Sunday, January 27, 2013

Article Reading Group


“Roses” by David Sims for Visionaire #40 via the Vamoose
Dutch still lifes 4 eva

  • Had you realised how many of John Jeremiah Sullivan's articles were available to read on gq.com? You probably had because they've been there for ages but I totally hadn't. It was/is a delightful surprise. I have a raging author crush on him and am earnestly trying to consume everything he has ever written. GQ is being very helpful which is kind of weird. I don't understand GQ at all - GQ US has published some really great essayists (JJS, Elizabeth Gilbert, Edith Zimmerman) but I've flicked through maybe one copy of the paper magazine (the UK version) and it was just vapid trash. Why such a discrepancy GQ?? You clearly can recognise great writing... Anyway, straying from the point here. I don't know if I could pick a favourite JJS piece but Violence of the Lambs (the animal kingdom has had enough and is beginning to fight back) and Upon this Rock (the author attends a Christian rock festival) are excellent places to start if you are looking for a way into his work. My annotations: Stingrays! RVs!
  • Speaking of raging author crushes, Roxane Gay's short story Break All the Way Down is brilliant and brutal and so compassionate.
  • Personally I think this article has been a little bit over hyped by the internet but it is still a good read. The collision of egos that was inevitably going to result from Paul Schrader, Brett Easton Ellis (eugh eugh and double eugh), Lindsay Lohan and James Deen working together was always going to make enjoyable copy. Actually, scratch that about James Deen, he seems to have been the only professional on set most of the time.
  • Why Rape Isn't like Sunburn - because sometimes you find out that Benedict Cumberbatch is going to be playing Julian Assange and you just know that they're going to make him out to be an awkward hero and gloss over the rape allegations and this is going to reaffirm everyone's belief that he is a put upon victim of circumstance and female malevolence because women are liars and rape is relative and while he is innocent until proven guilty his victims don't deserve the same courtesy or a fair trial and you are full of rage and The Vagenda gets that and raises salient points.
Any recommendations of your own? I have caught up on a lot of sleep this weekend and I feel mostly human again. I am raring to go and full of enthusiasm (more or less). I want to be inspired. I also want to be one of those people who doesn't really need sleep and wakes up at 5am bursting with energy - they have so much more free time. You can't have everything you want though, I suppose, and sleep is one of life's greatest free pleasures. 

Chuck x

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Noted


Jenni Spark's notebooks are much more presentable than mine. Must try harder. Although she makes 'price comparison website' look cool which is obviously not possible so I might have set the bar a bit high. My scribblings, shopping lists and inane notes to self are not going to measure up against lettering, doodles or illustrations aesthetically. Still...

She does excellent Music Monday blog posts with illustrated song lyrics and I'm seriously considering one or both of her London/NY maps. You should probably check her out.

That (almost) neatly segues into Real LifeTM request - I'm going to New York, eeeeeeeee, and I want advice/tips/places to eat and shop and have fun. I'm more or less a child of the internet and I have limited trust in guide books, I want all the personal recommendations I can get.

Second, less glamorous piece of housekeeping: I have a bunch of odds and ends on ebay for sale tomorrow. I'm probably posting this a bit late but it has been a deeply weird week.

My incoherent fondness to one and all,
Chuck x

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Brunette

Shot by Inez and Vinoodh
Styled by Joe McKenna, Makeup by Aaron de Mey, Hair by Didier Malige

I went brunette this weekend. In a disappointing (and surprising) revelation, it turns out that hair colour wasn't the only thing standing between me and Kristen Stewart-ness. This was a blow. Over the last few weeks and months I have developed a deep and abiding lady crush on K-Stew. Watching Snow White and the Runaways within a fortnight of each other pushed me over the edge. She is beautiful and grouchy and has wonderful hair. She also has an admirable fondness for trainers and backpacks and slub wear. I find her sullenness charming. I would even defend her acting skillz, Twilight obviously excluded, Adventureland is sweet. This is real.

I'm not moping though. It wasn't the hair colour but I'm sure it is achievable. The brows maybe? The make up? I just have to nail those and we'll be indistinguishable. The bad attitude came naturally after all.

Chuck x

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Puppy Love

"Whenever I go for walks, I troll for love from anonymous dogs. First, I ask the human owner if I can pet their dog. Then I get down on my knees and the dogs love me up and lick the wax out of my ears. I nuzzle their necks and practically give them a hickey. What I'd really love to do is to lie on a field with a hundred dogs and just roll around and have an orgy of affection. I'd prefer that to a human orgy."

Jonathan Ames

It's maybe weird that the single passage I have most personally identified with in my recent internet history was written by a middle aged man in 2003. What can I say? Mr. Ames and I clearly see eye to eye on the topic of our canine friends. His Slate diary is aimlessly compelling.

Chuck x

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Sunday Book: Super Sad True Love Story - Gary Schteyngart


I have put down too many books recently. Not forever and not because I don't like them - they're all good and worthwhile in their different way and I am planning on coming back to them - but life and my natural laziness has got in the way. It wasn't really what I was in the mood for, it wasn't what I expected, it was too dry/required too much effort... I know that there are plenty of people who believe that life is too short to finish books you don't enjoy but I am not, for the most part, one of those people. I mean, I see their point, I happily abandoned The Lord of the Rings and The Life of Pi halfway through and have no regrets about it. And if I could go back and abandon American Psycho on p. 5 I would in a flash even though it was mandatory reading for a university module. I would just tell them to suck it because you can't unread a book and some of those images are going to stay with me forever and it is no fun nearly fainting on an EasyJet flight and Bret Easton Ellis is a weenie and who only includes two female authors on a 24 book list of modern fiction?? And breath... However, exceptions aside, I think it is good to read things that are challenging and unexpected and outside of your comfort zone. It is good to push yourself. If you only ever read things you like and that are easy and that condone and reinforce your tastes you will be left with a narrow, limited conception of the world.

Anyway, all of this is a rather roundabout way of saying that I didn't really like Super Sad True Love Story but I read it cover to cover because I had a couple of unfinished books on my conscience. And I'm glad I did because, despite whatever Facebook may imply, liking is not the only benchmark of success. This is a clever, well written, very probably prophetic novel that made me think. A fifteenth re-reading of a favourite Georgette Heyer might have been more enjoyable but this was arguably better for my brain.

Shteyngart's dystopian satire is set in what reviewers and blurb writers call the American near-future and centres on the relationship between Lenny Abramov and Eunice Park. I do slightly question the timing in the book. Lenny, a first generation Jewish-Russian American, is (generously) on the cusp of middle age and I don't know whether it is his cultural references or something else I can't put my finger on but he feels very contemporary. He is deliberately awkward and outside of his time but simultaneously he feels specifically 39 in this moment and age. Meanwhile, the newly graduated  Eunice, the technology she uses and the world she exists in seem at least twenty years away. It would take a parallel as well a temporal shift for them to coexist. Perhaps this sense of dislocation is intentional, perhaps it is an inevitable risk of being of being so culturally and technologically specific, perhaps I am being pedantic. Definitely this is a work of fiction not actual scientific prediction so probably I should stop getting hung up on the details.



The story's setting seems like a fairly plausible prediction of things to come which is, depending on your point of view, uncannily accurate or slightly unambitious. America is in trouble - China owns its ass financially, it's stuck in an unpopular war with Venezuela, the gap between rich and poor has continued to widened and the Low Net Worth Individuals are rioting. People live on their smart phones (called äppärät but otherwise largely undisguised), constantly streaming Media and rating each other. Your credit stats are publically broadcast and everyone is ranked by Looks, Personality, Fuckability etc. It all feels pathetically likely.

Unfortunately the plot doesn't live up to the setting. Or maybe it does. It is plausible, I guess. I am biased - I hate a mid life crisis narrative. Part of that is probably my age but they are also boring, self indulgent and often, ultimately, self congratulatory. And it is hard to disassociate the middle aged Russian American 'hero' with a soft spot for the written word from the middle aged Russian American writer. Lenny is considered something of a social outcast and certainly deeply uncool because he reads actual smelly old paper books while Eunice got a degree in Images and she and her sister and (female) best friend spend their time gossiping and shopping online for nipple-less bras, see through jeans and pop off knickers. As a woman in her early twenties I'm going to take a couple of minutes to feel affronted by the assertion that I am less capable of understanding and appreciating literature than middle aged men... Also, as readers, it seems like we are expected to sympathise with Lenny because of his literary tendencies despite the fact that he tries to manipulate Eunice's relationship with her physically and emotionally abusive father to make her love him. Just eugh.

But... and I'm going to try and reel it in because this is turning into a more negative review than I had intended, the writing is very sharp. Neither Lenny nor Eunice are particularly likeable but their voices are very strong. Lenny writes a diary for character posterity (he works in 'Post Human Services' and dreams of immortality) and Eunice exists in her online exchanges with her mother, sister and geographically distant best friend. Lenny is morose and grandiose by turns and Eunice is sarcastic and slangy and contradictory and prone to flashes of insight. The first person narratives don't do a great deal to advance the plot but they do map the characters beautifully.

Anyway, this has got a bit out of control. All I really wanted to say was 'interesting book, well written but  unpleasant characters, the future is bleak'. And it did make me think and thinking is good. Argh, this post needs a good edit but a) I'm lazy, b) my to do list and c) if I don't post this now I never will and it will just sit in my post queue until I eventually forget about it. So there you go. Sorry blog.

I've been enjoying all the Best Books of 2012 posts that have been going on recently - anyone read anything good? Has anyone tried Shteyngart? Dystopian satire? Thoughts?

Chuck x

Thursday, January 3, 2013

3rd Jan 2013


So I have read a little more and written a little more (more is a relative term after all) but I have also learnt how to do this:



And by this I obviously mean the cup thing not singing and/or looking girlish yet composed on Letterman.

A tooooooootally productive use of my time and absolutely in the spirit of my New Year's resolutions...

Chuck x

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

2013



The after party, c. 1900, © DaZo Vintage Stock

To Do this year:

  • Read more
  • Write more
That's it. 

It is easier to slump comatose in front of a movie or lounge around with mates or lie in but reading and writing are what I love and they make me a better, more engaged, more interesting human bean. I'm going to make more of an effort to carve out dedicated time for them this year. They deserve it. 

What about you? Any resolutions?

Chuck x