Sunday, June 29, 2008

More about books, packing, and moving.

When you have to look closely at everything you own and decide how much you need to own it, maybe you realize a thing or two about yourself. And you might think some about how you appear to others. For example, what would someone think they knew about me if they opened this box of books, all important enough to me that I not only own them, but I am keeping them and shipping them across the country?

The Hiding Places of God --John Cornwell
Drawings and Observations --Louise Bourgeois
Women Mystics in Medieval Europe --Emilie Zum Brunn and Georgette Epiney-Burgard
The Words of My Perfect Teacher --Patrul Rinpoche
The Poems of Dylan Thomas
Feeling as a Foreign Language; The Good Strangeness of Poetry --Alice Fulton
The Book of Margery Kempe (by Margery Kempe)
Margery Kempe (novel by Robert Gluck)
Matisse on Art
Julien Levy; Portrait of an Art Gallery --Ingrid Schaffner and Lisa Jacobs
Alone of All Her Sex; The Myth and the Cult of the Virgin Mary --Marina Warner
Lives of the Saints --Richard P. McBrien
McSweeney's Comics Issue
Yes Yes Y'All; The Experience Music Project Oral History of Hip-Hop's First Decade --Jim Fricke and Charlie Ahearn
Fatima --Severo Rossi and Aventino de Oliveira (Consolata Fathers)
I Read It, But I Don't Get It; Comprehension Strategies for Adolescent Readers --Cris Tovani
When Kids Can't Read; What Teachers Can Do --Kylene Beers

On opening that box, if you imagined the person who owned those books, and if you wrote a description of him or her, including perhaps things like does he or she live alone, if not who does he or she live with--if you, say, created a facebook profile for this person, how much would it look like my own facebook profile? (Assuming the person who owns these books would have a facebook profile...)

Political Views:
Religious Views:


Relationship Status:
Interested In: [Men/Women]
Looking For: [Friendship, Dating, A Relationship, Networking]

Favorite Music:
Favorite TV Shows:
Favorite Movies:
Favorite Books:
Favorite Quotes:
About Me:




Saturday, June 28, 2008

Zhang Huan

At some point Zhang Huan turned into one of my favorite artists. Even though I don't like a lot of his work, it is always completely fascinating, and the stuff I do like, I love hugely and want everyone to see. His work is funny and unique and complex and closely tied to culture and history, in complicated and strange ways, sometimes so literal that it's bizarre.

He's one of those artists I can't talk about, so I just want people to look at his stuff. I've tried to explain my love of Giacometti's work, and it sounds similarly stupid. I'm a fan of words, but I'm also a fan of the visceral experience, and I think reading is a visceral experience at its best when it is of itself and not a description of something else. I'm sure this is not always true, but until I read something about Zhang Huan's art that proves me wrong, it holds, at least for his work, at least in my own head. He does say the following about "Memory Doors," a series of carvings in huge discarded wooden doors, overlaid and blending into fragments of photographs dating from the Cultural Revolution. But this statement is more about process than an attempt to describe the work. (Shown: Memory Door Series (Shadow) 2007)

"First I decide which part of the photograph I want to keep in tact [sic, maybe] and which part to remove to create two different spaces that function between reality and fiction and it is the job of the viewer to decide which is reality and which is fiction. I create this juxtaposition of the real and false. Both are false but two false can make a true."

His show at PaceWildenstein right now is fabulous, and includes "Canal Building," "Memory Doors," and "Giant No. 3," discussed here by him on his website. His site and the PaceWildenstein site also have images of these and others, but if you can go to see them in person, they will make more sense--let them startle you. The show is up through July 25, in two separate venues.

Relative value.

Packing up books. Getting rid of so many I would keep, or at least read first, if I weren't moving--but I keep telling myself that if I haven't read them yet, then I don't need to haul them, and I can get them from the library... but it's strange to see what makes the cut and what doesn't, and why.

I'm getting rid of my copy of Go Tell It On the Mountain even though I know I'll buy another, because I just need my Baldwin around me. I'm sheepish about how that sounds, but it's true; some writers' books you want nearby, maybe just because of what they mean to you, or to reread passages because something reminds you of something...I reference my collected Baldwin essays all the time. Other writers I keep sitting around include Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood, George Saunders, Raymond Carver (god of the Syracuse MFA program, with George as high priest--but they're still both great writers), Stuart Dybek, and certain essential books by others: Octavia Butler's Kindred, Dime Store Alchemies by Charles Simic, the Bible, Toni Cade Bambara's Gorilla, My Love, Andersen's and Grimm's Fairy Tales, Beverly Cleary's Dear Mr. Henshaw (though I could have all her books on a shelf, and someday probably will--I still want to live on Klickitat Street!), Lynda Barry's comics. But I bought this copy of Go Tell It On the Mountain used, after loaning the previous one away and never getting it back, and this one is all marked up by somebody else, which I didn't notice before I bought it because they only annotated the last thirty pages. But the last thirty pages is enough!

I'm getting rid of Beloved because if I need to read it for a fourth time, I can get it from the library. It's not one I reference often, though if I do, I could buy another copy. Not like it's going out of print any time soon, and I always see it used. If I taught it, I could get a copy from school. Getting rid of Isaac Bashevis Singer's Shadows on the Hudson because I have tried and tried, and if I decide to try again, I can get it from the library. (That's become a bit of a mantra these days.)

I'm dumping books I picked up free on Miro and Chagall, because I'm not so keen on Miro or Chagall, though I probably would've kept them if they'd been really good and interesting books on either--but they're boring Barnes & Noble editions without terribly good prints. I did pack up a similar edition on Hopper, but that's Hopper, and I'm leaving New York and its museums and--okay, this is contradictory--while I don't think Hopper is very interesting in reproduction, coming off as sort of sentimental, there's something about his paintings in real life that makes me stand there for a long time (so why am I saving the book and leaving New York?). And with my stunning arty taste, I did keep Philippe Halsman's Jump Book. Also too many others: the enormous Giacometti, the enormous Bearden...etcetera. I am going to miss Giacometti's cat and Bearden's The Block and so much art in this town! Sometimes I think that is the hardest part of leaving, is leaving the art. At least it's in the top three (counting my friends as one collective hard thing to leave--heh, though maybe still in the top ten if I were counting people separately).

I really want to keep Advances in New York Health, 1940, with its endpaper line chart of THE CONQUEST OF PESTILENCE IN NEW YORK CITY (cholera spikes in 1832, 1849, and 1854), and photos such as a gentleman staring up at a poster that says PROTECT THEM STAMP OUT SYPHILIS, with the caption "No shadow on this family. At long last posters such as this can be displayed in public. Educational work directed to the control of syphilis and gonorrhea is an important activity of the Department." But I already packed two boxes of similarly useless books, mostly Home Ec and history textbooks, with a few safety handbooks and etiquette manuals included, all late 19th century through mid 20th. Oh, collections. Oh, collectors. Other essential books I return to regularly are Walter Benjamin's Illuminations and--can't remember the name or author of the other, and it's packed away--small green book about books. Anyway, Advances in New York Health is still going into the maybe pile.

So there are those books you keep around because you need them nearby, the books you don't need to own because you can get from the library if you ever need them, the ridiculous collections of books you treasure not for literary purposes, and there are the books you hesitate to cull out because you will never have the chance to look at them again if you ever wanted to. This is much of why I'm keeping the 1867 Dr. Chase's Recipes; or, Information for Everybody: An Invaluable Collection of About Eight Hundred Practical Recipes, for Merchants, Grocers, Saloon-Keepers, Physicians, Druggists, Tanners, Shoe Makers, Harness Makers, Painters, Jewelers, Blacksmiths, Tinners, Gunsmiths, Farriers, Barbers, Bakers, Dyers, Renovaters [says Reuovaters but it looks like someone set the n upside down], Farmers, and Families Generally, To Which Have Been Added A Rational Treatment of Pleurisy, Inflammation of the Lungs and other Inflammatory Diseases, and also for Genral Female Debility and Irregularities: All arranged in their Appropriate Departments, and maybe keeping an "1861 Report of the Commissioner of Patents, Agriculture," annotated by a former owner. That one is very hesitantly in the maybe pile. Maybe. It was a dollar at the Housing Works street sale last fall. Which has nothing to do with its value to me, of course. Also it's missing some pages, perhaps put to sensible use in an outhouse. But I'm still discovering things stuck between the pages, and pasted in. I wish I had it in me to type in "Recognizing His Dog" and "Starving to Death," two gems pasted in over part of an article in the report about sheep breeding (the [a] previous owner appears to have been a corn farmer, or at any rate most interested in the chapter on maize).

And I will haul The Life of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, of her Blessed Spouse, St. Joseph, and Holy Parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne (1878) back to Portland, from whence it came when I bought it for six dollars in 1999 on 82nd at one of those thrift stores, the one with the amazingly well-organized books section. Mary has gone from Portland to Brooklyn to Syracuse to Brooklyn, and now she goes back to Portland. She's not the only one. There's also Dorothy Marino's 1959 picture book Where Are The Mothers? (Linda and Lyle's mother works in an office; Michael's mother is home writing to Grandmother), three issues of the Partisan Review (March and June 1948, Fall 1956), and not one but two dictionaries of film, the Oxford History of World Cinema (1997) and George Sadoul's Dictionary of Films, 1965 (it was a dollar, it's a classic, etc.) I am getting rid of Cinema Nation (collected reviews from the Nation) and a book of critical essays about John Ford's Stagecoach (though I know I don't get any credit for getting rid of books I had to buy for school--that's often painful economically but--I don't even like Stagecoach). Rushdie's essay on the Wizard of Oz, that's another thing. Only getting rid of that if I loan it out and it doesn't come back, though I'll do my damndest to get it back (that's another category of books: the books you own to loan, like how I might keep extra Bibles around if I were Christian).

But. Goodbye The Remains of the Day with the ugly movie cover, I read you and loved you and now you can go to somebody else, though I'd be happy to keep you around, even with your ugly cover, if this wasn't already costing me a gazillion dollars to move the essentials [such a word]. Goodbye Maryse Conde novels that aren't I, Tituba, Black Witch of Salem, I never got around to reading you though I love ITBWS. The library, Elissa, the library. Goodbye two books about space travel written for young boys in the 1940's--I found them a good home with Sam. That's much of it; who else will appreciate "1861 Report of the Commissioner of Patents, Agriculture"? (And who has time to seek out the right buyer? Not me, not right now.) I'm happy to donate things to Housing Works since most of them came from there. But Housing Works will just put the Commissioner's Report in their street sale again if they don't just throw it away since the cover is mostly falling off. Shit, I'm going to keep it, aren't I? It's BIG too. Heavy.

Oh, the burdens of ownership.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Observed by Megan.

In the Miami airport: Elderly Cuban man with blonde pompadour, gold jewelry and pamphlet in pocket that reads "GROUP HUG."

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

What to take, what to leave. why to take it, why to leave it

Town on Fire

Just before I would set it on fire,
I would yell, Get out of the houses!
But don't take anything with you!
And I would stay motionless—
and sign of light,
how everyone would come out running,
dressed only in skins,
in their own skin.
Winged, they would leave
furniture the landscape of so many quarrels,
kitchens the site of so many shortages,
those same walls with their boredom
all those little shelves of books unread
for lack of time,and time the color
of cold bread.
Now fly! I would shout,
blowing in order to lift them,
and they would fly, all of them,
without ever looking
over their shoulders.

—Eugen Jebeleanu

"Town on Fire" from Secret Weapon, published by Coffee House Press, translated from the Romanian by Matthew Zapruder and Radu Ioanid. Copyright © 2008 by Tudor Jebeleanu and Florica Vieru.

This was this week's "e-verse" poem of the week. (Go here to subscribe.) So perfect as I get ready to move, as I'm spending so much time thinking about what to move and how to move it and whether it's worth moving.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Oh, puns.

A terrible excellent shirt from threadless:

Lemon Aid, of course.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Portland: Noticed, #1

Sign in front of a church on Division: ALL GODLY FATHERS HAVE AND USE ALL THE RIGHT TOOLS.

What does that mean? It's sort of Jenny Holzer, except not. & how many godly fathers are there? Self-defined godly fathers? Or the other kind?


This is a difficult thing, linguistically, to explain clearly. Formerly known as Hope. Formerly known as Hope the zine. Formerly Hope. Formerly the Zine Hope. Hope Lives On. Formerly Hope is the tragic-est, Hope Lives On is maybe most accurate but also cheesiest.

Back in the day, all those days, I had a zine. First there was Ethel. That was 1993-1996. Then there was Hope. The last issue was a year ago April, and... maybe I outgrew zines, but I don't think that's quite it. Maybe I just haven't figured out how to make use of the medium--in this Day and Age. But man I miss cut and paste, and putting my typewriters to work...

Donna (formerly Muffie, and before that Muffie My New Gun, just as I was Elissa Ethel, and then Elissa Hope, and Lauren was Lauren You Might As Well Live, aka Lauren YMAWL, then many other incarnations when she kept changing the name...) and I were talking about how we want to keep trying. And some people are. Valiantly. But even those zines which live on have morphed in their own ways... Emily Larned and Molly Kalkstein and many others are making beautiful art books now, and even their zines are something more or something different. Certainly more grown up, but not just that.

My zines were always more writing than image. So while starting a blog was not nearly the tragic transmogrification of zine to technology that many others' would be... still sad. I've had many conversations with many zine friends about how so much of the joy of zines is (was) handing them to people, carrying them around in your pocket, getting them in the mail.

But. Since I don't make them, I don't get to hand them out. So. Here we are.

There was another blog before this one. But it is called "Still in Brooklyn," and soon I won't be anymore. And I'm ready to not be.