Wednesday, April 22, 2009

helpful hints for bookstore customers, part 1

Gracious visitors to our humble bookstore,

Please do remember that there is a small area around each of us booksellers into which only our familiars and beloveds should intrude. It's our envelope of privacy, our small and comforting sanctum, and though we appreciate the enthusiasm that causes you to lean forward and place your face closer and closer to ours, until we can smell your perfume, your supper, your drink, your smoke of choice, the proximity shakes us. We will swallow our words and forget your questions, and we will back away, trying to get enough air to breathe.

Many thanks.

a library, not in Alexandria

I am in love with something on the internet. This is unusual, as electronic technology mostly confuses me, however much I like the gleaming efficiency of it. Still, a digital library of some of the world's great manuscripts, maps, and whatnot, reproduced in beautiful, clear photographs and accompanied by supplemental bits and pieces rather like extras on a DVD... Well, that is something that I can be excited about.

I mean, where else am I going to be able to read Boke of the Fayt of Armes and Chyualrye (translated into English by William Caxton for Henry VII)? At the Library of Congress, actually. But now I can look at it whenever I want. I can sit on my bed and admire an atlas of China from 1737. Admittedly, I can't touch it, or smell it, or lift the pages, or enjoy any of the sensual pleasures that an actual book would offer, but still...

The World Digital Library: a whole new world of procrastination unfolds before me. Go, UNESCO! Go, James H. Billington!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

...and blink

I am addicted to oddity. It amuses me, delights me, and I like the way it makes my eyes smart when I see it.

I also have a hard time thinking of a better designation than "Magician". Or, "Magicien," as it may be.

Friday, April 10, 2009

When I look at the back of your neck,
the part just above the fold of collar,
I want to curl my hand against your skin
and press.

Ignore the tiny pinnacles,
the short-lived hairs and slept-in
wrinkles, and plunge straight through
the narrow warmth
that keeps you from the world.

Today I am a lump.
Well, aside from the dance class and the filing of taxes and the sorting of several pounds of magazines that collected on my bedroom shelf. Other than that: a lump!

Am reading Theft by Peter Carey. It's good. A fast read because I'm lapping it up, entirely enchanted, disgusted, saddened, and delighted by the voices inside.

Trying to figure out some things about dancing. I've been struggling a bit with some technical things that slipped while my attention was elsewhere. In class today, Summer talked about narrowing the margin of error so that even when you're doing badly, you're still functioning at a certain level. My margin of error right now feels so vast that veering from one end to the other is disconcerting. At the same time, I've been trying to mess up my dancing more. To wake up, be more human and textured and pungent. I feel like I've been smoothing things down, giving them polish, instead of sloughing them off, ripping them, digging inside and taking them out. I want to be messy and real; I want to be fluent and perfect. It's frustrating.

It's how I feel about everything right now, though it's more focussed when I'm dancing. Maybe it's the change in seasons. It's getting to be spring and I want to emerge.

Monday, April 6, 2009

something you should read

The extraordinary (brilliant, talented, deadpan, and scientifically inclined) Eugene Fischer has a story in the current incarnation of Strange Horizons. You should read it. It's called "Husbandry," and it will stick in your head.

That is all, for now.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

congratulations to eighteen brave and irrepresible adventurers

I meant to do this a while ago, but in my usual slapdash way, am coming to the party a bit late.

Congratulations to the lovely people going to Clarion 2009! You are in for an insane, wonderful, and incredibly useful six weeks.

Going to Clarion last year was one of the luckiest things I've ever done. I didn't know anything about it. I had never taken a writing course, never gone to a workshop, never thought of myself as someone who writes. I was a dilettante (horror!), and when I got my first stack of stories to read, I had a creeping suspicion that I was in over my head.

Which I was. But in the best, most thrilling, way imaginable.

Some advice here. And wise words from my companions in inspirational drowning: Kathleen, E.J., Ferrett, and Damien.

Congratulations. Have fun. Be amazing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

March reading

April Fool's Day is a holiday that I've always loved more in my head than in the world, mostly because I'm always surrounded by people too busy or too lazy to take advantage of it, and since I'm also too busy and too lazy, a day devoted to tricks and pranks and illusions goes by with nothing but vague wistfulness.


March books:

The Ramen King And I by Andy Raskin
This book made me laugh (snort, giggle, and squeak). It made me hungry, especially for ramen and sushi (I may have to hunt down the local restaurants mentioned...); and it made me squirm at the difficulty of figuring out what actually makes someone happy. It reminded me of Murakami, a head-on collision between the mundane and the weirdness of real life. It comes out in May (I'm putting a link here, since the book isn't out yet).

The Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman
Gobbled this one up. It's been a while since I read a comic. I always feel like the dual punches of words and images overload my brain a bit. My imagination goes hyperactive, trying to unfold in too many directions at once, so I dole these out as an occasional challenge and treat. All of the art in here is GORGEOUS.

The Manual of Detection by Jedediah Berry
Absolute delight. Reading this felt like romping through a Magritte painting. It has so many of my favourite things in it that I felt like I was unwrapping one of those crepe paper balls, and every little trinket that fell out made me hop with its shiny rightness. Detectives, dreams, bicycles, umbrellas, typewriters, carnivals, clocks, phonographs, hats, and sleepwalkers.

The Private Patient by P. D. James
This book has one of the most unflinchingly horrible discoveries of a body that I've ever read. And its so succinct, and so brilliant, that I read it three times to see how she turned my stomach over. I've never read a P. D. James book before, and I was taken aback by how good it was. It made me think about how a mystery story is a distorted portrait of intersecting trajectories.

The Good Thief by Hannah Tinti
I liked this book, but it didn't grab me the way I wanted it to. It's a story about an orphan shoved out into world that teeters on the edge of strange and ridiculous things that hurt the unlucky. I wasn't sure what kind of world it was though, or how far into the strange it was possible to go, so I always felt like I was tripping over things.

Suzy, Led Zeppelin, and Me by Martin Millar
I laughed a lot. And I was very sad. And I got all nostalgic for music that I don't really know at all. I couldn't think of any of the songs he mentioned, not even a tiny bit of melody, but I still had so much fun. So, I think that's a good sign.

The Secret History of Moscow by Ekaterina Sedia
I've been wanting to read this for a while. I liked it and I loved, loved the strangeness and harshness of the magical underneath version of Moscow. I wasn't quite satisfied with the almost-end--the explanation for why things happened didn't quite balance out for me--but the very end was exactly what I wanted it to be without being anything I expected.