Friday, October 29, 2010

Tinkering with Time and Expiration

I finished reading Tinkers, the novel by Paul Harding that won the Pulitzer for him and for the very small, new press Bellevue Literary Press. I liked Tinkers, I mean, a lot of it. It was a good book. It feels like first book. Both with the raw narrative energy of it, and in that there are, I think, some areas that don't quite work as well as they could. My biggest issue with it was that the shifts in perspective were not recognizable enough. It tells the story of three men, three different generations, and shifts back and forth between them. And this is often only acknowledged with white space (a double space between sections), not in chapters or subchapters or anything, and a few moniker tags in the first paragraph or two. So that if you miss this, you miss it. Occasionally I would be reading with one person in my head and get many pages into it before I realized I had been imagining the wrong person. So I had to go back and start over the section with the right person in my head. A little distracting from losing oneself in a work. Or maybe I was a bad reader for this. I have been unfocused in other ways lately.

Also, though the symbolism of the title was a great detail, that's all it seemed to be: a detail. There was some feeling that much of the concept of tinkers and tinkering that ran through the book may have been edited out in the revision process. Perhaps others feel differently.

Overall a good read.


Parts of Tinkers that particularly spoke to me:

Your cold mornings are filled with the heartache about the fact that although we are not at ease in this world, it is all we have, that it is ours but that it is full of strife, so that all we can call our own is strife; but even that is better than nothing at all, isn't it? And as you split frost-laced wood with numb hands, rejoice that your uncertainty is God's will and His grace toward you and that that is beautiful, and part of a greater certainty, as your own father always said in his sermons and to you at home. And as the ax bites into the wood, be comforted in the fact that the ache in your heart and the confusion in your soul means that you are still alive, still human, and still open to the beauty of the world, even though you have done nothing to deserve it. And when you resent the ache in your heart, remember: You will be dead and buried soon enough. (72)

[At least I'm not buried in rubble.]


Of course, Sabbatis is ancient only to me. My father is ancient, too, because both were men who passed from life when I was young. My memories of them are atmospheres. (150)


Nikki was an old woman who dressed like an aging former starlet whose most dramatic, and final, role was that of the aging former starlet persevering under the tyranny of time. (160)

[I can't even express how delighted I get when a sentence wraps itself around itself like this. I mean, when it's intentional. People garble things in uninteresting ways all the time. I could read this a hundred times and be happy every time. A thousand times, probably.]

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

catching up

So a lot has been happening, dear reader(s). I need to get better about updating this blog. First off, I want you to think of the last word you read that made you really happy. I read cloister in an article today and my mouth jumped up and bit me. Say that out loud and say it doesn't make you happy. Cloister. Also nice: cluster. As in: fuck. But! it doesn't have the complication of the oi.

So. News.

First off, if you're in Seattle or the surrounding areas, or if you like planes and me and find travel for poetry worth your time... I am reading at Open Books in Wallingford (2414 N 45th St.) with Shane McCrae(!) on Friday, October 22 at 7pm. Find out more about Open Books here: Also, the event has been *starred* in The Stranger (link to that here:, which means we're superawesome and you should come. As usual, I will be taking requests.

Second, you can find some recent reviews of Money for Sunsets, here: The Sonic Imperative in the Prose Poem: a review of Elizabeth Colen’s Money for Sunsets. And here: Book Notes on Elizabeth J. Colen's Money for Sunsets. A big thanks to Metta Sama and Jory Mickelson.

Thirdly, I've just jumped on board as Thumbnail Magazine's new poetry editor. We're accepting submissions, so get on that.

So that's it for "business." I just got back, well a few days ago, from a long trip to Portland. Well, not long really. Not long enough. I'm working on wrapping up a new manuscript. Writers, what do you do when you work too fast and have several manuscripts you're sending out in the world? I tend to maintain focus on the poetry, as it is (to me) easier to place, but I'm not sure what I will do when I have two entirely finished books of poetry, orphans for a home. My thought is to take the more cohesive (the more recent) of the two and focus on that, meanwhile brainstorming what presses would be more willing to take on the riskier/boundary-pushing one. The bastard, if you will. The bastard that obsessed me for nearly two years. On top of that, I've vaguely sending out two novels. I don't have the administrative energy to go all out on sending three books everywhere I should. Again I will say: I need a secretary. I don't know how people do this. Even as relatively easy as my schedule is (I make my own hours, rarely work forty hours in a week, don't have kids), I can't seem to get Everything done. I also read a lot. Books are my drug. The one that saps hours. The one where I pull my eyes out from the pages and it really is like waking up on someone's floor and having no idea how I got there.

In other news, my town is sad. A week and a half ago a freshman at Western went missing. Wednesday they found him in the bay. A week ago yesterday a two-year old was killed walking across the street, holding her mother's hand. A car had stopped to let them pass and the driver in the next car, distracted, didn't stop. Ran into the car in front, running over the little girl. About a half-mile from my house, and right on the walk I take with Cally every morning. Every morning we walk past the makeshift memorial of flowers and balloons and stuffed animals and notes and candles that grows and grows and grows. Every morning I tear up. Most mornings some passer-by has paused, some car has pulled over to look, some bicyclist has stopped to stand there. This is the difference between living in a city and living here, which sometimes feels like a city. I didn't know either one of them, but I feel it. You know? I guess this is what community feels like. And maybe why I can never leave. I love those pausers. As much as I can love a stranger anyway. As much as I can love anyone. I wrote more articulately yesterday on my private "journal"/blog. Maybe I'll repost that here... Hm, maybe not.