"The Woman in the Dunes" by Kobo Abe
It seems to me that the Japanese really like trapping people. In this book, a guy goes to some sand dunes and gets trapped. Some sand people put him in the bottom of a sand pit with this woman and he's supposed to help the woman shovel sand pretty much forever. A lot is made of sand, like how sand is kind of the opposite of water. I don't know, I think that's my own interpretation. Very early in the book, the point is made that sand had to come from something and that, before sand, there wasn't sand.
The guy seems incredulous all the time. He keeps asking the woman why she would want to spend her entire life shoveling sand, why she doesn't want to leave her sand pit, but she never really answers him. He gets really made at her. Soon, they start having sex.
The guy tries to escape every chance he gets. Pretty much the entire book is him trying to get out of the sand pit. He makes it out at one point, but then gets trapped again. His persistence is funny, depressing, and a little inspiring. I think he comes to realize that his life is better inside the sand pit, with the woman, than outside of the sand pit, without the woman, because there are a bunch of flashbacks when he's really dehydrated about how he "contracted" a "psychological venereal disease" from a prostitute or something in his life outside the sand pit. By the end of the book, I'm not sure if he really wants to escape even though he says he does.
Here are my favorite sentences:
Perhaps he would feel better if he slapped the naked woman.
"The Heart is a Lonely Hunter" by Carson McCullers
It took me maybe seven (7) months to finish this book. I started it in August when I went to visit my grandmother in Columbus, Georgia, where my mom was born and where Carson McCullers was born. I went to Carson McCullers's house. There is a picture of it on my cell phone. For a long time I thought her name was Carson McCuthers.
I read half the book then put it away for a while then finished it later. I read somewhere that Carson McCullers's real first name is "Lula", but she renounced her feminism or something and decided to go by Carson instead. Carson is her middle name. One of the characters, "Mick", a girl, kind of seems androgynous for parts of the book. I think she's supposed to be a somewhat autobiographical representation of the author. Mick enjoys fighting and being "tomboyish" and loses her virginity to a Jewish boy who runs away afterward. At one point, Mick's little brother, "Bubber", shoots a girl in the face. After that, they don't call him "Bubber" anymore.
There are a lot of characters in this book, like "Infinite Jest", but the main character is, I think, a deaf-mute named Singer. At one point while reading the book I thought 'there is nothing sadder than a sad deaf-mute'. At the beginning of the book, Singer lives with his best friend, another deaf-mute named Antonapoulos, but then Antonapoulos goes away for some reason. Everyone in the town really likes Singer and they come and talk to him despite his being a deaf-mute, but, secretly, I guess, Singer doesn't like them that much. He only likes Antonapoulos. He spends a lot of time worrying about Antonapoulos, sending him gifts, and writing him letters that he never sends. (I think Antonapoulus was illiterate. I'm pretty sure he was.) At one point, the author 'reveals' a letter written by Singer to Antonapoulus. The letter is the saddest part of the book, I think, because Carson McCullers sets it up by saying how much Singer misses Antonapoulus, then, in the letter, Singer just 'rambles', about 'nothing'. It seems like Singer's loneliness is palpable here or something. I read this part on a subway and almost started crying.
Here are some of my favorite sentences, maybe in the comments section someone can arrange them to make a poem:
Since 1928 he had not enjoyed music.
I think this is my favorite book. I think this for a number of reasons, but I like the circumstantial reason of my mom's/Carson McCullers's birth place the best. Seems good, like this being my favorite book is not up to me. Also seems like a book not that many people read, might make me seem cool/different or something. It's got a pretty good title.
Phase 1 is Complete
I sent in my final MFA application this week. These are the schools I applied to, in alphabetical order:
The application process took roughly three (3) months.
Here's a graph:
Also, David Fishkind blogged about meeting me, my chapbook, and every poem in my chapbook.
Should I Go To This?
If five (5) or more people type "yes" in the comments section, I will go to this, alone, and blog about it later.
Turnstyle Reading Series @ CUNY Graduate Center (2-9-10)
This reading took place at 365 5th "Avenue", but I went to 365 5th "Street" instead. I went to 365 5th Street and it didn't exist. With little/no deliberation/hesitation, I calmly took a cab to 365 5th Avenue, found the reading, and went to the reading. I felt slightly proud of this decision making - like I had been "imbued", temporarily, with exceptional problem solving and stress reduction skills that would be useful in a standardized testing situation or a treasure hunt, or something. I missed the first two readers.
There were readers from each of the CUNY MFA Programs. I applied to all of the CUNY MFA Programs except City College because I didn't know they had an MFA program. Had I known, I would have applied. I tried to think of this reading as "scouting". Here is one sentence for each reader I saw:
Karen Clark read a poem about going to a Tina Turner concert.
Amy Veach read a story about the Netherlands.
John Weir read a story that included an "emo musical" at one point.
Ken L. Walker referred to the F train as a "pleasure worm".
Kaitlyn Greenidge read a story about a family that, as part of a science experiment, raised a monkey, from birth, as a sibling to normal human kids. (This may have been autobiographical.)
Robert Wargas was "a private investigator, a boxer, and a journalist before joining the Queens College MFA community."
Kevin Mullany read a poem called "The Rape of A Bicycle".
Jan Heller Levi wore a scarf, I think, maybe two.
"Eat When You Feel Sad" by Zachary German
I bought this book at "Spoonbill and Sugartown" while it was snowing heavily and I received a 20% discount because they had an "impromptu" "snow sale". I started reading this book at "New York Muffins" where I ate a muffin and used the bathroom. Here is something I "tweeted" while at "New York Muffins". I finished this book the next day at NYU's library while eating a clif bar and drinking a coffee.
This book made me feel like I was playing "The Sims" computer game, or maybe like I was watching someone play "The Sims" computer game. This book is about "Robert". I just read an interview with Zachary German and he said that he split up all compound sentences and tried to make every sentence a fact. I had previously read excerpts from this book on bearparade.com and I was greatly excited by a moment in which the author inserts himself, in the first person, into the story. This moment was not in the book. I think this moment made me want to read Kurt Vonnegut and feel "young and naive" again. I never read "Slaughterhouse-Five".
Here is my favorite part of the book:
It's Thanksgiving. Robert is walking. He is next to train tracks. He is smoking a cigarette. He sees people. He is walking towards the people. He is near the people. The people are boys. One of the boys says "Hey, you have an extra cigarette?" Robert looks at the boy.
There is also a good scene with a car crash and a scene in which Robert questions his sexuality. Reading this book made me feel like I feel when I watch the movie "Kids", I think.
This review seems relevant.
"Yes, Master" by Michael Earl Craig
Of Michael Earl Craig, Matthew Rohrer has said, on two different occasions, about two months apart, in front of a roomful of people, "He works as a farrier, one who shoes horses." I have seen maybe two or three pictures of Michael Earl Craig and I imagine him looking like this:
No I don't. I don't know. Maybe.
Michael Earl Craig is probably really funny. Funny like Matthew Rohrer is funny. Michael Earl Craig went to Amherst. I'd like to go to Amherst. I applied to Amherst. I hear back in a few weeks. Michael Earl Craig is part of the reason I applied to Amherst. Tao Lin once asked him a really good question. Michael Earl Craig's poetry makes me want to do things that I sometimes feel like doing like drink whiskey, alone, in moderation, on a really windy night, while wearing blue sweatpants, and, read Michael Earl Craig's poetry. It's hard for me to classify "Yes, Master" as anything other than "ideal", I think. I wished it would go on forever.
While I was reading "Yes, Master" I kept track of my favorite lines/images, but there were too many so I stopped. Here are two of my favorite lines/images from the first half of the book:
A good anvil does not move, ever.
a bird no bigger than a grenade.
One poem is titled "Right Eye Is Hampered". One poem is about military officials crying and embracing while wearing wristwatches. My favorite poem is "Patron of the Buses". I'm going to type it and color code it to indicate what different sections reminded me of:
"Patron of the Buses"
I Haven't Done a Link Post Yet
This is cool.
This is good. I have discovered Chelsea Martin.
Those are some things I read this morning.
I made $1.80 by selling my chapbook at St. Mark's Bookshop.
"Gun, With Occasional Music" by Jonathan Lethem + Reading @ NYU (1-29-10)
Jonathan Lethem read at NYU. He teaches at NYU. Before the reading I found this drawing by Matthew Rohrer's son:
I talked to Matthew Rohrer before the reading, but I don't remember if anything of note was said. Jonathan Lethem read from his new book, "Chronic City". There were funny parts, people laughed. I was kind of reminded of "Seinfeld" in that a series of inconveniences and coincidences built upon each other to lead to 'ludicrous' dialogue. At one point I was 'overcome' by the idea of killing an Eagle by throwing a mouse at it really hard. I think I laughed out loud at this, but it was appropriate because Jonathan Lethem was reading a funny passage at the time. Afterwards I overheard him say that he's read every drug novel ever.
Gun, With Occasional Music
While reading this book and after reading this book, I listened to this, watched this, and read an interview in "The Missouri Review", although I'm not sure to what end because none of these things mentioned "Gun, With Occasional Music". These things talked about his recent work, which is far more critically acclaimed, I think. Maybe I should have read "Chronic City" for relevancy purposes. At one point, it was made aware to me that he wrote a short story about wearing an exoskeleton that gives you the powers of Michael Jordan. I want to read this.
'That said', "Gun, With Occasional Music" is a really good book title. The book has talking animals and genetically altered babies called "Babyheads". The babyheads are really pissed about being babyheads, so they sit around and drink all day in "Babybars", but they still wear jammies and onesies and, I think, talk in baby voices. Here's a really good sentence:
I thought about apes killing kangaroos, and maybe kangaroos killing sheep.
The book is narrated by a Private "Inquisitor" and he goes around asking a lot of questions in the future, when questions are deemed offensive. He spends the entire book trying to solve a crime. He is somewhat sexually impotent because his penis nerve endings were replaced with vagina nerve endings for some reason. He solves the crime. I'm not really sure what the crime was. The crime feels abstract and inconsequential for ~95% of the book. I think it was a murder or something. The characters did a lot of drugs, but the drugs were legal most of the time.
Lydia Davis @ NYU (1-28-10)
Lydia Davis is vaguely distressing to me. When I studied abroad in Paris, she spoke to my fiction workshop. I don't know how this happened. I remember thinking at the time that she was, perhaps, a little bit pretentious. After she spoke to our class, I walked away quickly and ate the French version of a salami sandwich by myself. I think the title "Samuel Johnson is Indignant" is the worst book title ever - I thought this then and I think this now - but I think it would be good for me to write things and title them "_________ is Indignant" over and over again until I get sick of it, but keep doing it, then stop, and then start doing it again maybe five years later.
I read my first Lydia Davis story approximately two years ago, in preparation for her speaking to my class in Paris. I don't remember what it was or anything about it. I bought her recently published "Collected Stories" at 'The Strand' and read 66 pages in preparation for the NYU reading. Her wikipedia page seems disproportionate to her literary career/importance, or at least my perception of it.
Lydia Davis is vaguely distressing to me, I think, because many of her stories aren't plot driven, it seems. It's hard to say how they're constructed. I can't identify their construction. The construction is 'transparent', maybe. They seem like very elaborate character/philosophical sketches that still manage to be 'worthwhile' and 'significant' and 'intriguing'. If a teacher asked me to write a short story in the style of Lydia Davis, I would have a very hard time doing that. I could read more maybe.
There was one story in the 66 pages that I read before the NYU reading that I liked a lot, much more than the other ones that I read. It's called "Break it Down". I've read it two or three times now. It's about a guy who is trying to count up the monetary value of the time he spent with this one girl, whom he seems desperately in love with, though she doesn't seem as in love with him. The story begins in third person, then alternates between a hypothetical second person and first person, which kind of feels like a Borges exercise or something. I like Lydia Davis's 'reckless disregard' of sentences in this story. Sometimes a sentence lasts for an entire page, it seems. I also think that Lydia Davis does a really good 'job' of writing as a man. The first time I read it, I got a 1/2, non-abstract, boner, I think. I remember thinking "this is so good" and wanting to show it to someone else in the NYU gym lobby, preferably a girl, but I didn't do this.
Lydia Davis read at NYU and I took some notes to blog about in a homemade moleskin notebook, including, I think, the phrase "metaphysical bleakness", but I accidentally dropped the homemade moleskin into a toilet at the NYU library after I pooped in it. I still have the notebook, but it's wrapped in paper towels and I'm afraid to unwrap it. I remember the first piece she read was an autobiography based on facts that people had 'fucked up' re: her. For example, one part of the 'piece' was called "Occupation" or something and she listed a bunch of occupations that she's been 'accused' (falsely) of 'holding', some of which were humorous/ironic. I feel like John Ashbery could also get away with this kind of 'piece'. She read some other things, then the last thing she read was a series of 10 'shorts' inspired by/originated from parts of her forthcoming translation of "Madame Bovary". The phrase "metaphysical bleakness" was used in reference to the translation process, I think. She signed my book.
"The Ancient Book of Hip" by D.W. Lichtenberg + Reading @ Book Thug Nation (1-23-10)
I took one to two shots of whiskey, alone, on a street in Brooklyn, before this reading. I 'traded' a brand new paperback copy of Jonathan Lethem's "Gun, with Occasional Music" and two dollars for the first edition hardcover of the same book, which I found on a shelf. Shortly after this transaction, someone told me to read Donald Barthelme, and I said I would. I spent roughly 15 minutes waiting for someone to open the complimentary bottle of wine before I realized that it was a 'screw-top' bottle of wine and that it had already been open for an indefinite amount of time.
Someone read before D.W.L. but I don't remember his name. He was kind of old. He said that he had written a book called "Tiny Fucking Tim", which seemed pretty sweet. I think he almost started crying during his reading, but it was hard to tell. I remember thinking during his reading that it would be 'totally sweet' if "hockey" were, abstractly, a genre of literature, and I became very disappointed when I realized that this would probably never happen. I also noticed that it's really hard to take a drink of water in front of a crowd of people without looking 'retarded'.
D.W.L. read a story that I think I'd heard part of before on youtube, then he read some poems from his book "The Ancient Book of Hip", which is about Williamsburg, primarily, which is where the reading took place. In the author bio, D.W.L. writes that "he hopes one day to meet J.D. Salinger." Sometimes he removes the spaces in between words in his poems and at one point while reading this book I forgot if "New Zealand" was/is a state or a country.
This was my second time seeing D.W.L read. The first time was at the NYU Undergraduate Reading in December, which I read at. I sat next to D.W.L. at that reading and I remember thinking that his 'demeanor' kind of reminded me of 'The Beastie Boys'. After I read, he gave me a thumbs up, so I 'presented' him with a copy of my book when I saw him this time (@ Book Thug Nation, 1-23-10). He reviewed it favorably via twitter.
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AJW is the author of numerous poems and short stories, both online and in print. He makes collages here. He is from Wilmette, Illinois. He is an Eagle Scout.
Pop Serial 4
Pop Serial 3
The Broome Street Review (print)
Juked, Juked 2
NYU Prize Thing
HRM Literary/Arts Journal
HTMLGiant Author Page
Thought Catalog Author Page
People I've Interviewed:
Matthew Rohrer again
Michael Earl Craig
Harriet Alida Lye
in alphabetical order
Her Royal Majesty
Timothy Willis Sanders