radfrac_archive: (bat signifier)
Over at the Lannan foundation podcast, there is a recording of Samuel Delaney interviewing Junot Diaz.

What more could you want? Seriously.

There's an introduction by Delaney, then some readings by Diaz from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and then a discussion.

The pleasure of this reading and conversation is immense. During the discussion, Diaz speaks about the interfeed of science fictional concepts with "the recent and the deep history of the Caribbean," -- both colonial foundations and post-colonial dissonance. "The Caribbean figures deeply in what we would call the power chords of science fiction." Love that.

Interplay about genre, form, reading, everything.

I got the podcast through iTunes, but it can also be got at: The Lannan Podcast. The specific program (from January) is here.

My one concern is that Delaney sounds like he is having some trouble breathing, and it worries me.

* * * * * *

I found the talk yesterday when I was looking for more Michael Silverblatt interviews. My Bookworm podcast hadn't updated yet, and I was feeling bereft.

He's got several interviews on the Lannan site. I also listened to an interview Silverblatt gave on the Marketplace of Ideas podcast. This was less satisfying, though I think it might have been the source for my Lannan Lead.

I am very fond of the great badger, and many of the things he said gave me delight, but he made a mistake.

He made a couple of mistakes, actually. The central error, though, was in saying, roughly, "Why shouldn't I be arrogant, if my abilities are superior?"

And the answer, also very roughly, is "Because in this same conversation, you have incorrectly defined 'anodyne' as though it had the same meaning as 'placebo', which it has not, and earlier you made another similar mistake."

That is, o great silver badger whom I love, even terribly terribly clever people get things wrong, and it's better if you leave yourself some leeway. A little false modesty serves very well when you find yourself in unexpected need of real modesty.

My wisdom. Hard-earned.


*O Barthes that you were with us now
radfrac_archive: (Ben Butley)
I have never doubted for a minute that a lot of other people are smarter than me, and figure things out quicker, and have grace and statistical norms on their side.
--From "I Bought a Little City", Donald Barthelme

I like the New Yorker Out Loud Podcast. They don't read the current month's story. I would find that redundant, and so far I haven't found most of the current stories very interesting. Instead, a contemporary author chooses a story from the New Yorker archive and reads it aloud. Then they discuss it for a few minutes with the host. The writers are erudite and thoughtful people. They choose good stories and they speak about them well.

I like the mellow-voiced host. She sounds like she's sitting in a cool, dimly-lit room, speaking her thoughts aloud. I like the blurry guitar chords they chose for the intro/extro.

Usually fiction doesn't operate correctly for me when I'm working. It requires the wrong kind of attention. These were often quite short and entirely functional.


radfrac_archive: (bat signifier)
I notice that I'm becoming more easily frustrated than usual when testing survey patterns, which I usually enjoy. The last couple of surveys have seemed to have persnickety skip patterns (that's the seuqence of pages you do or don't see depending on the answers you give.) I think this might be because of the experience of reading theory, in which the usually fluent experience of reading is constantly balked in the struggle for comprehension.

It is easy to find podcasts discussing classical music, but surprisingly difficult to find podcasts of the music itself. Copyright over the recordings I suppose.

I found a podcast about Berio's Sinfonia and felt absurdly sentimental. That was one of those works of art I thought must be the Answer to that unformed question of the human heart, when I was nineteen.

radfrac_archive: (And you wonder...)
Possibly my favorite bit of research information today: "you can harden your conker by rolling it in hand cream."*

In light of such lubrications, what about Peak Oil? I listened to an eight-minute podcast yesterday about Stupid to the Last Drop. Depletion of the oil resources in Alberta &c.

I never read these things. I know what they'll say, and I know I'll probably agree, and there we are. I'm not sure I think "Environmental Armageddon" makes a very sensible subtitle.

Do you reflexively imagine your life post-collapse, the way we used to imagine nuclear war? )

Apparently they found the spot you rub on a locust to make it swarm. Somewhere on the hind legs. They stroke each other into a frenzy.


*Or rather apparently soften the impact. Keep it in mind.
radfrac_archive: (Ben Butley)
Michael Silverblatt's proposition that public radio and television fund-raising should offer phone sex with famous authors as a premium.


Today's coffeespoons:

Radiolab - music and language
Bookworm - Leonard Cohen (recent); Oulipo; Elliot Perlman; John Lahr; AIDS project/Gore Vidal (1990), Nicholson Baker (twice: 1991, 1992); Matthew Stadler (1994), Michael Lally (1997)

About the Leonard Cohen interview. I think you wouldn't like it. Rather, I think it might hurt you. It seemed to me that he spoke, very humbly and simply, with an acknowledgment of himself as somehow used up, and the work he read seems to show this exhaustion.

If there were ever anyone I thought of an inexhaustible, it would be Leonard Cohen. His mortality, and the mortality of his art -- these things are more personal than my own, in a sense. He is vital for all of us. He calmly names himself ruined; it is a pleasant warm-voiced ruin but oh.

Michael Silverblatt is really extraordinary. In the Elliot Perlman interview, he challenges and gently bullies the author into admitting the depth of his own grief and intent. I nearly started crying, because what greater gift could you give an author than to force them to admit the richness of their purpose?

radfrac_archive: (And you wonder...)
My coffee spoons are 28 minutes and 42 seconds long.

Anne Carson (repeat because I missed part of it the other day due to Actual Work) (from Jan 07)
Jennifer Egan (the keep) on the gothic (Dec 06)
Chris Adrian - The Children's Hospital (McSweeney's author!) (Dec 06)
Zadie Smith - On Beauty (Nov 06)
Clifford Chase - Winkie (Nov 06)
W.S. Merwin - Present Company (In tribute to Bee's love of Merwin.) (Aug 06)

So far the two authors who have really been able to match Silverblatt at his level are Anne Carson and Zadie Smith. W.S. Merwin asked *him* a question, which was delightful.

Zadie Smith: "The [contemporary] model of a reader is a person watching a movie, [rather than] an amateur musician playing this piece of music, [the novel]"

This connects for me with the problem I seem to have with recent novels which appear to engage complex ideas, but disappoint me, I think in part because they instead display a series of static moral tableaux.

I believe I completely missed that On Beauty was based on Howard's End.

* * * * * *

One of the interesting problem-solving bits of my work right now is that there are many fragments of badly-transcribed French. My French is not always good enough for reliable translation, so I supplement with an online translator, which is usually enough for job titles and things like that -- except when it isn't, or when the French text is too badly spelled or mis-punctuated to be translatable.

What pleases me is making small grammatical or spelling changes, based on my half-remembered intuitions about the language, which (on my hitting the "translate" button a second time) suddenly resolve the sentence into meaning, so that, for a simple example:

in the service of the fires of Montreal

Becomes, with a minor adjustment, what it seemed obvious it should become:

in the fire prevention service of Montreal

which is less beautiful, but more immediately purposeful. (And then "in the service of the fires of Montreal" belongs to me.)

radfrac_archive: (And you wonder...)
More podcasts. Listened to an interview with William Gibson, Sherman Alexie, Connie Willis, Guy Gavriel Kay, Mohsin Hamid, and sundry others. Studiously avoided listening to the Zen lectures I downloaded.


1. One-word (evocative-abstract-noun) titles for novels seem to have returned to fashion, after an epoch of phrasal titles.

2. In recent interviews (first at the writers' festival, now in online interviews), I have heard at least five writers say "I actually think of myself as a poet," or "I really prefer writing short stories," and then go on to say that they don't really do that kind of writing any more because they are writing novels: their publishers told them to.

My subjective observation from the sample consisting of readings at the writers' festival is that although every novel was competently written, most or all were not as good as the work the authors had done (sometimes years before) in their preferred medium. Sometimes they read the work before they mentioned the genre switch, so I hope this is not entirely my anti-authoritarian bias.

The novels often had a common (also currently fashionable) genesis: the author found an interesting historical anecdote and said, "I could expand that into a novel." And they did. And there the novels are. Little piles of dissatisfied paper. Can it really work, having writers produce a lesser product in a more marketable format?

I mean, well, yes. It seems to. I don't know why I'm convinced that it Can't Go On This Way.

I can't help thinking that it seems like a failure of imagination in an imaginative industry -- marketing, I mean. Not writing.

radfrac_archive: (Default)
Today I listened to a Guardian Unlimited podcast of a lecturer on the Society of Antiquaries (founded 1707). God damn, there's nothing hotter than a dotty old man. Seriously. He says primly that creativity and intellectual life are withering in the universities, and I have to go get a glass of water.

One of the many jewels of the great podcast serpent's hoard is the archive of NPR's All Songs Considered, teeming with concerts you desperately wish you'd been at. This is how I discover how good the Arcade Fire sounds with the wind blowing through it -- that is, in the looser, rougher arrangements and recording quality of a concert -- which I guess makes sense with the technical direction they've been taking -- which you all know more about than I do, but anyway.

And this, from possibly my favorite Quirks & Quarks broadcast ever. (Their new theme music is also sexy):

The life of the Red Swamp Crayfish is a complicated one... Cut for hot male-male pseudo-copulation. )

Podcasts. The only thing that keeps my brain from being completely taken up with NOC and NAICS codes.

End of the school/work day. Home to try to study. Or more probably to write, since I suspect I'm too thick to absorb anything else about Shakespeare tonight. Being in school always has the paradoxical effect of making me want to do more creative work. It stimulates the mind, which would be fine -- which would be ideal -- if I didn't need to spend seven point five hours a day not writing fiction.

And so on. Not complaining; I'm enjoying it. Just bemused, knowing I'm going to try to fit too much in, and get frustrated, but wanting to try it anyway, because too much is much better than not enough.



Aug. 7th, 2007 06:48 pm
radfrac_archive: (Default)
I've added more podcasts to my alertness arsenal. "Bookworm" is very good. The host sounds like Mr. Badger just woken from his winter doze, all pleased and snuffly. Like he's digging for insight around the bumptious roots of the vast trunk of Literature. He has the best interview subjects.

That particular podcast is always exactly twenty-six miuntes and forty-eight seconds long, and has a short instrumental interlude in its middle, on which evidence I assume it is taken from broadcast, and usually observes a newsbreak.

One of the archived Bookworm podcasts was a discussion with the translators of two new volumes of Pierre Reverdy. What they read out sounded extraordinary -- that distinctive voice of surrealism, deadpan, bizarre, abrupt, childish.

It would be asking a great deal to find much material from a second-tier French poet in the local public library, but I did discover Modern French Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology. Its superior side-by-side format (the only really good way to read translations) and its eight poems of Reverdy's, translated by Patricia Terry, have allowed me to embark on another bout of one of my favorite amateur passions -- translation. As with all true amateurs, my utter unsuitability for this task is what makes it uniquely mine.

I read recently (in the New Yorker) that the fashion in repairing rare books has changed. Instead of trying to make mends invisible, tears aer fixed with bright white paper, the better to see your interventions by, my dear.

There must be similar fashions in translation, if I only knew enough translators to cite them. Along the two axes, of fidelity in meaning and fidelity in form and sound, the counters must slide and click and occasionally collide, depending on the intellectual values of the day. If I were to hazard, and it would be hap-, I'd guess that in 1975, the year of Modern French Poetry, meaning was in ascendancy over form. The translations seem close in direct sense, but not very evocative. The new ones, of course, are too new to be got, so I am stuck fiddling with the old, like trying to re-solve someone else's sudoku puzzle. Except that instead of one there are myriad solutions, most of them bad. (What would the universe be like if mathematics worked that way?)

* * * * * *

I was going to offer, if you came up with a really good title for the previous-post-mentioned review blog (it need not be a literal reference to reading, reviewing, or trains*) to let you choose the book (or restaurant or movie, etc.) that I began with -- stipulating right of refusal if I just couldn't bear it. Does that make it more, or less, appealing?


*For example, you could suggest "The train runs backward" or you could as easily suggest "Pink mushrooms fall from the sky". I will consider all.
radfrac_archive: (Default)
Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] stitchinmyside's example, I finally downloaded some CBC Radio 3 podcasts to my Palm. Then my Palm's battery died. It won't even turn on. It lies there, inert, blank, full of untranslateable beauty. I had time to listen to two of the R3-30s and a really interesting discussion with an American poet on "Writers & Company". The end.

My two new favourite songs are:

Christine Fellows - "Vertebrae"

Clear the doorstep of flowers
Throw open the blinds in his empty room
Avert my eyes from his fingerprints
Is there something I'm forgetting...


Knock Knock Ginger, "Love Renee"

I'll quote here, though you can't get the full feel without the bouncy, almost anthemic rock sound of the song:
All the misuses
Of the comma by your hand
Made the closing "Love Renee"
Seem like another order or command

In all uppercase
You wrote "LOVE LOVE LOVE"
Like I would change
My mind
If the Ls were bold enough

Now I'm listening to Radio 3 on headphones in my dad's basement office in Gibsons after 8 hours of travel, some quite good sushi in West Van, some quite good delivery pizza right here in Gibsons, and a raucous game of InGenius.



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