Wednesday, December 15, 2010

stuff to look at

Just a quick post before dashing off to the train and Booksmith.

1. We have new designs up at Fable & Tale. Shan posted some pretty pictures (featuring the lovely Emily Jones) over at the Fable & Tale blog. Our newest design is a mermaid who reminds me of an old fairy tale book I once had with black and white woodcut illustrations.

"The mermaid met your grandfather at the Santa Cruz County fair. There was a parade, and a contest, and all the young ladies wore tails and fins of sequins, satin, pailletes, glitter, and papier-mâché. Your grandfather was so young that you would never have recognized him. The mermaid was so beautiful—he might have told you this—that looking at her made him feel like he had been caught dancing to the most shockingly fine music, played so well that it would have made you cry."
2. The fabulous Mira Cook, who is a dancer, singer, musician, and all-around awesome individual, has just posted a music video for her song "Drum Machine." And, yes, she really is that adorable in real life.

3. Emily Jiang, who is one of the brightest, kindest people I know, has a poem up at Strange Horizons. It's called "Life Lessons" and you should read it.

4. Keffy Kehrli's story, "Advertising at the End of the World," is now available for your LISTENING pleasure at Escape Pod. I love this story. I've loved it since Keffy sent it round the critique table at Clarion, and I get ridiculously excited any time it appears somewhere else.

5. Paul Berger's lovely "Stereogram of the Gray Fort, in the Days of Her Glory" got picked up for a year's best anthology. He lists the entire table of contents here, with links to the online homes of quite a few of the stories. I'm linking to that, just in case you have need of any holiday reading.

***
And now I have to run for my train. And the post office. And the bookstore.

xx. M

Monday, December 13, 2010

caught in the act

San Francisco video blogger, Diane Harrington, posted a small video and review of our show here.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

on why dancing is like being a time lord

If you had asked me, perhaps when I was eight, what I wanted to be when I grew up, I would probably have said:

"A zookeeper."

Or, maybe: "The person who swims with Shamu."

Or: "A paleontologist."

When I was about ten, I might have said, "veterinarian" or, "jockey."

When I was thirteen, it was a foregone conclusion, and the only thing I wanted to be was a dancer. I didn't want it desperately; I wanted it with steadfastness. It was the only thing I wanted to be, the only thing I could be, and the only thing I imagined I knew how to be. Everything else was either a pleasure, an irritation, or irrelevant.

I said no to lots of things. Horses, nice guys, invitations. A four-year scholarship to the University of California. Skis, hobbies, summer vacations. Dancing was so huge and complicated and wonderful that it took up all available space.

I sometimes wonder how I could possibly have been so sure, such an absolute and fervent believer.

***

I'm reading a book right now about memory. It makes the point that time seems to speed up as we get older because things are less new. We have done so many things for so long that our minds have less novelty to savor. The edges wear off and the seconds and minutes and days slide past us.

When dancing is going well, time does funny things. Sometimes it feels like the most perfect special effect. The suspended water drops. The muffled pause inside an explosion, with every piece of debris hanging still in midair. The only other time I've felt the same endless expansion was one evening when I drove down the freeway and a car in front of me lost control, spectacularly and ridiculously. It spun the way cars do in movies, actual elliptical twirls that carried it across the entire spread of lanes, first one way and then the other. It struck the central divider and pinwheeled off again, and everything looked so gentle and so inevitable that when it swung towards me, it seemed to drift along an obvious curve and I had all the time in the world to twitch my own car the smallest degree to the side and watch it slide past. Time suddenly opened up, every edge of it unfolding, like some sort of weird, reversed version of origami.

And that, I think, is one of the reasons why I still dance.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

spaces for dancing


The piece we're performing tomorrow (tomorrow! OH MY GOD.) has a really beautiful set. The stage, which is unusually deep, is divided into four rooms, each one containing a rectangular slab of white floor. The exterior borders are defined by tall panels of milky, translucent paper, and the interior ones by scrim fabric that turns green and blue and transparent under the lights.

Our tech rehearsal was an epic ordeal. For a 45-minute piece, our crew has to deal with at least 40-something lighting cues. The lights guide the audience's attention, change the pace, intensity, and flavor of the environment, and hopefully make us more beautiful than we deserve.

The audience is meant to walk between the rooms of the stage, making the choice to look at one thing or another. It should be interesting. It's both an extremely formal, artificial construct and a more casual experience than most performances that involve a proscenium stage. There will be wine and the element of chance. We're wearing white silk dresses splattered with grey and little ankle socks. We dance to stories about resolutions, sex, regret, women who turn into trees, women who turn into stone, carrying coal to Newcastle, boardgames, and petting cats. We have a crackling, insidious score.

I am so curious to know what this piece says to people. I'm not sure what it's saying myself. There's a lot of pretty movement, an interesting conceit, an appealing landscape, but what am I trying to say? I'm not sure...

Monday, November 15, 2010

VL&Q: superhero

My sister and I are putting together a dance about superheroes. We aren't sure yet how, exactly, it will turn out, where it will be performed, or what will end up being the fishing line of theme or narrative that will drag us through, but we've started something... And I'm really excited about it.

Things that we are thinking about: heroism, mythology, bandit masks, secret identities, klezmer music, interrogations, decisions, magic tricks, Jewish Americans in 1930s New York, J. S. Bach, paper bags, train rides...

On Sunday, we had our first rehearsal in the studio. The lovely Carson, who has magnanimously agreed to be part of our experiment, joined us. We each picked out a superpower and brought along some images or text that felt evocative of whatever it was. All of it was fodder for improvisation, and after two hours, we had three phrases, all of them odd and funny and hopefully useful as things to stick other things to.

Here are mine:

1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

september/october reading

Our Tragic Universe
by: Scarlett Thomas

I find Scarlett Thomas immensely likable. There's something so ordinary and friendly about her characters, even in the midst of all the strange and bizarre details that she sweeps them up in. The previous novels of hers that I've read (PopCo and The End of Mr. Y) are witty, sharp, and addictive. I did not, however, particularly like this book. It has one of the most eye-catching covers that I've seen recently, but the story itself was a bit of a drag. Mostly, it provoked that feeling I get when a friend persists in doing something particularly unbearable in the name of romance.

Girl Parts

by: John M. Cusick

I picked up this novel because I couldn't quite believe the cover. A pretty red-headed girl wrapped up in bubble wrap and Styrofoam pellets lies smiling in a pink box. Then I read the cover copy and couldn't decide whether it would be amazing or absolutely terrible.

Yes, it goes there. The idea of beautiful, artificial "Companions" designed to teach disaffected and disconnected teenage boys the ways of emotional intimacy will obviously drag all kinds of lumpy baggage behind it, but this novel is actually charming, compassionate, and unabashedly prickly. It reminds me of Melvin Burgess in the way it doesn't balk from emotion--from being foolish, sentimental, lusty, or cruel--and in the way its characters are less than what you might expect, and so end up being much more haunting and memorable in all their messiness.

Zombies vs. Unicorns

edited by: Holly Black and Justine Larbaleister

I don't particularly like zombies *or* unicorns, but this was a fun collection. The introductions to each story are hilarious.

The Limit
by: Kristen Landon

Read this for my youth book club. It's a thriller complete with corrupt corporations, shadowy government agencies, the consequences of fiscal irresponsibility, and a revival of the workhouse institution. It doesn't sound like it would be a compelling idea for a young person's novel, but it is. The kids loved it.

Blackout
by: Connie Willis

It has been a really long time since I've read a "grown-up" novel that absorbed me so completely that I didn't want to put it down. I read a lot of books that are beautifully written, elegantly conceived, and thoughtful to the point of insulation, and however much I like them, they aren't difficult to put down at night when it's time to sleep. Blackout is responsible for a few days of sleep deprivation.

It's an extravagant story: Oxford in 2060, historians who travel in time to complete their dissertations, WWII, Shakespeare, Agatha Christie. It is completely believable, even in the middle of difficult to believe things. It's a historical novel and a contemporary novel, all dressed in the immensely attractive guises of science fiction.

I Shall Wear Midnight
by: Terry Pratchett

I like all of Terry Pratchett's books, but there are some that go right past liking and straight to instant happiness. This is one of them. There is a kind of settled wisdom in it, a definite recognition of what makes life worth being around for, and skill enough to convey the sense of it while keeping the reader swinging on the edge of either laughing or crying.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

dancing sexy


I rarely feel sexy when dancing.

I think this is a function of the supreme introspection required by practice.

I feel abandon, intellect, passion, frustration, and that particularly satisfying high that comes from dragging something from the cloudy, foggy, slippery cavities of my head to the hard and sharp counters of existence. But rarely, hardly ever that cranked up blast of invitation that focuses all efforts to a blazing spotlight turned on someone else.

Which is just funny to consider when thinking about all the things that I mean to say, but don't, and all the things I don't mean to say, but do.

For instance:
Yesterday, we danced some phrases while our actress read "This Condition" by Lydia Davis. "This Condition" is a story entirely contained in one extremely long sentence. It's a list of things, mostly mundane, and if taken bit by bit, they are not particularly sexy. But when they're allowed to collect, they become (like magic) strangely, outrageously, and hilariously so. They become the kind of story that might be uncomfortable for reading aloud. You are unavoidably talking about sex, even though you're really talking about hands searching in purses, things shaped like Florida, and snails. Dancing to it, you're inevitably reflecting the words, even if you're thinking about something else. Reaching up and touching an ear lobe, or pressing a finger against a nose suddenly says one thing instead of another.

Even if I dance exactly the same way that I would to a piece of classical music, anyone who is watching is going to fill it in with something else.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

wrong shoes

There's this really weird feeling that I get when I learn choreography that was created on someone with a completely different habit of moving. It's like I'm trying to fit myself into someone else's skin, and it's all tight in the strangest places, and has residual demands for nuances I would never notice, choices I would never make. Dragging and getting dragged at the same time. Everything feels like it's the wrong size.

And then it's all subsumed by familiarity. Practice sands it down to fit onto my body, to indulge all my habits, tics, and velocities; and it feels so much less like I've got my shirt on the wrong way and my shoes on the wrong feet.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

hey there, I'm the new kid

This is always how I feel on the first day of a new job. It is even more odd when the new job involves dancing. Hello, I say, I am new. You all might have it down. You know each other's names and heights and idiosyncrasies. You go fast and you go slow, and maybe you, holy cow, have got the greatest jump that I have ever seen.

It's a very steep curve to climb up, sometimes. So much choreography to learn; so much shorthand to acquire. The inside joke among groups of dancers is always tricky to understand because at least half of it is mime.

I like it though. I love working with people who I know so well that I've got at least a faint map of the interior of their minds, but the fizz that comes from something new makes me want to skip, at least, whenever I'm not afflicted with the need to flail.

Today was my first day of rehearsal with Liss Fain Dance (for those of you who are keeping score, this is New Job #2 out of two, which makes it Hat #4 out of a possible five). The project is a piece called "The False and the True Are One," which will be performed at the beginning of December. It has a number of interesting aspects: the transformation of a theater into a gallery set, the short stories of Lydia Davis, new music, and the always fascinating element of an audience released from their seats and set free to wander among the work. It's a new piece though, and since this was my first day, I can't say anything intelligent about the actual work, except that I am now very tired.

***
My friend, the wonderful Penelope, works in the kitchen of Station 1, a new restaurant in Woodside, doing chef things. She is, quite simply, a goddess of kitchens, and can make lemon bars that will change your life. She also sometimes contributes to a food blog and has just shared a recipe for grilled flatbread.

Another friend, the brilliant Damien, wrote about organizing a literacy festival in Leicester, England (which is a charming city; I must remember to write about their Roman ruins and museum... It was like school dioramas except with realio and trulio authentic antiquities) and about his belief in the value of reading. Inspiring stuff.

And the ever magnificent Kat posted an excerpt from a story that I really can't wait to read about a girl and King Arthur and the strangeness of scholarship.

Aaaand... You really need to keep an eye on Project Thrust, which is my friend Malinda's new(-ish) company. Malinda's choreography will make you laugh so hard that you won't be able to keep your eyes open, but you won't want to close them either because you'll be afraid of missing something of genius. You may also cry and definitely think.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Saturday, October 2, 2010

in which I begin to put on many hats

This fall I will be wearing some new (metaphorical) hats.
Hat the First:
Today was my first day of training at Booksmith, a very charming, very sharp little bookstore in the Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. I'll be working there a couple evenings a week. I'm still not terribly familiar with the store, but I do know some of the people who work there, and they are absolutely fantastic. Oh, they also have an impressive music section and some very tantalizing art books.

Hat the Second:
In about a week I'll start working with Liss Fain Dance for a show in December. This is the company that Shan dances for, so I'm really excited to work with her. It's been ages since we've danced together, but we're slowly and vaguely thinking about doing some of our own dance projects, so it will be good to work together in the studio under the guidance of someone else to sort of rev our brains up. I like all the other dancers and am looking forward to the particular kind of focus that goes into preparing for a show.

Hat the Third:
Even though Monday is my last day on the floor there, I'll still be doing the editorial/marketing work that I do for Kepler's (I will not miss the commute!). It pacifies the vague desires I have now and again to get into either publishing or journalism. Sometimes it makes them much more ravenous. In any case, it's satisfying and mostly fun and I get to conduct interviews with wonderful writers. My next victims are Michael Krasny and Harold McGee.

Hat the Fourth:
I am now, officially, "Project Manager, Marketing" for the San Francisco Conservatory of Dance. This makes me incredibly happy because the Conservatory is an organization that I believe in, with all my heart, because the people who make up its bones are both some of the best artists and best human beings who I've ever met. We also just got a brand new office. I have a desk! And a Mac!

Hat the Fifth:
While I was in London, I met the lovely Neil for tea. At some point he said, as he always does, "And have you been writing, young Megan?" And I said, "Oh yes. Short stories and things. But, you know, I think I want to write a novel." And since I've been having the ideas and the desire for some months, and since there's no better encouragement for jumping off a (figurative) cliff than having articulated the desire to do so to someone who you both admire and look up to...

So. I will be busy. My work load is rather larger than it was before, but (theoretically) it's also arranged so I have a much more normal schedule. And that, I think, will be rather refreshing.

***
I like having full time, and I like having heavy time. I like time that's stuffed and time pulled so thin it might cut you with its edges.

I also like this poem. It doesn't really have anything to do with time, except maybe for being about one way you might like to spend it. Or how you've spent it.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

magical internet things

So, I only just discovered that I have a "bookshelf" for Google Books. And, while I'm not much for reading books online because it makes my eyeballs feel like they are shriveling beneath the computer glare, things that make my life easier make me happy.

I interview authors for work. I find all of them interesting people to correspond with. They have all these ideas that they've been steeping in long enough to write a book about them, and it's interesting to get a small peek at that odd, subterranean world. However, they're not all authors that I've actually read. Sometimes, they're authors who I know nothing about. Nothing. They're like guests at a party who turn up next to you, and you suddenly realise that you're standing in close proximity to a complete stranger, and you need to make some kind of pleasant conversation in the next few seconds because otherwise you will not seem mysterious and reserved, but instead something rather less nice.

Which is why I find it kind of magical that I have a "bookshelf" on Google Books with the forthcoming book of my next victim (it's not even officially out yet), complete with a substantial (but not overwhelming) preview, sitting there in its pretty, black cover, waiting to rescue me with conversational gambits.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

this is the way it happened

I feel I should explain, just a little, those postcards previously mentioned.

One afternoon, in Berlin, Heather and I went to a park. We took a camera and an ipod. We surveyed the park (both astonishingly lovely and astonishingly full of terrible statues) for a place to start. We picked out some music. We danced.

On further consideration, there isn't much to explain.

The funny thing about watching a video of yourself improvising, even when you're doing it on a lark, in the company of friends, under the eye of bemused strangers, is how frighteningly educational it is. Habits leap out. The tendency to explore the same kind of movement and relationship to time (in my case, a serious fear of the committed pause) becomes as obvious and odd as any other. I spin my rings around my fingers with my thumb when I'm thinking. Is this useful? No.

It makes me wonder. Is this me? Off the cuff, extemporaneous? Can I say what I mean when I don't have the chance to think it over? Is there anything more honest about that fiddling energy that happens when I'm not sure what to do next, that jigging urge to fill in the blank with anything, as long as it's not nothing?

Not that I thought about this while we were in the park. Mostly, I just thought about how fun it was to do something absolutely ridiculous and how lucky I am to have a friend who will gallop right into the ridiculous with me.

Friday, September 10, 2010

read in transit

The Boy With the Cuckoo-Clock Heart
by: Mathias Malzieu

Fairy-tale quirk. A sometimes disappointing see-saw between extravagance and flippancy. I want to pretend that it's due to something not coming through in the translation because there were some absolutely stunning images.

Brilliant
by: Jane Brox

The history of artificial light and how it changed human life, deeply and irreversibly. Fascinating stuff about Tesla, world fairs, economics, the rise of factories, and the increasing number of stars being blotted out by our light.

Bliss
by: Peter Carey

Peter Carey does complete, mad weirdness. A man nearly dies, but wakes up believing he is dead and all the world is a simulacrum produced by Hell to torment him.

Not Now, Bernard
by: David McKee

I can't tell you how happy this book makes me. I mean, I can try, but you are unlikely to grasp exactly why just looking at it makes me giggle like a small and demented child. I found it in the wonderful St. Georges Bookshop in Berlin, just sitting propped up and waiting for me among the small selection of children's books. It is a very large, very floppy book, and when Heather and I were walking to a bar to get some of the nice German version of prosecco, I looked like I was wearing half of a very weird sandwich board. It is an unapologetically, unexpectedly, remorselessly strange story about a boy who gets eaten by a monster. It is also perfectly charming.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

cause... effect

I know that this is not actually funny. But the headline makes me laugh.





***
The thing about working at home is that you can take a break and draw a picture when you think you might go crazy.

The thing about working at home is that you're all alone when the deadlines come hunting.

Back to work.

Friday, August 13, 2010

bears repeating

"He causes the release of oxytocin in anyone who returns his loving gaze." (quality soundbite from NatGeo, source of sensationalized "science"... did you see the piece about the tree-man? Made me lose my appetite, which is a rare and grave occurrence.)

"Never break up with someone on an invention." (sturdy piece of advice from Classy by Derek Blasberg, a guide on how to not be a bitch told in the bitchiest way possible.)

"If your life had a face, I would punch it." (from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a movie that I'm having a hard time deciding whether or not I liked.)

Acaciae quodammodo accedens, Myrobalano chebulo Veslingii similis arbor Americana spinosa, foliis ceratoniae in pediculo geminatis, siliqua bivalvi compressa corniculata seu cochlearum vel arietinorum cornuum in modum incurvata, sive Unguis cati. (or, why we needed Carl Linnaeus, as noted in Naming Nature by Carol Yoon.)
***
I've known Logan for years. We met almost a decade (a decade!) ago at a ballet program in Boston and at first he thought I didn't like him and I thought he didn't like me, though we eventually cleared that up and have been friends ever since. He lives in Florida now and we see each other only a few times a year, in the summer and in the winter.

Today, we talked for hours and played the Wii and went to see Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and looked at magazines and acted like children at the end of summer with nothing to do in the world. I feel funny when I see someone I've been friends with for years on an irregular basis because I'm in such a habit of considering them in a certain way, that it's shocking when a moment comes along that makes me realize that they're different. They have this enormous iceberg of a life that I'm mostly unaware of (because I'm sometimes rubbish at staying in touch), and while Logan is still my wonderful, charming, silly, endearing friend, he's also, just a little, someone else, and glimpsing that other person is both strange and really, really cool.


hello



She resides in a park in Montreal, which is one of my favorite cities in North America. Two months in the depth of winter and you know you like it more than passing flirtation can account for. The reason I like her is that she seems less like an angel and more like a girl with wings.

I don't think I told you about this man, this violinist, who used to play music on the street, in the snow. It was so cold that the air held onto everything and the sound of his violin dropped into your ears and sliced them open.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

july/august reading

Monsters of Men
by: Patrick Ness

Still not as good as the first book, but a crackling, snapping, violent, and heartbreaking read.

Numbers
by: Rachel Ward

If you looking at a person in the eyes made you see the date of their death hovering somewhere in your head, how would that make you feel?

Fast Forward 1
Edited by: Lou Anders

Science fiction: bite-sized, numerous, varied.

The Rise of Renegade X
by: Chelsea M. Campbell

Romp through the teenage lives of superheros/villains, which turns out to have a lot in common with the teenage lives of normal people.

Oryx & Crake
by: Margaret Atwood

The world is messed up by people who are messed up, and in the midst of all the shiny bells and whistles, the luminous, giant bunnies and self-propelled myths, what is the thing that really gets you in the gut? That would be the reduction of the world to interactions of two. Brilliant and disturbing to a totally distracting degree.

Monday, August 9, 2010

you & me


I was going to write a novel this summer, because I figured, why not? (I do many things on the basis of the idea that there's no reason not to. It's not the most practical of arguments.) It (this theoretical novel) was going to be about a girl who was sort of, but not really, a werewolf.

And then summer turned out to be busier than expected and I'm going out of town (on a poorly organized, but hopefully wonderful adventure to Germany and England to visit some of the most glorious people I know), so a novel hasn't been written. But, suddenly, I've got this idea, this other idea, and it won't go away.

Yeah, I know, that was a totally enlightening thing to say. Dime a dozen. Wishes, horses. This is the part where you say, "And?"

And this is the part where I say, "well, I haven't really gotten past that, but, you know... why not?"

***
As a small and grumpy sidenote: I spent my entire Sunday staring at the computer screen and doing editorial work. My eyeballs feel unpleasantly sticky. I completely failed to arrange necessary transportation between two German cities and various English ones. I did not buy an outlet converter thing. I feel I must look like Quasimodo. But! I've been listening to a totally awesome song. "Boat" by The Shivers. I can't decide whether finding a love worthy song makes up for a rat-wheel sort of day. It's a toss-up.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

judge vaughn r. walker, you rock

“Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects."
- Griswold v. Connecticut

"The evidence shows that, by every available metric, opposite-sex couples are not better than their same-sex counterparts; instead, as partners, parents and citizens, opposite-sex couples and same-sex couples are equal."
-Perry v. Schwarzenegger

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

blue suede shoes

Today, I went for lunch with the lovely Heather, who will soon depart for Boston and begin saving the world (and how I will miss her!). We ate seriously awesome Greek food (best pita bread I've ever had... I could have eaten a bucket load). We chattered our little hearts out. Heather sent me home with The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and Mind: Introduction to Cognitive Science. I test drove my new shoes, which I had to buy because they are, literally, blue suede shoes (and having an Elvis song running through your head while wearing 4-inch high heels strikes me as irresistibly hilarious).

All of which made me think about the unexpected things (and extraordinary people, I count myself terribly lucky in that regard) that lead up to the current moment, all of them strung so neatly together that you don't register the geography you've travelled to get there. For example:

stories --> Clarion --> Neil --> Mike --> Heather --> Eric --> science --> stories

And the stories at the beginning and the stories now are so very different that I feel like the map of my imagination has gained a multitude of contour lines. Which maybe makes me sound like a self-absorbed dingbat (where are your crystals? your dreamcatchers? your incense and candlewax?), but I've always thought that the most luxurious side-effect of having people who you admire, enjoy, and adore, even momentarily, is the way they change your perception of the world.

(and, maybe the map isn't the territory, but it's certainly close enough to count.)

(end: maudlin sentiment)

Sunday, August 1, 2010

music (in my ears)

I've had my eye out for some good music because I'm not fond of air travel, and when I climb onto an airplane in a few weeks, I want something to drown my ears in. I'm really fascinated by Dark Night of the Soul (think: David Lynch + Sparklehorse + Danger Mouse) because it's strange and because it's title makes me think, not of Catholic mystics, but of Douglas Adams. The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul is one of my favorite titles, ever.

I'm also listening to Amanda Palmer Performs the Popular Hits of Radiohead On Her Magical Ukulele. "High and Dry" is gorgeous. I think I missed the initial boat on the Radiohead craze, though I remember that my roommate on the first summer I went away from home alternated between bouts of Radiohead and bouts of the Smashing Pumpkins played at volumes so high that I felt like our dorm room was a shivering gondola hurtling through the city's fog.

***

It's funny. I've known so many people who have an intense memory for music. It's like the songs are a card catalogue, and on each one is written a memory, compactly and stealthily stored for future resurrection, momentary resuscitation. I find myself lacking in this particular skill of nostalgia. I don't remember the first song I danced with a boy to. I don't remember the first piece I learned on the piano. I don't have songs that dredge up kisses or birthday parties or miseries or joys. I could (theoretically) still dance for you the Bluebird Pas de Deux (the first real and glittering classical partnering piece I ever did), but hearing Tchaikovsky's score doesn't bring me back to that day when my teacher coached me into such tears that I couldn't see straight.

It's not that music leaves me cold. I love music. I love to move to it. There are some pieces that have a direct and unfairly swift line to my heart. But I don't get that visceral dislocation. I miss out on the instant of time travel that leaves people all moist around the eyes when they hear that song.

I feel like I've been cheated. Where is my nostalgic soundtrack? Where are the songs that I'll play to wallow in my life? Maybe I'll have to artificially inject them. All moments carefully scored. All significant characters allotted a fitting theme song. I should hum them when they appear.

"What? That? Oh, it's just a little song that's going to make me think of you."

***
My friend, the lovely Mlle. X, is posting some glorious photographs on her blog. Look, admire. I dare you to resist the stories that come bleeding through them.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

let me entertain you


Today, you can go out (or, via the magic of the internet, stay in) and buy a copy of Sybil's Garage, and so possess a tiny piece of my imagination. Let me tell you a story. It begins like this:

"On the day that Martin's leg turned to glass, they took out another seat from the theater."

Check out the table of contents here. My story is called "The Telescope," and there are many other tantalizing titles that I can't wait to sample for myself. You can acquire your very own copy (either paper or electronic) at the link above, or through Amazon. You can even ask your favorite bookstore to order you a copy by giving them this ISBN: 978-0-9796246-1-2 and telling them that it's available from Ingram (trust me, these are magical and soothing words to any bookstore employee).

This is my first story out in the wild world, guys! I am so happy!

Monday, July 12, 2010

observations from the dance floor

So, last week I went dancing with some magnificent friends at this funny place that might be the illegitimate offspring of a rec center for retired hunters and a dive bar (skee ball, pool, taxidermy... loads and loads of taxidermy, arcade games, beer... loads and loads of beer, and a little kitchen making Southern food). The DJ was rubbish, but the dancing was a glory. I don't go dancing very often, but when I do, I mean it. One hundred percent, balls-to-the-walls, let's be ridiculous, three hours (but, oh my god, didn't that feel like 30 minutes?), sweat and jump and kick and shake, mean it. It's just so much fun. I feel like a kid running around outside and hollering just for the hell of it. Maybe I'm an airplane, maybe I'm a monster, but who cares?

And then I see people who are trying to be cool, or trying to be sexy, or sort of dancing, but not really, just kind of swaying so that they can still go hah, well aren't I silly? and I want to beg them to throw their dignity on the floor and just get on with it. Have some fun, it's good for you. Be silly, look me in the eye, don't worry about making a good impression, just move and listen and don't think.

***
Tuesday was the brilliant Chris's birthday, so I went along to birthday drinks. There was another birthday gathering there, a bunch of young people at the table next to ours. There was also this man, dancing. I don't know his name, but he comes into the bookstore sometimes and he has a disability. He is very large and middle-aged, but he acts like a child. He's gleeful, he stands too close, and he can talk for ages without filtering out repetitions or inappropriate things. He is deprived of the charm of a child though because of his size and his clumsiness and his obvious age.

He was dancing and singing and the people at the table next to ours were laughing and urging him on. They were videoing him on their phones and he kept saying, oh, you like my dancing, I'm so glad, and they kept saying nasty things to each other and then turning to him and saying, of course we like your dancing. Keep going. Ha ha ha! Look at him go, isn't that funny, isn't that the silliest piece of shit you've ever seen?

It broke my heart.

How are you supposed to feel in this situation? He's happy. They're amused. Neither party would appreciate my pity or anger. Why does it matter that they're laughing about different things? It's not like mean-spirited humor doesn't tickle me. I snark incessantly. This video puts me in stitches:



And still... It really upset me. Here was this guy dancing, going all out, saying here I am and this is me, and they were ridiculing him, yes, but that happens all the time... The thing is, they were pretending not to, so there he goes pinning more of his heart to his sleeve, and they just think it's the funniest thing, the stupidest thing, the most hilarious thing they've ever seen.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

june reading

(shall we be brief?)

Juliet, Naked

by: Nick Hornby

Fine and funny and sad. Absurd and hopeless, as life is, and ridiculous with desire. Portrait of inertia. Of age. Oh my god, here comes a sappy ending, but wait, no, I think we've glanced off of it now and it seems to be there, just to the right of us, in the distance.

Doing It
by: Melvin Burgess

Sex. Messy, awkward, imaginary, gorgeous, fantasized, humiliating, wonderful. Is that really what teenage boys think about? Disarmingly brilliant novel. Should be on some high school reading lists, or, at least, required reading for teachers. Brutally humane.

American Gods
by: Neil Gaiman

Road trip fantasia, plus an intermission in terrifying Midwestern winter. Gods everywhere. My favorites: Egyptian deities dressed up as undertakers. Coin tricks. Cons. That discomfiting feeling you get when you start out tasting something strange, and then you forget what's strange about it half-way through and all the important bits somehow turn out to be true.

The Billionaire's Curse

by: Richard Newsome

Indiana Jones meets classic English story about children with oddly absent parents and an excess of adventure. Slightly blocky characters. Bloodthirsty. A policeman shot in the bum with darts tipped with sleeping potion on one end, flowers on the other.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

realizations that you are, in fact, incredibly short

No. 1

When you have to open the car door and unbuckle your seat belt to reach the automated ticket machine at a parking lot. Not only that, but you may have to swing one leg out of the car and push against the toes of the other foot (firmly anchored on the brake pedal, please) before the ticket will finally, thankfully get devoured by the machine and you are free to go.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

song


hey
you

you've gone and stolen my
hidden it between the pages of a--cut--
apart

hey
you
you've got something of mine
slipped it from my
while I thought the day was fine
and I thought that you were kind
and I thought yourwas mine
and I missed out
on all the signs

oh.

don't go stealing things
you might not want
you might not need

don't go stealing
with ends you might not want to read

just keep stealing hearts.
just keep stealingoh.
just keep stealing hearts.

so I can give mine away.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

4' 33''

Sybil's Garage asks authors to suggest a "musical accompaniment" to go with their story. For a moment, I thought about choosing 4'33'' by John Cage. Four thirty-three is a three movement score that instructs the musicians to not play their instrument for the duration of the piece.

(The Wikipedia article is actually pretty great.)

I was thinking about it as a joke, one with some seriously pretentious flavors, but then I realized that telling someone that the best accompaniment to your story is the choice of doing nothing else doesn't just taste of pretension... It positively roars with it. Of course you want your story to flood their eyes, overwhelm their nose, saturate their skin, and batter its way down their ears and throats...You want it to momentarily obliterate everything except the world it contains. But to actually imply that it does... That's just more confidence than I've got.

(If you're curious, I chose the Chaconne from the Partita no. 2 in D minor for solo violin by Mr. Awesomeness Incarnate, J. S. Bach. It's one of my favorite pieces of music in all the world, going forwards and back.)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

may reading

White Cat
by: Holly Black

This is a young adult novel. It's fun and dark and a little disturbing. It's easily consumable, quickly downed, and manages that tricky bit of making me interested enough in the characters so that I don't care so much what happens, just as long as I know what happens to them.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
by: Rebbecca Skloot

One of the best books I've read in a year. It uses a scientific development (growing human cells in culture and establishing the HeLa cell line) to open up a period of history, the story of a family, and a whole mess of ethics that I had never even thought about before. This book made me say, "really?" and "I can't believe that actually happened" and "people are amazing" and "people are awful" and "I am so freaking lucky to be living in a world where this kind of thing is real, and where someone will tell the whole mucky, awesome story of it."

And how else would I have found my new favorite podcast, This Week in Virology?

The Great Divorce
by: C. S. Lewis

I am not religious. I have never been able to believe in God, or gods, with any sort of conviction. I don't think this is a failure of imagination, or a failure of any kind, really. Maybe it's a function of upbringing. In any case, I am not a believer.

C. S. Lewis was a believer. He had his faith and he told stories about it -- interesting, extremely well-written stories that positively burst with a restless, inquiring conviction. That sounds like a contradiction, but when I read Lewis, I feel like here is a mind that believes and still has to wrestle through the proofs. He doesn't convince me, but he makes me think and I enjoy arguing with him in my head.

The Amazing Maurice and His Educated Rodents
by: Terry Pratchett

Read this one for my kids' book club. This is probably the third time I've read it, though the last two were some years ago. It's a great book, a clever, inside-out and upside-down version of the Pied Piper. It goes places that are nasty and unpleasant, but only because that's the way an honest story goes, and underneath there's this intelligence and humor and iron-clad belief that people can surprise you with their capacity for being ridiculously wonderful, despite everything.

The Cardturner
by: Louis Sachar

Wonderful book. It makes bridge exciting. Sachar even plays with the conceit of marking the "boring" bridge bits with whale symbols (think Moby Dick) so you can skip them, but every time I got to a whale symbol, all I thought was, oh no you don't, you're not making me skip a word. It's a story about figuring out that you love somebody, and it puts in all the expected bits -- the awkward, embarrassing, thrilling parts -- as well as all the bits that are unexpected but immediately recognizable as true.

Stories
edited by: Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio

This book makes me happy. First of all, my friend, the lovely Kat Howard, has her first published story in here. Then there's the fact that Neil Gaiman, who is also lovely, is one of the editors. Then there's the whole concept that the book is built on, which is that it is simply a collection of literature of the imagination by people who are very, very good at telling stories.

I never like all the stories in an anthology. I don't think you can. It's very tiring to jump from one world and one mind to another, and there's just no way that you can like all of them equally. But the sheer variety and energy of the entire table of contents made me want to cheer. There was so much obvious delight in the wide open field that appears when the constraints of ordinary reality are taken off. The only rule seems to be the belief that stories matter, and that is incredibly refreshing.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

do not mix

Beware of mixing the following items:

1. Lectures on how the herpes viruses go latent in neurons.

2. A story by Gene Wolfe about alien birds that invade human bodies.

I had dreams about infinitesimal chicken pox birds nesting in my nervous system. It was not nice.

On the other hand, if you want to read a totally awesome and amazing story that may still give you uncomfortable dreams, may I suggest Roddy Doyle's "Blood"?

Monday, May 31, 2010

excitement and lag-time

I have some exciting news:

A story of mine, "The Telescope," is being published in the seventh issue of Sybil's Garage. Sybil's is a very stylish little magazine, and its content tends toward the beautiful and strange (my favourite flavor of things to read!), so I am delighted.

(as in: do a happy jig and slide up and down the hallway in socks, delighted.)

This will be my first publication, and I find myself a little nervous about the whole thing. I wrote the story such a while ago and the lag-time between then and now is a strange sensation. It's like I did a performance nearly two years ago and it's only now that the light and sound of it are reaching the audience. Weird. But cool.

***
And, a friend of mine, the fabulous Keffy, has a story out in Fantasy Magazine. You should go read it. There's even a nifty little comment box where you can say how you feel about it.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

talking to strangers

I used to hate talking to strangers. I used to be that shy girl who walked around people in big, obvious loops rather than face the possibility of having to look someone in the eye and say hello.

The thing is, you can learn amazing things by talking to people you don't know.

My sister and I spent Sunday talking to strangers. We've both been obsessed with the idea of encountering art in the ordinary world. Art should be a part of the ordinary world. Art is a conversation, after all, maybe edited and rarefied, but a conversation about us (me, you, the world) and how can we really engage in it if we only ever go to see it? Museums are fine, fine things. So are theaters. But how much are we missing if we put art in one box and our lives in another?

(Please read Gene Weingarten's excellent article, "Pearls Before Breakfast." It's about Joshua Bell, one of the best violinists in the world, and a Washington, D. C. subway station. It's also about beauty, perspective, and the way we dole out value in our lives.)

We've always liked buskers, and had been wanting to document the objects of our affection while simultaneously finding an excuse to get to know them a bit better. We finally did: BuskerSF.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

it's not original, but sometimes it's true

I (heart) San Francisco.
These fellows set up their tables along Market Street, on the rather unpleasant block between 5th and 6th. It's completely unexpected: a crowd of men playing chess, or watching each other play chess, everyone mostly silent except for the hands that fly out to click a piece down on the board or punch the clock. They seem like they belong in a park instead of next to a busy road where the streetcars trundles past and a homeless man in a safari hat patrols the sidewalk to the sound of Christmas carols spilling from the boombox that he carries in a bag over his shoulder (honest. do you really think I could make that up?).
Ice cream sandwiches at 'wichcraft. Crumbling chocolate. Mint. Gluttonous delight.
The Great American Music Hall is a gorgeous venue. It's red and gilt and decadent with just enough tarnish and grit that it feels like an actual place and not a flimsy set. My sister and I went to see the Evelyn Evelyn show here, and while they (and their alter egos, Amanda Palmer and Jason Webley) were excellent, Sxip Shirey is the one who sneaked up and stole my music-loving heart. I mean, when someone can make wonderful music out of taped together music boxes, harmonicas, a marble in a glass bowl, bicycle bells, pennywhistles, and hand bells, how can that not be magic?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

on reading science

I just finished a very wonderful book. I really mean that. It folded me up inside it, educated me, excited me, exercised my compassion and my wonder. It introduced me to ideas I had never considered and made my world more interesting by filling in the detail in places I hadn't bothered to look. It's also really, really, really well written.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It's by Rebecca Skloot. The history of cell culture, biomedical ethics, and people, in all their messy, brilliant, and ordinary glory. Oh man, but reading a good book can make me so incredibly happy!

I've been addicted to reading about science. It's a recently discovered pleasure. Several months ago, I had a conversation about taxonomy that lodged in my head and set off sparklers of delighted recognition. Here were so many of those things that I obsess over in dancing and writing -- perception, relationships, the understanding of things not ourselves -- but approached from another direction entirely. It was like studying a gorgeous sculpture for years, memorizing every minute detail of it, and only just realizing that you could walk around to the other side.

The particular of science is seductive. The astonishing and exact details that make the world more interesting to experience. The crazy beautiful shift from vague to precisely textured. There is no practical reason for why someone like me needs to know about telomeres or FISH, but learning about them is either like peeling off the surface of the world, or piling it up with layer over layer of intimate wonder, I can't decide which.

(Reading I've liked aside from the Henrietta Lacks book: Genome by Matt Ridley, Creation Revisited by Peter Atkins, The Language Instinct by Steven Pinker, The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat by Oliver Sacks.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

call me: exhibitionist

There are a whole bunch of reasons for why Hans Christian Andersen got it both uncomfortably right and incredibly wrong when he wrote up a story about red shoes. Right now, I want to consider this:

Have you ever said to someone, please, undress me? Turn me inside out. Look me in the eye for longer than is polite, or comfortable, or safe. Let's unfold those honest linens, the ones in the dusty chests piled under manners, niceties, the sheen of everyday. Diminish the distance to none. Let's have you be me and me be you, and we'll watch each other while we reach into this bag of shadows and pull out: a toad, a pebble, a long afternoon.

Put another way...

It's really difficult to lie and dance well. You're trying to say something without words, which are somehow easier because meaning doesn't have as much space to rattle around in when it's confined by words. It can't drift off, can't evoke quite as many unintended echoes. You can limit how much people see with words. Dancing well (at least, my current definition of well) is much more like inviting someone to see a clumsily edited montage of your entire life. You've done the best you can, but rogue fragments keep finding their way into the stream. They tell more than what you meant, though you're not sure how much. Your only defense is that the audience, the person with whom you're having this conversation, is (with any luck) being struck by astonishments of his own. Recognition and memory and all those things that make us feel anything when we experience some art, when we look at the (metaphorical) inside of another human being.

I can't get enough of this, on either end. It's a pleasure and a thrill. It's as much fun as running around in the rain, singing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" at full blown, ridiculous volume. Trust me, I know.

Monday, May 10, 2010

"please love me"

In a corner, a woman dances. She is all lush curves with hard edges that slice through at unexpected moments. Meanwhile, another woman stares at you. "Fuck you," she says. She says it again, and again. She repeats it in permutations that drive themselves, quite skillfully, from a statement to a scream. Two women wrestle, and it is difficult to tell whether they are fighting or holding each other up. A man tells stories, just a fragment of each. A man undresses himself and dances with a woman, and it is such a magnified portrait of intimacy that it reduces everything else in the room to an almost suffocating hush.

On Wednesday, I went to the world premiere of "Please Love Me." The artists responsible for the evening are all people who I know and like and whose work I admire to the utmost. They are: Alex Ketley (choreographer), Les Stuck (musician/video artist), Christian Burns, Andrea Basile, Joy Prendergast, Kara Davis, and Malinda Lavelle (dancers, all). The project is partly an attempt to detach dance performance from its usual setting in a theater and wholly an examination of honesty and emotion. It provokes. It's not the kind of thing that you can settle back and just look at. It doesn't hand you a tidy list of rebus-like meanings. It demands that you converse with it, that you respond, that you see things through a lens of your own making -- everything filtered by your own emotions and your own history.

There were things that didn't work for me. For a piece that is meant to be mobile and seen out in the world as opposed to in the confines of a theater, I thought it was oddly sealed off from its surroundings. The particular space (a gorgeous room with black ceilings, pale walls, and narrow pillars) seemed to have no effect. Much of the movement was oriented toward a single "front," so certain things -- gestures, facial expressions -- made me feel like I was being left out.
But, mostly, it addressed things that I am mad about and crazy for. It moved dance, an art form that can be so refined and abstracted, toward a refreshing level of the human and mundane. "The meaning of life," says Kafka, "is that it ends." Isn't that cheerful? But if that's the case, shouldn't art rip you open? Shouldn't it ask you to feel something other than placid admiration? It should give you depth, since there's nothing it can do about length.

(if you want to go see this, and you really should, future performances are listed at the website)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

april reading

Notes on a Scandal
by: Zoe Heller

Incredibly disturbing. That's pretty much my reaction to this vastly intelligent, extremely wicked book. It's sordid (though not quite in the way I expected), and it creeps around inside your head, taking out embarrassing things that you're almost certain you hid away in a drawer. Oh, and it's also really, really well done. It's told from the point of view of an older woman, a lonely teacher who imagines that she is recording -- honestly, faithfully -- the facts of a devastating scandal. Except that the deeper I fell into her story, the less I trusted her. She began to frighten, horrify, disgust. All of the virtue she presents begins to peel away, and still I balance on this razor of sympathy, quite sure that I'm not getting the whole story, but almost believing her anyway.

A Conspiracy of Kings
by: Megan Whalen Turner

The fourth book in a series for young adults. I'd like to call it pseudo-history, or pseudo-fantasy, except that sounds insulting and I think these books are incredibly well done. I normally find books about battles and political maneuvering dull, dull, dull. Reading about sword fights is something that I loved as a teenager (had a brief obsession with swashbuckling, induced by an overindulgence in Dumas), but now leaves me cold. These books make me want to read about made up politics, made up history, and made up battles, and they do it with clear, workman prose. They do it by playing a card that normally makes me want to strangle the writer, but they are so good at it that I enjoy the game: the characters tell you the story, but they deliberately keep you in the dark. I don't know how she does it.

The God of the Hive
by: Laurie R. King

My very favourite mystery series is about Sherlock Holmes and his wife. The first book (The Beekeeper's Apprentice) is a gorgeous, delicious slice of brilliance. The following books are all fun romps, really well put together puzzles that don't disappoint when you get to the end--the nicest kind of story for reading in bed. This one was unusually fractured, and unusual in that it took away the usual thrill of a murder mystery by giving up its villain very early. By sacrificing that, the book is able to offer the excitement of watching a story burn up from both ends. All those horror movie conventions of yelling at someone to not go into that dark room apply.

Fight Club

by: Chuck Palahniuk

OK, so you must know how the movie adaptation blows your mind. It does it so very cheerfully and baldly that you start to feel bad for your own misguided expectation of conventional reality. Sorry, you say. I should've known. At least, that's how I felt the first time I saw it. The book is much the same. Except that you're seeing it from inside, so the shuddering of reality is much more claustrophobic because you've been building up the world inside your head and then -- wham!-- you've got it all wrong and turned inside out, and that dizzy feeling that comes from looking at one of those optical illusion pictures, right at the moment when it turns from "An Old Woman With an Enormous Nose" to "A Young Woman Looking Over Her Shoulder," jumps up and down on you with entirely unsympathetic glee.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

round and round and round

You know how a song gets stuck in your head and you catch yourself singing it in the shower, in the car, while standing in line, while waiting to fall asleep, while listening to something else and wishing you could hear it over the repetitive insistence that has infected your brain? Well, I've got two lines laying siege to my brain.

My vegetable love should grow/Vaster than empires, and more slow.

This is not even a song. I can't even blame a catchy tune. My brain won't let it go though; it's an idea made for wallowing in. Something gnarled and wonderful and insidious spreading hidden in the dark. I think of parasitic, paradisaical tubers.

***
I am contemplating a trip to Europe in the summer.

And also a trip to Mendocino to see the pygmy forest.

Or maybe I shall pack my car full of swimsuits and sun dresses and drive to Mexico, or stuff my trunk with hiking gear and go up to Canada.

I believe the onset of warm weather ignites wanderlust.

Friday, April 30, 2010

sex and violence (for young people)

Why is sex so very, very scary? Why is it that, when a parent is considering which books (or movies, or television shows, etc.) they want to give their children, sex is a corrosive and dangerous bogeyman, but violence is a clean thrill? Violence is exciting, an adventure. It goes: bam!, zoooom, pow!, and makes the sound of pages being turned. Sex, on the other hand, is insidious. It will grow shadows in young people's eyes; leave burn marks on their imaginations.

There is something wrong with this.

There's something wrong when a mother tells me that her 14-year old son could not possibly read Cory Doctorow's Little Brother because the main character loses his virginity to a girl he's fallen in love with, but a minute later tells me how GREAT Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games is for him. Would you like to know what happens in The Hunger Games? Boys and girls fight to the death. They kill each other in an arena. It (and its sequel) is one of the most popular young adult books in the store.

Parents look uncomfortable when the word is mentioned. Say, "sex," and their eyes go sideways, for just a moment. Say, "murder" or "fight scenes" or "guns" or "slashing swords," and they might get a hopeful look on their faces and say, well maybe that will be exciting. Maybe they'll like it.

I shouldn't ignore my own complicity. I never recommend Melvin Burgess's Doing It, which is a novel of enormous heart and empathy, because it is drenched in sex. I feel no guilt in championing The Knife of Never Letting Go, which has moments of shocking and personal violence. I adore action movies, admire the elegant splatter of Tarantino and the absurd slaughter of Shoot 'Em Up. Lucky Number Slevin is one of my favourite movies, and a clever, stylish film that ends with two old men being suffocated in plastic bags and duct tape. And, yet, the sex scenes are what make me feel sheepish. If I'm watching it with someone, I can feel myself very carefully not turning in their direction.

The only excuse I can make for myself (and maybe for those parents too) is that, in my world, sex is more commonplace than violence. It's more real. It exists, with all its pleasure and pain and inevitable awkwardness, more often than stabbings and fights to the death. Think of it that way, and I'm lucky to live in a world where sex is sometimes more dangerous than violence.

Except that it shouldn't be.

Monday, April 26, 2010

for H. Whitney

Because, wherever you end up, you'll be amazing:
the world = your oyster

bedmates

All of these are for fun, though some of them are for work too. Two of them are to keep my friends company (Fight Club with Carson; Catch-22 with Joy). The Keret is blowing my mind (you've got to taste him: "Fatso" was on This American Life). Just read a mad-fabulous story by Roddy Doyle that edges alongside werewolf territory in Stories. The science book is the perfect thing to read in bed because it makes me happy, except for when it makes me too excited and I have to haul myself out of the blankets to look up something on the internet because it's just too awesome to wait (though I can't love them all: D'Arcy Thompson with his dreadful spirals and profuse footnotes bored me so much I dropped the book on my face when I fell asleep reading him).

Thursday, April 22, 2010

volcano missives, part 1

For H., since your voyage across the Atlantic has been postponed on account of a volcano.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

stories

My friend, the very lovely Kat Howard, has a story in this book, which is edited (in part) by the equally lovely Neil Gaiman. Stories comes out in June and is chock-a-block with authors who will make you swoon with their ability to grab you by the throat and make you say, "what happens next?" Through the magical generosity of Frank (head buyer at our bookstore), I now have an ARC to fill me with early delight.

(haven't you ever loved a book enough to kiss it?)
I immediately flipped to Kat's "A Life in Fictions," and it is as wonderful as it was the first time I read it. It's brief, but it trails behind it a deep shadow full of art, desire, and the fragile confidence that makes up identity. You are going to love this.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

this is my brain on bric and brac

There are very few things that make me feel as silly and immature as car trouble. Today, I managed to require both a AAA roadside assistance man and a tow-truck. Triple A guy was very nice. He explained to me, quite patiently and incomprehensibly, about batteries and fuel pumps. At one point, he lay down on the street and banged on something underneath the car with his fist while I attempted to start the engine. This seemed so absurd that I began to wonder if he was having me on. (Why yes, miss, this is a time-honored technique for curing automotive ailments. You just punch the car in the correct place, and away you go!)

Revelations acquired while walking the three miles between the repair shop and home:

1. These shoes are more comfortable than I gave them credit for.

2. There are multiple instances where someone thought it was a good idea to build an old-folks' home and a funeral parlor next door to each other.

3. There is something automatically mortifying about sitting in a car and waiting for someone outside the office of a psychic. The man was wearing dark glasses and had slouched so far down into his seat that I thought his shoulders were going to swallow his head.

4. I am a suspicious looking character. This poor guy thought I was following him and kept trying to look at me out of the corner of his eye, so he walked into a pole. I thought this was terribly funny, but I don't think he was amused.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

eat me

I really like Greek salad. The summer I spent in Prague, having been rather not thrilled by the Czech cuisine (which is hearty meatiness done to perfection), I practically lived on Greek salad, yogurt, and stracciatella gelato. And beer. Because in Prague, they are really proud of their beer (I just read that... it made me laugh) and the waiters always looked terribly put out if I asked for water.

The combination of flavors -- grassy cucumbers, briny olives, onions, tomatoes, and the pungent creaminess of feta -- is genius. Still, I've never liked how a bad Greek salad arrives at the table: a bowl of massive vegetable chunks, soaked in a pool of bad vinaigrette. What's the point of making a salad when all the components are almost too big to fit in your mouth? You get assaulted by singular explosions of flavor. I AM A TOMATO! I AM AN OLIVE! I AM A PIECE OF ONION SO VAST THAT I WILL POLLUTE YOUR BREATH FOR THE NEXT FIVE HOURS!

Which is why I am obsessed with and addicted to the following recipe. Everything is on a smaller scale and the addition of fresh herbs and lemon cut through the loud flavors with zing and sparkle.

Greek Salad With Orzo
(adapted freely from a recipe in the now sadly deceased Gourmet magazine.)

3/4 cup orzo
1 (15-oz.) can garbanzo beans
1 basket cherry tomatoes (or several normal tomatoes, whatever floats your boat.)
2 tablespoons chopped parsley (or more. I like a huge amount of parsley.)
1 tablespoon chopped oregano (or more.)
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and chopped
1/2 red onion, minced
1/2 cup pitted Kalamata olives, slivered
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 lb. feta
salt
pepper
romaine lettuce

Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain in a sieve and rinse under cold water. Drain well.

Chuck garbanzo beans, vegetables, herbs, and olives into a large bowl. Drizzle over the oil and vinegar. Throw in the lemon juice and zest. Add about 1/2 a teaspoon of salt and loads of pepper. Toss everything together. Add the orzo and crumble over the feta. Give everything a good toss and season to taste.

Chop up the lettuce and put it in bowls. Spoon the pasta/vegetable mix over and serve.

Improvise at will. As you can see, I forgot to buy tomatoes.