Saturday, September 28, 2013

Word of the Week



verb tr.:
1. To turn into stone.
2. To harden or deaden.
3. To stun or paralyze with fear.

verb intr.:
To become stony or callous.

From Latin petra (rock), from Greek petra (cliff, rock). Ultimately from the Indo-European root per- (to lead, pass over), which also gave us support, comport, petroleum, sport, passport, petrichor (the pleasant smell that accompanies the first rain), colporteur (a peddler of religious books), Swedish fartlek (a training technique), Norwegian fjord (bay), and Sanskrit parvat (mountain). Earliest documented use: 1425.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Happy Friday

It's been a long week.
Meetings and house cleaning and life.
So we Block Party.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Review: Evil Diva, Volumes I and II

The folks at Angry Viking Press sent me a copy of the first book in their Evil Diva series. Written by Joe Cashman and Peter Menotti, it's drawn by Stephen Hood and "Team Diva." It's fascinating, playing with tv sitcom tropes set in a middle school in the same nimble and bright way that the award winning American Born Chinese did.

Diva is a devil at a high school for angels and devils; like the four houses of Harry Potter's Hogwarts, St. Swithern's School is an impossible thing that functions for the sake of the story. It gives our devil a place where she can be too good. Luckily, she's quickly taken under the wing of the school guidance councilor, Virgil, who passes on a mysterious wand. Family friendly hijinx ensue as Diva begins a secret life as a do-gooding superhero, while also searching for a chance to "do things her own way" in her real life. The book cliff-hangs to promise many future installments as Diva works around the expectations of the other characters in the story and finds her own place in the world.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Everything Ends

from here
I know I have words for the end of a baseball season, but I know it's all been said before and more beautifully than I can. As a baseball fan, the end of the year feels the same to me whether my Yankees win a championship, or lose in the playoffs, or (like this year) limp quietly into the end of September.

There is always an emptiness at the end of a season. In a way that New Year's or birthdays or anniversaries don't, the end of a year of baseball marks time. There hasn't been a forgettable year yet, though I've begun to find the oldest ones beginning to blur together.

This year, the Yankees have marked so many endings: for Mariano Rivera and Andy Pettitte; for their recent four year run of playoff berths; for the unconditional commitment of ownership to field a dominant team. Meanwhile, I've marked so many beginnings: mainly, that my wife and I bought a house; my re-dedication to my poetry and the acceptance of a couple of my poems; a couple of projects, like my woodworking, that I hope begin a way of life. But I'm winterizing that house, and re-arranging the garage to store my summer toys, and having just marked the fall equinox, spring has never been farther way.

It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops....
Of course, there are those who learn after the first few times. They grow out of sports. And there are others who were born with the wisdom to know that nothing lasts. These are the truly tough among us, the ones who can live without illusion, or without even the hope of illusion. I am not that grown-up or up-to-date. I am a simpler creature, tied to more primitive patterns and cycles. I need to think something lasts forever, and it might as well be that state of being that is a game; it might as well be that, in a green field, in the sun.
 Bart Giamatti

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Word of the Week



adjective: Boldly disrespectful.

From Old French mal- (bad, wrong) + apert (bold, insolent, clever), from Latin apertus (open). Ultimately from the Indo-European root wer- (to cover), which also gave us overt, cover, warranty, warren, garage, garret, garment, garrison, garnish, guarantee, and pert. Earliest documented use: 1400.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I've never loved The Great Gatsby. I have not yet seen the movie, though I might once it's on Netflix. Unlike one of my friends, I do not have a tattoo of the famous green light.

But Fitzgerald is so often held up as the epitome of his genre, and at a certain point it's hard to consider yourself a fan of 20th century American literature, particularly a fan of the literature that explores the construction of masculinity, if you've never picked up more of Fitzgerald than Gatsby and a few odd short stories.

This Side of Paradise left me cold, which I found charming. We are not supposed to like Amory Blaine, the brilliant but erratic con-man in training who is the novel's anti-hero. Money and power are the central movers of Amory's world, and the two spin around each other like water down a drain. The pursuit of both syphons all kindness from Amory, especially when his focus is power over the women he pursues.

Why would I like this book? It's misogynistic, materialistic, mean spirited. Amory is self-involved and self-aggrandizing. But I found This Side of Paradise funny.

I read it ironically, as a man in the 21st century should. Like Main Street (published the same year) or The Damnation of Theron Ware (written in 1896), Fitzgerald's characters are too much larger than life to be believable in the realist/ naturalist tradition. And, like other great works of satire, it robs the protagonist of any lasting triumphs.

Monday, September 16, 2013

"Eventually" at Red Fez

One of my 30 Before 30 goals was to submit poems to 6 publications this year. I'm half way to my goal, and one of my poems (Eventually) has been accepted for issue 60 of Red Fez.

Check it out (and all the other poems and fiction in issue 60, too).

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Word of the Week



noun: A choice involving multiple undesirable options.

From Greek poly- (many) + dilemma, from lemma (proposition). Earliest documented use: 1856. Also see trilemmaHobson's choice, and Buridan's ass.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Review: Nine Years Under by Sheri Booker

I spent a long time reading Sheri Booker's Nine Years Under, and now I've spent nearly as long thinking about what to say about it.

from here
Booker's prose is fluid and engaging. Her promise as a writer is immense, but her story didn't engage me the way I wanted it to. Maybe because I read A Chance to Win, and it is such a great book about inner city life, that I wished for too much from Booker.

First, she has the disadvantage of being a memoirist and limited to her own story, as opposed to a reporter/ biographer who has multiple story lines to choose from.

Second, perhaps Booker's publicist did her a disservice by promising
With AIDS and gang violence threatening to wipe out a generation of black men, Wylie was never short on business. As families came together to bury one of their own, Booker was privy to their most intimate moments of grief and despair. But along with the sadness, Booker encountered moments of dark humor: brawls between mistresses and widows, and car crashes at McDonald’s with dead bodies in tow. While she never got over her terror of the embalming room, Booker learned to expect the unexpected and to never, ever cry.
While all those things are evident in Booker's memoir, they never feel like they take center stage; they are scenery, but the play is about a young girl struggling through the process of growing up, through having and leaving a beloved first job.

What was most missing from Nine Years Under was what I thought was its most obvious angle: Booker's parents. Her mother appears as half a character; she is her cancer, appearing only in horrid cycles of remission and recurrence. Her father is a presence but not a character. He's a Baltimore cop who can't watch The Wire because it hits too close to home, who has dedicated his life to make sure his daughter makes it out. But he never speaks, never offers advice or counsel.

Without her family, the characters of her life are limited to the funeral home's major players. But their interactions seem too limited to truly fill the surrogate family roles Booker assigns them. What was perhaps a compelling story in a 10,000 word magazine feature because drawn out and overwrought in a 300 page memoir.

Perhaps, in another few years, we'll see a second installment from Booker. I'd read it.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

30 Before 30 Update: Submit or be Conquered

Goal #15 on my 30 Before 30 is to submit poems to 6 publications. This week, I heard back from locations 2 and 3, both of whom want one of the poems I offered to them.

When I set this goal, I thought that going 0 for 6 was a real possibility, which is why I made my goal submissions and not publications.

It was, frankly, a real possibility. But if I'm 0 for 3 with my remaining submissions, I'll still be ecstatic to have this two poems in print.

*** Helpful advice: the image results for a Google search on "submit or be conquered" are Not Safe For Work. Do not look for an image to accompany your blog post on this topic during your lunch hour.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Word of the Week



1. Highly original and proving influential on later work.
2. Of or relating to semen or seed.

From Latin semen (seed). Ultimately from the Indo-European root se- (to sow) which also gave us seed, sow, season, seminary, and disseminate. Earliest documented use: 1398.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Nabokov's Lecture on Proust

Today, I was re-reading Nabokov's lecture on Remembrance of Things Past, in his Lectures on Literature.

I was reminded what a joy it is to read concise but elegant meditations on fiction. Most criticism, especially most post-modern criticism, is (for someone like me- ie., interested but not terribly invested) a labor. Too much "grounding" of the work in tracts of philosophy and pseudo-psychoanalysis leaves the book complete untethered from the reading experience.

One thing I like about Nabokov's lectures is his willing to make sweeping assertions and then back them up with anecdotes from the novel in question. I think that if only someone had handed me his lectures in high school or as an undergrad and told me, "This is how you're supposed to write," then I might have been a far more successful student.

Monday, September 2, 2013

A September to Remember for the Yankees

With two teams to leapfrog in order to have a shot at a Wild Card spot, at this point, it's hard to imagine the Yankees losing any games and still making the playoffs.

4 losses in the next 26 games will make the Yanks miss the 95 win mark for the first time since 2008.

If the Bombers take two out of three from the While Sox, split their 6 games with the Red Sox, go 2-2 in their remaining four games against the Orioles, and take 2 out of 3 from each of the Jays, Giants, Rays and Astros, that would only get the Yankees to 87 wins.

They probably can't slip ahead of the Rays and Orioles without sweeping both teams. That would get the Yankees to 90 wins.

The Yankees find themselves in the position of having to root for the Red Sox to win the division, because Boston plays 9 of their final 24 games against the Rays and Os.