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

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Mornings with N

Small play, about events from the last week of 4th grade, all parts played by N:

Booboo, Dude

Little dark-haired girl points to booboo and says: OOOooh! My earring fell off!

N, jaded, unimpressed: Then why isn't it bleeding, dude?

LDG, sweetly: I don't know.

LDG adds cloyingly: Dude!

N, still jaded: Dude, I bet you put a fake ear over your real ear.

N breaks into "gotcha" hand motions: Ka-chao! Ka-chao! Ciao!

***
And another:

Combing the Radio

N is brushing the bedside clock radio with a small blue brush.

N, in case I'm wondering: I'm just combing Junior.

N pats the radio.

N: You're set to go to school, Junior.

N: Time school.

N: It goes very quickly, actually.

N pets a shark. Sticks shark in my face: Dude, man, what's so funny, man?

N's shark: I'm in a different world.

N's shark: I'm on Mars.

N's shark strains loudly for breath: There's no water on Mars.

N's shark appears disturbed: Oo, I'm having a baby!

Pop!

N's shark: Baby, wait for me!

N's shark walks around the bed on its tail.

N catches my eye.

N's shark: It's because I'm on Mars, dude. Ciao, baby!

Ear credit is due http://www.sxc.hu/ and photographer "S." of Canada. Thanks, S.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Notes from the Dream Palace


AND NOW FOR SOMETHING REALLY MIND-BLOWING, TRALA

No sooner had I posted than great-glorious-fandangled news came in for B, our eldest child. Since tiny boydom, he has been obsessed with history, particularly military history.

He just received his statewide grade on the New York State Regents exam for U. S. History, which he took after AP History: 99.

Yes! Unadulterated wahoodles!

I forget all about our groans, moans, and bloody sweat with Geometry and Chemistry. I forget all about Sisyphus and his darned rock, and I fly up the hill, tossing armfuls of flowers at the natives below.

Fireworks, confetti, champagne!

Go, B, boy historian!

SKEWED, FANTASTIC, GENERALLY ODD BITS

Four of us (N being snoring upstairs) just watched I, Robot on a defective machine--an odd concept, given the story. Now R is up late, babbling about different categories of manga; I understand very little, but she is burbling fluently and happily, as though a little punch drunk (last Regents exam was today, so maybe she is.) She has an intense desire to learn Japanese...

Latest invite: my next (the last was with Jeff Vandermeer) KGB Bar reading in New York will be January 8, 2008. The other reader is Dan Braum. This one's in support of Electric Velocipede--zine proprietor, John Klima, who also edited that curious spelling-bee anthology, Logorrhea (Bantam.) The first time I was at KGB, I read my Logorrhea story, inspired by that mystical green word, smaragdine. (I knew smaragdine from the poetry of Puritan metaphysical poet, Edward Taylor, so it's a story about a version of him.) So I am Klimaesque at KGB again.

And I've agreed to write another story for an anthology theme I know nothing about--since I had so much fun writing "The Chinese Room" for an A. I. anthology, why not? It is interesting to be stretched in some odd direction: the request as Procrustean bed, though a pleasant one.

WHAT QUITTING THE DAY JOB LOOKS LIKE

Writers know that The Day Job can be a dubious good--that is, bread-and-butter with "no jam today," our little black dress or stranglehold tie, our dear little hovel with electronics, our bunting for the baby--the means by which life as we know it in these united States is rendered possible, as well as impossible.

But here is an astonishing thing: a writer who started in the small, small press world has successfully quit his day job. Here is his lovely, lively website, Ecstatic Days: http://www.jeffvandermeer.com/. And there you will find an example of Absolute and Consummate Dervishness that may just rouse you to caper and frolic and go without sleep in proper Vandermeer style.

Credit: Artwork by Scott Eagle, from Vandermeer's City of Saint & Madmen and Secret Life. I picked these because Eagle's artwork is the backdrop to Ecstatic Days.


SOLACE

“If you can't annoy somebody, there's little point in writing.” --Kingsley Amis

I'm still thinking about this one. Perhaps it is especially intended for funny and satiric curmudgeons. Or perhaps I am too nice. Lucy wants to know where Mack the footman has been. Perhaps I should go looking.
*

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Mezzo Cammin

I have some new poems up at that lovely site, Mezzo Cammin, the online journal of formalist poems by women:

Here We Go Round (strange matters around the mulberry bush); "

Self-portrait as Dryad, no. 4 (I frolic as a birch dragon in an applewood cave);

and Self-portrait as Dryad, no. 2 (I am a silvery-gray snarl of branches.)

The door is via http://www.mezzocammin.com/, and you can find me by looking under either contributors or poetry.

Credit: Birch tree by Collette Fitz of Phoenix, Arizona. Courtesy of the photographer and www.sxc.hu/.

***
If you missed the latest Long Grass Book, please go chutes-and-ladders down to the next post.

*

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Paean to The Long Grass Books, no. 4: In the Morning

Update, 13 June: Now this must be what contitutes the thing known as "perfect timing." An interview with Philip Lee Williams, done several years ago, has just come on line at The Istanbul Literary Review. It's an enlightening encounter between Phil and William Walsh. Phil talks frankly about worldly success, his books, the assaults on his heart, introspection, publishers, and much more.

Here's a clip: "To me, the great part of being a writer is the writing. All the rest of it is business stuff. When something great happens with the business stuff, you have two hours of happiness. When something really hideous happens, you say 'crap,' and you have two hours of being disgusted. It really isn't much more than that after you have been around for a long time. You don't sit around and get ecstatic except when you write. And of course I treasure it when someone says they love my work."

* * *

In a world where poetry professors gift their own students with major prizes and one little monkey scratches another's back, I'm reluctant to review this nature book, because the author is a penpal of mine. I've never met him, but we've exchanged many emails since 2001, when we were supposed to be on a panel together. Thanks to a bad back, we didn't meet at the Southern Festival of the Book, but now when I read In the Morning: Reflections from First Light, I know a lot about the author and the people and places he mentions.

So this will not be a review.

It will be, however, an attempt to shed light.

Feel free to leave a comment, as always, but if you have any questions for the author, ask away, and I'll pester Phil for an answer.

In the Morning is a classic Long Grass Book. I imagine that many people won't recognize the publisher: Mercer University Press. The copy I ordered is a trim, well-made hardcover, and the fact that Mercer chose to publish Philip Lee Williams is a credit to the press.

In the Morning is Phil's twelfth book, a kind of love song to his home state, its flora and fauna and people; in the past few years, the state of Georgia has been regularly laureling him with awards for his body of work (novels, poetry, and nonfiction), so the feeling must be mutual. Phil's a creative man, and he's a notably kind and tender-hearted man, so all the attention he has gotten lately seems especially pleasing.

To show the spirit of the book, I'm going to offer a variety of passages from it. And I'll append a few comments from other people who have admired its qualities.


***

Now, though, the mud has been washed away, and once more the creek is shining, sparkling. Murphy and I have come down to look for stones and artifacts, and already I have found an enormous amethyst crystal, pale purple and perfect, and a rim-sherd from a clay pot made on this land more than a thousand years ago. p. 28

At first, they appear almost black, like charcoal outlines in a book of nature identification, but soon their raw sienna paints itself on their flanks. The ivory spots that speckle the fawns come out like constellations. And their eyes are brown, what I see in the mirror each day, but much more alert, purposeful, and unknowing. The doe's right ear flops toward something I cannot hear. p. 34

Crickets that produce these sounds also have "ears"--on their front legs. (Stridulating grasshoppers have "ears" on their first abdominal segment.) Some species can make sounds at a mind-boggling 100 kilohertz, though humans wouldn't know it, since the higher range of our hearing ability is about 20kHz.

Which means that what we hear of this morning cricket chorus is a fraction of what's actually out there. (Lest we feel superior, one species, the snowy tree cricket, actually recites the temperature. Add forty to the number of chirps it makes in fifteen seconds, and you'll have the temperature in Fahrenheit. Science is full of fascinating and moderately useless bits of such information.) p. 64

It's early on a foggy spring morning, and we have already uncovered the clear outlines of the fort, bastions and all. We have found the skeleton of a man who we believe is Lt. Coytmore. We know his body was buried inside the fort, and it's the only such burial here. Looking on his skeleton, laid out neatly, I feel a shudder of sorrow for the man and his stupidities. p. 101

The mangrove-lined shore was probably half a mile away. Our houseboat bobbed several yards behind me in the Gulf of Mexico. I remembered well enough what you do not do around a shark: thrash and make a lot of noise. So here I was, in the middle of a spreading pool of blood, wearing sneakers. The shark came up then, and I could see his blood-drenched mouth and the 3-inch-long teeth and his wild, dead eyes. p. 120


***

Georgia writer Philip Lee Williams communicates both the wisdom we gain from the wilds and the wisdom we gain from science in language we want to read aloud for its sheer beauty.
--Betty Jean Craige, author of Eugene Odum: Ecosystem Ecologist and Environmentalist


Wise, engaging, and unfailingly profound, In the Morning awakens our weary senses to a whole cascade of mornings...
--Amy Blackmarr, author of Above the Fall Line and Going to Ground


Like morning itself, this book is quiet, gentle, and enlightening.
--Janisse Ray, author of Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, Wild Card Quilt, and Pinhook


...Williams has found nature where millions of us live--just as Thoreau once found it on the edge of bustling, antebellum Concord.
--Edward Larson, Pulitzer Prize winner for Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial
*

Monday, June 04, 2007

Post-party cravings

Post-parties

After various bouts of company and three birthday celebrations for N, I am depleted and hollow, my ears ringing like a pair of abandoned shells. (Meanwhile, N is insatiable. Not satisfied with a picnic and vigorous games to polish off the weekend, he wondered if somebody couldn't come over to play late last night. Oh, to have the fount of energy that is 10!) Nothing but play and pre-play drudgery has been accomplished around here, and it's time to get back to some serious dreaming.

Caught in a downpour yesterday, I scurried home and then curled up in a blanket to read a manuscript and commit a blurb, something I haven't agreed to do in quite a while. More about that book, Auralia's Colors, anon.

Today I'll whisk my house in order and start reading the manuscript I wrote at Yaddo. Nothing like a little time to give some fresh seeing.

Cravings for a book

I'm having a great desire to read or reread something funny, a desire that comes to me now and then and must be satisfied. If you have a passion for a certain funny book, send it my way. Some of my favorite funnies and funny writers are: Henry Fielding, Tom Jones; Terry Pratchett (I really love his children's books, and I really should read Going Postal); Chaucer, of course; Robertson Davies; A Confederacy of Dunces (strike that--I don't know if it's a favorite because I haven't reread it: the great test); Kingsley Amis, Lucky Jim (so wonderfully, marvelously indebted to P. G. Wodehouse for the Drunk Lecture scene) ; most anything by the immortal Plum Wodehouse; heaps and heaps of Twain (and, as always, living in Cooperstown and having read a good bit of Cooper, "The Literary Offenses of Fenimore Cooper"); lots by Evelyn Waugh, Burgess, Dickens, etc. I've laughed over Daniel Pinkwater, reading him to children. Ditto Sachar and Holes.

What to read or reread? Maybe Amis junior. Maybe Amis senior. Maybe Vonnegut? I have a neighbor across the park who adores George MacDonald Fraser. I've read Steel Bonnets, his wonderful nonfiction account of the border reivers, but never anything else. Stephen Fry? I've never read him, though I like his turns on the Wodehouse stage. He must have soaked up a good deal of Wodehouse along the way.

Maybe Dodie Smith? I was thinking of getting I Capture the Castle for my daughter, but maybe I need to read it myself. What are the funny novels by women? Jane Austen is funny, in her two-inch-of-ivory manner. Who else? I haven't read Smiley's Moo... I've read the creepy Shirley Jackson but not the funny one. Interesting that she could be both, isn't it? I wonder what that says about humor, and how close it is to the awful. I definitely want to read Bad Manners by Maggie Paley, who was at Yaddo last month (seems moons ago!) That's a funny book...
*
Wild bittersweet
*
jarvenpa has been reprinting her poems at www.jarvenpa.blogspot.com/.
*
I have been thinking, brother, of the white peonies
that bloomed that spring our mother died
a ragged splendor along the boundary line
having survived so many hard winters

& being green fires, green bonfires at midsummer
despite the North Dakota storms, holding their own
electricity & stubbornness. Not, you understand
that they are symbolic, or anything more
*
And you get the rest of that poem, "Waiting for Spring in the Continued World," and more if you go see!
*
Print thresholds

This is just for people who like to keep up with my shenanigans. First, stories: “Power and Magic” forthcoming in the Firebird/Penguin anthology, Firebirds Soaring, 2008; “Prolegomenon to The Adventures of Childe Phoenix,” in the current issue of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet; “Drunk Bay” is slated for issue 13 (Winter 2007) of Postscripts (U.K.); I’m unsure about a date for “Rain Flower Pebbles,” as I thought that was issue 11 of Postscripts but didn’t see it on the list; The Chinese Room,” We Think, Therefore We Are ed. Pete Crowther (DAW Books, forthcoming); “The Comb,” Fantasy Magazine; “The Seven Mirrors” forthcoming in anthology of novellas from Prime; “The Four Directions,” forthcoming in an anthology tba, “The Gate House,” forthcoming in Argosy; “The Salamander Bride,” forthcoming in “The Beastly Bride” (Viking, 2009). “The Smaragdine Knot” is out, timed to match up with the Scripps spelling bee. Logorrhea: Good Words Make Good Stories, ed. John Klima, (Bantam Books, 2007.) My novella, Val / Orson is slated for late 2008 at P. S. Publishing (U. K.)

I’m a little fuzzy on poetry publications, as my notebook has as many legs as a spirobolid millipede (homage to Dave Bonta) and is always wandering into crannies, but "Self-Portrait as Dryad, No. 4," "Here We Go Round," and "Self-Portrait as Dryad, No. 2" are to appear in the June issue at Mezzo Cammin—“an online journal of formalist poetry by women—and “The Sea of Traherne” appeared in the April issue of Books & Culture. Oh, and "Botticelli" at qarrtsiluni and "A Fire in Ice" (a riposte to the Billy Collins poem, "Taking off Emily Dickinson's Clothes") in an issue of The Raintown Review guest-edited by Joseph Salemi. Hmm. Can’t forget Klima’s Electric Velocipede, scheduled for fall: “When Demons Ruled,” and “Why the People Disliked Art, Circa 2005.” An old poem, “Children of Paradise,” is being reprinted in the 35th anniversary edition of Cold Mountain Review. There are a few more that I can’t remember… But then there's so much in life I can't remember!

Credit: The half-headed mannequin is courtesy of the photographer, Georgios M. W. of Denmark, and www.sxc.hu/.