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.

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.

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.