Friday, January 29, 2010


My friend and Portland neighbor Nicole Georges has posted this drawing she did for a magazine a couple of years ago.
And you kind of can't beat the The Onion's obituary for J.D. Salinger
CORNISH, NH—In this big dramatic production that didn't do anyone any good (and was pretty embarrassing, really, if you think about it), thousands upon thousands of phonies across the country mourned the death of author J.D. Salinger, who was 91 years old for crying out loud. "He had a real impact on the literary world and on millions of readers," said hot-shot English professor David Clarke, who is just like the rest of them, and even works at one of those crumby schools that rich people send their kids to so they don't have to look at them for four years. "There will never be another voice like his." Which is exactly the lousy kind of goddamn thing that people say, because really it could mean lots of things, or nothing at all even, and it's just a perfect example of why you should never tell anybody anything.
On the one hand, it's terrible to lose two greats on the same day. On the other hand, as long as you've got to leave this life, why not go hand-in-hand, temporally speaking, with another luminary? I'm fascinated with these accidental pairings: Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. Zinn and Salinger. Who else?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


The brand-new issue of Avery Anthology arrived yesterday with one of my stories in it.  One of the great things about Avery is that it is gorgeously designed, with elegant font choices and illustrations for every story (why do so many literary journals look like they were laid out in Word, with a discount abstract postcard for cover art?) Another great thing is that it's only ten dollars. Another great thing is that I really love the fiction they publish. So I'm stoked to be included. My story is called "Devices." Here's the first paragraph:
Once there were an artist and an inventor.

The artist and the inventor live together in the first floor of a building that used to be a saloon in the 1800s and now has been painted dark blue with purple and red trim so it looks like a saloon in a traveling carnival. They are right up next to the sidewalk, and the inventor is always drawing the curtains shut and the artist is always opening them. The artist needs light. The inventor needs privacy. In other words, they are deeply in love. But both of them are a little bit more in love with the artist.

I originally wrote it to be read out loud, so on the page it is a brisk read. If you want more, here's where you can get this Avery 5, which also contains Steve Almond* and Claire Hero, in whose company I have not been since 1989, when we were in eighth grade together in Northfield, MN. True! I have no idea if she remembers me, but her name is caught forever for no reason in my memory, which has a remarkable retention of useless pre-millennial trivia and arcana and alarmingly vast gaps ever after. (I want to blame the brain-destroying recalled aerosol grout sealer I bought from Home Depot when I tiled my bathroom floor. But it's really probably the internet.)

(*Here is Steve Almond deconstructing Toto's "Africa" at the Tin House tenth-anniversary reading in Portland last summer. I was there and it slew me.)

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


This evening I read Maggie Nelson's book Bluets by the fire, all the way through. It's a beautiful little book, only 95 pages, lyric nonfiction, an exploration of the color blue, sight and perception, memory, and heartbreak. I don't know if these excerpts will convey how lovely the whole of it is, but flipping back through, here are a couple of parts I re-read even the first time:
36. Goethe describes blue as a lively color, but one devoid of gladness. "It may be said to disturb rather than enliven." Is to be in love with blue, then, to be in love with a disturbance? Or is the love itself the disturbance? And what kind of madness is it anyway, to be in love with something constitutionally incapable of loving you back?

37. Are you sure--one would like to ask--that it cannot love you back?

38. For no one really knows what color is, where it is, even whether it is. (Can it die? Does it have a heart?) Think of a honeybee, for instance, flying into the folds of a poppy: it sees a gaping violet mouth, where we see an orange flower and assume that it's orange, that we're normal.
And later:
193. I will admit, however, upon considering the matter further, that writing does do something to one's memory--that at times it can have the effect of an album of childhood photographs, in which each image replaces the memory it aimed to preserve. Perhaps this is why I am avoiding writing about too many specific blue things--I don't want to displace my memories of them, nor embalm them, nor exalt them. In fact, I think I would like it best if my writing could empty me further of them, so that I might become a better vessel for new blue things.

... 195. Does an album of written thoughts perform a similar displacement, or replacement, of the "original" thoughts themselves? (Please don't start protesting here that there are no thoughts outside of language, which is like telling someone that her colored dreams are, in fact, colorless.)...

I looked down to find that I was dressed all in blue--sweater, jeans, scarf, even socks. My favorite blue is the blue of winter light, specifically in the evening, specifically with snow, and the blue I've seen in Norway, both in the winter when the sun barely rises and in the summer when it hardly sets. My least favorite blue is the wedgewood-ish blue of the kitchen in a Victorian shotgun apartment I once lived in; all the way back, it was the saddest room in the house. Never paint a kitchen blue. (This one came that way.)

Thursday, January 7, 2010


My New Year's Eve indulgence. I have only ever seen this treat at Minneapolis restaurants, but they all seem to have it. The Vietnamese places, the Taiwanese places, the Chinese places: they've all got the cream-cheese wontons on the appetizer menu. That is right: deep-fried and stuffed with nothing but cream cheese. This may be the Minnesota equivalent of fusion cuisine.

Served with a glossy red dipping sauce that seems to be part ketchup, part sweet-n-sour, part cherry Kool-Aid. My love for them is equal only to my subsequent regret.