Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hygiene, Mental and Otherwise: The Films of Samuel Fuller

Let's talk about Samuel Fuller. At Film is Truth C and I have an indexed card on which we write the names of films we need to see. Usually we both go in with purpose (the past few weeks has been strictly Lost - Season 4 and Woody Allen films), but when we have none, we use the card. Generally, when picking a film for both of us to watch together, I choose one written in her handwriting. The Naked Kiss was one of these, though when I got it home she claimed she'd never heard of it.

I will speak for both of us when I say we were greatly entertained.

Not the best of films quality-wise, as there are many abrupt cuts that seem to be mistakes, the odd shift of a character's head while speaking that is the result of the film and not a spastic actor, the sudden insertion of darkness into a scene, as if a light had just gone out and they kept the take anyway. Not the best bit of acting and certain lines of dialogue one can marvel at for their poorlywrittenness. The camp was high, the shadows entrancing in their ill-noir-or-film-student style, and the use of crippled children... well. All of these were marvelous.

The film opens with a fight scene, a bald prostitute beating her drunken john. He rips her wig off, she knocks him flat and takes (just) the money owed. Soon a new scene, new town. We see main character, soon-to-be reformed prostitute "Kelly" getting off a bus on a small downtown street. Ah, Grantville. The movie theater marquee advertises Shock Corridor (Fuller's previous release, which I'll detail later and which, I'm nearly certain would not have gotten a wide enough release to be in this little town) and a banner stretches over the street promoting the Fashion Show to benefit crippled children.

Much of Kelly's movement and demeanor, the camera angles, etc as she arrives in Grantville remind me of the opening of Hitchcock's Marnie (often touted as H's worst film - my favorite), which will appear in theaters the same year. It seems inconceivable that the correlation is not direct and meaningful. From the camera following the back of the woman before we ever see her face, to the shot of her washing her hair in a sink, one director has obviously liked the other's introduction of the "thieving" woman and used it to introduce his own. While surely Fuller could have aped Hitchcock, it seems possible, even likely that Hitchcock might directly imitate the camp of a lesser auteur and supports my hypothesis about Marnie as purposeful in its awfulness, which I've written about in depth in other venues.

The basic premise of the film is this: hooker on the run from her pimp rolls into Grantville under the premise of selling Angel Foam champagne, first customer (police chief) indulges in all her services and suggests she take her trade over the river to the Candy Shoppe (the local brothel, but in the next town) because "we don't allow that kind of thing here," after looking in his bathroom mirror at herself she decides to go straight, becomes a nurse at the local crippled children's hospital, falls in love and gets engaged to the wealthy playboy who founded said hospital, she learns he's a child molester, kills him, gets arrested, exonerated when she finally proves his perversion by finding the little girl she saw at his house, and is still driven out of town.

The film is marked by what I'm coming to enjoy as one of Fuller's traits: the disembodied hand reaching into the frame. Taking cues from horror genres, this is a bit jarring, like a hand reaching around my own head while I watch the film. First it appears as the john's hand grabbing at her wig, then, charmed by a baby (apparently left alone on the street) in a pram, it's her hand reaching in to paw at baby - and at an angle that absolutely wouldn't work for the way she's standing. At other moments the hand may be attached to a body on screen and STILL seem otherworldly, as when Grant (the playboy) first kisses Kelly. He lies her down on the couch and begins climbing over her. The shadows are deep and ominous. And here Fuller gives it away, because immediately we're a bit frightened of Grant without knowing why. We see his head from the back, her unsure face, hands splayed fully and pushing at him, so that we see all ten fingers over the bulk of his shoulders. There's an overlong pause, and then she pulls him towards her.

Ten minutes in, C had said of the film, "it's as though feminism could never and would never exist." In this moment of permission, I feel she's getting it wrong, that Fuller is showing the woman's power to say yes or no. But that wasn't it at all, as we learn. You see, Kelly has tasted a mouth like Grant's before. Ah yes, the Naked Kiss.

When Grant admits his problem with children, he hopes she - as a former lady of the night - will still want his hand. "I can't marry a normal girl." And thus prostitution is equated with pedophilia. A false parallel the likes of Rick Warren would appreciate surely.

More than anything The Naked Kiss felt to me like the embodiment of the fallen woman from a Victorian novel in Kelly, the reformed hooker who makes good, then bad, but what was really good, and yet still can't be forgiven for her past.

Oh, and there's also a hooker named Hatrack and when the cops are looking for the little girl Kelly saw victimized, the cops have girls who fit the description line up for Kelly to identify. It only took a moment of sitting with my discomfort to realize that not only is this equating the show girls lined up for men at the Candy Shoppe, but in a way it reverses the blame of abuse. It shifts responsibility onto the child, as it's normally the criminal who gets picked out by a witness in a lineup.


"Hamlet was made for Freud, not you."

The ___________ in ____________'s clothing. As in The Naked Kiss's prostitute posing as, then becoming a nurse, Shock Corridor is the story of a journalist who checks himself into a looney bin to solve a murder, only to become looney himself - and AFTER! he's solved the crime. In The Naked Kiss we have real pedophilia; in Shock Corridor we have fake incest. "I stroked her braids; I'd never hurt her." Johnny gets girlfriend Cathy (played by Constance Towers, who also played Kelly in _The Naked Kiss_) to pose as his sister. After a few weeks in - though not yet "crazy" - he's conditioned to be disgusted touching her when she comes to visit.

There's coded homophobia in Shock Corridor as well, as one of the main characters (loonies) we're introduced to is a large, semi-effeminate man who sings arias to lull himself to sleep and welcomes Johnny to the ward by stroking his hair. And in a psych ward Fuller finds many moments to feature the freakish limbs of catatonic schizos jutting jarringly onto screen.

Also present: Female Sexuality, The Fear Of. Upon stumbling into the wrong room, which is populated by "Nymphos" and decorated by crude drawings of muscled men on the walls, John is attacked. The visual is first not unlike a gang of Sharks in _West Side Story_ crowding around a lone Jet, then a pack of vampires feasting on prey. John is covered by the flesh of young (would-be) housewives who must have asked someone for too much love.

"When we're asleep nobody can tell a sane man from an insane man."

The murder John wants to solve, to write the article, to win him the Pulitzer, took place in the mental hospital's kitchen. My first thought was, solving the murder of a crazy by a crazy won't win you anything. And, of course, I immediately knew what the outcome would be: a big dose of crazy for our "hero."

Kelly was lovable, this Johnny's just cold, with well-sculpted hair and the full lips of a man destined for much pouting.

Both films are in black and white, a fact which (the lack of color) I forget until something breaks it. Most striking, this shift from b&w to color in film usually signals a move between worlds. I think Pleasantville, I think The Wizard of Oz. Shock Corridor is kind of like that. In this movie color happens three times and is always reminisces of the outside world just before a man goes "sane" long enough to give Johnny a pertinent detail on the case.

1. The Civil War general who dances crazed to Dixie and calls our hero "sir" after being convinced he outranks him: we get Buddha in color, grey statue crowned by the bluest of skies. We get monks and geishas, Mount Fuji, and other images of Japan. The Civil War general was actually a defector in Korea, a red who becomes mad upon passing through Japan on his way home.

2. Trent, hyper-racist black man, convinced he's the founder of the KKK: the wards keepers are frustrated that he keeps stealing pillow cases. He fashions them with kind of a cross-like emblem, cuts holes for eyes, and dons the hood, chases another black man, convincing other (all white) ward residents, "let's get him before he marries my daughter!" It's caricature of double consciousness, internalized racism, sure, but you have to admire Fuller for making plain the obscene in the midst of the Civil Rights era ('64). Here, in color, we get tribal dancers in Africa and learn that Trent was one of the first students integrated into a college campus.

3. Niagara Falls. This is John's madness. The most amazing scene in the film. I'm not even sure I can talk about it. Shouldn't I leave something a surprise if anyone's gotten this far and might still want to see this film?

And the secret is always sexual. Someone's been molesting female patients. I'm sorry, "taking advantage of" female patients - just so you know, they did ask for it.

It's not clear why Johnny should become catatonic from his time here. Crazy, sure. Ranting, I'd rant. Catatonic?

In trying to get rigid Johnny to hug her, his iced affection, Cathy turns him into an image of the molester in The Naked Kiss. In this his hands are splayed, but she's still the decider when it comes to affection, and there's always something off about the men she loves.

What I learned: we're all perched on the edge of madness and it's divine. "Whom God wishes to destroy he first makes mad."

Monday, December 8, 2008

The Poetics of Gilligan's Isle, or What To Do in an Empty House

On days like today when C heads to Seattle and I've got the house entirely to myself for a long swath of sure time, the house takes on the nearly spectral quality of a childhood "sick" house.

As a child I handled time off from school for illness much in the way I do now. Through sometimes Herculean effort I would stomach the classroom through the worst of illnesses to save the off days for the idylls and focus of the empty house. It never seemed particularly beneficial to be at home when sick, when one could coast through a school day napping at the back of a classroom.

On a healthy day when staying home, my heart would race as I drummed up my symptoms, though my mother never made any kind of motion to probe the veracity of my statements. There was no hand to the forehead in search of fever, no offering of pills for migraine. This was very much in keeping with my lame duck childhood. Once the second set of children had been born, there was little - right or wrong - I could do to receive notice; I was simply to ride out the rest of my term.

Those days off from school were often not so different than a day at school, just with less hair brushing and social anxiety. While in school, most classes found me with a book (usually novel) concealed in my lap. At home, once I'd gotten over the marvel of not having to compete for the remote control, I would watch the requisite hour of Gilligan's Island (back-to-back episodes of sandy hi-jinx) or MTV before returning to whatever I was reading. Sometimes I thrilled in the excitement of reading while the TV was on, something that was generally frowned on by my energy-conscious (read: miserly) stepfather. He did not believe attention could adequately be paid to both TV and book and therefore either lamp or TV should be snuffed. I also took long, luxurious showers when I was home alone, resting in the knowledge that there would be no fist on the door five minutes in. Sometimes I stayed under the stream until the hot water ran out entirely.

Those days were never long enough. This was when I learned what time was and how I'd never have enough of it. I constructed great plans for the day: TV watching and the long shower, baking cookies from found ingredients (so what if there was no flour when there was pancake mix), the slow rifle through mother's drawers (I'd had a friend discover she was adopted this way, and was always looking for the papers that said I wasn't really hers), a few hours of painting, of reading. Then as now things always had to be cut.

Today I want to finish Zizek's _The Puppet and the Dwarf: The Perverse Core of Christianity_, I want to read more of Kathleen Rooney's _Oneiromance_, which I'm taking my time with, beautiful book that it is. I want to map the next chapter of my book, work some on the administrative side of things (submissions), think about revisions of the Parallax essay, take a bath, finish work for the day, start on dinner, the Roasted Butternut Squash and Kale with Fig Balsamic Reduction I promised.

I've taken the bath and now this is nearly done, regrettably, the only other guarantee is work. I've just watched too much TV (an hour of toggling between CNN and Modern Marvels). What do kids watch these days if there's no Gilligan's Island on regular rotation? I hate to think of reruns of Full House or Roseanne bringing up this generation's ill children.

I meant to write about the Poetics of Erasure exhibit, wrong turns, and good conversation with strangers. This will have to wait.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Two minutes for (unfortunately not-so)-common sense...

My argument exactly. It's not a difficult one. Even Ashton Kutcher can sound articulate voicing it in about fifteen seconds.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Go hear!

Village Books! 7PM!
Set on the margins of Seattle, beneath bridges and on the banks of waterways, in strip clubs and flooded farmland, the prose poems in Tinderbox Lawn illuminate the intersection of domesticity and bohemia, orthodoxy and passion. Each untitled block of prose constitutes a novel-in-miniature, with shadow characters and shards of plot. The intensity of Carol Guess' poems builds through lyrical language and recurring images, capturing the moment when "the small mad heart at the center of things stall mid-tick." Carol Guess is the author of two novels, Seeing Dell and Switch; a memoir, Gaslight, and a collection of poetry, Femme's Dictionary. She is an associate professor of English at Western Washington University.
Poet Joseph Massey has this to say about TINDERBOX LAWN:
The sharply cut lines of Tinderbox Lawn veer from the stark and crystalline―”think hard enough about broken glass and it becomes rain”―to the blur of memory and dreams: ”silver with raindrops―no, barbed wire.” And between those conditions the possibility and impossibility of love lingers throughout, amidst vivid details of urban spectacle. Carol Guess, through brilliantly wrought blocks of prose, has made the kind of poetry you'll want to keep on your night-stand; poetry that won't leave the back of your head―the pulse and insistent whisper of it―a “bridge between faith and decay.”

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Chameleons, Invented Pasts

from Jose Eduardo Agualusa's _The Book of Chameleons_:

A very tall cage rose up in front of us, broad and deep, out of which from time to time, in faint gusts, burst the happy chirping of birds. Parakeets, waxbills, long-tailed tyrants, peitos-celestes, turacos, turtledoves, bee-eaters. We were sitting on well-worn plastic chairs, in the fragrant shade of a leafy mango tree. To our left ran a low brick wall, painted white. Hugely tall papaya trees laden with fruit swayed beside the wall, languid as a mulatto woman. Looking over to the right, toward the house, were ranks of orange trees, lime trees, guava trees. Farther still was a massive baobab which dominated the orchard. It looked as though it had been put there just to remind me that this was no more than a dream. Pure fiction. Chickens pecked away at the red earth, and in the very green grass, dragging their broods of chicks behind them. (171)


Imagine a young man racing along on his motorcycle, on a minor road. The wind is beating at his face. The young man closes his eyes, and opens his arms wide, just like they do in films, feeling himself completely alive and in communion with the universe. He doesn't see the lorry lunging out from the crossing. He dies happy. Happiness is almost always irresponsible. We're happy for those brief moments when we close our eyes. (94)


"I'm going to tell you an improbably story. I'm going to tell you because I know you won't believe me. I'd like to trade this improbably story, the story of my life, for another story -- one that's simple, and solid. The story of an ordinary man. I'll give you an impossible truth, and you give me a vulgar and believable lie -- OK?" (167)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Le Loup and the Monkey Boombox

Perhaps it's the relative amount of time spent on each, but there is a huge difference between my retention of film and books. Walking through a bookstore, at brief glances I know what I've read and what I haven't. At the mention of an author's name I can usually name all (or many) of his or her books. Similarly, at the mention of a title I can come up with the author. In the video store I have an awful habit of picking up (and too often even checking out) films I've already seen. Maybe it is that I only spent two hours with these objects and while experiencing there is nothing tactile, I'm not looking at the cover--with title and maker--every time I stop and start. When a film is paused I'm left with only an often blurred moment of the movie in front of me.

Yesterday while in the video store I wanted desperately to remember the title of the film we had rented last week (Auf der anderen Seite or in English, The Edge of Heaven). I knew it was done by Fatih somebody and wanted to pick up one of the other films he had done, but I refused to approach the counter and ask the cute boy who works there about a director named Fatih somebody (the director's name is Fatih Akin, and while I highly recommend the film I did have some problems with it. While I liked how it dealt with chance and circumstance and how we are positioned in the final frame of the picture so closely with the character we do not get a chance to really get to know (in context of the film, this worked for me), I felt some things were a bit much to be believed). In retrospect, I could have asked the boy behind the counter what it was that I rented last week. Somehow this didn't occur to me. Instead I ended up getting Michael Haneke's 71 Fragments of a Chronology of Chance, which we have now watched half of. We are getting better at getting to bed at a reasonable hour. The evening is just not long enough for all the talking, eating, and entertaining ourselves we need to do after long days of working/avoiding work.

If you aren't familiar with Michael Haneke's work, you should familiarize yourself. He is one of those directors I like so much that I always save him for later. Like writers I love (Stein, Ondaajte, Haruki Murakami), while I could consume everything at once, I choose to hold off until I need something I can trust.

Haneke is probably best known for 2005's Cache, a film in which "a married couple is terrorized by a series of videotapes planted on its front porch." That's all I'll say because that could mean anything and suddenly even I'm interested all over again. And I know what happens (sort of). While certainly a thriller, there is much stillness in that film as well, something I need to consider something a favorite, in film and in literature.

I have not yet seen either of his Funny Games, though I am intrigued by the idea that a director or any artist would do the same material twice. For seeing the trailer for the more recent of the Funny Games (starring Naomi Watts, Tim Roth, and Michael Pitt), I have some reservations that it may be more violent than I'm willing to stand, though I'll probably see it eventually regardless and just close my eyes every time Pitt swings a golf club.

While I am shaping up to love 71 Fragments on the same level, the Haneke film that propels him into my favorite category is Le Temps du Loup (The TIme of the Wolf), which stars one of the greatest actors in contemporary times, Isabelle Huppert. Huppert also stars in Haneke's The Piano Teacher, a beautiful, inherently hard to take film adaptation of the Elfriede Jelinek novel of the same name. One thing to note, which I feel embarrassed to even discuss: don't rent The Piano Teacher (or anything really, if you can help it) from Blockbuster. I had already seen it several times when C and I picked it up there on a whim while passing by the local Blockbuster on the way back to my apartment one evening a few years ago. While we were watching it I kept getting confused. I kept wondering if I had gotten the chronology of events wrong as I waited and waited for a particular scene to show up. The scene is integral to understanding the narrative, integral to understanding anything at all about the main character. As we got closer to the end I realized that IT WASN'T IN THERE AT ALL. Not only that, but the last twenty minutes was butchered as well, probably three to five minutes crudely edited out of the final scene. When I returned it to Blockbuster I looked at the box, which said nothing about editing the material. I asked the boy behind the counter, who could tell me nothing about BBV's policy. I called the corporate office and they said that they do edit some films to keep the family image. I told him this was fine (although, no, it isn't), but that they should say so on which films. I mean, what about students who are doing academic research, writing papers on film. If someone were to write a paper on Haneke's films or on French film or whatever and use this chopped-up version their analysis would be at best incomplete, but likely completely inaccurate.

Anyway, Le Temps du Loup, which I will likely never see again because it is my absolute nightmare seems to me a realistic portrayal of what I imagine a post-peakoil-apocalyptic world would look like. I do not want to live there, though I understand that it could happen in my lifetime.

Yesterday also found me at the library returning overdue books. It was here that I was called a monkey by a large and very drunk stranger with a boom box. I've seen him before, walking around downtown, harkening back to the eighties, carrying his music around with him like this, you know, sharing the love. I had never had the pleasure of interacting with him though. I was on the lower level, looking at the stacks of free books the library had set out. There were several hundred volumes and I have to say, I don't blame them for removing any of them from circulation. I like to pride myself on not only being a proficient reader, but also a widely read person. By this I mean I'll read almost anything. I did not, however, take any of these books home with me. And it's not because my perusing got interrupted by name-calling, it's because none of the books were worth taking home.

After I'd been there a few minutes, casually listening to the sound of the man snoring in the chair by the public phone and the sound of the three chattering pre-teen girls whooping it up on the stairs, boombox man stumbled down the stairs and asked the young girls to watch his boombox while he "took a piss." My heart was warmed. I thought, I DO live in a city. This isn't a small town at all. The girls giggled and threatened to steal it. The man's response was to go around the corner, turn around, peek around the corner at his boombox, the girls would giggle, rinse and repeat. Eventually he went to take his piss. When he came back he spent a lot of time trying to get the girls to laugh, which they did at everything, including making fun of a library patron - me. I mean, it was hard to take offense, really. I was crouched down looking at the lower shelves when I heard him start talking about monkeys. It was fairly nonsensical at first. Then I heard something about hunkering down, stooping, etc, etc. When I turned around the man was laying on his back next to the girls, half on and half off the stairs. "Yeah, I'm talking about you, girl. I'm a big man talking about you, monkey girl." I'm not easily frightened, but there was nothing nice about the way he called me a monkey. Regardless, I went back to my futile browsing. By this point most of the other browsers had taken off because of how loud he had gotten. Soon, he turned on the boombox, got yelled at by library staff, and left.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Go hear.

October 23, 2008 at Richard Hugo House ~ 7PM

The Filter Release Party is a night of readings and music celebrating the release of the second volume of Filter, a limited edition hand bound hardback literary journal that features poetry, prose, erasures, and art.


Jennifer Borges Foster, editor and creator of Filter, seeks to revive the craft and artistry of book making and book binding that has been nearly driven extinct. Each copy of Filter is made by hand, sewn together using various colors of waxed Irish Linen thread and an exposed spine binding with a modified button-hole binding technique. End papers are hand torn and come from various sources, including Japanese Washi paper, pages from Apgar’s Plant Analysis Adapted to All Botanies (1892) (some of which include the notes, illustrations and actual flower pressings of a Mr. D.A. Powell made in the Spring of 1904), and color plates from Travelling With The Birds (1933). Books feature an accordion-fold erasure booklet made from hand torn Rives Heavyweight paper, each hand printed using 10 separate ink screens and slipped into hand made envelopes created from pages of old books about magic and maps featuring nations that no longer exist. All of the color artwork is tipped in by hand. There are two different cover designs (Aardvark & Aardwolf) by Amy Jean Porter (Jubilat, McSweeny’s). The covers are each screen printed by hand, using 3-4 screens and 7 colors.

All of this means that each copy of Filter is unique. And although the books are worth hundreds of dollars each in materials and labor, this is not a money-making endeavor. We want people who appreciate artistry and literature to buy this book, regardless of their income. The books are sold on a sliding scale, with the median price of $35.
There are only 200 copies (each signed and numbered) of Filter vol. II. (The first edition sold out entirely.)

In addition to being a beautiful work of art, Filter features an astounding array of talent, with 41 contributors, including:
• Poetry from Mary Jo Bang, John Olson, Kary Wayson, Elizabeth J. Colen, Carol Guess, and Erin Malone
• An essay on cancer, music, and polar shifts by Tricia Ready
• Erasures by Rebecca Brown, Matthea Harvey & Amy Jean Porter, Jennifer Borges Foster, and Brangien Davis
• Fiction from Matt Briggs, Corrina Wycoff, Claudia Smith, and Norman Lock
• And many others!


Have a drink and help celebrate release of this beautiful book. 18 short readings, 2 musical interludes. Admission is free.
Richard Hugo House -- Thursday, October 23rd, 2008 -- 7pm - 9pm
1634 11th Avenue -- Seattle, WA 98122

Readers: John Olson, Trisha Ready, John Osebold, Kary Wayson, Deborah Woodard, Corrina Wycoff, Brangien Davis, Erin Malone, Elizabeth Colen, Carol Guess, Brian McGuigan, David Mitsuo Nixon, Kate Lebo, Emily Kendal Frey, Adriana Grant, Tatyana Mishel, Roberta Olson, Bob Redmond

Music: David Mitsuo Nixon, Jose Bold (John Osebold and Kirk Anderson)

Original Erasures on display by: Rebecca Brown, Brangien Davis, Ariana Kelly, Jennifer Borges Foster.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Readings on the horizon...

Thursday, October 23, 2008 at 7pm
Filter magazine release party
Richard Hugo House
Seattle, WA

Friday, November 14, 2008 at 7pm
w/Carol Guess & Kelly Magee
Orca Books
Olympia, WA

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Iqbal Al-Qazwini - _Zubaida's Window: A Novel of Iraqi Exile_ (61)

"She searches for a place to sit, but finds none until someone leaves, when she rushes to the cold wooden bench and breathes in relief. She produces a small book from her purse, opens it, and tries to read. The letters dance over the lines at first, then slip over the space of the glossy white paper, leaping eventually to the platform, and running to hide in the empty Coca-Cola cans scattered here and there. Some letters climb onto the heads and shoulders of passengers; others squeeze between the small bags and luggage. Zubaida observes the small black creatures without surprise, as they make fun of her, cackling away and filling the platform with a hubbub that no one hears. She is used to this game. For years now, Zubaida has thought that this is their revenge against her, for these crooked, twisted shapes have experienced her lack of seriousness and her inability to concentrate. Perhaps they have realized that Zubaida has been captivated by a fever to travel, that the idea of departure has enveloped her being and crippled her. Still, it is a fever that has transformed her into a creature who resembles a suitcase ready to be shipped inside a train or on a ship for a distant destination. In reality, she has not left this city for ages and feels incapable of deciphering the secret of her phenomenal patience."

Fake Empire

So I'm hanging out, watching the DNC on CNN because I just finished _Zubaida's Window_ (post on that to come). Please tell me I'm not the only one who noticed the Twilight Zone moment that they were playing The National's "Fake Empire" as they went to break.

For those not familiar, the lyrics:

Stay out super late tonight
picking apples, making pies
put a little something in our lemonade and take it with us
we’re half-awake in a fake empire
we’re half-awake in a fake empire

Tiptoe through our shiny city
with our diamond slippers on
do our gay ballet on ice
bluebirds on our shoulders
we’re half-awake in a fake empire
we’re half-awake in a fake empire

Turn the light out say goodnight
no thinking for a little while
lets not try to figure out everything at once
It’s hard to keep track of you falling through the sky
we’re half-awake in a fake empire
we’re half-awake in a fake empire

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Mahmoud Darwish, 13 March 1941 – 9 August 2008

"He is terrified of becoming an orphan again. He is afraid we will forget him in the rush of these endings."
- Mamoud Darwish, _Memory for Forgetfulness_ (133)

Mahmoud Darwish was born in 1941 in al-Birwa, a small village in Western Galilee. He published eight books of prose and more than thirty books of poetry. He spoke several languages fluently, wrote in Arabic. Most of his work has not been translated into English.

Though I feel certain I had heard the name before, I did not come across one of his books until earlier this year when I picked up
_Memory for Forgetfulness: August, Beirut, 1982_, which chronicles "Hiroshima Day" of the Lebanese Civil War and opens with a wish for five minutes of respite from bombing so the narrator (Darwish) can make a cup of coffee. From the second page:

"Three o'clock. Daybreak riding on fire. A nightmare coming from the sea. Roosters made of metal. Smoke. Metal preparing a feast for metal the master, and a dawn that flares up in all the senses before it breaks. A roaring that chases me out of bed and throws me into this narrow hallway. I want nothing, and I hope for nothing. I can't direct my limbs in this pandemonium. No time for caution, and no time for time."

I learned today that Darwish died August 9 three days after undergoing heart surgery. He was 67. Well-respected worldwide, he received the Lannan Foundation Prize for Cultural Freedom in 2001, and was regarded as the Palestinian national poet. Well worth looking up for the beauty of his work and for a different/literary way in to the study of Middle Eastern history and politics, a recent article about his life/death and influence can be found here:


"In other cities, memory can resort to a piece of paper. You may sit waiting for something, in a white void, and a passing idea may descend on you. You catch it, lest it escape, and as days roll and you come upon it again, you recognize its source and thank the city that gave you this present. But in Beirut you flow away and scatter. The only container is water itself. Memory assumes the shape of a city's chaos and takes up a speech that makes you forget the words that went before." (Memory for Forgetfulness 91)

"I didn't say 'I love you' because I didn't know if I loved you so long as I kept hiding my blood under your skin and shedding the honey of bees gone crazy in the capillaries of the holy sacrament--the sacrament that so absorbed me that my body was in a moment of continuous birth." (Memory for Forgetfulness 120)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Reading in Seattle tomorrow night!

This Thursday night at 7:00pm, Kathy Fish and Claudia Smith will be reading from the collection "A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness" at University Book Store. UBX is at 4326 University Way NE.

I wish I could go, but heading south on Friday, plus kickass class Thursday night prevents me. Had I heard more than two days out I could have rearranged my schedule. Oh well...

It's a pretty fantastic little book. Four chapbooks of short short stories by four women. Claudia Smith won Rose Metal Press's first contest for the form. And Kathy Fish's work does an excellent job of describing the circumstantial magic of childhood, often capturing things missed by eyes focused on the American Dream. (This last line taken from my as-yet-unseen review of the book... which was supposed to appear on Her Circle Ezine before the editor decided to jump ship and abandon the site for grad school in Europe. I've been lax in finding a new home to review in.)

And if you can't be there, you owe it to yourself to order this book from Rose Metal Press:
click here to do a good thing for yourself

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Knockout contest

This is the most readable journal to come out in years. Support them, support yourself, and please enter...


Knockout, a print literary magazine that publishes a 50-50 mix of work
by LGBTQ and straight authors, announces its first poetry contest.
Judge: James Bertolino. Winner receives $100 gift certificate to
Powell's Books (redeemable online) and publication of their winning
poem. All poems submitted considered for publication in Knockout.
Submissions of up to three poems of any length must be received by
August 31, 2008. $5 entry fee per submission. Multiple submissions
allowed. Simultaneous submissions allowed (with prompt notification if
accepted elsewhere). For complete guidelines and for more information
about Knockout, visit

If I haven't called you back it doesn't mean I don't love you.

Once again the task of everyday living has backed communication up for miles on my interstate.

The other day in town here, on our little stretch, an SUV driven by an 80 year-old man went the wrong way in morning traffic on the highway. We don't have rush hour like other places, we're not that big, but being 20 miles from the border on the most used conduit in the state to get to Canada, we're kind of busy all the time. He narrowly missed much before careening into a motorcycle. No one died on impact, but there was much hospital to be had. Traffic was backed up for hours while they cleared the wreckage of that and other minor accidents it caused.

Yesterday at 10pm someone found a boy sleeping in a parking lot. He'd fallen off his bike and bruised his head. Folks, please wear your helmets.

I used to wear my bicycle helmet in the car with Leigh Ann.

I received word this morning that Exquisite Corpse, a fantastic little journal that's been pushing great work for more than 20 years has picked up my "Unsaddled." Now I will feel compelled to put it back in the manuscript. It didn't quite fit anymore, but I think I may make it. Anyway, it's one of my favorites and you can find it here:

They keep a count of how many hits each piece gets and you all know how I love a number. Make me proud.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Face of the Earth is here:

I've been focusing, ahem, trying to focus on writing, etc lately, along with the usual cram of useful/not-so-useful get-togethers that summer seems to inspire. There's something about summer that makes me feel the time is extra, a catch-up. As in, can I get everything I didn't do last year into this year via summer? Can I get far enough ahead in what I want to do this year so I can relax in Autumn? The box of years is a mostly useless distinction, but yet I still keep lists of books read, films seen, books I want to read and films I want to see, odd budgets (this I won't explain), home improvements, dog training, wardrobe adjustments, fitness programs. All of this is acknowledged by me yearly. Perhaps it's crap for me to say I don't "do" new years' resolutions. I don't do them, I have it all figured out well in advance of that holiday what I want and don't want from my year.

What I'm doing this week: re-ordering Money for Sunsets, which in some forums has developed a new title. What I've found particularly useful: the use of a three-ring binder (though darling has given me one that will fit 240 pages, the flipping through and movement sans computer has been a healthy adjustment to having fourteen electronic versions that haunt me (did I save the right version and where?), as I'm mostly a disorganized writer choosing to focus on the process of writing rather than the storage of it, the submitting of it, all of which leads to regular trouble finding the "it" I'm looking for), a newfound honesty with what doesn't work, several new poems that do, and this article from Tupelo Press editor, Jeffrey Levine:

Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Poetry Manuscript:
Some Ideas on Creation and Order
by Jeffrey Levine, Editor-in-Chief of Tupelo Press

From the January 2007 issue of AWP Job List. © 2007 The Association of Writers & Writing Programs.

Some considerations, a bakers dozen, are offered here by one who reads 3- to- 4,000 manuscripts a year. Admittedly, a good deal of what I say is concrete, generic, and in some cases, "merely" stylistic. Since style is, as ever, informed by matters of taste, you must take into account that these thoughts reflect my own prejudices and preferences, and that I've made no attempt to gather a consensus from other editors. Beyond style, however, other advice here concerns more abstract matters: what makes a book a book? How is the artistic process applied to making a poetry manuscript cohere? What are some useful approaches to the art of transforming individual poems into a transcendent whole?

The rest can be found here:

Full of obvious tips on submitting that trip many writers up to real truth on how to get dirty and get things arranged, this is one of the better guides I've found on this subject.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Wrecks in Effect

To those half-dozen or so who check back semi-regularly to see what I'm up to, my apologies. The contents of this blog are an adequate parallel to the real-life goings-on of one Elizabeth J. Colen... i.e. Not Much.

There's the walking of the dogs every day, the soreness in my calves still from a recent trek down then up the stairs at Wreck Beach in B.C. (a worthy hike for those who like sun on bare skin, beautiful sunsets, other assorted contact highs, and disorganized drum circles). The garden is growing lovely, Bing Cherry has finally sprouted leaves, the grapes are calling for an arbor I haven't the time or energy to build, and the big built box now full of bamboo has truly taken off. Perhaps there will be pictures here some day. I'm contemplating tomatoes, chard, onions, basil. I have a new writing project on the horizon, but am planning a new way of writing: detailed mapping, an outline of a paper city before putting pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, mind to serious work. Perhaps in the coming months I will begin. For now the locations and events are developing, the characters fermenting.

One of my favorite journals for contemporary poetry has recently accepted one of my favorite poems (Aposematic) for publication in the fall. I'm not really sending things out at the moment. Today even the focus must be on organizing the office, as piles of paper and books have now sprouted piles of paper, like tumors, sitting sideways on larger piles. I have no idea where anything is anymore, nor sometimes who I am. I'm hoping to come to organization with both by the end of the day. In the meantime, Her Circle has posted my latest review of a fantastic little book from FC2: Correction of Drift by Pamela Ryder. Check it out here:

Saturday, May 3, 2008

new in the world...

I have received notice that the new Fifth Wednesday Journal should be hitting the shelves any day now. I join the talents of Allison Joseph, Marge Piercy, Glen Pourciau, Alberto Alvaro Rios, and the late Arthur Saltzman (August 10, 1953 - January 8, 2008), among others. I myself can't wait to read it. Get your copy at

My review of Jen Currin's _Hagiography_ is now up at Her Circle also. Catch that here:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

What lives can drown

I remain continually stunned at how beautiful a read Anderson Cooper's _Dispatches from the Edge_ is. I have never had an interest in him, not personally, not professionally, not physically (though he is a handsome devil). I don't even care if he's gay or not. I picked up the book at the library/community book sale for a dollar. I think it was even half-price day, so I may have gotten this feast of semi-current events and elegant syntax (original price $24.95) for 50 cents. It’s even made me cry three times, which is more than he's cried at all the things he's witnessed. What’s most striking to me is his global comprehension. He sees the world as boundaries drawn not by politics or state lines, country lines, etc, but by the lines of famine, war, natural disaster. Things that don't ever go away, they just shift location. There’s an interesting moment when he's on Route Irish from Baghdad airport to the city when the driver says that "they" say it's the most dangerous road in the world. He responds somewhat absently that they always say that. The book moves forward in a sort of see-saw manner, for each chapter he talks about two different times in his life, different places he's been (for example Iraq/Bosnia for the chapter titled "inkblots of blood" (taken from the metaphor that each individual reads their time in Iraq like a Rorschach)). Tragedy in the book, all the disasters, all the death, all the suffering starts to feel the same so that our relationship to the places he mentions, in that we forget where he is, parallels the disorientation he experiences at seeing images repeated, seeing a Sri Lankan boy throwing rocks at the gulf after Katrina, seeing his dead brother in the face of a beggar in Thailand.


On Niger, experiencing, and going home:

"Sniper warnings posted like billboards. Buses and boxcars stacked at intersections. Old men in boxy suits walking to jobs that don't exist in offices that aren't there. It all blurs together. Desert. Mountain. Rice paddy. Field. Farmers bent over. Heads rise as you pass. Eyes follow eyes. Little kids run to the road, stand frozen, not sure if they should be happy or scared. They keep their weight on their heels so they can run back at the lurch of the car, the crack of a shot. Houses, whole towns, nothing but rubble--roofs blown off, walls burnt out, crumbled. Desiccated, eviscerated, gutted, and flayed.

At some point though, the disorientation fades. You put it behind you; go on. There is adventure waiting. Life happening. It's not your life, but it's as close as you'll get. You want to see it all.

One minute you're there--in it, stuck, stewing in the sadness, the loss, your shirt plastered to your back, your neck burned from the sun--then you're gone, seatbelt buckled, cool air cascading down, ice in the glass." (p85-86)


On Hurricane Katrina:

"It begins as a breeze, barely noticed, brushing the land where man was born. A bush pilot flying out of Kisangani might have found himself buffeted by a surprisingly strong current of air, or a farmer on a rocky Rwandan slope stretching his back as he stood could have felt the cool wind on his face. But it's not until the third week of August 2005 that meteorologists take note of a powerful tropical wave of wind and water moving slowly off the coast of West Africa." (p123)


He talks a lot about Katrina, the aftermath mostly, though he stood in the storm somewhere on high ground, windbreaker flapping, gore tex eventually soaking through. He stayed a month, and didn't want to leave, hoping if he could tell just a little more of the horror, someone else's face, someone else's story, that more people would stand up and notice, stand up and really do something.

"My office is insisting I come back, 'at least for a little while.' That's what they say, but I know it means it's over. They'll let me return, visit from time to time, do updates, but soon there will be other headlines, other dramas, and those who weren't here will want to move on." (p201)

His fascination with Katrina seems to stem from the fact that (like many of us felt), 'this shouldn't have been able to happen here' and 'we're America, we should have taken care of our people.' He (and we all) expect these thing to happen elsewhere, which doesn't make them lesser in intensity but less unexpected. If we are a rich country what does it matter? And driving home the fact that we are not one country, united. We are rich and poor. Two countries. Cooper doesn't go into the politics much, not more than he did on his show, shaming a politician from patting other politicians on the back for what (little) they had done. And he stays open about his privilege, his culpability. He admits to horrifying a photo shop employee with pictures of the skin of a corpse peeling away from a hand like a glove interspersed with soldiers having fun. He guilts himself over calling human beings "corpses" or "bodies." It seems natural that he should want to know their stories. He wonders at times how he can laugh, smile as bullets fly, drink a beer while bodies float. To some degree he says he travels the world looking for feeling, like his brother who wondered if he'd ever "feel" anything again, right before he dropped off the 14-story balcony.


I don't remember where I was when I found out the levees broke. I remember the time before the storm. I remember the weekend in North Carolina meeting Carol's parents, her father only four months from death, her mother figuring out how she and I "met" within five minutes of meeting me, giggling in the airport parking lot. I remember sitting in the livingroom staring at the Weather Channel at CNN. I remember thinking, saying, that storm, the levees, a city underwater. C's mother, father, C and I talking about the potential for disaster. C remarking how cheerful and botoxed the female newscasters seemed. I remember that just hours before landfall while the radar got angry on the screen that we feared even the layover in Atlanta, hundreds of miles away.

I've only been to New Orleans a few times. I remember convincing myself I could feel the hum of machinery underground, the pumps that keep the streets dry. I was fascinated from the get-go that anyone would think to build a city under sea level. That my nerves buzzed every hour, irrationally waiting for the wash of water that was sure to come, no matter how blue the sky stayed. I became fascinated and later read about how bad off the walls were, how likely a flood, how the water wanted in.

Friday, April 4, 2008


Today is not my mother's birthday, but would have been the 63rd birthday of a woman who tried to mother me. When I met her and learned her birthday was April 4 and how old she was, my first thought was how she almost had the same birthday as the man who makes River Phoenix go Dutch Boy in My Own Private Idaho. Four four forty-four. This is not for her, but for my reel mother, based on a drawing I could have done:


A sketch of my mother’s face gives good impression of the woman within. Drawn in brown crayon, the eyes are flat, sight obscured going both in and out. The lids in blue, heavy, require the uplift of beige feathered lashes to keep them aloft. The skin is pink, shaded grey along the contours, not for wrinkling—that onslaught of time against elasticity and slenderness of pores—but for the haze of smoke rising from the slim cigarette just below the picture’s lowest border. The mouth is a red cut across the paper never gotten quite right. Her ears are hidden in her hair, which sits on the oblong orb of her head in curled clumps that resemble cross-sections of tumbleweed more than anything living or dead. From the black tip of the collar one gets a sense of her dress, simple, elegant. In a word, devastating. The neck that emerges is graceful and shows little wear.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Good People

Ah, I forgot to mention my very first book review (of Stephanie Dickison's _Road of Five Churches_) is up:

Please be sure to peruse the site as well, as there's gaggles of fantastic stuff to read about this month.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It all adds up


I currently have 1680 messages stored on my hotmail account. I've had the account for 11 years. I have trouble letting go of words. I still have emails from my grandmother who died 6 years ago. I like opening her messages and feeling an immediate connection. Perhaps I shouldn't feel an immediate connection just because it's on my screen, but somehow it feels different, less nostalgic, more real than paper letters. I can pretend each time is like the first time. Messages from less-dead people can feel this way as well. Not that I spend much time going through old messages. Hence the need for the wading through, saving and discarding that I started last week. For particularly good correspondences (this may be you), I may save because it makes me feel like one day we may publish a book together. C and I kept our early letters this way. For months we each compiled separate documents without the other's knowledge.


I went to the dentist today. The new office is not in the woods. My dentist office and I play this little game. We make appointments, then one of us cancels, then the other does. It can go on for months. Because the dentist does not like the gum action (depth of .2 or .3 beyond what it should be) around my still-present wisdom teeth (tooth 17 and tooth 32), he thinks I should come in every 4 months instead of every 6. My insurance doesn't mind, so technically I shouldn't either. However, having gone to the dentist regularly until age 10, then once at age 15, and one other time at age 21, until last year (at 31) I went for the second time in my adulthood, I don't really take much heed from what they deem "regular." I have good teeth, even the ones I shouldn't still have. Originally I was supposed to go in in 01/08. I cancelled (which I do every time), rescheduled for 02/08. They cancelled, rescheduled for 03/08, then cancelled again, but did get me in the following week (today). C made me promise to go regularly, but once a year seems appropriate to me. Twice may happen, but is not often likely.


Have you heard of iroha mojigusari? I want to try this, but will likely not have the energy for some time. Sleep seems more important than writing lately.


I have 1 more book to read this month to get to 10 on the month and 30 for the year. Ten is more doable than the 15 I did last year. Plus I don't have to start looking at the thickness of books at the end of the month to catch up with thinner volumes. That was stupid.


I have 40 more minutes to work today. I am currently 1.33 projects behind. I can probably do 4 in 40 minutes, but not if the craptastic writers are at the top of the queue.


The repetition of the ueue in queue makes me very happy. That's two YOUs and two MEs as far as I'm concerned.


If you're ever in the Showcase Showdown while I'm in the audience, please watch my hands carefully. I do not watch the Price Is Right because Drew Carey's voice is too low-key, too sardonic really is the thing I suppose because Bob Barker was low-key too. Although I do respect that he still says, "Control the pet population. Please have your pets spayed and neutered" at the end of every show the way Bob used to do. I do not watch the show, but I do like the Showdown. My daily TV watching often includes The Daily Show at 10:00am, The Colbert Report at 10:30, the last eight minutes (the Showdown) of The Price is Right at 10:52, and the first ten minutes of Ellen DeGeneres. Anyway, as I was saying... if you're ever in the Showcase Showdown, watch my hands. Two days in a row I have been within $1000 of the price of all showcases (without going over). Yesterday I was $85 and $789 off, today I was $445 and $661 off. In each case, regardless of whether I was contestant A or contestant B I would have won the Showcase Showdown. Yesterday had I been contestant A I would have won both.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Blackbird singing in the dead of night

While this is either the most confusing or the most ambitious website I've ever encountered, I do get a lot of enjoyment from making the bird jump. I'm not sure one could consider what the bird does "flying" per se, as a lot of "falling" happens in the bird's movement.

Last year I was a finalist for Subito's fiction chapbook contest and was asked to take part in their guest edited section. The wandering is fun, I'm half-inclined not to say where my work can be found. (I'm in the laundry.)

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Welcome Wagon

I keep forgetting some people just moved into the house behind us. I haven't yet strategized the garden to account for the open space between their kitchen window and ours. Passing through the kitchen with no shirt on, the curtains pulled back, I did not account for either making or breaking someone's Sunday morning. And we haven't even met them yet. I don't really think anyone saw me though.

Started reading Joan Fiset's _Now the Day is Over_ last night. I can't remember who suggested it. But it's fantastic. The tacky cover cleverly masks the beauty inside. I'm startled by how good it is. The simplicity. There are a few bombs, but most of the stuff is beautiful, understated.

Like this:


Once there was a house in the morning. Once there was a house in the afternoon. I stare at the tree in the morning; in the afternoon. I try to remember. It is not the same tree. The tree in the afternoon knows everything is falling down. The house in the afternoon is many houses, and I live in none of them now. But they live when the light begins to shift, turning toward the dark. The tree resumes its position wherever I am. It is that faithful. It does not forget.


And this:


A morning in sun, the sandbox in the corner of the yard. Light filtered down then. The sand felt wet, and the roads I made with my fingers were soft paths for the cars and trucks traveling down them. I pulled three fingers across the sand then patted the ruts down smoothly and evenly. There were feathers white and deep in rivers of air. I was small in the corner of the yard and wanted the feathers in my mind, wanted a mind clear and flying, high and lifting white on the wind. The day went slowly. I sat alone and made new roads. Behind my eyes a black train crossed the prairie every day at noon.

Friday, March 7, 2008


Rained all night. Blue Angels flew over early. Hot, but a good breeze. Byodo-In Temple, Windward Coast. Had to cover our shoes before we went in. Rang the five foot tall gong--it sure made you vibrate. Mountains behind us. Just beautiful. --Edie I. Halunen, travel diary entry

On the temple's red bridge, I won't let go of her,
we hula like coconut shells,
ten thousand carp, graveyard flowers,
I have her blue flight bag,
she counts thirty-one planes from midnight to seven.

We hula like coconut shells, ten thousand carp.
Graveyard flowers--pink for leis, plumeria;
her heart exhausted.
From here we can see the Blue Angels' show
over Kaneoke Bay.
She counts thirty-one planes from midnight to seven.
They float down light as butterflies, a necklace of

plumeria, leis, her heart exhausted.
I have her blue flight bag,
the face of her grandmother
on the temple's red bridge.

-Kelle Groom


This book (_Underwater City_) is one of those cast offs that I found somewhere, given to me for free. But it's strangely delightful. It's not overtly polished like so much that's out there now, overtly polished or clever. I've been drawn in by cleverness too lately, but this (and reading Hemingway) draws me back to the honesty I really prefer. Much of the book is written to and for and about the overwhelming love of her dead grandmother, so probably this is part of the charm, as I myself would do anything to get mine back.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Flies

“The flies, which ought to be in transports of joy, sound merely cross. Nothing seems to be good enough for them. For miles around they have forsaken the meager droppings of the herbivores and flown like arrows to this gory festival. Why are they not singing? Perhaps their lives from cradle to grave, so to speak, are one long ecstasy, which I mistake. Perhaps the lives of animals too are one long ecstasy interrupted only at the moment when they know with full knowledge that the knife has found their secret... Perhaps if I talked less and gave myself more to sensation I would know more of ecstasy. Perhaps, on the other hand, if I stopped talking I would fall into panic, losing my hold on the world I know best. It strikes me that I am faced with a choice that flies do not have to make.”
-J.M. Coetzee
_In the Heart of the Country_

First, the line "Perhaps the lives of the animals too are one long ecstasy interrupted only at the moment when they know with full knowledge that the knife has found their secret" is an example of the way language hits me viscerally. Granted, the passage itself is a bit visceral, but that an animal would have a secret (joy, living now) when they do nothing but live openly, makes my brain do odd things.

Second, the simplicity of "It strikes me that I am faced with a choice that flies do not have to make" may seem over the top with simplemindedness, but in this the characterization is fabulous. The character is not simple, quite the opposite, but she is so in tune with natural rhythms that it makes complete sense that her first impulse would be to equate herself with the fly, and only the second to separate.

Ever since reading _Disgrace_ way back when in some undergraduate course, I have allowed myself the pleasure of picking up a Coetzee book as they come to me. As in, I do not go looking for them, but when they find me the excitement is palatable. I never walk away empty-handed. He teaches. More so in the older writing than new fare like _Elizabeth Costello_ (which was fine in it's own right, but not transcendent - think beach fare for thinking people who need a bit of a break from thinking. I suppose some would challenge me on this, but I’m comparing the book to other Coetzee books, not to literature in general).

While I could consume each book in turn, then I would have nothing to look forward to. I parse out those I find great in this way. Proust, Hemingway, Woolf, Stein, Plath (I’ve not read _Arial_ yet). I suppose I could think of writers more contemporary (for example I haven't yet dived into Matthea Harvey's new book either and I got it months ago), maybe Charles Simic, though nothing of his delighted me so much as _The World Doesn't End_, so he may be falling off the list.

I found _In the Heart of the Country_ in the free book bin in the library basement. The copy is 25 years old and has not held up well. The first thirty pages keep falling out.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

A reactionary grip on a state of grace.

The Man of My Life. I just finished watching this little French film. This I did instead of finishing Mike Amnasan's fantastic little book _Liar_ (which I will do after this post), and instead of finishing work (one hour to go), and instead of finishing my revising task for the month (14 pages to go, then putting it all into the computer), and instead of finishing the collage that's due (to me) by the end of the month. Why do I give myself deadlines? Perhaps now that I'm rather settled and happy with my beautiful one (i.e. no longer dating), letting myself down takes the place of letting others do it for me.

"The Man of My Life" is about a French family on vacation. The man falls in love with the gay neighbor. It's beautifully done in fragments, the art of it coinciding nicely with the gay man's graphic design/artful living style (see: glass ceiling, naked boy, angel, sun casting glass-painted letters onto the wall-painted letters, creating new words as the day goes, oh-and the red wall. There is something in me that loves a red wall). At times one is quite unsure of the chronology of things, but that's the way love goes.. moments repeat themselves while you're looking at something else.

The gay man was cast from his father's house 20 years before the film takes place. In the last twenty minutes we learn his father is dying. Should he go? The family convinces him - for himself and the family, rather than for his father who probably at this point won't even know that he's there. The film waits to get Amelie-quirky (what I hate about the French) until we see him walking up the imaginary shadow of a hill to a house at the top and a big big red door. So big, I mean, that the grown man reaches up to the doorknob to go in.

Should he see his dying father, who lies in a sanitary and cold room? (Note: I do not want to die in a room like this, the bed pulled away from the wall, no other furnishings, nothing on the walls, sad tile.) He climbs into the bed with his father and I can't help but notice what great shoes he has on (the son, not the father). My mother has surgery on February 7. Perhaps I'm not even supposed to know about it. From there they learn how serious the cancer is.

Quotes from the film that struck me:

"Must we love our kids because we planted the seed?"

"[Relationships are] a reactionary grip on a state of grace."

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Goals and Results, 2007

1. marathon training / "run from Canada to Mexico" (1381 miles)

While not exactly a New Year's resolution, considering I started back seriously running/thinking about a marathon in fall of 2006, I did set myself a yearlong goal of running 1381 miles, the distance I-5 runs from border to border. This goal was slowed in the summer, due to injury/problems with my hips. Now, to see my dance moves, etc, one would say, "hey, you don't have any hip problems." However, the screaming pain I would experience for days after one run (compounded by daily running) begged to differ. A stretching regimen helped, but did not solve. Having missed the marathon in early October, by the end of October I had mostly given up on my task of running border to border. I continue to run, but certainly not the 5-7 days a week I was doing.

Goal: 1381
Actual: 653

Nearly halfway, I at least made it into California by about 80 miles.


2. read 150 books in one year

Goal: 150 books
Actual: 156 books

I did almost completely neglect my magazine and journal subscriptions though. While I read about half of each of The Nation that came to my door, I barely touched the Smithsonians. Most other journals sat around for a month or two looking pretty before being recycled.

The count of 156 includes several chapbooks (6 or 7), which I allowed because the count does not include the books I started and am still reading (because I like them so much, 7) or the books I read more than once (because I like them so much, 2 novels/4 or 5 books of poetry).

The List:

1. Letter to a Christian Nation - Sam Harris
2. The Long Emergency - James Howard Kunstler
3. Midnight all Day - Hanif Kureishi
4. No Sweeter Fat - Nancy Pagh
5. Last Exit to Brooklyn - Hubert Selby, Jr.
6. Dog & Me - Kary Wayson
7. Mayflower Madam - Sydney Biddle Barrows
8. Conversations with Edward Said - Tariq Ali
9. Love is a Map I Must Not Set on Fire - Carol Guess
10. Tropic of Capricorn - Henry Miller
11. Spot in the Dark - Beth Gylys
12. Writing in the Margins - Truong Tran
13. The End of Alice - A.M. Homes
14. State of Denial - Bob Woodward
15. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
16. Naphtalene - Alia Mamdouh
17. Ethan Frome - Edith Wharton
18. The Straight Mind - Monique Wittig
19. My Cocaine Museum - Michael Taussig
20. The Golden Fruits - Nathalie Sarraute
21. And I'm not Jenny - Tara Rebele
22. A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines - Janna Levin
23. Esthetique du Mal - Wallace Stevens
24. The Red Coal - Gerald Stern
25. Growing Darkness, Growing Light - Jean Valentine
26. Was She Pretty? - Leanne Shapton
27. The Empire Writes Back - Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, Helen Tiffin
28. The Endless Short Story - Ronald Sukenick
29. The Child - Sarah Schulman
30. The Beautifully Worthless - Ali Liebegott
31. On Looking: Essays - Lia Purpura
32. Vaquita - Edith Pearlman
33. Beautiful Losers - Leonard Cohen
34. The Collected Stories - Amy Hempel
35. Sleeping with the Dictionary - Harryette Mullen
36. The Poetry Chains of Dominic Luxford
37. Girls in Their Drinking Dresses - Heather Sellers
38. Fun Home - Alison Bechtel
39. Ava - Carole Maso
40. Dust and Conscience - Truong Tran
41. The Engagement - Georges Simenon
42. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Succeed and Fail - Jared Diamond
43. Shattered Sonnets, Love Cards, and Other Off and Back Handed Importunities - Olena Kalytiak Davis
44. Rise Up - Matthew Rohrer
45. The Mistress's Daughter - A.M. Homes
46. Adult Video - Margaret Christakos
47. The IHOP Papers - Ali Liebegott
48. Dedication to Hunger: The Anorexic Aesthetic in Modern Culture - Leslie Heywood
49. Piercing - Ryu Murikami
50. We Are Iran: The Persian Blogs - Nasrin Alavi
51. In Pieces: An Anthology of Fragmentary Writing - Olivia Dresher (ed.)
52. The Pajamaist - Matthew Zapruder
53. Geri - Geri Jewell
54. Forgiveness - Jim Grimsley
55. Don't Let Me Be Lonely - Claudia Rankine
56. Wind in a Box - Terrance Hayes
57. Gone to New York - Ian Frazier
58. Home in three days. Don't wash. - Linda Smukler
59. My Lives - Edmund Wilson
60. Covering - Kenji Yoshino
61. Stick Out Your Tongue - Ma Jian
62. And Her Soul Out of Nothing - Olena Kalytiak Davis
63. Sorry, Tree - Eileen Myles
64. Journals, Vol. 1 - Andre Gide
65. Perfect Affection - Robin Becker
66. Our Lady of the Flowers - Jean Genet
67. Ismailia Eclipse - Khaled Mattawa
68. Dancer from the Dance - Andrew Holleran
69. In Praise of the Stepmother - Mario Vargas Llosa
70. Luminous Mysteries - John Holman
71. Recyclopedia: Trimmings, S*PeRM**K*T, and Muse & Drudge - Harryette Mullen
72. The Folding Star - Alan Hollinghurst
73. Perishable: A Memoir - Dirk Jamison
74. Nothing Doing - Cid Corman
75. Vulgarity in Literature - Aldous Huxley
76. So, You Want to Be Canadian - Kerry Colburn & Rob Sorensen
77. On Writing - Stephen King
78. City of Glass - Douglas Coupland
79. On the Ice - Gretchen Legler
80. Cannery Row - John Steinbeck
81. The Sky is a Well - Claudia Smith
82. Rare and Commonplace Flowers - Carmen L. Oliveira
83. Under the Jaguar Sun - Italo Calvino
84. The Other Woman - Colette
85. You Have No Rights: Stories of America in an Age of Repression - Matthew Rothschild
86. Michael Martone - Michael Martone
87. Kwaidan - Lafcadio Hearn
88. Enormous Changes at the Last Minute - Grace Paley
89. Transmetropolitan: the cure - Warren Ellis
90. Strait as the Gate - Andre Gide
91. Nonsense and Happiness - Peter Hamke
92. Living Room - Geoff Bouvier
93. In Bed One Night and Other Brief Encounters - Robert Coover
94. Six Memos for the Next Millennium - Italo Calvino
95. Volpone - Ben Johnson
96. War Stories - Howard Nemerov
97. I Call This Flirting - Sherrie Flick
98. Theory of Orange - Rachel M. Simon
99. Letters to a Young Poet - Rainer Maria Rilke
100. The Price of Salt - Patricia Highsmith
101. Sugar Bush & other stories - Jenn Farrell
102. Mercy, Mercy Me - Elena Georgiou
103. Sophie Calle, M'as-tu Vue - ed. Christine Macel
104. An Ideal Husband - Oscar Wilde
105. The Gangster We Are All Looking For - le thi diem thuy
106. Pink Institution - Selah Saterstrom
107. The Bathroom - Jean-Philippe Toussant
108. The Book of Hours - Rainer Maria Rilke
109. The Meat and Spirit Plan - Selah Saterstrom
110. The Man Suit - Zachary Schomburg
111. As I Lay Dying - William Faulkner
112. Poems from Guantanamo: The Detainees Speak - Ed. Eric Falkoff
113. Hornito: My Lie Life - Mike Albo
114. Fresh Kills - David Breskin
115. Mythologies - Roland Barthes
116. I Have the Right to Destroy Myself - Young ha Kim
117. Next Life - Rae Armantrout
118. Intimacy - Hanif Kureishi
119. Guantanamo - Dorothea Dieckmann
120. The Bird is a Raven - Benjamin Lebert
121. The Day the Leader was Killed - Naguib Mahfouz
122. Citizen Of - Christian Hawkey
123. In the Box Called Pleasure - Kim Addonizio
124. The End of Youth - Rebecca Brown
125. Poetry as Insurgent Art - Lawrence Ferlinghetti
126. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian - Sherman Alexie
127. At the Same Time: Essays and Speeches - Susan Sontag
128. Spinning into Butter - Rebecca Gilman
129. We Are On Our Own - Miriam Katin
130. Clear Cut Future - Anthology
131. The Ghost in the Mirror - Alain Robbe-Grillet
132. I Am America (and So Can You) - Stephen Colbert
133. Rebecca - Daphne du Maurier
134. Highsmith: A Romance of the 1950's - Marijane Meaker
135. Texts for Nothing - Samuel Beckett
136. Sad Little Breathing Machine - Matthea Harvey
137. One Love Affair - Jenny Boully
138. Paul Celan: A Biography of His Youth - Israel Chalfen
139. Swann's Way- Marcel Proust
140. A Sketch of My Life - Thomas Mann
141. The Stranger - Albert Camus
142. The Book of Perceptions - Truong Tran (poetry) and Chung Hoang Chuong (photography)
143. My Shining Archipelago - Talvikki Ansel
144. The Artist and the Mathematician: the story of Nicolas Bourbaki the genius mathematician who never existed - Amir D. Aczel
145. The Cheese Monkeys - Chip Kidd
146. Konfidenz - Ariel Dorfman
147. Nocturnes - Thomas Mann
148. More than Anything - Hiram Larew
149. Eats, Shoots and Leaves - Lynne Truss
150. Bare - Elisabeth Eaves
151. Petitioner - Suzanne Paola
152. The Kimnama - Kim Roberts
153. Brown: The Last Discovery of America - Richard Rodriguez
154. How Many of You Are You? - Philip Jenks
155. Sky Lounge - Mark Bibbins
156. The Tin Drum - Gunter Grass