Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Covers Are Pressed and Folded, the Magazine Needs to Be Formatted

A bit of a hiatus from this blog and the magazine due to Spring break. I did little else besides what I wanted, which included reading five books, going on two beer tour in one day, eating at extravagant restaurants, and just taking it easy.

Also did some things I didn't want to do, like get into my first car accident. The car was completely unharmed and so were the people. It felt a lot slower than I imagined it would. I remember looking at everyone's face as we spun into the ditch.

That aside, I got the covers yesterday and they have all been folded neatly. Now, to get a proof of the magazine to the printer.

Friday, March 12, 2010

It's Really Happening!

So I received the final magazine submission the other day, which means I'm moving onto the most tedious process of all: formatting and editing. The exciting part is that tomorrow I'm going to buy the paper supplies for printing (2000+ sheets). Next week I'm working out some cover details (typeface, image) and I should be on schedule to have it printed and bound by the end of March.

Unless those few stragglers who haven't sent me their biography take a month to do so.

Unless the print shop burns down.

Unless there's a global catastrophe that makes all paper and ink a luxury.

It also occurs to me I may want to invest in a Paypal account to facilitate digital transactions. I'm also going to post some samples on a separate page for your reading pleasure. Now, to begin organizing a reading.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Place of Difficulty in Reading

Lately, I've been reading a lot of books reviews for experimental literature and I've noticed one thing: nearly every negative review centers on the difficulty of the book in question. The reviewer usually says that -insert difficult book- did not make any sense and that they must not be smart enough to understand it. Often, those reviewers claim that those who do like it are only trying to appear "smart" or "cultured." Sometimes the book is outright dismissed as an elaborate joke orchestrated by the author.

I don't want to espouse a "difficult-for-the-sake-of-being-difficult" kind of argument, because I think that position is largely responsible for the reactionary attitude those reviewers take. However, I do think that most readers who dismiss books for being too difficult are forgetting how they learned to read in the first place: by challenging themselves. By challenging yourself as a reader, in whatever form (content, style, concept), your capacity to understand will grow. The entire art of communication, of which books are a part, is about understanding. Not all ideas are as easily communicable as others, which is why some books are more difficult than others. One example: Gertrude Stein's Tender Buttons.

I can think of few other books that have frustrated readers as much as this one. Anyone who's read any of it can attest to its difficulty; it's non-normative use of syntax and confusion of parts of speech completely defamiliarize the language. The result is a book that forces you to pay attention, to consider how meaning is made, and to look for relationships when they're not obvious. In short, it's an instruction manual on learning how to read again.

Critics might try to argue that they already know how to read, but this is exactly the kind of complicity Stein was fighting against. They might try to argue that they don't care what her intention is, but Tender Buttons is one of the few books in the last century to completely empower the reader. Admittedly, it is difficult, but it has to be; Stein could not write a book that forces you to question (and understand) how meaning and relationships are formed by adhering to the normal hierarchies and rules of the language. To do so would be contradictory to the book's entire premise.

The challenge this book presents is offset by the insight that is given to the reader. If the reader can make it to the other side and actively engage with the material they will be forever changed. If not, well, I'm not interested in creating a heirarchy of readers. I think the aversion to difficulty that many readers express on sites such as Goodreads or Amazon is the direct result of such mindless entertainment as daytime television programming. However, since the reading public is a minority compared to the TV watching public, I would encourage anyone with that still has an appetite for books to try and read at least one book a year that's outside of their normal interests. I think those who do will find the time that they spend more rewarding than usual.

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's March and I've Been Diligent.

So I just started a Goodreads page today and will probably review most if not all of the books and media I read. There will be links, going both ways. Anyway, to kick off my reviews, I will post everything I watched or read in February, with commentary:

Film

Tokyo Drifter (1966)

This is probably my least favorite Seijun Suzuki Film. It's not bad, but nowhere near as exciting or innovative as his other films. Still worth watching.

Branded to Kill (1967)

This is considered Suzuki's best film. It's also the film that got him fired from Nikkatsu. The studio told Suzuki that "[his] films make no sense, and therefore no money." It's easy to see why this was not popular with them. Suzuki's eccentric directing style was on full display in this film and it might be worth watching twice to better understand the narrative. Highly recommended.

Youth of the Beast (1963)

What an awful translation of the title. Wild Youth would be just as accurate and far less clunky. This gripe aside, maybe my favorite Suzuki film. The plot is fairly straightforward: an ex-cop infiltrates the Yakuza and avenges a friend's death. However, his dialogue and directing elevate this Japanese gangster film into something more. Harder to find than his other films, but worth the search.

Shoot the Piano Player (1960)

I'll be honest, I rented this title because of the title. It's only after the fact that I learned Fran├žois Roland Truffaut, the director, was part of the French New Wave and wrote the screenplay for Jean-Luc Godard's Breathless. A must see for anyone interested in noir mixed with highly stylized, realistic directing.

The Big Sleep (1946)

I watched this because they didn't have Chandler's novel at the library. A great example of the hard-boiled detective story, even if it's never clear how the story fits together.

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Two words: Humphrey Bogart.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

There's nothing I can say about this that hasn't been said. Pure entertainment.

Stranger Than Paradise (1984)

Jim Jarmusch may be my new favorite director. I'd call him the American Samuel Beckett. I thought I recognized Richard Edson's character. After the movie I picked through my vinyl collection and found Sonic Youth's first album. Turns out, Richard Edson was their original drummer. Makes sense, considering the crowd Jarmusch ran with (CBGBs No Wave Lower East Side, late 70s early 80s). Another plus, Jarmusch studied poetry under Kenneth Koch, one of my favorite poets.

Pierrot Le Fou (1965)

My favorite Godard film. A perfect blend of experimental film making with narrative. Funny and shocking, all the time.


Comics

Daredevil #504

A pretty tame ending to Andy Diggle's premiere story arc on the series. I do have to say I was pretty underwhelmed, but I did just read all 125 issues back-to-back. The series seems to have lost some of its subtlety that Ed Brubaker and Brian Michael Bendis employed so well.

Daredevil #505

The opening issue of Diggle's second arc. Fairly repetitious, a lot of flat dialogue. Gorgeous art though. I'm curious to see where Diggle takes my favorite comic/series.

Criminal #3

Ed Brubaker is probably my favorite comic book writer. It's great that he's still doing noir, and every single issue has been a perfect mixture of dialogue and action. Also, the guide to international in the back of every issue is a huge plus, as is the ad-free format.

Criminal #4

Awesome.

Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller Volume 1

Frank Miller only draws these issues, so the storytelling is typical 1970s fare. However, Miller shows how a good artist can take a fairly flat storyline and make it exciting by controlling how the reader interacts with the panels.

Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller Volume 2

This is the entire reason why Daredevil has become such an iconic character. The series was on the verge of cancellation, but because of Miller's writing and drawing, it became one of the best selling Marvel books. The art is executed with perfect control and the storytelling is still fresh even today.

Daredevil Visionaries: Frank Miller Volume 3

I was very excited to read this after the spectacular second volume. However, this installment was kind of a letdown and I think Miller had exhausted his ideas for the character toward the end of the series. It might also be due to the fact that Miller only wrote these issues, so much of the subtlety of the earlier volumes was lost. Still, it does collect the best single issue of his entire run, "Roulette".


Novels

The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett

I was very excited to read this at the beginning. Excellent dialogue, vivid scenes, and very surprising, violent action. Toward the middle I began wanting just a little more description. I feel that this basically reads like a screenplay without stage directions and by the time I reached the end I just wanted to finish it.

Savage Night by Jim Thompson

My first foray into straight-forward, genre fiction in years. Very spare prose and masterful dialogue. I'm still scratching my head over the ending.

Hebdomeros by Giorgio De Chirico

In a way, this felt like an extended John Ashbery poem. The scenes are reminiscent of the aura of De Chirico's paintings. My favorite "Surrealist" prose work.

The Memoirs of Giorgio De Chirico

I read this for a paper and and presentation I did on Chirico. While some of the moments are fascinating, I found De Chirico's egocentricity to be unbearable. Seriously, his head was as big as Andre Breton's.


Poetry

Zong! by M. NourbeSe Philip

My favorite book of poetry I've read this year. Gertrude Stein and Susan Howe intersect to show the reader what happens when words fail and the story that can't be told must be.

Notebook of a Return to the Native Land*

Why haven't I read this guy before? Seriously, Rimbaud, Baudelaire, Mallarme, and Lautremont have nothing on Cesaire. The oscillation between haunting prose and rhapsodic poetry creates a breathtaking reading experience. I'll definitely be revisiting this book in the near future. On a side note, I found a political flyer from the French elections in my used copy. It has a picture of Cesaire on it and I'm led to believe that the previous owner of this book was in France when Cesaire was running. I searched the Internet for it, but nothing came up.

Solar Throat Slashed*

Not as as good as Notebook of a Return to the Native Land, but still enjoyable. My favorite new poet.

*From the Collected Poetry of Aime Cesaire.

Currently reading: The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler, The Double Dream of Springe by John Ashbery, and Personae by Ezra Pound.