Sunday, December 23, 2012

Santa Who? Bring on Baby Jezisek!

What man with the bag? He's totally persona non grata around here. Instead it's the Baby Jesus that has the gift-giving honors in the Czech Republic, and I suspect throughout the Slavic Catholic scene. The little fella lives up in the mountain town of Bozi Dar, where their is a post office that processes all the requests. The kids are expected to send Baby Jezisek a list, then, on Christmas Eve during the height of the celebration, the children are gathered up and sent into another room while Baby Jesus sits down with the parents, has a Piva (beer) and a carp sandwich, and they set up the gifts. The Holy Anklebiter then takes off on his little Baby Jezisek mobile, and the kids are invited back in to open gifts. Not a hint of any fat guys in red suits with white beards in sight, though early in December the Czech's usher in Christmas with a St. Nicholas celebration. There's not a trace of jolly old St. Nick now. Imagine. No "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town", no two column lists headed "naughty/nice", no belly that wiggles like a bowlful of jelly or stockings hung by the chimney with care or wondering how Santa gets his fat ass down the chimney to begin with. No sleighs - no on Dasher on Dancer on Comet and Blitzen and certainly no red-nosed one has the same name as a great Bohemian king. There is no discussion of elves, Mrs. Claus or the North Pole. As such all sorts of potential psychological damage is avoided, though I'm not convinced that a beer guzzling Baby Jezisek, while perhaps a more logical candidate for Christmas gift-bearer than the jolly old elf, would necessarily eliminate some bizarre Christmas fantasies. Then again it's nice to keep the gift giving subplot consistent with the Nativity so when you're cruising around town here just before Christmas the you kinda get the feeling that they're really not celebrating Christmas but instead are celebrating the Christ's birthday. I

The Bohemian "Santa-Free" Christmas does have it's repurcussions across the global economy, of course. I heard that BMG Music, the massive publisher, attempted to sue the Czech Republic for not including all the Santa-oriented songs on the radio during the season. The Czech's responded with one of their periodic "defenestrations" by throwing the lawyers for BMG out the 4th floor window of the Prague Castle.

Not that the event isn't commercial. Ha! NFW it's totally over the top commercial, at least on the streets if the city. Of course I can' speak for TV, radio, newspaper or the web, but even without Santa, Christmas has permeated every move we've made on this trip. From the gitgo our cab driver from the airport explained that the traffic was bumper to bumper because everybody is out shopping and living it up before the big day, which actually isn't a day..., as in Dec. 25, rather Christmas is celebrated the night before on the 24th with a big fat carp. Mmm Mmm Mmm! Just today as Pie, Holly and I were roaming Mala Strana and there on the sidewalk are the Christmas carpmongers with their huges buckets of live carp. Some folks will buy the carp and keep it in their bath tub so it's still wiggling when they throw it in the fryer. Others get it cleaned, scaled and prepared (not filleted) right there in the little fishmonger booth such that the whole fish can sit there in the middle of the Xmas table. Throw in a little cold potato salad with cubed ham and rub a dub dub bring on the grub!

Thanks, but we'll be having Indian takeout, though I imagine the carp is yummy it just doesn't tickle my tummy, but nobody has invited us to dinner and the town is closed tight on Christmas Eve. But don't let the carping give you the idea that all Czech food sucks, though I have yet to have anything to prove otherwise. But being from Northern California basically cripples you when you step out into the world of more meat and potatoes diets. I ate a third of a pork steak, potatoes and grilled vegies and woke up the next day with potatoes coming out my nose. ugh.

Christmas is happening now in this former seat of the Holy Roman Empire, but it's still Christmas Eve for us. The presents are stacked under the last minute tree with its department store ornies, Vince is bangin' out Linus and Lucy on the iPad and all the ghosts of bishops, knights, kings, princes, princesses will be leaving their centuries-old statues on the Charles Bridge and flying around these ancient cobblestone streets through the medieval, gothic and renaissance buildings singing about their old buddy Good King Wenceslas going out in that crisp, deep, even snow.

I would attempt to wish you a Merry Christmas in Czech if I could just figure out what all the diddlybobs around the letters meant. Caio will have to do!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Bolinians Pt. II

In our last episode we left the wasted, exhausted, pale, cold and near-dead Russian fur hunter Dimitri Pavlovich in the arms of his lithe and adventuresome teen princess of the Miwoks, who had a wonderful lyrical Native American name that meant "she who spreads her wings", which Pavlovich mistook for "she who spreads her legs" and interpreted his salvation as a sign to start a new race of peoples out in the dark grey Monterey pines, towering redwoods, coastal rushes and reefs where the magical dancing octopi pirouetted across the tidepools to the music of the north wind. And the babies like rabbits came streaming forth from the loins of Pavlovich's little leg spreader, as well as from all her sisters, cousins, aunts, mothers and grandmothers, as the former fur trader still lusted after pelts of all sizes and shapes. His harem produced dozens of short, swarthy little bruisers with the broad, flat faces of anvils, foreheads disappearing under thick black boar bristles and necks disappearing into upper torsos so dense and powerful that they had to step sideways through the doorways of their redwood bark teepees. Pavlovich, whom natives called "man with the forever erection" soon had the equivalent of an NFL football team to his name, 5 boys to every girl, and he was only 25. If he kept up this prodigious, furious pace the entire Pt. Reyes Peninsula would be crawling these pinebark-skinned monkeys with hair like the tree trunks every possible shade of madrone, bay, redwood, willow and ash, ropey and uncooperative as the tules at the head of the Bolinas Lagoon.

When Pavlovich turned 35 he looked around and realized that indeed he had brought forth upon the world a new race of beings, each of them in their raw, primitive, animal beauty as terrifying as a saber-toothed tiger or a rabid, half-starved hyena, ready to rip the throat out of any breathing creature that crossed it's path. It was not that these pre-Bolinians were born mean, rather it was when they eventually went to the water's edge on a quiet, still, morning, the fog blanketing the lagoon like a fisherman's sweater, and gazed upon their own smashed up monkey faces and looked into their own yellowy eyes peering back at them from the glassy waters that they became mad. Why were the other kids in the tribe so genuinely kind and friendly-looking, with wide stupid smiles, strong bright teeth and dimpled cheeks when they, the sons and daughters of the regal Russian, looked like vicious starving rats?

Eventually the pre-Bolineans began to resent the pleasantly plump, happy acorn-grinding fish-spearing Miwoks and began to withdraw from the tribe, slowly disappearing into the dense groves of seaside cypress and pine and into the coastal caves to live a lonely, feral existence, leaving their many different mothers and their one white-skinned father, "Man With Forever Erection", back in the village on the mesa above the sea. The village that, unbeknownst to Pavlovich and his harem of Miwok maidens, sat on a prime piece of real estate now owned not by the Russians as Pavlovich had hoped, but by the Alta Californians, once of Spain, late of Mexico and now naming every damn thing in sight.

One clear bright winter morning Pavlovich was awakened in his giant bed of coyote, otter, seal and bear blankets by a vaguely familiar sound, a sound he had not heard since his days at the Tsar's summer palace outside St. Petersberg, the sound of lowing cattle. "Beef on the hoof?" he mused insensitively, for one of toasty brown maidens in his bed was a bit of a heifer herself. She ran out, naked, and so did he, only to be confronted by what looked like a conquistadore on a jet black steed, El Gran Jefe de Rancho las Baulines, Gregorio Briones.

And thus began the infamous battle, the battle that has been stricken from the history books,the Pt. Reyes tourist pamphlets and the official record of the National Seashore and remains only in the deepest recesses of the battered Bolinian brain, The Battle of Bolinas.

(You won't want to miss Part III, will you?)

Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Excitement is Palpable!

Here is a little tail, just a stub really like the kind you might find on the hind end of an Australian Shepard: Several weeks ago my publisher, Harper Davis, put on a literary event at Book Passage with our tribe (see for all the juicy info on the books, the authors, etc.), and we all read segments from our respective titles. It was great fun, the crowd went wild, we sold books hand over fist and I was propositioned by several women in their seventies and a couple of Mexican janitors. So all in all a smashing success, except for one little thing: the audio recording of the event somehow escaped capture. The Harper Davis marketing team made a great little video without the voice over, which is kinda like watching a baseball game with no ball. You can watch it here:

This of course does not mean all is lost. There is another thrilling, suspenseful and cinematically luscious video of the complete first chapter of Hack from an event at the Stinson Beach Chapel which you can watch here: Bonnalicious "the beautiful" Hayes does and really embarrassing intro, and I proceed to stammer and spit my way through the always-entertaining Melanie Mills story and first chapter of Hack. This was followed by a rousing set of jazz and blues with Kevin Hayes on drums, Bonnie Hayes on keys and vocals, Greg Glazner on guitar and you know who, still stammering and spitting.
L to R: K. Hayes, Moi, G. Glazner, P. Houston, A. Roome

Finally, for those little Limbolanders that haven't thrown down on the book, I have included the portion of the first chapter that I read at the Book Passage event. So if you wanted to create a loop of my lips flapping in the breeze with the words below as sort of a ticker tape could! And if anybody actually does that I will give them a check for One Meeeeelion Dollars!

(Keep your dial tuned to this station Limbolanders. The Bolinians Part II is coming!)


The Chicken of The Sea
            Henry Griffin never intended to live the life of a starving artist. Or a starving musician. Or a starving writer, dancer, actor, golfer, mechanic, butcher, baker, candlestick maker, doctor, lawyer, Indian chief.
            “And if anybody ever tries to lay any of that romantic bullshit on you – you know, art is suffering and all that crap, you should smack them upside the head with a baseball bat,” Griffin would say. “Believe me, the food-stamp existence will gnaw on your innards - day in, day out, like an insatiable, carnivorous worm - and eventually you’ll feel like you have a bright, red ‘L’ tattooed on your forehead.”
            Even the real losers, like the guy that sat on the park bench by the Corte Madera Creek every day reciting the dates and places of Grateful Dead concerts from 1966 through 2002 - recognized that Griffin’s “starving artist” act had reached a point where something had to give.
            Griffin awoke that bright new millennium summer morning tense and irritable as usual: stomach growling, head throbbing, the familiar urge to dive headlong through the window rattling through his subconscious. Then he remembered – that evening, for the first time since his last art show many moons ago, he would eat relatively nutritious food: a fine selection of chips, dip, cheese whiz, brownies, and copious quantities of cheap Chardonnay, along with his nightly pint of cheap booze. Scarcely a hardy repast; but, his hopes fading for a successful artistic career, or for a career of any sort, even infrequent sustenance seemed at least marginally preferable to the ultimate alternative. So, there was something to look forward to, at least. Throw in a frisky hooker and it might turn out to be a true red-letter day.
            When he remembered the show, he swung his long, spindly legs off the futon and reached for the cordless telephone on the "night stand" (a cardboard box covered by a rectangle of plywood and the Sunday funnies) but the cradle was empty. Then he noticed the smell - like several pounds of three-day old road kill stewing in a vat of fresh barf.
He surveyed the scene, trying to recollect events from the previous evening. There was only one empty scotch bottle, a half-dozen beer cans, a plateful of cigarette butts, a worn Fender Stratocaster propped up in the corner, and a fully clothed man curled up in the doorway with a newspaper over his face.
Griffin moaned. Mr. San Anselmo, the local street-walking Vietnam casualty, had snuck into the apartment after the artist passed out – usually around eleven every night. And, as always, Mr. San Anselmo smelled like he had been swimming in raw sewage.
Griffin walked over to the man and gave him a shove on the rump with his foot. “Mr. S. A., wake up. Get up and get the hell out of here. You smell like shit.”
The man wasn’t moving.
“Jesus.” He reached over the sleeping man and opened the door, then walked across the apartment and slid open the double hung window. He leaned out, took a deep gulp of summer morning air, and made a mental note to start remembering to lock the door.
The somewhat expected presence of Mr. S.A. indicated that perhaps there had been other nefarious activities the previous evening, but, as was the case with the last several months of blackout drinking, anything that happened after 8PM was buried deep into the darkest reaches of his aching brain.  
            On such occasions, which were growing increasingly frequent, Griffin found that he could retrace his steps by checking the CD player. When he saw Bitches Brew in the tray, he paused and ran his long fingers through his thinning brown hair. He remembered stalking around his apartment with a flat bristle brush full of hansa yellow light in one hand, a pint of Dewar’s in the other, bobbing to the thrumming melody of “Spanish Key”, while alternately dabbing at the autumn foliage of a serene pastoral landscape that was slowly turning into a psychedelic mess.
            Encouraging though it was, this revelation did not lead directly to the location of the phone. Nor did it reveal how Mr. San Anselmo had ended up sleeping in his apartment, though at least the cool, fresh breeze from the outside had made his sleeping presence relatively tolerable.        
            “Mr. San Anselmo isn’t nearly as scary as he looks, once you get to know him,” Griffin was fond of saying, though he could see why some folks called him Bigfoot. The only discernible human skin on his face was his cracked, soiled cheeks. Everything else was covered by thick, matted hair and several layers of clothing, which was excellent for sleeping in the bushes, as Mr. San Anselmo did most nights, but completely impractical for crashing at a friend’s apartment.
            Griffin watched his P.T.S.S. victim carefully for several moments to make sure he was breathing, then turned his attention to finding the telephone.
If it was my car keys that were lost, I probably would look in the refrigerator, Griffin thought, such being his deteriorating mental condition. Not once did he leave his car keys in the refrigerator.
“Maybe I’m spending a little too much time hanging out with Mr. S.A.,” he wondered aloud.
            As he put Bitches Brew back in its case, it occurred to him that perhaps, if the phone were his car keys, it would be very unlikely for them to be in the refrigerator. Just then, as if the phone were looking for Griffin he heard a muffled ring. He stopped, listened. It sounded like someone was strangling a turkey. In the refrigerator. No… it was coming from the freezer! He opened the freezer door and there it was, frosty, next to the buffalo wings from several years back.
            He reached in and tried to grab it while stabbing at the icy “talk” button. It immediately slipped out of his hands onto the linoleum floor, where he promptly kicked it under the fridge. He could now hear the faint voice of the caller from deep in the under-refrigerator mire; it was the owner of the California Heritage Art Gallery - the only gallery that showed Griffin’s paintings - his loyal rep, Archibald Wilcox.
            “Hello? Hack? Are you there? Henry? Henry!” The artist fell to his hands and knees and poked his hand under the refrigerator, only to knock the phone farther into the assorted clumps of thick, oozing under-fridge grime. “Hack!” yelled Wilcox. “I know you’re there! What the hell are you doing!? Say something for God’s sake!”
            “Coming!” he yelled as he lay down and stretched his arm full length, coaxing the phone through the muck. As soon as he got a grip on it, he yanked it from its stinky hiding place.
            “Shit! Goddamnit! Oh, you son of a bitch!” Griffin howled. He had ripped off a healthy hunk of flesh from the back of his hand on some protruding piece of refrigerator metal.
            Then he heard a battle cry from the doorway “Ayyyy yaayyy!” Mr. San Anselmo barked as he sprung from his supine curled-up position into battle stance, his bloodshot eyes darting around the apartment.
            “Wilcox! Jesus, Wilcox!” Griffin hysterically shouted back into the frozen phone. “Mr. San Anselmo! Look! I’m bleeding!” He pushed his torn hand toward Mr. San Anselmo, thinking the shell-shocked vet might spring into action and fetch a bandage. “Aaaaaaagh!” Mr. San Anselmo stood transfixed by the blood. Griffin froze. Oh Jesus, now I’ve done it, he thought. Mr. S. A. is going to have an Agent Orange flashback, break my neck, and carve my heart out with a butter knife.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Disneyland 1960

There was no DisneyWorld yet. Just The Land. That's what all the five year olds in Kentfield called it in 1960: The Land. "Dude, I'm headin' down to The Land tomorrow with my breeders". In those days people around here thought that Orlando, Florida was named after Giants first baseman Orlando Cepeda. Orlando Bloom the snotnosed little monkey fart wasn't even a glimmer in the eye of his breeders yet. But enough about Orlando we're talkin 'bout The Land!

Disneyland and I were both born in 1955, as were alot of things and people but few as important as The Land. As you can see from the pics even though The Land had been around for 5 years very few people knew about it in fact it was deserted most of the time. But my cousin Tom and I were hip to The Land before it was cool, long before the tourists showed up, and when the Indian dude in Frontier Village was a real Indian not a Mexican.

I gotta admit my memory of 1960 at The Land is a little dim, but then my Cousin Tom sent me these pics last night I started thinkin' about some of the goodle days, hangin' with Aunt Jemima, my Grandmother Hale, and I suppose our Moms (but not our Dads -- Dads in 1960 did not hang at The Land). My Cousin Tom lived in Santa Monica and we lived in Kentfield Gardens. Our sisters would have been too small to do The Land in 1960, but Tom and I were totally down with it, cruising the submarine rides several times a day and ogling the mermaids. It was great back in the day 'cuz nothing was fake - the mermaids, the Indian dude, the riverboat, the train, the monorail, Mickey, Minnie, The Mad Hatter, Alice, the crazy teetering rocks that were about to fall on the mining cars, the mountain goats on the Matterhorn, the SNOW on the Matterhorn, hippos, elephants and crocs on the Jungle Cruise, the giant clam on the submarine ride - all that shit was real! You could actually reach out and touch it! Yeah it was a little rugged when there was a shootout in FrontierLand and they killed a guy. But I suppose he actually was trying to rob that saloon so he got what was comin' to him.

There was no Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain, not that the new stuff wasn't cool but I'm talkin' about the genuine, original Land where Davey Crockett himself was hanging out and all these Indians too but it was cool they got along just fine.

Then DisneyWorld came along and wrecked The Land 'cuz all the people wanted to hit The World, they didn't even know about the little 'ol Land, the real true Magic Kingdom. Yeah The Land in 1960 had it goin' on. I wish I could go back but it's gone: 1960, that toe-headed five year old and his cousin, Grandmother Hale, whoever was taking those pictures, the submarine ride, the mining ride, the real Indians, Davey Crockett, Aunt Jemima, all gone.

I'm not sayin' Disneyland today isn't still the happiest place on earth. I'm just sayin' it's not The Land anymore. Ya know?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Bolinians Part I

Dimitri Pavlovich is said to have invented the "comb-over"
 I was attacked by a random memory as I was winding my way around Bolinas Lagoon the other day. Damn thing came flying in through the open window, whomped me upside my fat head, forced me over to a pullout, dragged me out of the car and threw me onto the gravel. When I awoke several days later the memory, clearly of the Jungian archetypal variety, was with me clear as day and I knew if I did not extricate it to the page quickly it would surely drive me mad. So here it is, extricated in all it's magical glory for you, my lovely Limbolanders, to peruse, shake your head, and say "when's that crazy fuck gonna get a real job."

It is a memory of driving around the Bolinas lagoon on my way to get some fresh crab from the locals and observing the sea lions engaged in their usual low tide ritual: they’ve found an exposed spot and have arranged themselves side-by-side like blubbery sunbathers around the pool at the Outrigger Club. They look so dead to the world I figure they could’ve flown in from Duluth that afternoon and headed straight for the pool, had a few umbrella drinks and passed out. After my day of slinging verbal horseshit across the digital airwaves I am thinking a few umbrella drinks might be just the ticket, though these days dreaming about pounding back four Mai Tais in quick succession is like dreaming about becoming Queen of England. Not likely to happen.
            When I take the unmarked exit off Highway One onto the Olema-Bolinas road, the road that that Bolinians wish would magically appear behind the thick and swirling curtain of fog upon their summons and then be folded under the mists again upon their passing, like the entrance to the Mines of Moria, I always have the same thought:  should the San Andreas fault decide to slip right about now, a massive crack would split open under the water of the Bolinas Lagoon and suck the sea lions into the center of the earth with a giant “whoooosh”. I too would go down the drain, since the Black Rocket and I are positioned more or less directly above the fault that separates the Pt. Reyes Peninsula, and Bolinas, from the rest of North America. 
            I give Black Rocket a little goose just in case the big one should strike, imagining that Bolinas would be a perfect hideout for the notorious Yeung Lap Ming since it is, quite possibly, one of the more secretive, exclusive, and unapologetically mean places in the world. The good folks there, and there are plenty of them, claim that the historic stereotype is just a bad rap stemming from some major pot growers trying to warn off would-be hordes of high school thieves that might otherwise go ripping through the local gardens like swarm of Peter Cottontails. And there there’s the issue of the local surfers and their waves, which of course isn’t unique to Bo. But I’ve always thought there must be more than strong pot and good waves to make some of the local fisherman, artists, surfers, derelicts, hippies and farmers so aggressively and vocally isolationist. Some common thread that binds them together in mutual distaste for the outside world, which out here on the coast could hardly be called threateningly commercial, must keep the Bolinians looking over their collective shoulder.
            As it turns out, there is a little known myth that would indicate that the natives that live on the west side the San Andreas Fault, which would be the entire Point Reyes peninsula including Bolinas and the little not-quite-as-mean art colony of Inverness, which is also the side of the fault that will either sink into the ocean or float off into the Pacific in the event of The Big One, are all descended from Russian otter hunters and fur traders roamed the inlets, coves and caves from The Farallones to Mendo in the early nineteenth century.
It is fact, not myth, that from 1812 to 1842 Russians had the run of the California coast all the way down to Tomales Bay, which if it weren’t for the San Andreas fault would not exist. Myth has it that around 1814 one enterprising Russian in particular, Lieutenant Dimitri Pavlovich, who might have been related in one way or another to Tsar Aleksandr I from the looks of his long, aquiline nose, took a shine to an acorn-grinding, bare-breasted Miwok maiden whose name has sadly been forgotten. When it was discovered that the lieutenant was boinking one of the locals, Pavlovich was shipped off to a sealing station on the Farallones, which, besides being a prodigious source of guano (bird shit), are surrounded by one of the world’s largest population of Great White Sharks. (This, of course, makes the Norcal surfers a particularly fearless. or stupid, breed.)  
Pavlovich, once a hearty curly headed, cigar-chomping naval officer with sienna sideburns that swooped in from his jawline to the center of his cheeks, had been stripped of his brass buttons and epaulettes and left with a band of Kodiaks to harpoon Northern Fur Seals, shovel seagull turds, and collect seabird eggs in the eternally dense, wet and achingly cold fog that forever swirls around the Farallones. But the memory of his little Miwok girl, so willowy and lithesome in her adolescence, burned within him with such strength that he could barely walk. So one February night he commandeered a Kodiak skiff and in howling winds and blinding rain and set off from the St. James inlet between the cliffs.. The skiff pitched and yawed over giant swells as Pavlovich wielded his oars against the surf and rowed with the conviction of an uncontrollably horny man possessed by the powers of forbidden teen love. But it was not enough, and when he was finally pitched into the black ocean white sharks five times his length circled him instantly and it looked like he was going to be a midnight snack but, sensing as they do in their blindness that he had not an ounce of fat on him they all turned away except one, the patriarch of that noble lineage of great whites, El Munon, or The Stump. (We’ll come back to great great great grandfather Stumpy and all the little Stumpys after him, later. Maybe.) El Munon took the limp, almost drowned Russian in his jaws the way a lab might take a duck and swam with him thirty miles into the Bolinas Lagoon, depositing him on a rocky beach.

When Pavlovich regained consciousness the Chief of the Miwoks and other members of the local tribe were looking down upon him like he was a God who had run into some serious trouble with the ocean, and they marveled at the tiny indentations across his chest, back and tummy where Stumpy had so lovingly caressed him on their journey.  They gently grabbed Pavlovich the hair and dragged him several miles to the village on the mesa overlooking the point break. Once recovered and adopted by the tribe, the horny Russian got back into the boinking business and took to making babies with his young maiden and perhaps several other Miwok girls.
Meanwhile The Russians, who with their American fur trading partners had wiped out the otter population, pulled up stakes and vacated Northern California in 1842, selling Fort Ross and the surrounding area to John Sutter, the Sutter of Sutter’s Mill where gold was discovered just a few short years later. Had the Russki’s stuck around for another year or so and laid claim to all to the rest of California, there’s a remote chance everybody from here to Vladivostok would be speaking Russian and drinking copious quantities of vodka right now.
Salud, comrade!

Stay tuned for Part II "Pavlovich vs. Briones - Shootout at The Rancho"

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Blues n' Babble

 And this on the heels of the story that never ends, it just goes on and on my friend...The Twelve Bars. Call if synchronicity. Call it sage sequencing. Call it random bullshit.

Some folks dig having a boatload of background information about the folks in the band as they feel it enhances the overall experience. Others would rather make something up, imagining, for example, that Kevin Hayes was once a Hindu goat herder in the Himalayan foothills, and that his interest in drums was engendered by whacking the beasts on their asses with his staff. Later, Kevin won a new face in a raffle at the market in Kathmandu. As a result his goats no longer recognized him and ran away when he approached, leaving Kevin with no asses to whack. So, reluctantly, Kevin left his beloved goats and came to the United State, where he traded his whacking staff for a pair of drumsticks. The rest, as they say, is hysteria.

Other folks might comb the web for background information on the individual musician so, when for example Bonnie is packing up her keyboard, they can can regale her with questions about how she ended up writing songs for Bonnie Raitt.

My experience has been that many folks are curious about how the band got together, how they came up with their name, whatever happened to that rather strange harmonica player who told all those off-color jokes on stage. But as we know this gig is a little different as it's been put together to showcase my novel and also the very tasty styling of writer/musician Greg Glazner.

Greg and I met at the Rainier Writing Workshop last August in Tacoma. The workshop happens on the Pacific Lutheran University campus, and quite naturally there is a library/bookstore/micro-brew bar a few blocks away where students and staff gather nightly to drink and play tunes. While I was too fried by the whole experience to play music (I am going to take a personal valet with me next summer so I can be guided to where I need to be and when) I did get a chance to hear Greg play and...well, he's the real thing. Turns out Greg and his companion Pam Houston, who captains the creative writing ship at UC Davis and had a big hit with her novel Cowboys are My Weakness, along with two Irish Wolfhounds (Edward and Fenton) were renting a place on the Patios out here in Stinson for Oct./Nov. Greg, as a faculty member of the Rainier Writing Workshop, has a vested interested in the success of the students there, thus he's helping to promote Hack. And so, this here gig.

I've been playing with Bonnie and Kevin for a fair bit I'd say. We have a trio +1 (special guest) gig called Bonnie's Lil Jazz Thang and we play whenever Kevin is taking a break from his duties as a touring musician, of late with Roy Rogers and Matt Scofield, and for many years before that with Robert Cray. Bonnie keeps herself crazy crazy busy with a million different music projects, playing gigs, recording, producing, teaching (she taught last summer at Berklee School of Music in Boston). So we get together when the stars align, as they are this Friday!

Of course there are a plethora of fascinating human interest stories that would keep Limboland buzzing for weeks on end, like the time that Bonnie played a whole gig dressed in scuba gear and suspended from a Haitian Love Swing. So stay tuned. Weird shit is always happening here in Limboland!

And I hope to see all you local little Limbolanders this Friday and we'll all get low!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Twelve Bars

Tired of reading about the shit that our beloved President has to pull together if he wants to avoid being burned at the stake by his own supporters? I fear there is no individual as magnificent, strong, and powerful as one would need to be to digest all the trouble that's been heaped on our unfairly maligned leader's head. I am afraid, my sweet and beautiful friends, that brother Barry is going to get the blues something fierce in the next few months and he too will crave deliverance from the ugly, swirling vortex of pain and confusion known as governance. It's only natural that he's going to entreat the citizens to put on their boy or girl scout uniforms and exercise their great responsibility as free people - after all he can't do this all by himself. But he will need some sort of entertaining distraction; a sweet hard suckie to take his mind off things. Which is exactly why I have sent him my melodic trifle: Hack. It is also why I now offer up something without any redeeming social significance whatsoever: The Twelve Bar Blues.

Surely you've heard it. How many times, we've got to wonder, has this story has been told? You know, the one about the blues musician who chronicles his life according to the twelve most important dives he's played. It's just so plain that you would think there would be an entire wing of the Memphis public library dedicated to the short stories, poems, novels, sonnets, essays, blog post etc. etc about the Twelve Bars.

The analogy is so obvious it's stupid. For the non-musical fungus amungus, let me 'splain: In musical notation, a "bar" (aka "measure") is a unit of music defined by a number of beats between two vertical lines on the staff.  (Figure1) (You can ignore all the other boogers in the picture.)
Figure 1. Several bars, no booze.

Part of the irony is that most blues musicians, I would imagine, wouldn't know the kind of bar pictured here if it came up and bit them in the ass. But they do know that the music they play is based on a 12-bar pattern known as - ta da! - the Twelve Bar Blues. The fact that this music is primarily played in bars (nightclubs, lounges, etc) is a cosmic joy that is without a doubt a gift to us from The Creator. What mortal could have designed such purpose into the existence of these poor, booze-addled blues musicians? Who sat down at the dawn of time and deigned this music centered around twelve bars and 3 chords would be played in bars?

I know somebody here in Limboland will be able to point me to the short story, novel, poem, essay or other work of fine literature that tells the story of the once happy-go-lucky fella that, after he had visited twelve very specific bars - eight in Chicago, two in Memphis, and two in New Orleans -  descended into a depression so deep that he actually did end up drinking muddy water and sleeping in a hollow log. You know the story I'm talking about - "The Twelve Bar Blues".

While there may be twelve bars is this poor sucker's nightmare (or perhaps it's not a nightmare? Perhaps our hero loves the blues) there are only three cities. The ridiculously banal analogy is that each city represents a tonal value, a note or a chord, one of those do re mi thingies, of which there are generally three in a twelve bar blues. Out of the eight tones in the do-re-mi-fa-so-la-ti-do Von Trapp Family Singers group jamboree, it is the do, fa, and so, or the one, four and five tones on the scale that comprise the three primary notes of the twelve bar blues. Painfully elementary and without a doubt a complete waste of my breath and my time, as I should be reading The Rhetoric of Fiction by Wayne C. Booth, or Madame Bovary, or doing something else for school because between work and school there really isn't time for anything else, especially this type of weak fecal discharge.

Weak fecal discharge though it may be, we must press on because, like Yeung Lap Ming, there is a BIZ to be done here. Quite specifically, it is a Mississippi BIZ, more or less. How does the story go? Our hero Mr. Bluesman (what is his name? Send me his name, will you please? I haven't read this story in a long time) starts with four bars in Chicago. These bars are named after local blues heros, right? So Mr. Bluesman did gigs in Muddy's, Howlin's, Willie's and Koko's, porkin' a different little piglet* in every bar. Or course each of the little chicklets he chows on has a big, ugly, ex-con, drug-dealin' pimp boyfriend and none of these fellers take a liking to Mr. Bluesman boffin' their babes.

So Mr. Bluesman moves on the Memphis and works a couple of bars, then has to go back to Chicago for two more bars because one of the piglets he's porked is pregnant. The pimp boyfriend insists that the baby is his and has decided to snuff our hero who is just a loser guitarist drinking beer, playing 3 chords in a 12-bar pattern for nickels and dimes, and doing every other drug that gets shoved in front of him. But now his worthless life is in danger so he hightails it to New Orleans where he gets gigs in two more bars until he hears that the pimp boyfriend in Chicago has gotten 12 to 20 for having relations with a minor (not a coal miner) and rushes back to his piglet, only to get whacked by the piglet's pappy. Ugh!

There it is, that story we've heard so many times: twelve gigs, twelve girlfriends, twelve bars. Shit if I remember this story correctly I think he might even have twelve drinks a day.

Oh for chrissakes this now reminds me of a variation on this tired and trite theme: The twelve bars on the twelve days of Christmas, and that one horrible night - the tenth night - when our erstwhile bluesman gets his bottom blacked and blued down at Chaps in the Castro with ten lords a leaping.Truly a sad and disgusting ordeal. He would have been better off had he quit on the eighth night and stuck with the maids a milking.

This story is so woven into the toilet paper of American Culture is has become almost archetypal, whether it's the ecumenical version, the Mississippi three-step, the Delta ramble, the Austin boogie...blues blues blues one four five twelve bars and round and round we go. The story of the Twelve Bars, be it Peri's Silver Dollar, The Chatterbox, The Barrel House Saloon, The Starry Plough, Nineteen Broadway, The Buckeye Roadhouse, The Pooper Scooper, The Silver Peso, The Grim Reamer, Ye Rose & Thistle, The Mayflower Pub, or The No Name is a timeless story of debauchery, pedophilia, alcohol abuse, drug addiction and, above all three great chords - the one, the four and the five (with possible substitutions of the six and two minor in the turnaround) that will live long after mankind has been eighty-sixed from the planet once and for all.

Just one thing. Somebody has written the story, right?

I almost forgot the version where twelve different bluesmen spend their lives in an endless round robin through twelve bars on Beale Street. You've heard that one too, I suppose?
Twelve Angry Men?

*I've heard there are GLBT versions of this archetypal story but I have yet to be in the company of those that might be aware of such versions.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lookin’ For Love in All the Wrong Places

Hey kids it's time to play "Literature in Limboland", where I join the din of book reviewers out there and do a little bullshit slingin' myself. Here's a little commentary on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Junot Diaz, Dominican homeboy of the switchblade prose.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
Junot Diaz, Riverhead Books, 2007

Here is a tale of forbidden love, and what happens to those who partake of it. Set against a backdrop of Indio/Spanish island superstition, Catholicism, and Inquisition-era politics, juxtaposed against American commercial nothingness – the cursed de Leon family seeks comfort with mistresses, husbands and hookers. And they pay the Dominican way, in Junot Diaz high definition blood-splattered Technicolor.
I don’t know that there’s much else to be said about Junot Diaz’s hit story, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, since he took the literary world by storm and won the Pulitzer Prize in 2007. I’ll try and articulate what I believe to be Diaz’s formula for “success”, not in terms of writing a bestseller, but in terms of writing a grand and memorable novel.
This is what I see. Or read. Or hear.
“They say…that it was a dream drawn into Creation through the nightmare door that was cracked open in the Antilles. Fuku americanus, or more colloquially, fuku – generally a curse or a doom of some kind; specifically the Curse and the Doom of the New World.” (P. 1)
I took it hook, line and sinker and only later when I looked it up and discovered that it’s the name of an Anime character, was I was struck by the magnitude of Diaz’s creation. I am struck again by the depth of imagination as he describes fuku as a “dream” somehow pulled “into Creation” from the earth’s innards through a deep ocean trench. Midway through the first paragraph and I am already slack jawed. By the end of the first chapter the contest between two supernatural powers is set: Fuku vs. Zafa, both products of Diaz’s formidable imagination.
Another critical opening ingredient: establish a character that wants something so bad they’ll do anything to get it. If a “fat sci-fi role-playing nerd wants to get laid or he’ll kill himself” plot isn’t enough, Diaz layers on Lola starved for motherly love and the story of the destroyed mother herself, Beli, who almost died trying to get what she wanted. 
         Then there are the themes that color the narrative: the whole sci-fi/fantasy element. While not an avid reader of the genre, there are a few books that I’ve read and reread: The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, Dune, The Foundation Trilogy (and later, Harry Potter). Each of them an epic of the struggle between good and evil, and characters/scenes/themes from each of them (except the Asimov trilogy) are used tirelessly as analogies throughout Oscar Wao. By attaching these stories to both Oscar and Yunior’s respective frames of reference, he infers a whole dimension of character without having to explain what it’s all about. Of course the reader is at a disadvantage if they are not familiar with Tolkien and Herbert, but that doesn’t mean they can’t follow. Oscar’s obsession with science fiction and fantasy is stereotypical for the fat kid, and the escape/withdrawal that the genre, along with the anime, (“Fuku”, it turns out, is an anime character), and the Dungeons and Dragons role play are the only comforts, along with food, that Oscar knows. Yunior, also an obvious fan the genre, is more attracted to the good vs. evil battle. Both like to enjoy a little smoky stimulant to the imagination that I feel overplays to the stereotype but Diaz is nothing if not honest about how these characters live.
But this story is about love, more specifically love WITH sex, juxtaposed against love WITHOUT sex (Oscar) and sex WITHOUT love (Yunior). The sad irony, or what I believe Oscar refers to as “the beauty” at the very end, is that, in this story our heroes fall in love with people that are not “available” and though our heroes are not the adulterers, they are equally guilty.  In Beli’s case, her Gangster is married to Trullijo’s sister, La Fea. While the very end of the novel could be interpreted in any number of ways, what struck me was Oscar’s conclusion that something as simple as gentle, human kindness, a tender touch, a connection with another individual is what it’s “all about”.
“He couldn’t believe he’d had to wait for this so goddamn long. (Ybon was the one who suggested calling the wait something else. Yeah, like what? Maybe, she said, you could call it life.) He wrote: So this is what everybody’s always talking about! Diablo! If only I’d known. The beauty! The beauty!” (P. 335)
The reader can’t help but ask “the beauty of WHAT, Oscar?” He could have just have easily had said “the sad irony of it all”. The sad irony is that Oscar could’ve had, if he’d only known that is was so much more than sex, a life full of love.
What about the use of “postmodern” no-quote dialogue, mid-sentence line breaks, one-paragraph chapters, the somewhat random use of initial caps to give more meaning or weight to a specific word, and strange hybrid words from the world of sci-fi and Spanglish – all these characteristic lend the narrative a hip sensibility that embodies our narrator’s overall “groove”? ( I imagine that if the format was able to support graffiti, it would have been included as well.) It is exemplified here:


Before there was an American Story, before Paterson spread before Oscar and Lola like a dream, or the trumpets from the Island of our eviction had even sounded, there was their mother, Hypatia Belicia Cabral:
            a girl so tall you leg bones ached just looking at her
            so dark it was as if the Creatrix had, in her making, blinked
            who, like her yet-to-be-born daughter, would come to exhibit a particularly Jersey malaise – the inextinguishable longing for elsewheres.” (p. 77)
Outside of the no-quote dialogue, this passage has it all: the random initial caps (American Story, Island), the homegrown words (Creatrix, elsewheres), the vertical list, the ultra-short chapter: these are elements that in other novels may seem contrived, but in Oscar Wao fit beautifully.

Witnesseth the power: 
“It was obvious what was happening, but what could he do? There was no denying what he felt. Did he lose sleep? Yes. Did he lose important hours of concentration? Yes. Did he stop reading his Andre Norton books and even lose interest the final issue of Watchmen, which were unfolding in the illest way? Yes. Did he start borrowing his tio’s car for long rides to the Shore, parking at Sandy Hook, where his mom use to take them before she got sick, back when Oscar hadn’t been too fat, before she stopped going to the beach altogether? Yes. Did his youthful unrequited love cause him to lose weight? Unfortunately, this alone it did not provide…” (P. 45)
 And in the end, it’s the voice of the narrator, Yunior, Diaz’ alter ego, that carries the day. Yunior: the street smart barrio dude who snagged a follow-up gig in Diaz’s composite work, This is How You Lose Her.  From what I have read, it is Diaz’s street smart, mutant, familiar colloquialism that gets most of the attention. But Diaz doesn’t lay it out there as an oddity for our entertainment. Rather, when Yunior addresses us as “Nigger” and “Negro”, he’s feeling pretty confident that all of his readers are young and/or hip enough to know that it’s ok to use the “N” word among friends. So we’re hanging in Yunior’s back yard, passing a bowl and listening to him tell his story, stoned enough so that it doesn’t bother us when he drops the personal pronouns from of his sentences. Don’t even care.
Thus we let our guard down; we suspend our disbelief about fuku and zafa, the talking Mongoose, the magical wind in the cane, the miraculous survivals of the beat-downs to end all beat-downs, the men without faces, the blank notebook, the consummate culocrats and the one-track mind of Dominican males, and we can’t help but agree that Oscar Wao’s life was indeed wondrous.
Better yet it makes for a great story.

Friday, October 26, 2012

Pass The Invisibility Cloak, Please

Let me up I've had enough!

I revile presidential elections. In fact we have a general policy here in Limboland not to engage in the Dark Arts or to grant membership to the likes of He Who Shall Not Be Named, Malfoy and his ugly albino family, Beatrix LeStrange or anyone who's name ends in x, or any of those bottom-sniffing muggle-haters (though it might be fun to have the V-man around when he's baby-sized and trying to make his comeback - we could toss and kick him around like a football). This eternal ban from Limboland goes for the Mordor crew as well: Sauron, Saruman, the orcs and the uruk-hai, the Balrog, the Nazgul and the king of the slimebuckets Gollum. And no Imperial Stormtroopers either. Jabba the Hut...well, ok, but just so long as you got Princess Lea in a bikini on a chain.

The ban extends to presidential candidates as well, including, unfortunately our erstwhile and sincere chief executive who keeps getting his wiener wrapped around his neck despite how much money we throw at him.

It is precisely the money throwing, or, more succinctly, the money throwing away, flushed down the toilet that drives me into the depths of despair, or should I say to the sewage treatment plant. Every goddamn day Barack and his friendly flunkies are scavenging for dough - multiple emails in every account. I'm me. I'm Henry Griffin. I'm Hack. I'm Paco. I'm Mrs. Doubtfire...they always find their man.

The numbers are obscene, the product - a Mitt ad, a Barack ad, doesn't matter they're equally obscene. Ask any American if they think it's an inordinate waste of money, time and energy. "Yes! Disgusting!" They'll all agree. Just imagine if those resources were funneled into something cool. Something constructive. Something life saving.

But hey...don't tell me how to spend my money, right? It's my constitutional right to spend it exactly the way I want, and if I have several million lying around, or maybe I just have to exercise a few stock options, or sell a few shares, and then I can pump it into my candidate of choice - the one that scratches not only my back but my balls as well hey and while you're down there would you mind...yeah that's it...just...uh I love the constitution!

Imagine for a second all that money being thrown into candidates marketing coffers as if they were NFL teams. Who profits? The media conglomerates and everybody that works for them, the production companies, the advertising agencies, the PR agencies and all their people, the manufacturers of the machines that deliver the noxious lies. Who profits? Anderson Cooper. That bald-headed cornholing John Malkovich look-allike Carville, The bloggers, pundits, seers, bookies and pimps. The money is swirling around the media industry like a fucking tornado - you think they would like to see some sort of control over campaign spending? Ha!

Democracy has been on the auction block for some time, but this election really brings it all down home. We're reminded of it with every MoveOn email, every plea from every political entity that exists. If we could just keep the elections going full time, keep investing, grow the business, we might be able to wrap it all up in a sweet little IPO and sell it back to...the people?

See why I hate presidential politics? See why here in Limboland it is verboten to speak of such evil things? Harry Potter are you out there? Harry? Hermione? Ron? Could y'all saddle up Buckbeak and get over here with a few spells and if you don't mind one extra large invisibility cloak?

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Blame, Rev. 2

 I know little buddies. This shit is no fun. But every once in a great while I have something to say - this post is just a refinement of the thoughts I served up last week. 

I admit that I serve up my fair share of offensive, sensationalist garbage and we usually don't associate offensive, sensationalist garbage with intelligence -- particularly if it's coming from Limboland! (Right Lap Doggy?) So why do I think The Corrections belongs in the offensive, sensationalist garbage department? That's exactly what I harp on below , but let me add one more thing: the reason I try to give Franzen credit for creating a narrator that angers us with his relentless cynicism is because I agree with the point he is trying to make. We're surrounded with opportunities to make our own lives as empty and meaningless as the Lamberts. Similarly, artist's like Jonathan Franzen have the opportunity to show us the way out. 

Sinclair Lewis, John Updike, Richard Ford, Richard Russo - all these guys are pretty proficient at painting bleak pictures of American culture or the lack thereof, but they always leave us with a little hope one way or the other.  (For those of you that have read Hack, my POV is no surprise.)

So if The Corrections gets you down, don't despair! There's always Limboland!

Blame, Rev 2.

I woke up the other day thinking about Gary Lambert, the downtrodden middle-aged corporate family man who could have almost been me ten years ago, but who instead is one of Jonathan Franzen’s unfortunate characters in The Corrections. I realized that, like Gary, I was nauseous and depressed. I also realized that my woeful condition was Gary’s fault. Gary and his entire pathetic family of Lamberts, and everyone that crosses their path in The Corrections, because besides being a masterful work of fiction The Corrections is one nauseating and depressing read.

I had been reading The Corrections slowly, taking long pauses to work on corporate drudgery which, by comparison, provided a sense of purpose that was relatively uplifting. So, looking for ways to get engaged, I started to focus on Franzen’s execution: the techniques and skills he so effectively employs to make his depressing narrative work.

The first thing that caught my eye that Franzen employs throughout The Corrections, is the use of what Joan Silber describes as “switchback time”:

“…a zigzag movement back and forth among time frames, the method of a fiction that alternates different ‘eras’ (like the deliberate swing of a mountain road that carries us this way and that when a straight line can’t do it.)” (Joan Silber, The Art of Time in Fiction, p. 45)

The Corrections is the story of five individual lives - Alfred and Enid Lambert and their children Chip, Gary and Denise – in the months leading up to Christmas around the turn of the most recent century. If there is a main plot it revolves around the possible gathering of this completely dysfunctional group at the family home in St. Jude, Kansas. Woven into the main thread are both sub-stories happening in real time and “switchbacks”. But even though a sub-story or a particular event may be happening in the past, Franzen’s narrator tells each story in the present tense, as if it is happening now. By keeping his eye on the action he avoids “telling” the past and keeps the narrative in constant motion back and forth though time. In the hands of a less-skilled writer this present tense rendering of main events leading off into a maze of past events and then brought back to the present moment could end up reading like a bowl of narrative spaghetti. With Franzen, we get the sense that even though the story may seem to consist of many strands it’s really all one big, consistent, if somewhat directionless noodle. So it is Franzen’s narrative skill, along with the consistent use of tone and language, and the balance of dialogue and exposition, that provides an accessible foundation for a broad audience of varying levels of sophistication. Add to that the peppy, inventive use of lively vocabulary, a comfortable variation of line length, precise attention to the important supportive detail, a natural infusion of profanity and we’ve got a contemporary blockbuster. Clearly that has been the general view of a vast majority of readers. 

And yet I could barely make it through. I would read, shake my head, grit my teeth in anger. What is the point, I asked, besides making us marvel at the gorgeous, lyrical prose, laughing at these bumbling character’s who at times seemed to be reading from Hollywood film scripts? What is the point, besides claiming to be holding a mirror up to the ugly American People and our ugly American Culture?

The only answer that I’ve found to be workable is that those are exactly the questions that Franzen poses, and he poses the questions by creating this omniscient narrator who, far from being an objective third party hired to report on the action, is himself a troubled soul who can’t help but infuse everything - every gesture, every expression, every movement of air, everything the characters do, think or feel – with a nauseating cleverness:  a simile, a metaphor, a turn of phrase, a sleight of hand, a spelling-bee vocabulary word or, worse, a character whipping an inscrutable scientific theory out of their ass. Franzen’s narrator is himself the ugly one, the pessimist who would have us believe his bleak rendering contemporary American culture. 

We are warned early on that this story is intended to be a gross exaggeration of “real” life. In the beginning of the section entitled “The Failures” one of the principals (Chip) gives a seventeen line speech in the middle of a harried scene after his girlfriend, Julie, walks out on him right as his parents arrive for lunch. In this supposedly impromptu burst of insight, Chip concludes that he “is personally losing the battle with a commercialized, medicated, totalitarian modernity right this instant,” Immediately, red flags start popping up across the audience because everybody knows that, while entertaining, no real human being, nobody you’ve ever known or will know will ever speak that way in that situation. Normal people just don’t talk like that. When Franzen’s narrator turns the phoniness volume up to 10 in the first 1000 words it becomes pretty obvious that nothing from this point forward is to be taken seriously, because these characters aren’t not supposed to portray real people!

To the narrator though, these people – caricatures, really -- are his own grim reality. They’re his homeys. Some are perhaps not as stupid, malicious, diseased, depressed, drunk, cynical, and dishonest as others but they’re all just as generally snarky and unhappy as our narrator. This narrator has issues – he’s having a really bad time of it -  and the Lambert family just happens to get caught in his sights as symbols of everything that is selfish, small-minded, trite and pathetic in our society. The blatant contempt the narrator has for the Lambert family and the characters that buzz around their disintegrating hive is almost comical. Indeed the only way to survive the breakneck narrative is to remind yourself that we were warned right up front that this was all in fun, for real people do not generally behave as these people do. Then you can laugh, for awhile at least. The humor stumbles when the narrator continues to belabor the hopelessness of the situation ad nauseum with his clever trifles.  

When I look at the narrator’s supreme arrogance and contempt he has for his characters as Franzen’s way of illustrating the general lack of compassion in American society, I am able to build some meaning into this overall reading experience. Unfortunately this doesn’t make the book any less depressing. My guess is that any reader left standing after a few hundred pages of relentless below-the-belt blows to the psyche would qualify for an appearance in The Corrections II.  But if we take Franzen at face value and eliminate the possibility that author and narrator are not one in the same, we’re left with a meaningless portrait of a dysfunctional family in a dysfunctional society, completely devoid of love. If there is any sign of love, it is the awkward fawning that the demented and crippled Alfred attempts show for his intellectual but sex-crazed son Chip at the very end of the book. But even the tender moments are befouled with anxiety and distrust, thanks to our narrator who keeps us abreast of what the characters are really thinking, versus what we might surmise from their actions. Even when Alfred can no longer express his disdain for everybody and everything, our narrator spares no detail in describing the indignity that Alfred must be feeling. My exhaustion by now is on par with poor Alfred, and I am more than ready for the narrator to “put an end to it.”

Ultimately it is Enid’s revenge, in the final pages, that encapsulates the mean spirit shared by the members of the Lambert family. If it is Franzen’s intention for the reader to stand up at the end and shout “go Enid!” with a hearty fist pump, he craters that intention by turning Enid into a woman incapable of forgiveness and compassion and whose only interest is to show her evil husband how wrong he has been about everything. But if we’re to understand our narrator correctly, this is exactly what we should expect. Nobody get’s out of The Corrections truly corrected. According to the narrator, American culture and the mean shortsighted selfish robots that define it are way too far gone for any real correction. Besides, corrections are by definition temporary, as are, fortunately for Jonathan Franzen, narrators. Because if this is the way Jonathan Franzen honestly feels about his fellow humans, he must be the loneliest person on earth.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Sojourns and Compendiums - A Literary Event

Sojourns and Compendiums: 
 Book Your Passage at Book Passage in Corte Madera, for this Delightful Day of Travel Through Literature
Saturday, November 10
1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m

Join Harper Davis Publishers as they celebrate the release of their latest titles in a delightful day of Travel Through Literature hosted at Book Passage in Corte Madera. From as far away as Athens, Greece, to as close as Mill Valley, California, each title presented is your passport to a fascinating region and a captivating read. This event offers you an extraordinary voyage, and you don’t even need to pack! Join us for crafts and photography, regional foods and music, all of which will enhance your appreciation of the locales featured in the readings of both new and familiar books by six spectacular authors:

Patricia V. Davis, Harlot’s Sauce: A Memoir of Food, Family, Love, Loss, and Greece  (Athens, Greece)

Cathy Edgett and Jane Flint, Breast Strokes: Two Friends Journal Through the Unexpected Gifts of Cancer (Mill Valley, California)

Jeb Stewart Harrison, Hack (Marin County, CA; Tubac, AZ; Pinecrest, CA)

Gilbert Mansergh, The Marvelous Journals of Miss Virginia Pettingill (Gloucester, Massachusetts)

Amanda McTigue, Going to Solace (The Blue Ridge Mountains)

Susanna Solomon, The Sheriff’s Calls in The Point Reyes Light (Point Reyes, California)

This event is free and open to the public, ages 12 and up. For information on these titles and authors, visit: