Wednesday, September 19

An Article With a Pleasant Point

I'm influenced in other directions as well. This is a nice counterpoint to my previously dour and grumbly mindset:

Via Salon, "Don't Be a Morose Teenager," Garrison Keillor.

A Country Without a Soul

Look, Mike, just because you're recuperating from jaw surgery does not mean I am going to take pity on you and sit idly while you muddy our waters with your loopy liberal idealism. No, sir! You can take your Vonnegut and shove it where the sun don't shine! In fact... What? What's that you say? You ask what I am reading? Oh, how cordial of you. Well, since you absolutely must know, I am reading A Power Governments Cannot Suppress, by the great Howard Zinn. Zinn and Vonnegut both served our country in World War II (The Good War) but believe you me, that's where the similarities end. For example, Vonnegut is dead and Zinn is alive. Also, Zinn is a historian while Vonnegut is a fabulist. Furthermore... oh fuck it, yeah Vonnegut is pretty sweet, eh? Surprised a man of your interests has not yet stumbled across any of his novels. Slaughterhouse Five and Cat's Cradle, you'll dig 'em. You say he "jokes gently and darkly." I like that. Sums up his style quite nicely. As someone familiar with his works of fiction but not his offerings as an essayist I agree with you that Vonnegut's style is simple. He's a quick read and a fun read but devastatingly spot-on with his satire of the depravity of humankind.

Tuesday, September 18

A Man Without a Face

I'm home in Rochester Hills, Michigan at the moment. I'm recovering from surgery on my upper jaw last week to correct growth deficiencies. All in all, the progress is good. The salient fact is that I am spending ample amounts of time on my ass.

Reading hasn't been occupying too much time, contrary to expectations. Mostly, I have had my switches set to "lay and watch" mode, which has delighted me with the intake of season one of The Wire (style note: Is it correct that a television program's title is italicized while individual episode titles are put in quotations?), lots of sports, and Giada De Laurentiis in HD. Yum.

But books are next on my list. I've been dipping into more short stories supplied to me by the anthological The Better of McSweeney's, Volume 1 and some nonfiction WWI short essays. And today I started reading - and nearly finished, it's short - Kurt Vonnegut's A Man Without a Country. Shamefully, this is the first Vonnegut that I have consumed. It won't be the last. I'm going to take a guess without knowing the truth that Vonnegut is known for simplicity. Straightforward representations of big ideas, maybe? Am I way off on this?

In any case, that's the mood of this memoir. He devotes scant pages to topics like the world's oil addiction, the nature of humorism/comedy, and plot construction. But he gets his point across poignantly more often than not. An efficiency in presentation of a wealth of ideas, this book.

Not having personal experience with his writing, Kurt Vonnegut was to me still an Icon. A force of literary expression that I was very aware of, but whose true power I hadn't witnessed. A hurricane on the news. It's odd to me to see him writing about current events, namely the political and societal, um, situation (meltdown [one-way handbasket trip]) of the United States in 2007. He even jokes gently and darkly about wishing to have died before the current lot took control and the current (not reasonably deniable) fascism (my word choice) gripped. Boots on the march and such imagery.

It makes me feel sadly. Those people in the world who get the Big Respect - figures like Vonnegut, Rosa Parks, Mother Theresa, etc. - had (or will have) their time on earth sullied and defiled by unluckily dying during these dark days. O, fretful youth, it's too bad. And it's too bad that millions won't read Mr. Vonnegut's words and finally GET IT.

A Man Without a Country is a book to be read by all.

Sunday, September 9

George Saunders on Letterman

A meeting of two great minds of the 21st Century.

I know, Bryan, I know. He said "Soldiers Field." It pained me too.

Here again is a link to The Sound of Young America interview. I think it's pretty fantastic. The Saunders segment begins at 22:05.

Friday, September 7

100th Post!

Book-Loop turns 100. Happy Birthday! This is rarefied air in the literary community. Among the dead only Kathleen Hale, author of Orlando the Marmalade Cat and Stanley Kunitz, former Poet Laureate of the United States, have reached the century mark. Phyllis A. Whitney, whose works include Red Is for Murder and The Mystery of the Gulls, forges on at 104. Remarkably her birthday is today. Studs Terkel, a notable Chicagoan and oral historian, is 95. Herman Wouk, author of The Winds of War, is 92. Beverly Cleary, whose Ramona books my mother used to read aloud to me before I went to bed, is 91.

Monday, September 3

Links for Labor Day

Free pie and chips

From Entertainment Weekly: Joe Lawson, one of the ad writers who devised Geico's caveman commercials and the new ABC sitcom Caveman, recently acknowledged that he'd been inspired by the Neanderthal-themed title story in [George] Saunders' 2000 collection, Pastoralia. Far from being upset, Saunders tells EW he's pleased to get Lawson's shout-out. "Actually, I'm gonna write a novel now about a green lizard with a British accent," he jokes, referring to Geico's spokes-gecko, "and it'll even out."

This is wild. It turns out George Saunders, a writer who has expended a significant amount of ink jousting with commercialism, commodification and pop culture in his absurdist satires, actually inspired one of the undeniable low-points in American Culture. Layer upon layer of, dare I say, irony. Quite a puzzle.

By the way, I stumbled upon that tidbit adjacent to a review of Saunders' new essay collection, The Braindead Microphone. For what it's worth EW compared Saunders' journalistic talents to those of fellow fiction writers Norman Mailer and David Foster Wallace.

Sunday, September 2

Kafkaesque is the new irony

I see it everywhere. Attacked, gutted and left to rot as a cliché. Most recently here. It's funny, because going on a guided tour, no matter how labyrinthian a locale it happens to be, is by definition the opposite of kafkaesque. How ironic! Anyway, to me the underground always seemed more dostoevskyian (perhaps even ellisonian) than anything else.