The Zemblan Ministry of Culture

Notes on things I've read and what I got out of them.

Long Island Poem


imageJones Beach, Long Island  from NYMag - (Photo: Robert F. Sisson/National Geographic/Getty Images)

On my birthday to to list was the task of writing a poem about Long Island that wasn’t too snarky. I move to the city tomorrow so here is my farewell.

The potato fields have been salted

Rum Runners drunk and stumbling west for the night

Shouting at each other on the way to the game

LIRR lurching them onward to the rat tunnels

Little screens filled with fruit and flashing messages

Try to capture their energy

But their voices overwhelm

Breach the sandbags on the southern shore

And wash away tract after identical tract

Sadness can not be duplicated

It is a snowflake emotion

Alway unique

If you put two lachrymose girls heading home from a club under a microscope

You will find an entire universe contained within

And likely be arrested for your efforts

They burned Giordano Bruno at the stake

But then again, they were starved for entertainment

And we have two of every kind of team known to man.

 

Wither the Midwestern Novel

I just finished reading My Antonia, and one thing that it reminded me of was how absent the midwest is from contemporary literature  Sure you get a story here and there from a midwestern city but this region of the country seems sadly neglected. And many great american novels are midwestern novels, like Marilyn Robisons Housekeeping and Gilead and Willa Cather’s work and Anderson’s Winesburg Ohio. And one of my favorite poets, James Wright, is deeply entrenched in the region. Who is the great modern midwestern writer?
What happens when you mix the internet (in the guise of rap genius) with biblical annotation (like e-talmud). Yup, the bible with cat pictures.

What happens when you mix the internet (in the guise of rap genius) with biblical annotation (like e-talmud). Yup, the bible with cat pictures.

An idea to explore

Every great novel is a mystery novel. At their core they have some fundamental question that needs to be answered which drives the narrative. Whether it’s as simple as the disappearance of a girl or as complex as the disappearance of God, it is our need to know and the authors ability to ask that makes literature rise above dross. One way to study books is to try to determine what question the book is asking and how it is asking that question.

How to love a heat wave

We spend our lives forgetting about air. We move through it and let it pass over us without a second thought. It is only in extremes that we can see air as an object; when it is filled and when it is absent. 

I hate the heat. Especially when it’s humid. I sweat, I get dehydrated and I want to collapse into a ball and lay still until it’s gone. Heat waves, especially the northeaster moisture rich variety are the worst. The natural world feels like a prison trying to keep you inside and punish you for emerging.

But there is one great thing about heat waves. They make your recognize the air. It is unavoidable. You feel it. You remember that it has density, mass, volume. It is not just background, it takes up space and you exist in that space. It moves and flows and acts like a fluid traveling in parcels throughout the planet. When it is oppressively hot out your body may not be happy, but if you try, you can teach yourself to enjoy the novelty of recognizing what air really is. You can write about hot air, you can not write about pleasant air. So yes, it is terribly disgusting out, but it is also pretty amazing. Enjoy the rest of the heat wave and drink plenty of water. Minds don’t work without bodies. Not yet at least.

Pale Fire, linguists and the joy of Nabokov

I’m just finishing up Pale Fire by Nabokov and it has been such a pleasure to read. It’s the second book I’ve read by him. The first, of course, being Lolita. It’s surprising how few people have read anything by him other than Lolita. I was a little on the fence about that book. It was wonderfully written, but it was hard engaging with the characters. Not to say they need to be likable, but I found the protagonist smug. I owe that book a second chance.

What I’ve picked up from Pale Fire is that Nabokov loved to write. Really, really loved it. You can tell from the text, the sentences, the story, that he gained great joy out of the process and experience. I think that translates directly to the reading experience. And it goes to the fundamental level of writing to language. As a polyglot, and (if not professional then serious amateur) linguist, he has fun with language itself. Pulling apart and concatenating words, moving between languages, obfuscating intentionally to distract you. It’s rare and it’s generous and it’s gorgeous.

It reminds me a lot of Anthony Burgess who was in fact a linguist. There are several other linguists out there that were also writers (most notably Tolkein). I think there’s something fascinating about reading a book by someone with such a deep fixation on language itself, but who also has the creative freedom to play with language. They can, at their best, engaging in writing at all levels from narrative to semiotic, and in doing so, weave a story with texture that is also enjoyable to read. 

Anyway, Nabokov is great and I think he deserves more attention then a quick reading of Lolita. Also, if you want an amusing dissection of literature, check out his essay on Kafka’s metamorphosis, where he puts some serious thought into the entomological nature of the insect Gregor becomes.

nprfreshair:

We would like to know the story of how this photograph came to be.
via Errol Morris

I find great pleasure in seeing and experience things that make no sense, like this photo. Isn’t there something wonderful about seeing something incongruous and embracing the discomfort that follows. I think we lose something when we can easily find the answers to questions. Creativity grows out of not knowing answers.

Which is not to say that we shouldn’t seek answers. Doing so is essential. It’s just to say we should allow ourselves the benefits of spending some time in the dark.

nprfreshair:

We would like to know the story of how this photograph came to be.

via Errol Morris

I find great pleasure in seeing and experience things that make no sense, like this photo. Isn’t there something wonderful about seeing something incongruous and embracing the discomfort that follows. I think we lose something when we can easily find the answers to questions. Creativity grows out of not knowing answers.

Which is not to say that we shouldn’t seek answers. Doing so is essential. It’s just to say we should allow ourselves the benefits of spending some time in the dark.

Celebrity Double Band Names

My favorite band name ever is Camper Van Bethoven. I don’t even know that much about the band, i just love the pun in the name. I keep a list of bands in one of my writing notebooks mostly to amuse myself.

Inspired by marisreview excellent literary band name list, here is my non-definitive list of celebrity double band names. In my heart all of these bands are real and play in dive bars in L.A.

North Dakota Fanning

Nicolas Cage Fight

Tim Gunn Control

Master Jason Bateman

The Remains of the Doris Day

Kevin Hart Attack

Billy Crystal Meth

Hey Michael Cera Cera

Naomi Watts Riot

Sirhan Sirhandgrenade