NYTBR 10 May 2009: An Extremely Short List

It’s one of the Children’s Lit issues, so self skimmed over pages and pages of children’s book reviews.  Not to mention, she wasn’t interested in a bio of the Ayatollah Khomeini, or anything political, and the crime novels seemed, as a group, just so-so.  Which is why the only books self is interested in reading after perusing the 10 May issue of The New York Times Book Review are these:

  1. After reading David Means’ review of Denis Johnson’s new novel, Nobody Move:
  • Denis Johnson’s National Book Award-winning novel, Tree of Smoke
  1. After reading Martin Filler’s review of Barbara Isenberg’s Conversations with Frank Gehry:
  • an earlier book about Frank Gehry, Frank O. Gehry/Kurt W. Forster

Stay tuned, dear blog readers, stay tuned.

Sentence of the Day: Peter Conrad

“The Portuguese novelist Antonio Lobo Antunes discovered his literary vocation while delivering babies, performing amputations, and carving up corpses.”

—  from Conrad’s review of Antonio Lobo Antunes’ new collection, The Fat Man and Infinity, in the May 4, 2009 issue of The New Yorker

8:47 a.m., Third Tuesday of May (2009)

On TV, a guest on the Today Show is dispensing advice about waterproof mascaras.

Weather is cool this morning. Self should get out there and start planting.

But first, she is looking at artists residencies (!!@@). Not content with having applied last week to xxxx, self considers:

  • Atlantic Center for the Arts: Fee is $850. So, even though self would dearly love to get into the session with Antonya Nelson, no go.
  • MacDowell (already rejected by them once; two rejections likely means banishment)
  • Vermont Studio Center: Heard this one was very “social” — self likely wouldn’t get much work done if she went there.
  • Yaddo (See self’s previous comment on MacDowell)

(Remembering Drew H’s query of a few days ago: Are there places in the Philippines that offer artists residencies? Not a workshop, but an artists retreat? If anyone reading this knows of any, self would be ever so grateful if you wrote in!)

There is a place that sounds wonderful in Castiglioncello, Italy, but you have to pay weekly: 989 Euros. Of course, that is not exorbitant, but self would rather go to a place where she wouldn’t have to pay at all!

So, onward.

While Reading Jim Harrison’s “True North”

This passage made me just stop dead.  It starts at the bottom of p. 116.  And I thought of Ying, of course, but it wasn’t sadness that I felt, but a sort of —  confirmation, I guess you’d call it.  Because I wasn’t there when she passed, and I had to get everything second-hand from Dearest Mum, who was going on and on about how Ying in her last moments kept saying she was cold.  And I realize that I’ve completely, in this post, dropped the pose of the “self.”  Perhaps that’s the effect a Jim Harrison novel has on his readers.

The “Laurie” in the passage is an old love of the narrator’s;  she happens to be dying of cancer.  The narrator has visited her in the hospital.

When Laurie touched her daughter’s hand with a forefinger and her mother gathered up the child we looked at each other and I saw the sight disappear from her eyes.  She didn’t so much die as withdraw, and her body under the sheet was still but there was an aura of departure that made me feel cold despite the warm room.  Instead of pressing the button to call a nurse I listened to an aspect of emptiness I hadn’t heard before as if her passing had stopped all other sound.  I’m sure it couldn’t have been more than a few moments but time had collapsed.  When it was over I had nothing left about which to draw conclusions.  My incomprehension was total.

And that, I am sure, is what dying must feel like —  to the person left behind.  No one, absolutely no one, can pierce reality, just pin a moment to a wall, like Jim Harrison.

Memorable Summer Movies of Yesteryear

Oh my goodness, self has been spending a lot of time on movie websites lately! (It’s all the fault of that “Star Trek” movie — grrr!)

Never fear, dear blog readers: self went through similar phase when Ed Norton made three films in one year (2006?): “The Illusionist,” “Down in the Valley,” and “The Painted Veil.”  But she recovered pretty well  —  after about six months.

This evening, however, she has a genuinely interesting post to share, and that is: an article she found in The New York Times, asking movie directors to name their favorite summer movies.

Although for the most part the directors name films so obscure that self had no idea what they were talking about (Who saw “Events,” Atom Egoyan’s pick for the summer of 1970? Or “Melody,” Carlos Cuaron’s pick for the summer of 1971? Admittedly, most blog readers were probably not even born in the early 1970s — !!), self does know “Stardust Memories,” which was Lynn Shelton’s pick for the summer of 1980 (but even back then self was already beginning to lose her admiration for Woody . . . ).

The only person she wholeheartedly agrees with is Michael Almereyda (who directed the only film version of “Hamlet” that self liked, the one with Ethan Hawke and a very pretty actress, Diane Venora, playing his mom), who picked “The Matrix” (summer of 1999). In his explanation for why the film is memorable, he points to the scene where Carrie Ann Moss kisses a moribund Neo (he’s been shot point-black by evil Agent) and restores him to life. Here are Almereyda’s words:

Does free will exist? And if so, what’s love got to do with it?

I felt this coming into focus during the defiant kiss Ms. Moss delivers to the unconscious Neo — the only kiss in the movie — after Neo, in the mirror world of the Matrix, has been shot, point-blank, which by rights should persuade his brain to give up the digital ghost and die. Neo is shown waking up in the movie many times, but this kiss is of Sleeping Beauty magnitude. Love brings him back to life and grants him the certainty to break free of the Matrix’s “codes and controls,” its illusions and assaults.

Wow, that is just so, so — philosophical! Self could never explain her attraction to “The Matrix” in that way — and this is a woman who watched it with son three times!

Here are self’s own favorite summer movie picks. Is it just coincidence, or is it really the case that the summers when she went ga-ga for the movies were also among her happiest?  Self’s first pick is George Lucas’  “American Graffiti,” which she saw in Manila, with her Dear Departed Dad.  She still thinks of that as the quintessential summer movie (even though summer in Manila falls in the months we consider spring here —  that is:  March, April, May): the drive-ins! The drag races in the desert! Wolfman Jack! The young Harrison Ford!

Other summers, and other movies: Read the rest of this entry »

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