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Book Shelves, mostly read.

25 Oct

I took a look at my bookshelf today. It’s really full. I’ve mostly read all those books on the bottom shelf, and all the books BEHIND the books. I’ve read those too. Mostly. Some of the top shelf I have read too, like Barbara Kingsolver, and “Teach Your Own”, and “All Art is Propaganda”. I read that on the beach last year. Orwell and the beach definitely mix well together, although I’m not sure how. But that middle shelf! It’s mostly unread. Time to get crackin.

I know some folks make a habit of reading at least one chapter a day. If I get really into a book, I have to say to myself “ONLY one chapter a day”, do you feel me? Otherwise I feel like a sloth of some sort, while I sit around compulsively reading. But let’s be honest, that’s the best kind of reading there is. The last book I compulsively read was “The Mare” by Mary Gaitskill, and just before that it was “The Bone People” by Keri Hulme. That last one was especially compulsive (my synonym for “excellent”).

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Lately I’ve been involved in my college copy of “Bystander: Street Photography”. It’s fun to finally crack it open to read it, rather than just to look at the images, and skim some of the info. I’ve rekindled my love for Cartier-Bresson, and Kertesz. I am also in the middle of Anne Dillard’s “American Childhood”, and I’ve been looking to start either “Let Us Now Praise Famous Men”, or Barthes.

But what I really want is a juicy novel, because there’s nothing like losing yourself in good fiction. The ultimate escape-adventure.

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SUMMER IS OVER

6 Oct

Homemade (vegan) Key Lime Pie Ice Cream!

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Jack in the grass!

Homemade (vegan) Cherry Chocolate Chunk Ice Cream!

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P I E S !

Street Photography and Barthes…

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Homemade pizza & crust (not vegan) = VERY YUM

Katherine Anne Porter

9 Apr

I’ll be honest, I’ve finished my book of Katherine Anne Porter stories, and now I feel lost. What do I pick up next? Who can provide me with such throbbing, rich gems as a Katherine Anne short story?? How do I go on without more?!? This last question is fairly dramatic, and actually rhetorical. If you could see my “to-read” list, you would understand… but it does give you a sense of how I feel now that I have read and finished “The Leaning Tower”, the last story in my edition.

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I started these stories in September and have been reading them, off and on, with much pleasure since then. I finished them today! With “Holiday” being the first I read (well, “Flowering Judas” was the one that got me started), and finishing with “Leaning Tower”, which is placed in Berlin, in the ’30’s. What marvelous, stylized, dark and moody prose. I love Katherine’s stories, fiercely. I haven’t loved a short story writer so much since O’Connor! It’s true. She reminds me of O’Connor in that her characters are almost always unsavory- people you would not want to know. Mean spirited, narrow minded, down-and-out, weird, self-centered, yet she brings you into their world, and their humanity. In many of her stories, there is no redemption for her characters, quite the opposite actually, but there is redemption in the humanity that she paints with her punctuated prose. Some standouts include: “Leaning Tower”, “Pale Horse, Pale Rider”, “Flowering Judas”, “A Day’s Work”, “The Old Order”. She has a novel too, “Ship of Fools” and I suppose I will need to read that as well so I don’t feel lost without my Katherine to read nights. I hope I am not disappointed, as with “Wise Blood”.

Here is an excerpt from “Old Mortality”: “She was a spirited-looking young woman, with dark curly hair cropped and parted on the side, a short oval face with straight eyebrows, and a large curved mouth. A round white collar rose from the neck of her tightly buttoned black basque, and round white cuffs set off lazy hands with dimples in them, lying at ease in the folds of her flounced skirt which gathered around to a bustle. She sat thus, forever in the pose of being photographed, a motionless image in her dark walnut frame with silver oak leaves in the corners, her smiling gray eyes following one about the room. It was a reckless indifferent smile, rather disturbing to her nieces Maria and Miranda. Quite often they wondered why every older person who looked at the picture said, “How lovely”; and why everyone who had known her thought her so beautiful and charming.”

 

Reading Photography

7 Mar

I got this big ol’ photography book, Women, for my birthday in December.

IMG_2958I’ve always enjoyed Annie Leibovitz’s photos, walking through the grocery store, I would look at all the stars on the cover of Vanity Fair, staggered and staged in those decadent spreads. The subject of these collected photographs is, well, women, with an essay by Susan Sontag. Women was published in 1999 and has a lot of stars, with photographs of some regular folk, as well. I am guessing it’s a selection of photos from Leibovitz’s magazine work, along with some personal work. The sixth image you see in this book is of a random woman at a public restroom; I have a feeling no one commissioned her portrait. There are a few other photos, of two sisters, and their children, at a gas station, that I assume are also happenstance. I would love to see more happenstance portraits by Leibovitz, but the fact is that she photographs stars, athletes, musicians, performers, writers, and politicians for a living, you know, people of interest, so that’s what is mostly featured in this selection. Leibovitz’s subjects always have a dignified austerity to them, a composure, and a grandiosity of figure. I wonder if it is in their professional nature, I mean, stars take classes on how to pose for pictures, right? But then you see this austerity and grandiosity in non-assuming portraits too, like this one

Karen Fedrau, Farmer, Fedrau Famil Farm, Newcastle, California

Karen Fedrau, Farmer, Fedrau Famil Farm, Newcastle, California

I am sure Karen never took a class on how to pose for a photograph. It must be Annie Leibovitz then. I want her to take my portrait. How would I look?

I love this “portrait” she did of Cindy Sherman. So fitting for an artist who works in disguise. Guess which one is Sherman…Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 2.01.32 PM

Another photography read I made recently was the Aperture 211 Summer 2013 edition. It’s such a pretty publication, all big, and smooth, and chock full of interesting photo news. If you’ve never gotten your hands on one, you should. I discovered Robert Cumming, an unknown artist dude from the seventies who happens to have taken some ingenious and fantastic images. Here are two you might like:

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Watermelon/Bread, 1970, Robert Cumming

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Institutional Faucet, 1971, Robert Cumming

Books I have read this year

31 Dec

Here’s a picture of some books I’ve read this year, it is not exhaustive. IMG_2840I haven’t finished Hayden Carruth’s “Last Poems” yet, so maybe that doesn’t count. I heard Carruth’s name mentioned twice from random people in the last few months, so I knew I had to see what he was about. This collection of poems takes the last poem from each of his published books (which number a lot), and combines them with poems written at the end of his life. With a poet career spanning six decades, there are many poems diverse in their structure.

That splashy pink book? A friend wrote it, Jeff Jackson. How exciting! The book is broken up into six sections, usually what we would call chapters. The structure of narrative changes between chapters, and jumps through passages of time and place. The story told is fast-paced with first person narrative, full of grime and mystery. There are oracles, wild youth and hard liquor, bonfires, one schizophrenic musician, cadavers, cassette tapes, and there is hunting and running. If someone asked me to find a theme to this novel, I would say, hunting and running. It seems that some of my very favorite novels (Geek Love by Katherine Dunn, The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz) are touching and brutal at the same time. I would put Mira Corpora in that realm also. Although I had to put Oscar Wao down for a moment because it was so caustic, I didn’t have a hard time reading this novel, nor did I need to put it down. My favorite section is in chapter five, in which there appears to be a dead body on the floor. There is a party going on, and we are told to ignore the dead body, “It’s just earning a living”. So captivating and strange. Also captivating is that the protagonist’s name is Jeff. Jeff Jackson. I don’t know what this means, as that is also the author’s name, but it seems to be a daring move, and I am intrigued. I’m going to interview Jeff for Fab Oversight sometime here in the New Year, so perhaps I will ask him about that decision. I also really want to know how he came up with the name Mira Corpora, and what it means. Stay tuned. If you want to read some new and interesting fiction (or is it fiction?) I highly recommend Mira Corpora.

“Hermit in Paris, Autobiographical Writings” by Italo Calvino talks about Stalin and politics a lot, and is probably one of the last books to take to the beach, but I did. I’ve read three of his novels, and have always enjoyed his humor, and now I want to read more. This collection of writings gathers twelve items, essays, and interviews, that have been published in several other books, as well as an unpublished piece, “American Diary”.  Serendipity led me to read his comments on Savannah, GA, from “American Diary 1959-1960”, which inspired me and Hana stop off for a few hours to explore the city on our way back from the beach. I can agree with Calvino when he said, in capital letters no less, “AND IT IS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL CITY IN THE UNITED STATES.”house2Dmoss

I just finished a book of boxing essays, yes boxing, “One Ring Circus, Dispatches from the World of Boxing” by Katherine Dunn. I read it because I love Katherine Dunn, and she really hasn’t written a whole lot. It was thoroughly enjoyable and read like a short and dirty history of boxing, and now I want to watch me some boxing!

I have read John Holt before, “How Children Learn” was a gift from a friend when I was pregnant. Holt gives me a cramp in my brain, he’s so thoughtful and completely outspoken against everything that seems logical regarding children and school. He basically started the un-schooling movement in the ’70’s and I totally recommend reading his work if you have a kid, and didn’t like school when you were young. The book I just read, “How Children Fail”, is just him relating experiences of teaching children in school, and his thoughts on what is going on. Here is what he said April 24, 1959, “If children come to feel that the universe does not make sense, it may be because the language we use to talk about it does not seem to make sense, or at least because there are contradictions between the universe as we experience it and as we talk about it.   One of the main things we try to do in school is to give children a tool–language–with which to learn, think, and talk about the world they live in. Or rather, we try to help them refine the tool they already have. We act as if we thought this tool of language were perfect, and children had only to learn to use it correctly-i.e., as we do. In fact, it is in many ways a most imperfect tool. If we were more aware of its imperfections, of the many ways in which it does not fit the universe it attempts to describe, of the paradoxes and contradictions built into it, then we could warn the children, help them see where words and experience did not fit together, and perhaps show them ways of using language that would to some extent rise above its limitations.  Loot at adjectives– some are, so to speak, absolute: round, blue, green, square. But many others are relative: long, short, thin, thick, heavy, light, high, low, near, far, easy, hard, loud, soft, hot, cold. None of these have any absolute meaning. Long and short only mean longer and shorter than something else But we use these words as if they were absolutes.If fact, there must be many times when a child hears a particular thing called long one day and short the next, or hot one day, and cold the next. We use words as if they were fixed in meaning, but we keep changing the meanings. The soup that has become cold is still too hot for the baby… The big kitty’s name is Midnight; but don’t be rough with him, he’s too little. Horses are big animals; see the little horsie (three times the size of the child)… Children adjust to this kind of confusion; but is it an intellectually healthy and useful adjustment, or just a kind of production strategy? Would it be useful to talk to first-graders about why we call a certain mountain small and a certain kitten big? Or is this easy stuff for them?” Whoa. See what I mean about brain cramp?

On a totally different note, I finished the publication “Vestoj, On Fashion and Shame” sometime early this year. I got it for my birthday last year (a terrific gift from my terrific husband, by the way). I was reading a lot of Harper’s Bazaar, well, not really reading it, just looking at the pictures. There’s not much to read in a Harper’s Bazaar… and my husband went and got me something to actually read, on fashion. This journal is pretty great, it combines art, essays (some by doctorates nonetheless), an interview, and micro-fiction on the subject of fashion and shame. Essays on what fashion meant to prisoners in “Docile Bodies: A Study of Prison Uniforms and the Dress of Subservience” by Anja Aronowsky Cronberg, or how slaves  are effected by clothes in “Dressed up and Laying Bare: Fashion in the shadow of the Market by Anna Arabindan-Kesson. There’s an essay in the middle that you have to take a letter opener to, to un-slit the pages that are still bound. This is pretty cool reading y’all. I recommend checking it out.

I put Moby Dick in that stack because I started it sometime this year. I have certainly not finished it yet. Anna Karenina took me roughly nine months to read. This may take me longer. In related news, if Moby Dick is one of those books you think you should read, but know you never will, you should check out Moby Dick Big Read.

I also finally finished “Bicycle, The History” by David V. Herlihy. Everything you ever wanted to know about about the Boneshaker Era, The High Wheeler, and finally, the Safety Bicycle. Bicycling has not always been easy, y’all. The best part are all the old pictures, of which I planned to take pictures of to show you, but did not.

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