“I’m wrecked,” she bragged, as though it took a special talent to get stoned. Lord, spare me these dimpled darlings who are always congratulating themselves on not having any thoughts or feelings.”—After Claude by Iris Owens — another from Sadie’s library — is in the top ten weirdest books I’ve ever read. I described it to RC yesterday as like a New York Beyond the Valley of the Dolls directed by a lady Woody Allen but I’m afraid that doesn’t even quite capture its weirdness. However this line from it is not weird, just perfect.
“For me, it’s what I want from The New York Times on a weekend,” said Singer, 45, her voice picking up. “I want a good, sexy, neurotic story about New York literary life in the Seventies. I want the New York Review of Books parties. I want a little Farrar, Strauss and Giroux. You have that literary dream of New York. It’s got it all.”—Sally Singer, talking about the excerpt of Sempre Susan by Sigrid Nunez that will run in T right around the time we finish editing Sigrid’s episode of Cooking the Books! This is also what I want from the New York Times on a weekend, and from life in general.
I’ve been working on this project for the past couple of months where I try and develop the habit of reading poetry. The idea was to gradually ramp up from one poem a day to a book of poetry a day for a week. So far I am only having luck with the latter on the subway because you have to give 100% of your attention to poetry. But a book is easier than a single serving of poem because it takes a while to get into the correct brain-rhythm.
I like how Kim Addonizio plays with cliche, finding beauty and new meaning in careworn phrases, or just reminding you that the reason some expressions are so overused is that they’re perfect. For example, from Forms of Love: “I love how you get me./I love your pain, it’s so competitive./I love how emotionally unavailable you are.”
I make fun of this song a lot, because it is ridiculous. “Cats and babies ‘round her feet, and all are fat and none are thin …. she may bake some brownies today.” However you have to admit it is very very good at painting a portrait of the the Laurel Canyon lifestyle! This morning Marisa and I had the idea of rewriting a version of it to be about Brooklyn; here is the verse I wrote:
"Jenna takes her old tote bag/and fills it with what’er she pleases/her coop shift is such a drag/but worth it for the half-priced cheeses/the register is where she works/ she chats there with a nice lesbian/saying "we should unionize"/she is a lady of the Brooklyn"
Submissions for verses about two additional Brooklyn Ladies are requested. Sample themes: the Flea, vintage bikes, mustaches, coffeeshops, Choice Market, Brooklyn Larder, Frankie’s, Franny’s, brunch
“Publishers Weekly doesn’t like my work very much. Before you roll your eyes and/or get all excited at the prospect of a classic “I can’t believe I got a bad review!” hypersensitive-author meltdown, let me hasten to add that I have absolutely no interest in refuting anything they’ve ever written about my books. I mean, I believe in my work, and “reads like a barely-dressed-up B movie screenplay” does strike me as being a bit on the harsh side, but I’m hardly an objective party here. (Also, I kind of like B-movie screenplays.)”—
This is from a nice piece by Emily Mandel about how disputing your bad reviews is never a cute look. I liked this part especially because it gets at the hideous tyranny of PW reviews. People who’ve worked in publishing know not to take these unbylined reviews seriously because they are generated somewhat haphazardly — PW’s goal is to be encylopedic, not definitive, sort of like Pitchfork — by an uneven stable of mostly young people who mostly work in publishing, all of whom have their various axes to grind and many of whom dream of one day having a book published (so: they are me in 2003). People who don’t work in publishing have no way of knowing this, so they read the snarky, often factually inaccurate review a bitter intern crapped out in half an hour after skimming the beginning, middle and end of the novel someone worked on for five years — because it’s the first thing on Amazon (yet another reason to be mad at Amazon) — and they think, “Wow, that novel sounds terrible!” PW reviews might as well be blog comments, except they affect the amount of your book that ends up getting ordered by chains. HORRORSHOW.
Um, not that I’m disputing PW’s review of my book, because — as Emily Mandel articulates so gracefully — that is not a cute look.
As 1969 plunged on, I was becoming increasingly worried about Brian [Jones]. I could feel something very nasty coming. So I suggested to Mick that we throw the I Ching about Brian and see what we should do.
It was just dusk when we threw the coins. The reading I got was: Death by water. I turned to Mick and said, “It’s very odd, isn’t it?” And he said, “My God. Do it again.” I did it again, and I got the same thing.
Thanks to Sadie I am reading Faithfull, Marianne Faithfull’s 1994 co-written autobiography, of which this is an archetypal passage. A few pages later we learn that Sympathy for the Devil was inspired by Marianne’s giving Mick The Master and Margarita: “he devoured it in one night.”
In related Googling I also just found this tidbit, to which I, Mariannelike, assign witchy tarot astrological pagan significance: Merry Clayton, the unforgettable “Rape! Murder! It’s just a shot away!” soloist on Gimme Shelter, also sang backup on CORNFLAKE GIRL. Yeah, you know it: “And the man with the golden gun, thinks he knows so much …”
Yesterday I did a cursory survey of what people think is the “best” Joni Mitchell album and no one mentioned Clouds. What is the “best” anything depends on what mood you’re in, which is why it’s good that artists’ styles and concerns and even their voices can change a lot over the course of their careers. (Though obvs it can be jarring when you really loved X and now they’re doing Y, especially where Y = jazz).
This is my favorite early Joni Mitchell song; here I described it as a “a sly, catty portrait of a compulsive seducer” but it’s so much more than that. It’s the rare dis song about a vain celebrity that makes you understand why said celebrity was irresistible, in spite of everything. This song also reminds me of Liz Phair’s Canary (“I clean the house/I put all your books in an order” : “I keep your house in fit repair/I dust the portraits daily”). These are songs about being in thrall to a dude and resenting his power over you, and how you can take back a bit of that power by describing the situation. A bit. Never all of it.
“I did have an amazing experience last year: I had the von der Heyden fellowship at the New York Public Library. It’s like The Price Is Right super mega-win for fiction writers. You get this office at the New York Public Library; it’s like nerd Valhalla. I had a real desk, with drawers that opened soundlessly…people would bring you cookies, you could order any book you wanted…now I’m back in my old Starbucks. It’s like a video game where you have a superpower for a little while and then it runs out.”—Karen Russell’s novel Swamplandia! is out today. I interviewed her for Goodreads; I like these interviews because the questions about writing habits are mandatory and I will always find other people’s writing habits fascinating. It’s amazing anything ever gets written considering all the time people spend feeling guilty about all the not-writing they’re doing.