me I once ordered a copy of Lawrence Durrell’s Spirit of Place from a bookstore that promptly folded, swallowing a half-dozen consignment copies of Carry Me Home that did not turn up when the Maple Leaf bought their inventory, and which I hoped are boxed up with the rest of the Jazz Fest tent stuff. Another book to put on my list but looking at my post-holiday budget, I think I’m going to have to go back to the library first before I plunk down even a few dollars at Alibris.

I’m sorry I didn’t manage to connect with one of my literary blog idols Maud Newton [sigh] who was in town a few weeks ago and had hoped to gather up a table of local writers for a drink or something. How I landed on her list I have no idea but I was entirely flattered even when the plan fell apart, and at least I ended up reading local author Pia Ehrhardt’s Famous Fathers & Other Stories. I had heard her name before once or twice but there are so many writers in this city divided into their own little circles who never meet it’s a damn shame. There is no 92nd Street Y or other venue in New Orleans where a friend my nudge you and say, “pssst, that’s so-and-so. Have you read such-and-such?” and of course you haven’t so at least you read the book or if you have, elbow you way to their general vicinity for a bit of awkward, fawning “loved your book” that might just turn into some sort of connection.

New Orleans by nature is a city as caste-conscious as India, and I think that tends to dilute our potential. Musicians generally don’t divide themselves into little groups here but writers I think DO. If Maud’s abortive cocktail soiree’ achieved nothing else, it is the idea that someone needs to organize some damn thing interesting enough that writers and other bookish people would find it irresistible. (Sorry, the Tennessee Williams festival is not it. Read the blog post. The Festival hold its interim events at a suburban library, for god’s sake, an offense not taken lightly by those who chose to live in the city). I ramble on again (don’t I) but I look forward to a few words from Ms. Newton about New Orleans when she comes back from her long winter’s nap.

And so, before I get lost in my thoughts again, here’s what’s going on this week.

§ [Chirp, chirp, chirp {sound of page turning} chirp, chirp, chirp].

Have a Happy New Year.

* Yes, I do like my comas and semicolons and have no respect for the rules of sentence except sound and sense, but I spend more time than you might imagine arranging those cascading clauses like the parts of a collage. My friend Ray has been reading Cormac McCarthy and trying to work on paring down his writing. In the email where he described that process (discussing the work of another writer) he said “Cormac could have killed two people before that sentence was over.” In the space of some of my sentences Rambo might have reduced entire Asian armies into smoking piles of bodies, but it’s just the way things comes out

A Silent Night Kind of Afternoon December 28, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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There just something Odd about the week between Christmas and New Years, that week of vacation you have to burn but you seem to have forgotten the matches, a hollowness like the watery sun in the sky that can’t kill the chill in the air. a space that seems as full of possibilities as the blank page but you mind goes just as blank with an inclination to idleness, a feeling there is not much doing and you’re not the one to do it. A cup of coffee outside a cafe seems a genuine holiday miracle, black java in a white mug bringing the warmth the sun can’t manage is the pinnacle of alchemy and after you’ve mastered that what more can you expect. You close the book you brought and read the leaves of the evergreen oaks instead.

Once you’ve left behind Jesus and Santa Claus there’s not much miracle in these days and New Years has always seemed to me a sound stage holiday, something people in old movies do while Guy Lombardo conducts in the background and we’re all just extras in paper hats pretending to have fun. For a few years after we moved back the bonfire seemed the height of the season, a spontaneous celebration full of energy and joy and my son and I would run three times widdershins so close you would come away with half a sunburn on your face to show for it but then the city shut it down in favor of the staged fireworks on the river, an inducement to come into town and spend some money you know you don’t have after the heavy bills of Christmas start to roll in.

So you sit around not watching the pile of movies someone loaned you because none of them seem quite right for the middle of the day, picking up and putting down books and listening to way too much John Prine because at least he takes a look around on a day like today and something comes out that makes you smile as often as not, but you know it’s probably time to shuffle him off the I-pod when all your words start coming out in rhyming couplets:

It’s a Silent Night kind of afternoon
and the sun hangs there like a big balloon
but its cold as the light of buttery moon
and if something doesn’t happen around her soon
there’s gonna be some kind of trouble.

God that’s awful. Be glad I never learned how to play the guitar.

Since I was forced to drive myself out to Metairie this morning to drop my son at his driving school, I at least managed to find a decent pair of khakis on sale for $10 to replace the ones I left in a hotel room, picking through shelves as empty as my head, and another warm shirt so I don’t need to rush out and do laundry on a day like this. The dishes are done but so am I, the yellow plastic vacuum standing there idle, the top of the handle crooked like an accusing finger but I’m more inclined to sit like a lizard with a cigarette in the midday sun now just barely warmer than the last of the morning coffee. If you’re looking for me try that coffee shop just up the way but I’m liable to be the man who wasn’t there, still as a stump and mind all squirrelly up in the menthol green leaves of the oaks on Esplanade writing songs in my head nobody is meant to hear.

O Little Town of Bethlehem December 25, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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Today a child is born in Bethlehem. It is named, perhaps, out of the Book for a familiar angel or a prophet. Whatever name its parents give to the God they praise and thank, love this child as they are, as you profess to love your own God, you own child, or what’s the fucking point?

Peace on earth. Goodwill toward all.

Happy Xmas December 25, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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from your humble narrator.

Holiday Cheer December 24, 2010

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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This is too good not to share, and much more cheerful than my usual resort to William Burrough’s A Junkie’s Xmas. Hat tip to Amy Loewy who posted this up on Facebook. Here’s to children of imagination, all well meaning parents who have lived something like this more than once and especially for aunts in the kitchen with cocktails.

The Year Kenny Loggins Ruined Christmas

Holiday Roundup December 24, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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There are few things more cheerful than the sounds of a firetruck siren in the pre-dawn hours of chilly Christmas Eve in New Orleans (he thinks, eying the cranky panel heater in the wall next to him). Let’s hope it’s a false alarm. Since I’m up, I might as well get this out of the way. For the last couple of years, I’ve posted the same few things this time of year, usually adding a new link each year like adding a new ornament to the tree. Rather than start firing off a lot of reposts, here are the links to past posts should you be looking for A Holiday on Toulouse Street.

And finally this, which I can’t resist posting up for your immediate enjoyment.

Odd Words December 23, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, books, New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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I’m so far behind in my blog reading I look at the post count and wonder if I can file for moral bankruptcy. These people are a combination of friends, acquaintances whose thoughts and writing I admire, and completely brilliant strangers. I want to keep up but sometimes life conspires against and you make choices. While trying to catch up with one my my faorites, Matri’s VatulBlog, I can across a quote that launched a train of thought I thought I’d post here so you can ignore it during your busy holidays.

“A sculptor once said to me, ‘ Science is a discipline followed with passion. Art is a passion followed with discipline.”

A great quote but a false dichotomy. I understand its appeal to a scientist, to one who’s mind is inherently dialectical and inclined to understand by dissection. Still, to become a scientist there must be a passion to take the world apart and put it back together, to understand how it works, that drives one to survive calculus and organic chemistry and all the other tripping points where they, as they used to say, separate the men from the boys.

Writing also can begin, if not quite as a discipline, then let’s say a habit that grows obsessive: the reading of every line on a childhood cereal box at breakfast because there is no book handy one of the earliest symptoms, followed by the scribbling of long descriptive titles or lengthy expositions when grownups ask what you are coloring.

Habit is a form of discipline that enforces itself from within, the sense that the picture is not complete without the story, that a moment can’t be understood without the powerful Southern compulsion to fill in the back-story without a overly large regard for the facts, which grows until you start to put pen to paper not to draw green skies and blue trees and explain later why they are that way but to make a world in words where the skies are green and the trees are blue because of who the characters are and what must happen next.

That is passion, but it comes from the discipline required to sit up to listen to the adults tell their stories when you can barely keep your eyes open, to slog through a book your teacher thinks is above your level with a dictionary at hand, rereading until it becomes clear, to manage to pass high school chemistry even though you spent weeks sitting in the back with Gravity’s Rainbow nestled in the textbook propped in front of you, until the world becomes a matrix not of colors or sounds but of words.

In the end, passion and discipline are two names for the same thing, aspects of the same cruel and delightful god that drove men to go to extraordinary lengths to plant a flag on the moon and to write Moby Dick.

§ OK, so it’s Xmas weekend so the bookstores are busy enough without signings, there is no Maple Leaf reading and I had to leave 17 Poets last week before Dave’s closing announcements but I wouldn’t be surprised if there is no reading this week.

§ If you’re still missing a present for someone you could still make it over to Octavia books today (Thursday) where Times Picayune sportswriter Jeff Duncan will sign FROM BAGS TO RICHES: How the New Orleans Saints and the People of Their Hometown Rose From the Depths Together. Go on, you know you want a copy for yourself anway.

§ If you’re not already too deep into that book you got for Xmas and/or the eggnog, you could listen to “Writer’s Forum” on WRBH FM-88.3 featuring Bob Carr (“Raising Our Children on Bourbon: A French Quarter Love Story”), with his wife Jan Carr, Dec. 25. All interviews air at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, and are repeated at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. the following Sunday.

OK, to close out: I am buying no more books until I’m down to the last one in the current pile. You here? Not one more.. Then I’ll order this one, billed by the reviewer as the strangest novel he’s ever read. That’s just too irresistible. I’ll see your Rayuela and raise you a Obabakoak.

Morwen Owl’s Mourning December 20, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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I woke into the cold at 5 a.m.,
lay in the dark and thought:
damn pilot light’s gone out, again.
I fire up the space heaters, make coffee
& turn on the computer while I wait
for the black bite of a steaming cup.
Just another Monday morning
but the first thing I read is: Betz has died.

Her partner Morwen’s last post said
she was going to try to go to sleep,
Morwen the owl, up all night
posting songs on Facebook,
proudly proclaiming herself
a servant of the Goddess
to a world that turns askance
at the transgendered.

I don’t think the E.M.T.s take the body
& I imagine Morwen alone with Betz
in the flood- and storm-proof house
they built themselves after Katrina,
an armored tower to stand against
a dark age that would gladly
lash them both to the stake.

I light the white candle &
place it on the right &
I don’t know how to pray anymore
so I write this short poem in which
all the owls of New Orleans—
Morwen’s guardians and guides—
come under her eaves at dawn
to stand sentinel for the dead.

A New Kind of Language December 19, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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You see, I keep thinking that what we need is a new language—a language of the heart, a language, as in the Polish forest, where language wasn’t needed. Some kind of language between people that is a new kind of poetry, that’s the poetry of the dancing bee that tells us where the honey is. And I think that in order to create that language you’re going to have to learn how you can go through a looking glass into another kind of perception where you have that sense of being united to all things, and, suddenly, you understand everything.
— Andre in Louis Malle’s My Dinner with Andre, written by Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn

Perhaps this quote loses something outside of the context of the film My Dinner with Andre which I just saw for the first time, but someone I know walked up to me not long ago and made a similar assertion. Perhaps he had just watched My Dinner with Andre and as a poet and artist was struck by this speech. Or perhaps more and more of us are in coming to our senses, would agree with Malle’s Andre that we have in fact built the prisons in which we live as warder and prisoner, that the perfection of the Orwellian vision does not require a two-way teleplate but only two hundred channels of choices and all of them just the same, the clever narratives of the advertisements indistinguishable from the programing. It is Christmas and how many of us will watch Its A Wonderful Life and never once stop to ask: how little the world has changed since then. And where is our angel? And if there is no angel, then: what about my dynamite? What will it take to reach the realization that your angel is the great spotted fish that devoured your friend?

Language so much more important that you may realize, and that is the first part of construction of the world Andre describes. I’ve worked on Capital Hill as a press secretary and the people who run your governments and corporations understand the importance and power of language very well, or you would have lined the streets with their spitted heads a long time ago. Orwell understood this, and we can’t escape high school without reading him but most of us dismiss it as just another fiction, and head to the mall to meet our friends and immerse ourselves in the romantic illusion of car chase, R-rated nudity and happily-ever-after.

There is a synchronicity, something at this exact moment in my life that led TheRumpus.net to post the Priest’s Monologue from Synecdoche, NY and a friend to forward the link which lead me to watch the film, something that placed a copy of My Dinner with Andre in my hands just at this time only days later, something that lead me to pause and capture the quote, to write these worlds and realize the completion of circle, that the third thing we always look for (knock wood) was one of the few serious films I have watched in the last few years that resonated deeply with me. And yes, to a man at my stage in life The Life Aquatic is as serious as Shakespeare. For all of human kind only the Fool and the Mad (and the poet the acme of that class, having been granted their madness as a gift of the gods) have been allowed to speak the truth, because their words are easily dismissed, do not disturb the delicate balance of illusions, do not break the fourth wall and lead to knowledge, the first step out of the Garden and into the slow heat death of the creation.

To wonder if the first film might contain the answer to the questions posed by the second and third watched years later, to wonder if in fact the future isn’t sending messages into the past in a way, is at least partially an answer to the question posed by Malle and his writers: to consider that we live in a universe that may be susceptible to magic or explanation by magic, or at least in one postulated by the theory which the Google will not surrender to me but which is summarized as: the universe, all the laws of physics from macro of galaxies down to the strangest of quarks cannot exist for us in any other form than the one it takes because otherwise we would not be her to perceive it. It is a mutually sustaining creation and possibly an illusion. Magic, maya and science all begin to blur but in that smeary rainscape there is a window with a sign flashing Look Here.

Whether magic or synchronicity or dialectic, each is just a convenient name for whatever leads us out of the camps we have constructed for ourselves, and perhaps a better word than magic is mystery, the impulse mystery gives to our lives that discovers gods and quarks alike. And language: language has the power to control or create greater than any other machine we have invented, and if something so seemingly tenuous and elusive can do this what better word is there for its power than magic?

The Hostilidays December 17, 2010

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Toulouse Street.
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Ah, it had to start at some point: the annual NOLA Blogger tradition of Awful Christmas Videos. Blame Loki. He started it.

This one comes courtesy of my son (aka Boy; hold the Tarzan jokes, please: This means you Peter) and goes out to Glenn Beck and all of the Kool-Aid stained believers of the War on Christmas.

Odd Words December 16, 2010

Posted by The Typist in New Orleans, NOLA, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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A Year In Reading is a popular theme with literary magazines and blogs. I’m not sure where the title comes from but the online magazine TheMillions offering a good sample of authors and others listing the best new books they have read this year, including a list from [sigh] Maud Newton. I’ve bought an awful lot of books myself this year, a mix of books by featured readers at local poetry saloons (no, that’s not a typo) and works I found through places like TheMillions.com, TheRumpus.net, LitDrift.net, MaudNewton.com’s blog and similar sources. (Sorry, my old ink-stained colleagues but I don’t read the New York or LA Times reviews).

Reading genuinely new books requires a willingness to plunk down $25 and up for the hardback if you’re talking about major publishers, so any list I might attempt would be pretty thin. Among the new to the world (and not just to me) books I read this year and would recommend are I hope it’s not over; and goodbye, Selected Poems of Everette Maddox from the University of New Orleans Press.

Maddox has been one of my favorites since I first discovered him. His poetry is at once accessible in the simplicity of its language and exceptionally powerful at evoking just the emotion or idea he set out to plant in the readers mind, or at least get off his chest. So help out a university press in a state where we will soon have no universities thanks to Governor Jatāsura Jindal and get yourself a copy. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a reader of poetry, I think you’re going to enjoy the company of New Orleans’ finest poet of the 20th century.

Reality Hunger A Manifesto by David Shields is a collection of short pieces, some his own and some from others (none are cited in-line but only in an appendix and only at the insistence of his publisher) on the subject of truth, memory and literature, particularly creative non-fiction. CNF is a genre I fell into quite by accident when I started the Wet Bank Guide blog after Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood but it best describes what my prose writing has evolved into over the last five years. Ordered roughly alphabetically by subject, the author starts off with: “My aim is to write the ars poetica for a burgeoning group of interrelated (but connected) artists in a multitude of forms and media (lyric essay, prose poem collage novel, visual art, film, television, radio, performance art, rap stand-up comedy, graffiti) who are breaking larger and larger chunks of “reality” into their work.” In 72, an un-cited John D’Agata asks: “The lyric essay asks what happens when an essay begins to behave less like an essay and more like a poem. What happens. when an essayist starts imagining things, making things up, filling in the bank spaces, or leaving the blanks blank?” Don’t ask me. I’m a terrible liar.

The Cloud Corporation by Timothy Donnelly is a collection of poems that will someday stand alongside The Wasteland and Howl as the definitive statement of the dislocation of a generation by the unrelenting march of human progress. If you find yourself staring at the generic abstract art in your office building and dreaming it is perhaps a door, a point of exit out of a dehumanizing hive culture, read this book.

This is probably cheating since I’m in it (but make nothing from its sale) is Where We Know: New Orleans as Home by Chin Music Press, which collects some of the city’s best writers (no, I don’t mean me) and carefully selected historical depictions of the city in a volume so beautiful a friend of mine coined a new term for this small volume: an end-table book. It is not only a book everyone who cares about New Orleans should read, but it is a work of art in the form of a book. You really should get a copy.

And I would be remiss if I were not to mention A Howling in the Wires: An Anthology of Writing from Postdiluvian New Orleans. Sam Jasper and I labored long to produce a collection of writing from immediately after The Event, to capture for posterity the best words spoken at readings or posted to the Internet for posterity (a task that has haunted me for years, how not to loose in particular the Katrina-related work produced by bloggers who did not think of themselves as powerful writers. They are. I cried when I got an order for two copies from the Louisiana State Museum).

Much of the rest of what I’ve read this year that you should seek out is not new. Roberto Belano’s work, Richard Katrovas’ Mystic Pig (a book that stands easily in the company of Confederacy of Dunces and the work of Walker Percy, but which dropped out of print long ago but was recently resurrected by a small British publishing company,

And so, on to the listing, starting with one that could end up involving gasoline, light oil, a glass bottle and a Kotex but then I’d have to burn down one of my favorite bookstores just to give Fr. William Maestri an early introduction to his eternal reward so I’ll probably just try to stay the hell away from the first one, even though this is usually a listing of the things I would love to attend if I had world enough and time.

§ On De.c 18 Father William Maestri will be at Maple Street Book Shop from 3:00-5:00 P.M. on Saturday, December 18, 2010, to sign and discuss his book, The Archdiocese of New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina: A Story of Hope in a Time of Destruction. Archbishop Alfred Hughes wrote the foreward. If I threaten to attend this, physically restrain me. If you make it, please spit on this Rasputinesque bastard for me. Or maybe I just need a big blow up of St. Francis Cabrini and to stand outside handing out a broadside of the piece I wrote in 2006. I am beginning to like this idea.

§ The “Writer’s Forum” program on WRBH FM-88.3 will feature an interview with Skip Horack (“Eden Hunter”), Dec. 18; and Bob Carr (“Raising Our Children on Bourbon: A French Quarter Love Story”), with his wife Jan Carr, Dec. 25. All interviews air at 8:30 a.m. Saturday, and are repeated at 8:30 a.m. and 10:30 p.m. the following Sunday.

§ Join Octavia Books for a tasting & signing with Chef John D. Folse and Michaela D. York featuring their three encyclopedic cooking books: THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CAJUN & CREOLE CUISINE, HOOKS LIES & ALIBIS, and AFTER THE HUNT Wednesday the 15th at 4 pm. Free Food!

§ 17 Poets! Literary & Performance Series presents an outstanding double-bill featuring JULIAN SEMILIAN and LAURA SEMILIAN, who graced us with a visit earlier this year. Highly recommended. No word yet on who is reading at 17 Poets! Thursday night, but if I get an update before Thursday morning I’ll post it here. Or you can follow them on Facebook to get an update since The Counting House thinks a quick update of the blog at lunch is a horrendous waste of corporate resources. I think its a fair trade for being shackled by a Blackberry day and night but I’m just another soft cog in the great machine.

§ Dec. 19 at the Maple Leaf will be an Open Mike.

One last thought: how many books have you bought as Christmas Presents this year? Really? Shame on you. Visit one of our fine indie bookstores and browse for a while. Go on, if you’re reading this you know you want to and you’ll find something for everyone there.

Red Loves Kitt December 12, 2010

Posted by The Typist in cryptic envelopment, New Orleans, NOLA, Poetry, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
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Sunday morning nothing to say blues. This has been rattling around in my Drafts box for a while since I discovered the uncollected poems of Wallace Stevens scattered around the Intertubes. This one was likely kept unpublished so as not to advertise to the world his long and faithful but unhappy marriage. I find Stevens endlessly fascinating because he took great pleasure in his job as insurance executive even as he wrote some of the post powerful poetry of the 20th Century. I have read his collected poems over and over and some of his critical work but never a biography. I have a dozen books scattered around the place in various stages of being read (or ignored) so the last thing I need is another book, but that one needs to get moved up on the bucket list.

It is Connecticut cold outside and blowing like Fargo in March, so it seems like a good morning to huddle around the cracking CRT and warm oneself with words on fire. Did I mention there are crows involved? Of course there are crows involved.

From Uncollected Poems Of Wallace Stevens

RED LOVES KIT

Your yes her no, your no her yes. The words
Make little difference, for being wrong
And wronging her, if only as she thinks,
You never can be right. You are the man.
You brought the incredible calm of ecstasy,
Which, like a virgin visionary spent
In this spent world, she must possess. The gift
Came not from you. Shall the world be spent again,
Wasted in what would be an ultimate waste,
A deprivation muffled in eclipse,
The final theft? That you are innocent
And love her still, still leaves you in the wrong.
Where is that calm and where that ecstasy?
Her words accuse you of adulteries
That sack the sun, though metaphysical.

II
A beautiful thing, milord, is beautiful
Not only in itself but in the things
Around it. Thus it has a large expanse,
As the moon has in its moonlight, worlds away,
As the sea has in its coastal clamorings.
So she, when in her mystic aureole
She walks, triumphing humbly, should express
Her beauty in your love. She should reflect
Her glory in your passion and be proud.
Her music should repeat itself in you,
Impelled by a compulsive harmony.
Milord, I ask you, though you will to sing,
Does she will to be proud? True, you may love
And she have beauty of a kind, but such
Unhappy love reveals vast blemishes.

III
Rest, crows, upon the edges of the moon,
Cover the golden altar deepest black,
Fly upward thick in numbers, fly across
The blueness of the half-night, fill the air
And darken it, make an unbroken mat
Out of the whirl and denseness of your wings,
Spread over heaven shutting out the light.
Then turn your heads and let your spiral eyes
And move the night by their intelligent motes.
Make a sidereal splendor as you fly.
And you, good galliard, to enchant black thoughts
Beseech them for an overwhelming gloom.
It will be fecund in rapt curios.

Three Pence Worth of Wisdom December 11, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Toulouse Street.
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“Who is the greater criminal: he who robs a bank or he who founds one?”
MacHeath in Bertolt Brecht’s The Threepenny Opera

In a week book-ended by a friend sending a link to The Priests Monologue from Synecdoche, New York on The Rumups (where I would have found it anyway) and ending with MacHeath in the Three Penny Opera in a translation closer to the dark Brecht vision in all it’s whoreish and knife-sharp beauty–probably not the version you think you know, what saccharine Broadway thought indelicate for corn-fed mid-century American taste–a thought for today:

There is no forgiveness or redemption, only the hope of capricious pardon.

I wonder what my colleagues at the pinnacle of finance in New York a half century ago thought of this show? Did they squirm in their seats, suddenly uncomfortable in their well-pressed Brooks Brothers theater wear? It takes a certain moral defect, a sociopathical self confidence in the rightness of one’s profession to rise to such a high position in the world of finance. I think they likely saw it only as a dark cabaret of comedy and whores, crawled home after the show and quietly cried “Jenny” as they creaked the springs of their wives’ twin bed.

Take it away, Marianne.

They gave the Pirate Jenny song to Polly in the Cripple Creek Theater production I saw and I think this cheapened Jenny’s character and stole the motivation for her betrayal. This is not a review: the names of the fine cast can all be found in perfect parenthetical insertion here). I’m just throwing in my own two pence.

The Eye of Moloch December 9, 2010

Posted by The Typist in 504, 8-29, cryptic envelopment, Dancing Bear, New Orleans, The Narrative, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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watches over us in our labors.

“Moloch whose soul is electricity and banks!”
— Allen Ginsburg in Howl

Odd Words: Vanishing Elephant Edition December 9, 2010

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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If this post seems to be turning into a faint echo of TheRumpus.Net is it only because Stephen and Isaac and the rest of the volunteer crew of contributors do such a damn fine job of “getting the story first,” as we called it back in the day when we were warned by stenciled lettering not to sit in the pressmen’s seats in the break room. (Sure, it’s a New York Times piece but there is a separate standard for who gets the link up first her in the Blogosphone).

So via TheRumpus.Net, a Times Op Ed by a personal favorite author Hakuri Murakami, on the subject of literature and chaos and the world of the 21st Century (quoting liberally, but really, follow the link):

“There has been an especially noteworthy change in the posture of European and American readers. Until now, my novels could be seen in 20th-century terms, that is, to be entering their minds through such doorways as “post-modernism” or “magic realism” or “Orientalism”; but from around the time that people welcomed the new century, they gradually began to remove the framework of such “isms” and accept the worlds of my stories more nearly as-is. I had a strong sense of this shift whenever I visited Europe and America. It seemed to me that people were accepting my stories in toto — stories that are chaotic in many cases, missing logicality at times, and in which the composition of reality has been rearranged. Rather than analyzing the chaos within my stories, they seem to have begun conceiving a new interest in the very task of how best to take them in…

“Let’s call the world we actually have now Reality A and the world that we might have had if 9/11 had never happened Reality B. Then we can’t help but notice that the world of Reality B appears to be realer and more rational than the world of Reality A. To put it in different terms, we are living a world that has an even lower level of reality than the unreal world. What can we possibly call this if not “chaos”?

“What kind of meaning can fiction have in an age like this? What kind of purpose can it serve? In an age when reality is insufficiently real, how much reality can a fictional story possess?”

I have an admitted fondness for Borges and Marquez and modern fantasists such as Neil Gaiman and Charles de Lint. It is true that I placed him on that shelf in my mind because of the sometime fantastic nature of his stories, but as we move deeper down the rabbit hole of current public discourse, echoes of Jefferson’s Airplanes White Rabbit echoing in the back of our minds, it is time to reexamine how we perceive and write about our world.

There was a phrase current in progressive and liberal circles mocking the Right, talk of “reality based politics” as a paradigm for the Orwellian turn of the last two decades. I don’t pay as much attention to politics as I used to. The old thoughts and feelings are still current, and well up as volcanic anger if I peer over the edge into that abyss. If I’m going to have a stroke, I’d rather go like New Orleans long ago mayor and have people tell the story (certainly apocryphal but never let the facts get in the way) that you can still see the black heel marks of where they dragged him out of his girlfriend’s apartment and out to his car before calling 9-1-1.

Instead, I am going to worry about what is written and read, about how to write, in a world in which there is no longer a consensual reality beyond death and taxes, a world morally gray and full of technicolor alternatives to the dictates of common sense, a world in which the elephant vanishes and the only solid facts are that it has vanished and it cannot possibly have vanished.

§ Maud Newton [sigh] doesn’t allow comments on her blog, so I’ll just have to post this here: even if I were invited to your house for dinner and book chat [very deep sigh] I would stand outside and have another cigarette to admire that view. Yes, cities can be distracting. New Orleans is probably as bad as New York, just it in our own idiosyncratic way, but they all offer their escapes into quiet and focus. It’s just another form of discipline, like quitting everything else on the damn laptop when you’re trying to write. Put that damn Windows 7 tool bar onto auto hide so it’s not there tempting you like a shop window full of holiday toys.

Maud, you can always drop by my stoop some morning around seven, and we can drink cafe au lait and watch the horses run. After that, we’ll grab our notebooks and stroll down to Fair Grinds for another au lait and either stop in St. Louis No. 3 where if you get far enough back to avoid the tourist buses it’s quiet and the repetitive white ovens are like white noise for the eyes; or keep strolling down the long avenue and straight past that distracting museum and follow the edge of one of the lagoons until we find one of those oak trees whose spreading trunk and roots over a perfect back and coffee rest. The trick is to get just far enough away from I-610 so that passing traffic is just pink noise in the distance. Ignore the damn squirrels. They’d be a nuisance if you were walking the Lake District.

§ This Thursday, Dec. 9: Poet Joel Dailey, editor of Fell Swoop, and local poet Geoff Munstermann will be featured at 17 Poets! at the Goldmine on Dauphine. Open mic to follow. Sign up @ 7:30pm.

§ Also on Thursday at Garden District Books, Picayune sports writer Tom Duncan will be signing From Bags to Riches, a look at the New Orleans Saints wild ride from the Return to the Dome (if you have to ask why that’s in caps, you can probably skip this event) through the Superbowl. 5:30-7 pm at The Rink. That’s a great title, straight off the copy desk (hey, I need a one column, three deck about some stupid book signing and I’m stuck).

§ And City Business writer Richard A. Webster will sign his graphic novel “Bubbles from Atlantis, ” illustrated by Sean Dietrich, Dec. 10, 6 p.m., Maple Street Book Shop. An Odd book to come from a business writer, Think Hunter Thompson and Ralph Steadman stuck in New Orleans after the flood with bad PTSD and a well stocked liquor cabinet. If you think this is just another journalist’s account of the storm, think again. If Chris Rose ever sunk to these heights, he didn’t have the balls to write about it.

§ Stop by Freretstivus this Saturday, December 11, 12-5pm! (Corner of Napoleon & Freret) where the Neighborhood Story Project will be offering special holiday market prices this Saturday at Freretstivus. Stop by our booth to pick up some great gifts and chat about the NSP. Daron Crawford, co-author of Beyond the Bricks, and Kenneth Phillips, author of Signed, the President, will be on-hand to sign books and talk about their experiences working with the NSP.

§ Also on the 11th, Bob and Jan Carr will sign his book “Raising Our Children on Bourbon: A French Quarter Love Affair, ” Dec. 11, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m., Maple Street Book Shop. If you think the Quarter is just a den of iniquity or a trap for tourists, you’ve been living on the North Shore too long. It was (and still in certain quarters is) a neighborhood, one in which I spent a lot of time visiting my Great Aunt’s Gert and Sadie in their apartment on Royal (now the Hove’ Parfumier).

§ On Sunday at 3 pm (ish) Poet Geoff Munstermann reads from his work, followed by an open mike at the Maple Leaf Bar. Boy is getting up in the world and it’s well deserved.

§ I don’t normally do cookbooks (wait, didn’t I just say that last week and here I go again?) but the man’s practically family. OK, not in any traceable way but in my mind all Folse’s (that’s pronounced false down by the bayou, cher) are kin:
First, Garden District Books will host Rick Tramonto & John Folse – Steak with Friends & Hooks, Lies and Alibis on the 6th at 6 p.m. Or you can join Octavia Books for a tasting & signing with Chef John D. Folse and Michaela D. York featuring their three encyclopedic cooking books: THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CAJUN & CREOLE CUISINE, HOOKS LIES & ALIBIS, and AFTER THE HUNT Wednesday the 15th at 4 pm. It’s a hefty and pricey book but I hear its beautiful. I’m not playing favorites but the first’s a cookbook club hosting a restaurant launch related event and the second involves free food. Just sayin’.

Village Ghetto Land December 8, 2010

Posted by The Typist in Dancing Bear, music, New Orleans, NOLA, Rebirth, Shield of Beauty, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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It has probably been 20 years since I last heard this song. I think I still have my vinyl but it’s somewhere I’m not, as is the turntable, or I might have played that record to death last night instead of climbing into bed at six to sleep off a burgeoning cold. It puts me in mind of Sun Ra’s words about lifting the Shield of Beauty against all the ugly of the world. I think of Stevie Wonder and Rahsaan Roland Kirk but the image of the blind seer has been with us since humanity first learned to tell stories. Just ask Tiresias should you be (un)lucky enough to find yourself in a position to ask.

I have very eclectic taste in music, but when I offered my son a copy of spoken word artist Katalyst’s CD he told me he’d been listening to gansta rap, something I have no use for. I was a professional propagandist too long to not take seriously the impact of glorifying violence, misogyny and death, and the evidence can be found all to often on the streets of New Orleans,sometimes lying cold in a pool of blood. This song is taken from the same mean streets, changed only since the 1970s by the drugs of choice and the efficiency of the weapons and the demolition of everyone’s momma’s house in favor of Urban Renewal (remember how well that worked in the Sixties and Seventies).

So somewhere here at the midpoint between Thanksgiving and Xmas, when most people are too busy at the orgy of shopping and parties to consider what these holidays are about, too deeply enmeshed in their traditional Xian faith to see the turning of the solar year as a time to stop and think about what those holidays tell them about the world, about the cyclical rebirth of the world and what opportunities that presents (think New Year’s resolutions), to sated by celebration to think back on all the parables of the Carpenter they’ve snoozed through the rest of the year, along comes this song and perhaps if they hear it, it will hopefully stop them in their tracks for a minute and give them pause.

I think I may buy a stack of those mini-CDs and give everyone I know this Christmas a single (with an A and B side of course) of this song and The Rebel Jesus (which I’m bound to post up here before too long).

Odd Words: On The Road Edition December 2, 2010

Posted by The Typist in books, literature, Odd Words, Toulouse Street.
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LATE UPDATE: There is no 17 Poet! tonight at the Goldmine. Feel better, Dave. The rest of you check out the book launch event below.

No, I’m not typing this on an endless roll of teletype stock but at a Hilton, on the road for business. It’s not exactly exciting to be typing up all the things I might miss while sitting in this room but I might drive like a banshee Friday night from the airport to make one event.

While I was transfixed with boredom in a four day meeting in which I figured I really didn’t need to be except for perhaps a day and a half, I wrote the following email to TheRumpus.Net poetry book club mailing list, after reading this rather disjointed essay that seemed as I read and re-read to crystallize much of the traffic on the list of late as we struggled with an Odd and frustrating and enchanting book, Jena Osman’s The Network. “What I think we are doing in part is redefining poetry (for ourselves and each other) on our own terms, through the community of the Rumpus, under the very gentle guidance (by selection) of Brian [Spears, the book club editor]. Which is, for those of us not in academia, a most interesting exercise…”. This is America. Poetry, or any other art (I think as I finish the last pages of Patti Smith’s We Were Just Kids) is what we choose to make it, democratically and in the age of the Internet by means unimaginable to any who came before us. There is a cannon but we are as lost as the character in Borges’ The Library of Babel and in that wilderness of words free to make something as beautiful as that story. Through communities like the Rumpus we are shaping in our own minds and in those of others the shape of American poetry.

And so, the listings. As usual, this is just the places you might find me (I’m the old fart in the young man’s hat); not a comprehensive attempt to replace the local newspaper (because it has no book section, so there is nothing to compete against). It is instead itself an exercise is defining worth and finding direction, much as my feature link and own thoughts on the subject discuss.

§ Here’s one I’ll miss I really wish I wouldn’t: the book release party (hey, I hear those are fun) for How To Rebuild A City: Field Guide from a Work in Progress at Beth’s Books, Thursday, Dec. 2 from 6-8 p.m.With contributions and collaboration from over 100 residents, writers, photographers, artists, and community organizations from New Orleans (and beyond) who kickstarted the recovery process, How to Rebuild a City: Field Guide from a Work in Progress presents the post-disaster landscape from the perspectives of those who are navigating their way through it. Edited by Anne Gislelson of Press Street Press and Tristan Thompson of Beth’s Books. h/t to Charlotte from NOLAFemmes for calling this one out

§ On Friday, Dec. 3 at 6:00 P.M. Maple Leaf book hosts a signing and reading of WHERE WE KNOW: NEW ORLEANS AS HOME. Editor Dave Rutledge has selected several of his UNO colleagues to read, but this fabulous book features works by my friends and colleagues in the university of hard drink Ray Shea and Sam Jasper along with myself. Mingling contemporary writers with historical pieces, this is a physically beautiful book, not in the coffee table sense but in the sense of a work of the book maker’s art that’s all about the words. It would make a fantastic Christmas present for anyone who loves New Orleans.

§ Also on Friday Sean Yseult, who broke the gender barrier in headbanging music and headlined arenas around the world as the bassist in metal/punk band White Zombie will sign Her artfully designed “photo scrapbook,” “I’m in the Band: Backstage Notes from the Chick in White Zombie,” documents her 11 year march to metal’s vanguard. Friday, Dec. 3 starting at 6 p.m. at Garden District Book Shop, 2727 Prytania St. Now a resident of New Orleans and former owner of the bar The Saint, she still plays with the local group Rock City Morgue and runs a design company. Holder of an MFA from Parsons the New School of Design in New York she draws designs for scarves.

§ Also on Friday, as part of the PhotoNOLA festival, the New Orleans Photo Alliance and Octavia Books will host an eight-person book-signing event Friday, 5-7 p.m, the Historic New Orleans Collection Williams Research Center, 410 Chartres St. Featured will be photographers Dave Anderson (“One Block: A New Orleans Neighborhood Rebuilds”); Michelle Bates (“Plastic Cameras: Toying with Creativity”); Julie Blackmon (“Domestic Vacations”); Jackie Brenner (“Friday Night Grind”); Ashley Merlin (“Statuesque New Orleans”); Sylvia Plachy (“Self Portrait with Cows Going Home”); Mario Tama (“Coming Back: New Orleans Resurgent”); Christopher Porché West (“New Orleans: What Can’t Be Lost”); and contributors to “Before (During) After.” Keynote speaker Michael Kenna (“Venezia, ” “Love in Black and White”) will sign several of his books after his presentation from 7 to 9 p.m.

§ Poets Alison Pellegrin and Martha Serpas will read from their work Saturday, December 4th at 2pm at Latter Library.

§ Also at the Maple Street Books Shop, Mario Tama, photographer of Coming Back: New Orleans Resurgent, will sign her book photobook from 1:00-3:00 P.M., Saturday, December 4, 2010. Proceeds from the sale of this book will go to New Schools for New Orleans

§ Susan Larson, the former Times-Picayune books editor is now hosting “The Reading Life,” a new show dedicated to all things bookish, on WWNO-FM on Tuesdays from 6:30-7:00 pm, featuring author interviews, a literary calendar and other news. I need to get on her mailing list as I don’t know on Thursdays what’s up next Tuesday, but so far she has featured WHERE WE KNOW and an interview with Anne Rice.

§ On Sunday at the Maple Leaf, there will be a group reading by John Gery’s MFA students from UNO.

At the peril of losing my readership of dozens, Susan Stouse who now edits the Times-Picayune’s much truncated monthly book nook (well, most of a page), is posting a once-a-month listing of events on NOLA.com. It’s nice that the book link of a newspaper, who’s clientele are at least theoretically literate (the comment’s sections of news stories notwithstanding). December’s list is here.

Finally, having pimped Dave Rutledge’s WHERE WE KNOW I might remind you that A Howling in the Wires would also make a great Christmas gift. “If you only ever read one post-Katrina related book… this thin volume is all you will need.” (Thanks for Louis Maistros, author of
The Sound of Building Coffins for that beautiful blurb). You can get your copy(s) here, and if you want it signed and personalized by the editors, just put a note in the Pay Pal comments section. We’ll get it to you by the holiday even if Sam Jasper has to peddle halfway across town on her bike to drop it by your house. Such is the life of a small, start-up publishing company.

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