Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added)
is the best-kept secret among contemporary American writers.
--John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture

Friday, September 28, 2007

Shards from the Kaleidoscope



The Emperor's New Clothes

Horrible for aspiring literary writers yet delicious for the satirist is the evidently newsworthy fact that topless model "Jordan" has published a second novel called Crystal. "'It begins: "Oh my God, look at the queue!" Crystal exclaimed, taking in the long line of wannabes which snaked out of the London hotel and halfway down the road.'" Adam Lusher reports that Crystal's pursuit of a singing career has sold far more copies than the entire Mann Booker list put together. (Three have sold less than two thousand copies; two are still under the three-thousand mark. One hates to think what the numbers would have been without the help of an important prize.)

The idea of a half-naked model arriving for her book launch party in Cinderella's crystal carriage and escorted by a bevy of handsome fellows is an almost perfect image of the state of the Land of Books in our time: truly, the successful Emperor and Empress of Books must have no clothes and look darn good in her relatively-new birthday suit (surgically and cosmetically enhanced, of course!) To be strictly truthful, I must admit that it's alledged she wore a dress on the occasion, but who wants to be strictly truthful in this context? After all, she acknowledges help in what is called the authorship of the book, so she does not appear to be so very strict an author.

Good news

For the past few months, I've been chucking half-read books out the nearest window. I began to believe that I was now unable to finish reading a novel. Yesterday I went down to that exemplary used book store, Willis Monie's, and bought a book for R, Kafka's The Castle for me, and David Grossman's See Under: Love. And I am reading happily. I even stayed up too late and felt exhausted today. This made me feel oddly pleased. I'm still a reader.

Sight of the week

On Wednesday night an enormous peach of a harvest moon was hovering over soft blue trees when I went to pick up N from football. The little boys--and a few little girl footballers--drifted out of the clouds that had settled on the playing fields. Many of them wore team shirts that appeared the same orangey shade as the moon in the dusk. Everything was simplified: twilight blue, the moon-peach color, the white clouds clinging to the playing field, the green grass. Utterly fetching.

Photo credit

Diane Slocum, member, Friends of the Library, Huntington Library, Oneonta. A cropped version of this picture ran in our local Cooperstown Crier, along with an article by young writer Dan Pelletier. He took a good deal more trouble with the article than most people do, and has garnered praise--people say that the quotes "sound like me." If you've ever been interviewed for a feature, you know that accuracy in quotes is rather unusual and worth saluting. Dan is an M. F. A. student at Goddard College who freelances for the Crier and works at Hartwick College; you may see his stories and novels-to-be some day.

18 comments:

  1. "everything was simplified"
    Why do I love that statement so?
    Glad you are reading once more. Elegant photo

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  2. I love the photo. You now have longer hair than when we met. I like it on you.

    I know you will finish your stuff. I think we all need reading breaks however. I find myself alternating between reading, writing, and artwork. When I do one for long, the one of the others then wants to break free.

    Currently am doing none though, as mama has again been sick. However, an art show opening awaits this evening. Good friends, good wine, good fun.

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  3. I went for a long while with only reading the Sookie Stackhouse books because everytime I went in a book store it pissed me off that I hadnt written down my own fabulous ideas.

    How terribble and cliche is that!

    Great picture. M in action.

    I love your leather bag. Are soft bag breif cases called something else. What is a eteshea (phonetically speaking of course)

    I have a fabulous soft leather brif case that is coach that I bought yard sale at a fancy house in Huntsvtsille that I love.

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  4. You are adorable-looking! I'm sure that's not a politically correct thing to say, but...*makes Gallic shrug*. So glad you're back and I'm back. The moon has been so full and moony. You'll finish your novel. I'll start the painting series I got the idea for in Paris. Voilà.

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  5. I'd like to see a painter begin with this image for a portrait.

    The posture - the expression - the clothing - the accessories - the setting --- these all seem about right.

    As it now appears -- the space looks kind of dead - so Marly looks kind of lost -- but a good painter should be able to fix that.

    Should she be standing in front of a flag (like the D.A.R. in Grant Wood's painting) ?

    I'm not sure.

    She is very American -- but ...she might be a bit overwhelmed by it.

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  6. Who is the pretty girl with the glass of gin and a large "handbag"?
    (sorry sounds like Bunbury- think that's spelt right- anyway, you know, Mr Worthing's friend)

    Anyway she is obviously very patriotic, and back to reading again. Is the football, football or perhaps soccer? One of my daughters played rugger (Rugby) at the age of eleven but American Football looks a little more vicious.

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  7. What a lot of opinions and personal comments! Adorable-looking is just fine at my age. Better than Young Crone, which is how I describe myself. Trying to be a Zippy Young Crone, although my three children are always siphoning off the energy so that they have enough to leap over small houses and slide down mountains and tackle giants and so forth.

    (Speaking of football, I thought rugby was worse. Isn't there feisty biting and kicking and so on? The one rugby came I saw featured lots of grimy pushing and grunting.)

    The background does look rather dull, doesn't it? All that gray clunkiness is a bit dead. Like a parked tank. Some nice Huntington Library painted paneling would have been better.

    I just call the bag a bag. That's its back view. Nothing like a good Levenger annual sale... Attaché cases are those boxy leather cases that open on hinges to reveal two compartments. At least, I think that's what they are, never having had one.

    Longer hair? I guess so; I'd forgotten. It snaps up like a window shade and comes down again a bit more slowly. The stuff keeps changing texture and is now curlier. Hair really does have a wild, weird mind of its own.

    Yes, I'm still reading... Currently I am in the Bruno Schulz section of See Under: Love. Last night I watched Herzog's Kaspar Hauser for the first time in many years, and was really struck by how the mania for speed and pellmell adventure in movies and books is wrecking the sensibilities of movie fans and readers alike. To sink down and be whelmed by mysterious depths is so much better than to slide on the slick top layer.

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  8. Great to see a snap of you, Marly!
    Hope so much your writing goes well; it's easy to see through your blog just what a talented writer you are.
    Keep in touch as I appreciate your comments, interest.

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  9. You look quite the part - very elegant. Love the bit about the peachy moon and the blue trees.

    I'm glad you throw books away unread too. I always feel a bit guilty when I do - but sometimes I just feel my life is kind of ebbing away as I read and in the end I have to stop.

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  10. I am stirring up controversy on my blog with my post about Paris Hilton! (ofcourse this only means one person, but you know I have to make everything sound bigger and better than it really is :)

    DO you think I should take it down. I decided to stand by what I said, what can I say, I enjoy seeing what she will wear next.

    I guess I never not I could loose people respect over it. What would the pot boy do in this situation, you know I love my readers.

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  11. It is PumpkinFest here today, and it is the very rightmost day for gigantic hyperbole. (The biggest pumpkin I saw weight more than twenty times the weight of N, age 10.) So thank you for the compliments.

    Susanna, you just keep on with wild opinions and your Mr. Bingley style of composition (with an interesting "carelessness" and "rapidity of execution," as Jane Austen says.) The Pot Boy says to tell you to lay on maximum steam. It's probably because he just watched "Steamboy."

    Hyperbolic gestures like throwing books out the window are also in keeping with the day. And by all means necessary, toss any book that inflicts a nasty "ebbing" sensation.

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  12. Hello, Marly,
    I know how it feels when you are in the middle of writing a novel and think you will never finish that book.
    I throw away unread books, too, sometimes after ten pages already.
    I have found that over the years there are certain writers I like. I collect all of their books and treasure them. Others I try out - but if they do not suit me, out they go. There is only limited shelf space available, after all.

    http://olivia-kroth.blog.de.vu
    email: O.Kroth@t-online.de

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  13. Hello, Olivia Kroth--

    Lovely name, Olivia. And you live in the Taunus mountains north of Frankfurt and you write and garden. All very interesting! I'll have to pay you a virtual visit when I have a few more minutes... That is, on a school day.

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  14. Oh, I added a word to the post--realized that it sounded as if I were having trouble finishing the writing of a book, when I was on a jag of tossing the books away before I finished reading them...

    Be clear!

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  15. For a long time I had an idea I shouldn't give up on a book. Now I quite often do, and I'm not sure that matters,the sands of life being precious and running always.

    Your moon and little footballers sound quite Maxfield Parrish, and you are very elegant, and evidently not a soccer mom!

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  16. I do have the requisite van and three kids, and I also do a lotlotlot of ferrying...

    Also, I have time's winged chariot, and that does make me toss a few books. And I'd hate to think of somebody forcing themselves through one of my books--toss the dang thing if it comes to that! Somebody who loves Crystal just isn't going to love Catherwood, after all.

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  17. hey...maybe the key is simply the half-naked model part of Crystal's success. In that case, all we have to do is make sure someone hires one to show up to simply walk into the bookstores and buy a copy of the real literature, listen intently to the author speak, swoon as she gets her autograph, and so forth.

    i hope it's clear that i'm being facetious, even sarcastic. Good grief, anyway.

    However, how very charming you look!!...and one could simply photoshop in the Huntington library paneling to replace the grey wall.

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  18. Better yet, just hire a model to do one's appearances!

    One could. That is a zephyrous one like you could. But I'll just put up with it. Yes, I'm lazy when it comes to anything that's not kids and writing! Or maybe you could say I'm just too busy.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.