Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Events from July & August, Part 5

People confronting anti-gay protester
People confronting an anti-gay protester, Jersey City Pride festival

Jersey City Pride Festival
Jersey City Pride festival

Bryant Park before a film
Bryant Park before a film

Washington Sq. Park
In Washington Square Park (this was the first time I'd been in the park since the renovations, which are still underway)

Art on the High Line
Art on the High Line, Chelsea

Flowers on the High Line
Wildflowers, on the High Line

On the High Line
The Empire State Building, from the High Line

Artwork on the High Line
Artwork on the High Line

Events from July & August, Part 4

At Tan Lin's books launch
At Printed Matter, Chelsea, for the book launch of Tan Lin's Seven Controlled Vocabularies and Obituary 2004. The Joy of Cooking (Wesleyan, 2010), and its related texts

Tan and a colleague
Tan Lin and a colleague, at Printed Matter

At Tan Lin's books launch
Tan Lin's mother, Gordon Tapper (center), and a friend, at the Printed Matter book launch

David Ebershoff and Gary Shteyngart at Bryant Park
Writers David Ebershoff and Gary Shteyngart at a midday reading, Bryant Park

Paulus Hook Commemoration, Jersey City
Paulus Hook landing commemoration, Jersey City

Jersey City Puerto Rican Festival
Jersey City Puerto Rican Day festival

JC Puerto Rican FEstival
Jersey City Puerto Rican Day festival

Events from July, Part 3 (Harlem Book Fair)

Artist signing his work @ the Harlem Book Fair
Artist signing his work

Interview @ the Harlem Book Fair
Women being interviewed

Harlem Nobel @ the Harlem Book Fair
"Black Nobel" at the Harlem Book Fair

@ the Harlem Book Fair
Author Freddie Simmons

@ the Harlem Book Fair

@ the Harlem Book Fair
Women checking out the music at the Sexy Soul Oldies booth

@ the Harlem Book Fair
A patron checking out books

@ the Harlem Book Fair
New York Black Librarian Caucus's booth, Harlem Book Fair

Events from July, Part 2

Graffiti show @ the Benrimon Gallery
Graffiti show at the Benrimon Gallery, Chelsea

Graffiti show @ the Benrimon Gallery
One of the pieces at the Benrimon Gallery

DIL (black baseball cap) @ the Benrimon Gallery
Artist DIL (in the black cap), event organizers and friends at the Benrimon Gallery

Graffiti show @ the Benrimon Gallery
One of the large painting-sculptures at the Benrimon Gallery

Graffiti artists posing
Grafitti artists posing, Benrimon Gallery

"The keys to the city"
Two attendees offering me "keys to the City"

Graffiti show @ the Benrimon Gallery
More of the artwork at Benrimon Gallery

Graffiti show @ the Benrimon Gallery
More artwork at the Benrimon Gallery

Graffiti show at the Soapstone Gallery
Graffiti show, Soapstone Gallery

At the Soapstone Gallery
Artwork at the Soapstone Gallery

At the Soapstone Gallery
Artwork at the Soapstone Gallery

At the Soapstone Gallery
Artlovers at the Soapstone Gallery

Fumero, at the Soapstone Gallery
Artist Fumero, at the Soapstone Gallery

At the Soapstone Gallery
Artlovers at the Soapstone Gallery

Friday, August 27, 2010

Events from July, Part 1

A snapshop of my summer thus far:

Passing by a movie set at Astor Place, early July

Dancers, 14th St.
Dancers on 14th Street, mid-July

Watching the World Cup game at DOMA
Watching the World Cup, at DOMA in the West Village

Fence Editor Rebecca Wolff at the journal's launch, Hudson, New York

Tara Betts @ the Phati'tude launch party
Tara Betts at the Phati'tude Launch Party, mid-July

Monday, August 23, 2010


Abbey Lincoln (1930-2010)

Fred Anderson (1929-2010)

Bill Dixon (1925-2010)


Frank Kermode (1919-2010)
From Shakespeare's Language, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2000.

Tony Judt (1948-2010)
From "Meritocrats," New York Review of Books, August 19, 2010, Vol. 57, No. 13.
I came up to King’s College, Cambridge, in 1966. Ours was a—perhaps the—transitional generation. We were past the midpoint of the 1960s—the Mods had come and gone and the Beatles were about to record Sgt. Pepper—but the King’s into which I was matriculated was still strikingly traditional. Dinner in Hall was formal, begowned—and required. Undergraduates took their seats, awaited the arrival of the Fellows, then rose to watch a long line of elderly gentlemen shuffle past them on their way to High Table.

“Elderly” here is no relative term. Led by (former provost) Sir John Shepherd (born 1881), the Emeritus Fellows typically included Sir Frank Adcock (born 1886), E.M. Forster (born 1879), and others equally venerable. One was made immediately aware of the link between a generation of young men born into the postwar welfare state and the world of late-Victorian King’s: the age of Forster, Rupert Brooke, and John Maynard Keynes, exuding a cultural and social self-confidence to which we could never aspire. The old men seemed to blend seamlessly into the fading portraits on the walls above: without anyone making a point of it, continuity was all about us.

Tuli Kupferberg (1923-2010)
Tuli Kupferberg, "A Short History of the Human Race"

Harvey Pekar (1939-2010)
Center: Evan Agostini/Getty Images Harvey Pekar surrounded by his portraits. The artists are, clockwise from top left, Sean Pryor, Dean Haspiel, Joseph Remnant and Josh Neufeld.
Basil Davidson (1914-2010)
From The Fortunate Isles: A Study in African Transformation, Trenton: Africa World Press, 1989.

Carlos Monsiváis (1938-2010)
From "No sin nosotros: los días del terremoto, 1985-2005, México DF: Ediciones ERA, 2005.

Peter Orlovsky (1933-2010)

Snail Poem

Make my grave shape of heart so like a flower be free aired
       & handsome felt,
Grave root pillow, tung up from grave & wigle at
       blown up clowd.
Ear turnes close to underlayer of green felt moss & sound
       of rain dribble thru this layer
       down to the roots that will tickle my ear.
Hay grave, my toes need cutting so file away
       in sound curve or
Garbage grave, way above my head, blood will soon
       trickle in my ear -
       no choise but the grave, so cat & sheep are daisey
Train will tug my grave, my breath hueing gentil vapor
       between weel & track.
So kitten string & ball, jumpe over this mound so
       gently & cutely
So my toe can curl & become a snail & go curiousely
       on its way.
1958 NYC

From Clean Asshole Poems & Smiling Vegetable Songs, Pocket Poets Series #37, City Lights Books ©1978 by Peter Orlovsky.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Espresso Book Machining with DR's Prez + The Novella Is Back

On the web, it's a truism that one thing leads to another...and so, somehow or other, I ended up at the Harvard Crimson website, and came across this brief video interview, on the Crimson's FlyBy blog, with Leonel Fernández Reyna, the President of the Dominican Republic, who was visiting the US a month ago, and happened to stop at the Harvard Book Store to, as he said, load up on books, particularly nonfiction ones. While there, he got to see an Espresso Book Machine (EBM), this one named Paige Gutenborg after its Fall 2009 rollout, in action.

I've been waiting to see and try out one of these print-on-demand machines, another option in the transforming book world, since I first read about it Joseph Epstein's book The Book Business a few years ago. According to Adrian Versteegh's article in the March/April 2010 Poets & Writers, Epstein and Dane Neller co-founded of the New York-based company that debuted the EBM four years ago, and the company

has entered partnerships with the Open Content Alliance, Lightning Source, and Google Books, giving users access to over three million titles, both proprietary and public domain. The "ATM for books," as Neller describes their device, has so far been installed at about twenty-eight locations throughout North America, Australia, the United Kingdom, and Africa, including the University of Michigan, McGill University, and the University of Melbourne. On Demand expects the EBM—which sells for slightly over a hundred thousand dollars, depending on the choice of printer—to have found its way into at least forty independent bookstores by the second quarter of 2010. 

Versteegh notes that so far, universities and their presses, and self-publishing authors have been the major users of such machines, but sales have been low, and for the vanity system, a stigma remains. (As the large, traditional publishing conglomerates vanish, how much longer will this be case?) He adds that most of the books produced by these machines aren't in bookstores, and most readers are encountering POD-ready books online, via Amazon and online publishing organs like Lulu and iUniverse, though given that this is increasingly the way most readers, especially in the US, are coming into contact with books. If more of these machines and databases featuring out-of-print, hard-to-find and rare but desired books become available, it would be a boon for writers and publishers, especially those that focus on the "long tail" approach. Another way of looking at such machines is that a book never need go out of print now, and, should one not have access to an e-reader and want a print book, one can hold one in no time.

Speaking of bookstores, Barnes & Noble, the largest bricks-and-mortar book retailer, is planning to hock itself. With the rise of online bookselling and the popularity of e-readers like the Kindle and the iPad's iBook app, I figured this was coming sooner or later. (Is anyone buying Barnes & Noble's Nook?)  Will one response be the return of small, independent booksellers in some cities, as the Wall Street Journal article above suggests? Is this the twilight of the bookselling conglomerates?


Speaking of books, Taylor Antrim writes in a recent The Daily Beast piece that that beguiling but unloved creature of the American prose fictional world, the novella, is making a comeback. (English 394 students, all of whom have written at least one by the time you graduated, take note!) Sort of. This makes sense to me especially now that people's attention spans and leisure habits (and time) are changing (if not shrinking) to a sizable degree because of digital technologies. Or so some researchers suggest. My own experience, I should say, bears them out.

In addition to Melville House, the novella-focused, Brooklyn-based publisher of old (Leo Tolstoy, Nikolai Gogol) and new (Tao Lin, Imre Kertesz) short novelistic works, and New Directions, which has been publishing novellas for years, including under its Bibelot line and now in its $10 Pearls line, bigger publishers and a number of contemporary authors are getting into the act. Takeaway quote:

But it's not just a pair of small presses championing an underdog form. Even the major houses have proved themselves surprisingly novella-friendly (though they seem to prefer the more approachable term “short novel”). Scribner gave us Don DeLillo's wispy thin Point Omega in February and Ann Beattie's Walks With Men (July) is the most sneakily intelligent read of the summer. No, novellas don't score blockbuster sales—even Stephenie Meyer's new Eclipse novella The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner from Little, Brown put up disappointing numbers in its first week—but they're around, people are writing them (see also Ian McEwan, Rick Moody, Nicholson Baker, newcomer Josh Weil, and others), and they're a reminder in a digital age that a printed book need not be a cumbersome relic. I can slip Walks With Men into my back pocket on the way to the park. A Kindle? Not so much.

Antrim goes on to ask what a novella is. His answer: a pretty short novel that need not be heavily plotted, though neither does a long or very long novel need to be.  He also cites Tao Lin's Shoplifting from American Apparel, a delightfully sad little enigma of a book,  to say that any two of its pages might not stand out, but the cumulative effect is significant, which one should extrapolate to novellas in general. In a short story, of course, any two pages had better stand out, since they might constitute the entire story; in a novel, any twenty pages might not. Antrim ends by discussing Jean-Christophe Valtat's 03, the new French sensation I cannot claim to have read, but which I've read a great deal about. It's a lyrical novella about a suburban teen who empathizes and falls in love with a developmentally disabled girl, which sounds all wrong....

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Court Strikes Down Prop 8 + Bloomberg Defends Cordoba House

What a great piece of news: this afternoon, Judge Vaughn Walker, of the United States District Court of Northern California, issued a careful, thoughful, and earthshaking ruling in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, striking down the heinous Proposition 8, the ballot initiative that two years ago withdrew equal marriage laws in the State of California.  Walker stated in his judgment that Proposition 8 was unconstitutional "under both the due process and equal protection clauses," and ordered "entry of judgment permanently enjoining its enforcement."

The judgment was a tremendous victory for same-sex couples, who had briefly enjoyed equal marriage laws in California after the state Supreme Court ruled, in In re Marriage Cases 43 Cal.4th 757 [76 Cal.Rptr.3d 683, 183 P.3d 384], in May 2008, that California's constitution permitted them.  It was also a victory for the plaintiff's lawyers, Ted Olson, the former Solicitor General under George W. Bush, and David Boies, who had argued on opposing sides in the case representing one of the worst recent rulings by the US Supreme Court, 2000's Bush v. Gore.

California's Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who had previously twice vetoed the state legislature's passage of marriage equality bills, hailed today's ruling as an affirmation of "the full legal protections and safeguards I believe everyone deserves."

You can read the ruling (in .pdf form) here, at GoodAsYou

Opponents of Judge Walker's ruling have already filed appeals, and the case will likely go to the US Supreme Court. According to the New York Times's John Schwartz, Walker's ruling will make it more difficult for the US Supreme Court to overturn on appeal, mainly because of "the careful logic and structure of Judge Vaughn R. Walker’s opinion." With the current conservative quintet, which shows little concern for precedent or legal logic, however, the outcome is unclear, but what is clear is that today's decision was a momentous one, and a huge step forward after several recent steps backward (Maine, New Jersey, New York, etc.) on the marriage equality front.


So Cordoba House, an Islamic cultural center (and not a "mosque," though that would have been fine in my eyes as well) is slated to be built two blocks north of the World Trade Center Ground Zero site, as the New York City Landmarks Commission voted to allow the demolition of the prior building at 45-47 Park Place in lower Manhattan.  The 13-story cultural center, which will include a prayer room and a 9/11 memorial, will rise, once its developer raises $100 million, despite the spate of hateful, misinformed rhetoric by a number of major conservatives, like current post-children and disgraced Republican politicians Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich.

Let us never forget, as we to often do, what comes out of these right-wingers' mouths, how toxic and corrosive it is, and also how this bigotry that they're currently spewing against Muslims and Islam has readily and frequently been applied throughout American history to Black Americans, women, Latinos, Asians and Asian Americans, Jewish people, Roman Catholics, immigrants in general, gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people (cf. above), disabled people, the poor, and on and on. They always find and target scapegoats, with destructive effects, and unless we speak out, we ratify their hate.

As others across the web have pointed out, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, of whom I'm hardly a fan, gave a marvelous, moving speech yesterday defending the Muslim cultural center and the history of immigration and the ideas of religious freedom and pluralism in the US. It was for me one of the high points of his public career, and something that far more of our political figures need to do. To the rest of the pols on the Left, center, and yes, those on the right--who believe in the Constitution and aren't gripped by xenophobia and cynicism--who've been silent, step up to the mic!

Monday, August 02, 2010

August + French Essay Update + Race/Cuba/Dissidence

I can hardly believe August is already here. Just two weeks ago I realized graduation was only a month ago, though it's sometimes felt like I've been home three months and at others like no more than, well, a couple of weeks. July is a hot blur; one minute a cool spring and moderate June were winding down and then the outdoors, at least out here, turned into the inside of a kiln.  I have been writing steadily and drawing (and animating, gardening, baking, etc.), but whenever I've tried to complete entries here, lassitude overwhelms me.  So I still have a number of posts from July to complete; many of them have made it only to the draft stage, but I do want to post them before we get too far into August, and find myself trying to keep up with this month....


Some news about projects and so forth: a while back I mentioned the French essay on Abdellah Taïa's novel Une mélancolie arabe that I toiled over last year, for the Montreal-based journal Spirale. It is now published, as part of the "théâtres de la cruauté: du jamais vu" dossier edited by Nathalie Stephens, whom I want to thank once again for all of her excellent guidance, edits, suggestions, patience, and support. (Many thanks also to Catherine Mavrakakis, whose editorial help was also crucial.) If you read French, you can download Nathalie's introductory essay ("Présentation"), which engagingly explores the dossier's key themes and constellation of ideas and provides an overview of the contributions, which includes essays exploring texts that range from Diamanda Galas's Guilty guilty guilty and David Wojnarowicz's Close the Knives: A Memoir of Disintegration and In the Shadow of the American Dream: The Diaries of David Wojnarowicz, to Maryse Condé's Comme deux frères, to assorted works by Brazilian writer Hilda Hilst. Unfortunately these essays are not accessible by download, but if you're really interested in them and read French, you can order a copy via the link above.

Also, improved versions of my translations of Dominican poet Mateo Morrison's poems, and my translation of one of Congolese-Francophone writer Alain Mabanckou's poems have been accepted and will appear, I believe, later this year in different journals. I haven't done too many translations this summer, but I will eventually post several of the ones I did complete, nearly all by Brazilian writers: poets Ana Cristina Cesar and Paulo Leminski, two major figures in Brazil's late 20th century literary avant-garde, and fiction writer João Gilberto Noll, whom I learned about from colleagues both at and outside the university.  Between this blog and unpublished translations, I think I've translated close to 20 writers thus far, and one hope for the future is that I can get more of these into print and, if possible, be able to translate more complete books (or book-length collections of different writers' works).