…and this blog is on hiatus for the next week. Back after the 6th!
… my latest (and penultimate?) post for Gridskipper is up here, and it’s a guide to Paris’s best make-out bars. Enjoy.
(apparently GoogleMaps is going through some technical difficulties– so if the map isn’t loading on your visit, check back later)
This is a longer one than I usually post, but stay with it– just listen to the language of it…
"Ode to a Nightingale," John Keats (1819)
My heart aches, and a drowsy numbness pains
My sense, as though of hemlock I had drunk,
Or emptied some dull opiate to the drains
One minute past, and Lethe-wards had sunk:
‘Tis not through envy of thy happy lot,
But being too happy in thy happiness,–
That thou, light-winged Dryad of the trees,
In some melodious plot
Of beechen green, and shadows numberless,
Singest of summer in full-throated ease.
O for a draught of vintage, that hath been
Cooled a long age in the deep-delved earth,
Tasting of Flora and the country green,
Dance, and Provencal song, and sun-burnt mirth!
O for a beaker full of the warm South,
Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,
With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,
And purple-stained mouth;
That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,
And with thee fade away into the forest dim:
The holy-crap-my-orals-are-two-weeks-from-today edition.
More on Keith Gessen, from the LA Times: "Young [male] Authors Embrace the Thought Process."
"Elite" British writers and scholars get pissed off that there are so many students using the British Library that there are no seats for them and they have to wait on line for a really, really long time. In the cold.
When you put it that way, it does sound really elitist. Students should be able to use libraries! Right? Yes, but they should not be using research libraries to do their biology homework and hang out with their friends. That ‘s the key distinction that should be made here.
Funny timing: just yesterday I grumbled and groused as I stood online for an hour to get into the library at the Pomidou. I had no alternative– the books I needed they don’t have at the BNF. Or anywhere else in Paris.
My suggestion is that the professional writers, scholars, and
researchers get special passes to bypass lines and to receive their
books more quickly, and perhaps that a separate section be created for
professionals, as is done at the BNF.
The Complete Review gives last year’s French bestseller The Elegance of the Hedgehog a B. (L’Elégance de l’hérisson sounds so much more– elegant– in French, doesn’t it?)
Some poor sot listed Roppongi as his dream destination in Gridskipper’s contest to win a Toyota Corolla. And I bought a ticket today to go there in May. I would almost say I’d switch with him, except I really do want to see my boyfriend, even if he does live in a gaijin ghetto of neon, cement, and glass shopping malls guarded by alarmingly large spiders.
I knew there was a very good reason I never hung around with the fast crowd in high school, never did anything illegal or got into any serious trouble (the worst thing I did was cut gym. All the time.).
I wasn’t planning on ever running for government office, and I didn’t buy empty authoritarian threats that if I messed up it would go on my permanent record, but I always stayed out of trouble out of basic common sense and a large helping of cowardice.
And today I have received vindication for being such a goody-two-shoes all my life: I am applying for French citizenship, and part of the process requires justification from the FBI that I have never been in any trouble with the law. Today, that certification arrived in the mail, in the form of a stamp reading "No arrest record."
Gosh, it feel so darn good to be clean.
"If you can’t annoy somebody, there’s little point in writing," said Kingsley Amis. Words to live by. From an LA Times piece on the declining role of the critic in American discourse. Yes, another one. This time it’s not just book criticism which is on the wane– film critics are seeing their jobs slimmed down, and music critics aren’t allowed to say anything bad about anyone!
"If one more person tells me that my book The Stone Gods is science fiction, presumably because it is set in the future and has a robot in it, I will turn myself into a dalek." Jeanette Winterson on genre fiction and the crime novel. Really insightful and not too long, don’t miss it. [Via]
"He deserves this homage," said Abdou Diouf this week, regarding the speculation that the recently deceased Aimé Césaire, poet and central figure of the négritude movement, will be interred in the Panthéon. At 6 pm tonight a vigil will be held for Césaire in the Place de la Sorbonne, the apparent birthplace of négritude.
”Le regard de Zucca, plein de talent sans doute, ne peut pas être
le nôtre aujourd’hui. Le travail d’explication sur ces images est
insuffisant“ ["Zucca's perspective, talented as he is, cannot be ours today. The contextualization of these images is insufficient."] So says Christophe Girard, Delanoe’s chargé de culture, on the decision to remove the posters around Paris advertising the very controversial Zucca exposition, "Les Parisiens sous l’Occupation," currently on view at the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris. Pierre Assouline has the story here.
Nothing is better, after a long day in the trenches of academe, than unwinding with a bag of brioche and a few episodes of The Daily Show.
This segment gets good right around the 02:34 mark.
"Is she running for president or pledging.?!!"
Oh, Jon, how you do light my fire with your rapier wit! If I’m mixing my metaphors it’s only because the swooning is preventing me from thinking clearly…
I came back from London on Monday rather than Sunday and so my week seems to be off by a day. Whoops. Here are the links anyway.
There is something appropriate, or paradoxical, depending on your point of view, about the author of the Michel Polnareff hit "On ira tous au Paradis" being elected an Immortal, a member of the Académie Française. The fact that Jean-Loup Dabadie is a saltimbanque, or popular entertainer (I love the term saltimbanque, makes him sound like he should be a figure in a Picasso of the rose period) adds an extra frisson of interest to the predictable hand-wringing about the irrelevance of the Académie.
And in other "aren’t the French wacky’ news, a new French bill to punish websites that encourage eating disorders (apparently such sites do exist) has reignited the debate over models being too skinny. I see the connection… but it’s a bit of a stretch. It seems like two fairly distinct, albeit distantly related, issues to me. Apparently the language of the law is really vague so it probably won’t even get passed.
I’m kind of interested to read Keith Gessen’s book All the Sad Young Literary Men, an excerpt of which can be read at Nextbook. My admiration for N+1 verges on the fanatic, so relieved am I that there are people in my generation who are trying to keep the level of discourse at a Sontagian high, in a way that is self-aware without being overly self-conscious. This relief probably blinds me to the faults of the journal and its hangers-on, but so be it. (That doesn’t mean I liked Benjamin Kunkel’s novel, Indecision; I felt lukewarm about it. My guess is the strain in N+1 that warms me likely emanates from Gessen and Marco Roth.)
Judging from James Wood’s review of a new novel called Pilcrow in the LRB, there is something interesting going on with its author, Adam Mars-Jones, that bears further reading. Wood says that "Generally, Mars-Jones’s prose is exceptionally nimble, dry, humorously
restrained, very English, with a little Nabokovian velvet too." Sounds like it’s worth a read.
Great list of must-have works of criticism from Richard B. Woodward over at Critical Mass. Look particularly for the bits about Nabokov (the ones he’s talking about are the volumes I just added to my library this past week).
I’m back in town after a long weekend in London visiting relatives, and have much to tell of what I saw in that magical place, from Sissinghurst Castle, where I swooned before Vita Sackville-West’s library, to the Tate Modern’s Duchamp/Man Ray/Picabia exhibit, where my cousin, an artist, had a religious experience in front of "Nude Descending a Staircase."
I would also like to tell you about Anne Marsella’s whimsical, fabulous book, Remedy, from which she will read tonight at the Village Voice (7 pm sharp, duckies!). It’s set in a Paris that will make you feel like you’re seeing in technicolor for the first time.
But I must read a pile of library books that are due back this afternoon, so storytime will have to wait til tomorrow or the day after…
My bookshelf is proud to welcome
- Claude Cahun, Disavowals, or: Cancelled Confessions. The first major translation of Cahun in English. Saw it in London; had to have it.
- Georges Perec, La Vie: Mode d’emploi. Because I loved Les choses and because I will need something delicious to sink my teeth into after my orals.
- Siri Hustvedt, The Sorrows of an American. Went to her reading at the Village Voice last week (with a dear friend who’s a big Hustvedt fan) and the excerpts she read sold me on this, her latest novel.
- Jhumpa Lahiri, Unaccustomed Earth. Also on the "post-orals" reading pile.
- Luce Irigaray, Ce sexe qui n’en est pas un and Speculum de l’autre femme. For orals; basic gender theory texts that I ought to have anyway.
- Nabokov, Littérature I and II. Long story.