Friday, November 30, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Art of Fielding, excerpt eleven)

from The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach:

Affenlight gazed through the patio door at the groomed and moonlit backyard, the lake beyond. It was a beautiful house. Big but not outlandish, as Sandy said. But why even consider it? He’d been in the quarters for eight years, had hardly felt cramped or dissatisfied. If the garbage disposal broke or there was a problem with the heat, he just called Infrastructure and they sent someone over. Here there was no Infrastructure. He’d have rooms to paint, a furnace to replace, property taxes to pay. Not to mention the fact that he owned so little furniture, not nearly enough to fill so many rooms. What kind of condition was the roof in? That was the kind of question he needed to ask Sandy, the kind of question that, if he bought a house, he’d be asking himself forever.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Art of Fielding, excerpt ten)

from The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach:

He wasn’t old but he looked it now, his arms limp at his side, deep lines of worry scored into forehead beneath his mussed gray-silver hair, his expression sad and beseeching. Why was the younger person always the prize, the older person always the striver? Ever since adolescence Pell had been gathering experience in the role of the younger person, the clung-to one, the beloved. That was the idiot hopefulness of humans, always to love what was unformed. Really it made no sense. What were the old hoping the young would become? Something other than old? It hadn’t happened yet. But the old kept trying.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Art of Fielding, excerpt nine)

from The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach:

Nineteen seventy-three. In the public imagination it was as fraught a year as you could name: Watergate, Roe v. Wade, withdrawal from Vietnam, Gravity’s Rainbow. Was it also the year that Prufrockian paralysis went mainstream—the year it entered baseball? It made sense that a psychic condition sensed by the artists of one generation—the Modernists of the First World War—would take a while to reveal itself throughout the population. And if that psychic condition happened to be a profound failure of confidence in the significance of individual human action, then the condition became an epidemic when it entered the realm of utmost confidence in same: the realm of professional sport. In fact, that might make for a workable definition of the postmodernist era: an era when even the athletes were anguished Modernists. In which case the American postmodern period began in spring 1973, when a pitcher named Steve Blass lost his arm.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Art of Fielding, excerpt eight)

from The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach:

They drove in David’s rented hybrid to Maison Robert, the upscale, slightly flagging French place she used to go with her father during her vacations from Tellman Rose. It felt nice to be among adults, even if the adults in question were David and a bunch of past-their-prime-if-they’d-ever-had-a-prime academics bleached white by one too many northern Wisconsin winters. Maison Robert served as a kind of de facto Westish faculty club. Bald pates shone in the yellow-puddled lights, wire-rimmed glasses peered at the immutable black menus, snifters of amber brandy clicked against bulbous goblets of deep red wine. Pella’s oral history professor, the preposterously chic, thoroughly un-Wisconsiny Judy Eglatine, dined alone in one corner, dressed in narrow black, an open book before her. A feathery lime-green boa flopped over the opposite chair in place of a companion. Pella caught her eye and waved shyly as David pulled back her chair with his usual wooden courtesy. Professor Eglatine smiled.

Monday, November 26, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Art of Fielding, excerpt seven)

from The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach:

“Huh.” Pella imagined in a flash the restaurant she would own: small and white, all painted white, but warmly so. And every so often she would take a white chair or a white table and paint it according to her mood, paint a door frame or a section of filigreed molding, hand a canvas on the white wall, so that bit by bit the whiteness of the restaurant would emerge into color. So as customers sat there over the course of weeks and months and years the place would slowly bloom and change before their eyes, sliding from whiteness into something ingeniously raucous, a riot of green and mango and orange. And then when the job was finished she’d obliterate what she’d done with a blizzard of white paint and start again. That was the kind of restaurant she’d like to own. The food being served was fuzzier in her mind: she saw the white plates move and clatter but couldn’t tell what was on them. She could see the clean sharp arrangements on the plates, the contrasts of color and texture, but not the foods themselves. She’d have a lot to learn about food. And really when the restaurant actually opened she’d be so busy cooking, running the kitchen, that she wouldn’t have time to paint. So really she’d have to develop a whole new idea of restaurants and how they worked, not an interior decorator’s idea, but a chef’s idea, and this was an idea she didn’t yet have, but would maybe someday like to have. Or maybe she didn’t want to be a chef at all, but the possibility of doing something, pursuing something, seemed, for the first time in a long time, not only appealing but real.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Art of Fielding, excerpt six)

from The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach:

Baseball was an art, but to excel at it you had to become a machine. It didn’t matter how beautifully you performed sometimes, what you did on your best day, how many spectacular plays you made. You weren’t a painter or a writer—you didn’t work in private and discard your mistakes, and it wasn’t just your masterpieces that counted. What mattered, as for any machine, was repeatability. Moments of inspiration were nothing compared to elimination of error. The scouts cared little for Henry’s superhuman grace; insofar as they cared they were suckered-in aesthetes and shitty scouts. Can you perform on demand, like a car, a furnace, a gun? Can you make that throw one hundred times out of a hundred? If it can’t be a hundred, it had better be ninety-nine.

Friday, November 23, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Art of Fielding, excerpt five)

from The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach:

“Do you know who Steve Blass is?” Sarah asked.

“Never heard of him,” Henry lied. Steve Blass was an all-star pitcher for the Pirates in the early ‘70s. In the spring of 1973 he suddenly, inexplicably, became unable to throw the ball over the plate. He struggled for two years to regain his control and then, defeated, retired.

“What about Mackey Sasser?”

“Never heard of him.” Sasser was a catcher for the Mets who’d developed a paralyzing fear of tossing the ball back to the pitcher. He would double-, triple-, quadruple-, quintuple-pump, unable to believe it was okay to let go. Opposing fans would loudly, gleefully count the number of pumps. Opposing players would run around the bases. Total humiliation. When it happened to Sasser, they said he had Steve Blass Disease.

“Steve Sax? Chuck Knoblauch? Mark Wohlers? Rick Ankiel?”

If Sarah X. Pessel hadn’t been a girl, Henry might have socked her in the face. Her middle name probably didn’t even start with X; she probably just liked the way it looked in her byline. “None of those guys were shortstops,” he said.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Rhapsody Interview/Menu: James Beard Award Best Chef in the South Chris Hastings

Chris Hastings, owner and chef of Birmingham's Hot and Hot Fish Club and the reigning James Beard Award winner for Best Chef in the South, provides our latest (and in a sense, first) Rhapsody interview/menu.


the last book I ever read (The Art of Fielding, excerpt four)

from The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach:

Pella stayed on the couch. She had a complicated attitude toward her dad’s performances. Deep down she loved to listen to him and thought he should have been a truly famous man—president of Harvard, at least, or a small but influential post-Soviet country. But the way he cranked up the charm at certain moments and then basked in the adulation of his audience annoyed her. She knew this was precisely a professor’s job—to build a repertoire of lectures, refine them over time, and perform them as charismatically as possible. To never seem sick of your own voice, for the sake of others. And yet. You could take the same class only so many times.

When the lecture ended Mike wrapped a big paw around Pella’s hand, smiled at her gently. Her annoyance faded as she glimpsed Westish College through his eyes. To her it was a run-down, too-rustic safety school to which her father had banished himself; to Mike it was everything, his home and family, the place into which he’d poured every bit of himself, and which, as soon as the semester ended, planned to book him out forever. He’d been trying to find a new home, a law school that would take him in, but it hadn’t panned out. If home was where your heart was, then Westish was Mike’s home. If home was where they had to take you in no matter what, then it was hers. She squeezed his hand.

Monday, November 19, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Art of Fielding, excerpt three)

from The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach:

Pella nodded. She knew the Emerson riff by heart, but Mike clearly wanted to tell it, and if that would cheer him up as she was willing to listen.

“His first wife died young, of tuberculosis. Emerson was shattered. Months later, he went to the cemetery, alone, and dug up her grave. Opened the coffin and looked inside, at what was left of this woman he loved. Can you imagine? It must have been terrible. Just a terrible thing to do. But the thing is, Emerson had to do it. He needed to see for himself. To understand death. To make death real. Your dad said that the need to see for yourself, even in the most difficult circumstances, was what educa—“

“Ellen was nineteen,” Pell interrupted to say. She hated the namelessness of women in stories, as if they lived and died so that men could have metaphysical insights. “One of the cures the doctors prescribed for tuberculosis back then was ‘jolting.’ Which meant going for high-speed carriage rides on deeply rutted roads. Months, weeks before she died. Coughing up blood all the way.”

Sunday, November 18, 2012

the last movies I ever saw over the course of the past year

on November 16th of last year I began a rather concerted effort to view movies from the New York Times Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made list.
these are the movies I've seen from that list over the past 365 days:

About Schmidt
Absence of Malice
Adam’s Rib
The Adventures of Robin Hood
The African Queen
Alice's Restaurant
All About Eve
All Quiet on the Western Front
All the King's Men
All the President's Men
America, America
American Graffiti
An American in Paris
Anatomy of a Murder
The Apartment
Apocalypse Now
Apollo 13
The Asphalt Jungle
Atlantic City
The Awful Truth
Baby Doll
Back to the Future
The Bad and the Beautiful
Bad Day at Black Rock
Ball of Fire
The Band Wagon
The Bank Dick
Barton Fink
Being John Malkovich
Being There
The Best Years of Our Lives
Beverly Hills Cop
The Bicycle Thief
The Big Heat
Big Night
The Big Red One
The Big Sky
The Big Sleep
Billy Liar
Biloxi Blues
The Birds
Black Narcissus
Blazing Saddles
Blue Collar
Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice
Body Heat
Bonnie and Clyde
Boogie Nights
Born on the Fourth of July
Born Yesterday
Bound for Glory
The Breakfast Club
Breaking Away
The Bridge on the River Kwai
Brief Encounter
Bringing Up Baby
Broadcast News
Brother's Keeper
The Buddy Holly Story
Bull Durham
Bus Stop
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
The Caine Mutiny
California Suite
Calle 54
Captains Courageous
Carmen Jones
Carnal Knowledge
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Chariots of Fire
Charley Varrick
Chicken Run
The Cider House Rules
The Citadel
Citizen Kane
Claire's Knee
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Coal Miner's Daughter
The Color of Money
The Conversation
Cool Hand Luke
The Count of Monte Cristo
Cry, the Beloved Country
The Crying Game
Dangerous Liaisons
Dark Victory
David Copperfield
The Day of the Jackal
Days of Heaven
Days of Wine and Roses
Dead End
Dead Man Walking
Dead Ringers
The Deer Hunter
The Defiant Ones
Desperately Seeking Susan
Destry Rides Again
Dial M for Murder
Die Hard
The Dirty Dozen
Dirty Harry
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Do the Right Thing
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Doctor Zhivago
Donnie Brasco
Double Indemnity
Down by Law
The Dresser
Driving Miss Daisy
Duck Soup
East of Eden
8 ½
Eight Men Out
The Elephant Man
Elmer Gantry
Empire of the Sun
The English Patient
The Entertainer
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
The Exorcist
A Face in the Crowd
Far from Heaven
Fat City
Fatal Attraction
Father of the Bride
The Fisher King
The Fly
A Foreign Affair
The Fortune Cookie
The French Connection
Friendly Persuasion
From Here to Eternity
The Fugitive
Full Metal Jacket
The Full Monty
Funny Face
Funny Girl
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Ghost World
Gimme Shelter
The Gleaners and I
The Godfather
The Godfather Part II
Going My Way
Gone With the Wind
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Goodbye, Mr. Chips
The Graduate
Grand Hotel
The Grapes of Wrath
The Great Dictator
The Great McGinty
The Greatest Show on Earth Green for Danger
The Grifters
Groundhog Day
The Gunfighter
Gunga Din
Hail the Conquering Hero
Hannah and Her Sisters
A Hard Day's Night
Harry and Tonto
A Hatful of Rain
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse
The Heiress
The High and the Mighty
High Noon
High Sierra
His Girl Friday
Hoop Dreams
The Hours
How to Marry a Millionaire
Ken Burns' America: Huey Long
Husbands and Wives
The Hustler
I Remember Mama
I Want to Live!
In Cold Blood
In the Heat of the Night
Inherit the Wind
It Happened One Night
Jailhouse Rock
The Jazz Singer
Jerry Maguire
Judgment at Nuremberg
The Killing Fields
King Kong
The King of Comedy
Kiss of the Spider Woman
Kramer vs. Kramer
The Lady Eve
The Last Emperor
The Last Picture Show
The Lavender Hill Mob
Lawrence of Arabia
A League of Their Own
The Letter
The Life of Emile Zola
Life With Father
Little Big Man
Little Women (1933)
The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner
Long Day's Journey into Night
The Long Good Friday
The Long Voyage Home
Lost in America
The Lost Weekend
Love Affair
Love and Death
Love in the Afternoon
Lover Come Back
Lust for Life
Make Way for Tomorrow
Malcolm X
The Maltese Falcon
A Man for All Seasons
The Man Who Came to Dinner
The Man Who Wasn't There
The Man With the Golden Arm
The Manchurian Candidate
Married to the Mob
The Marrying Kind
Mary Poppins
Mean Streets
Meet Me in St. Louis
Melvin and Howard
Miracle on 34th Street
The Miracle Worker
The Misfits
Mr. and Mrs. Bridge
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
Mr. Hulot's Holiday
Mister Roberts
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Mrs. Miniver
Mona Lisa
Monsters, Inc.
The More the Merrier
The Mortal Storm
Much Ado About Nothing
Mutiny on the Bounty
My Beautiful Laundrette
My Fair Lady
My Left Foot
My Life as a Dog
My Man Godfrey
The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!
National Lampoon's Animal House
National Velvet
Night Moves
The Night of the Hunter
Night of the Living Dead
A Night to Remember
Nobody's Fool
Norma Rae
North by Northwest
Now, Voyager
The Nun's Story
Odd Man Out
Of Mice and Men
On the Town
On the Waterfront
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
One Foot in Heaven
One, Two, Three
Only Angels Have Wings
Operation Crossbow
Ordinary People
Our Town
Out of the Past
The Ox-Bow Incident
The Palm Beach Story
A Passage to India
Paths of Glory
The People Vs. Larry Flynt
The Philadelphia Story
The Pianist
The Piano
Pillow Talk
The Pink Panther
Places in the Heart
Point Blank
The Postman Always Rings Twice
Pretty Baby
The Pride of the Yankees
The Private Life of Henry VIII
The Producers
The Public Enemy
Pulp Fiction
The Purple Rose of Cairo
Raging Bull
Raiders of the Lost Ark
Rain Man Raising Arizona
Rear Window
Rebel Without a Cause
Red River
Repo Man
Reservoir Dogs
Reversal of Fortune
Ride the High Country
The Right Stuff
Risky Business
River's Edge
Roger & Me
Romeo and Juliet (1936)
Romeo and Juliet (1968)
Room at the Top
A Room With a View
Ruggles of Red Gap
Saturday Night and Sunday Morning
Saving Private Ryan
Say Anything...
The Search
The Searchers
Sergeant York
The Servant
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
The Seven Year Itch
Sex, Lies and Videotape
Shadow of a Doubt
Shakespeare in Love
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
Sherman's March
The Shining
The Shop Around the Corner
A Shot in the Dark
The Silence of the Lambs
Silk Stockings
Singin' in the Rain
Sitting Pretty
The Snake Pit
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
Some Like It Hot
The Spiral Staircase
Splendor in the Grass
Stage Door
A Star Is Born
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Star Wars
State Fair
Stolen Kisses
The Story of G.I. Joe
Straight Time
Stranger Than Paradise
Strangers on a Train
A Streetcar Named Desire
Sullivan's Travels
Sunset Boulevard
Sweet Smell of Success
Swing Time
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three
A Taste of Honey
Taxi Driver
Tender Mercies
The Tender Trap
Terms of Endearment
Thelma & Louise
These Three
They Were Expendable
They Won't Forget
The Thief of Bagdad
The Thin Blue Line
The Thin Man
The Third Man
The Thirty-Nine Steps
Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould
This Is Spinal Tap
This Sporting Life
Three Comrades
Three Days of the Condor
To Be or Not to Be
To Catch a Thief
To Have and Have Not
Top Hat
Toy Story
The Train
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Trouble in Paradise
The Trouble with Harry
True Grit
12 Angry Men
Twelve O'Clock High
2001: A Space Odyssey
Two Women
Ulzana's Raid
Umberto D.
The Usual Suspects
The Way We Were
West Side Story
What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?
What's Up, Doc?
When Harry Met Sally
White Heat
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
The Wild Bunch
The Wizard of Oz
Woman of the Year
The Women
Working Girl
The World of Henry Orient
Written on the Wind
Wuthering Heights
Yankee Doodle Dandy
The Year of Living Dangerously
The Yearling
Yellow Submarine
Young Frankenstein
Young Mr. Lincoln

Saturday, November 17, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Art of Fielding, excerpt two)

from The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach:

I-43, after passing through the northern Milwaukee suburbs, cut due north through vast stretches of flat, yet-unplanted fields. Clouds obscured the moon and stars, and the southbound traffic was sparse. Off to the right lay Lake Michigan, invisibly guiding the highway’s course. Pella expected an immediate grilling—How long are you staying? Have you broken up with David? Are you going back to school?—but her father seemed anxious and preoccupied. She wasn’t sure whether to feel relieved or insulted. They spent most of the ride in silence, and when they spoke, they spoke in monosyllables, more like characters in a Carver story than real live Affenlights.

Friday, November 16, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Art of Fielding, excerpt one)

from The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach:

In the spring of 1880, Herman Melville, then sixty years old, was working as a customs inspector at the Port of New York, having proved unable to support his family through literary work. He was not famous and earned almost nothing from royalties. His first-born son, Malcolm, had committed suicide thirteen years earlier. Melville’s in-laws, among others, feared for his health and regarded him as insane. On a national scale, the horrific, bloody rift he’d prophesied in Moby-Dick and Benito Cereno (both long out of print in 1880) had come to pass, and, as he had been perhaps the first to foresee, the anguish had not ceased with the end of the war.

Not surprising, then, that the great writer might have found himself growing grim about the mouth, as his best-known protagonist put it; that he might have deemed it high time to get back to sea. Too old, impecunious, and hemmed in by family matters to make any more ocean crossings. Melville settled upon a more modest adventure. The spring thaw came early that year, and in March he boarded a ship headed up the Erie Canal, to tour the Great Lakes and thereby reprise alone a trip he had taken with his friend Eli Fly forty years before. Scholars have made much of Melville’s pilgrimage to Jerusalem (1856-57), but this later domestic voyage went unmentioned until 1969, when an undergraduate at Westish College—a small, venerable but already in those days slightly decrepit liberal arts school on the western shore of Lake Michigan—made a remarkable discovery.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Talented Mr. Ripley, excerpt six)

from The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith:

He wanted to go straight to Venice, but he thought he should spend one night doing what he intended to tell the police he had been doing for several months: sleeping in his car on a country road. He spent one night in the back seat of the Lancia, cramped and miserable, somewhere in the neighbourhood of Brescia. He crawled into the front seat at dawn with such a painful crick in his neck he could hardly turn his head sufficiently to drive, but that made it authentic, he thought, that would make him tell the story better. He bought a guidebook of Northern Italy, marked it up appropriately with dates, turned down corners of its pages, stepped on its covers and broke its binding so that it fell open at Pisa.

The next night he spent in Venice. In a childish way Tom had avoided Venice simply because he expected to be disappointed in it. He had thought only sentimentalists and American tourists raved over Venice, and that at best it was only a town for honeymooners who enjoyed the inconvenience of not being able to go anywhere except by a gondola moving at two miles an hour. He found Venice much bigger than he had supposed, full of Italians who looked like Italians anywhere else. He found he could walk across the entire city via the narrow streets and bridges without setting foot in a gondola, and that the major canals had a transportation system of motor launches just as fast and efficient as the subway system, and that the canals did not smell bad, either. There was a tremendous choice of hotels, from the Gritti and the Danieli, which he had heard of, down to crummy little hotels and pensions in back alleys so off the beaten track, so removed from the world of police and American tourists, that Tom could imagine living in one of them for months without being noticed by anybody. He chose a hotel called the Costanza, very near the Rialto bridge, which struck the middle between the famous luxury hotels and the obscure little hostelries on the back streets. It was clean, inexpensive, and convenient to points of interest. It was just the hotel for Tom Ripley.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Talented Mr. Ripley, excerpt five)

from The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith:

He felt alone, yet not at all lonely. It was very much like the feeling on Christmas Eve in Paris, a feeling that everyone was watching him, as if he had an audience made up of the entire world, a feeling that kept him on his mettle, because to make a mistake would be catastrophic. Yet he felt absolutely confident he would not make a mistake. It gave his existence a peculiar, delicious atmosphere of purity, like that, Tom thought, which a fine actor probably feels when he plays an important role on a stage with the conviction that the role he is playing could not be played better by anyone else. He was himself and yet not himself. He felt blameless and free, despite the fact that he consciously controlled every move he made. But he no longer felt tired after several hours of it, as he had at first. He had no need to relax when he was alone. Now, from the moment when he got out of bed and went to brush his teeth, he was Dickie, brushing his teeth with his right elbow jutted out, Dickie rotating the eggshell on his spoon for the last bite. Dickie invariably putting back the first tie he pulled off the rack and selecting a second. He had even produced a painting in Dickie's manner.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Talented Mr. Ripley, excerpt four)

from The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith:

Dickie said absolutely nothing on the train. Under a pretence of being sleepy, he folded his arms and closed his eyes. Tom sat opposite him, staring at his bony, arrogant, handsome face, at his hands with the green ring and the gold signet ring. It crossed Tom's mind to steal the green ring when he left. It would be easy: Dickie took it off when he swam. Sometimes he took it off even when he showered at the house. He would do it the very last day, Tom thought. Tom stared at Dickie's closed eyelids. A crazy emotion of hate, of affection, of impatience and frustration was swelling in him, hampering his breathing. He wanted to kill Dickie. It was not the first time he had thought of it. Before, once or twice or three times, it had been an impulse caused by anger or disappointment, an impulse that vanished immediately and left him with a feeling of shame. Now he thought about it for an entire minute, two minutes, because he was leaving Dickie anyway, and what was there to be ashamed of any more? He had failed with Dickie, in every way. He hated Dickie, because, however he looked at what had happened, his failing had not been his own fault, not due to anything he had done, but due to Dickie's inhuman stubbornness. And his blatant rudeness! He had offered Dickie friendship, companionship, and respect, everything he had to offer, and Dickie had replied with ingratitude and now hostility. Dickie was just shoving him out in the cold. If he killed him on this trip, Tom thought, he could simply say that some accident had happened. He could-- He had just thought of something brilliant: he could become Dickie Greenleaf himself. He could do everything that Dickie did. He could go back to Mongibello first and collect Dickie's things, tell Marge any damned story, set up an apartment in Rome or Paris, receive Dickie's cheque every month and forge Dickie's signature on it. He could step right into Dickie's shoes. He could have Mr. Greenleaf, Sr., eating out of his hand. The danger of it, even the inevitable temporariness of it which he vaguely realized, only made him more enthusiastic. He began to think of how.

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Rhapsody Interview: Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe

Minnesota Vikings punter and marriage equality advocate Chris Kluwe talks about "Weird" Al Yankovic and other things musical in this Rhapsody interview.


the last book I ever read (The Talented Mr. Ripley, excerpt three)

from The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith:

They took only one suitcase of Dickie's between them, because they planned to be away only three nights and four days. Dickie was in a slightly more cheerful mood, but the awful finality was still there, the feeling that this was the last trip they would make together anywhere. To Tom, Dickie's polite cheerfulness on the train was like the cheerfulness of a host who had loathed his guest and is afraid the guest realizes it, and who tries to make it up at the last minute. Tom had never before in his life felt like an unwelcome, boring guest. On the train, Dickie told Tom about San Remo and the week he had spent there with Freddie Miles when he first arrived in Italy. San Remo was tiny, but it had a famous name as an international shopping centre, Dickie said, and people came across the French border to buy things there. It occurred to Tom that Dickie was trying to sell him on the town and might try to persuade him to stay there alone instead of coming back to Mongibello. Tom began to feel an aversion to the place before they got there.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Talented Mr. Ripley, excerpt two)

from The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith:

Tom walked mechanically up the hill. He imagined Dickie in Marge's house now, narrating to her the story of Carlo in the bar, and his peculiar behaviour on the road afterward. Tom knew what Marge would say: 'Why don't you get rid of him, Dickie?' Should he go back and explain to them, he wondered, force them to listen? Tom turned around, looking up at the inscrutable square front of Marge's house up on the hill, at its empty, dark-looking window. His denim jacket was getting wet from the rain. He turned its collar up. Then he walked on quickly up the hill towards Dickie's house. At least, he thought proudly, he hadn't tried to wheedle any more money out of Mr. Greenleaf, and he might have. He might have, even with Dickie's co-operation, if he had ever approached Dickie about it when Dickie had been in a good mood. Anybody else would have, Tom thought, anybody, but he hadn't, and that counted for something.

He stood at the corner of the terrace, staring out at the vague empty line of the horizon and thinking of nothing, feeling nothing except a faint, dreamlike lostness and aloneness. Even Dickie and Marge seemed far away, and what they might be talking about seemed unimportant. He was alone. That was the only important thing. He began to feel a tingling fear at the end of his spine, tingling over his buttocks.

Friday, November 9, 2012

the last book I ever read (The Talented Mr. Ripley, excerpt one)

from The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith:

'Have you Henry James' The Ambassadors?' Tom asked the officer in charge of the first-class library. The book was not on the shelf.

'I'm sorry, we haven't, sir,' said the officer.

Tom was disappointed. It was the book Mr. Greenleaf had asked him if he had read. Tom felt he ought to read it. He went to the cabin-class library. He found the book on the shelf, but when he started to check it out and gave his cabin number, the attendant told him sorry, that first-class passengers were not allowed to take books from the cabin-class library. Tom had been afraid of that. He put the book back docilely, though it would have been easy, so easy, to make a pass at the shelf and slip the book under his jacket.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

the last book I ever read (Zadie Smith's NW, excerpt eight)

from NW by Zadie Smith:

People spoke. People sang. And did those feet, in ancient times. Natalie was forced to come and go as each of her children kicked up a fuss. Finally the curtain opened and the coffin disappeared. Dusty Springfield. There are things you can only learn about people after they're dead. As the congregation filed out, Leah stood in the doorway with her mother. She wore a terrible long black skirt and blouse that someone must have lent her. Natalie could hear well-meaning strangers burdening Leah with long, irrelevant memories. Story-telling. "Thank you for coming," said Leah, mechanically, as each passed by. She looked very pale. No siblings. No cousins. Only Michael to help.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

it's still snowing in Queens

it's snowing in Queens

the last book I ever read (Zadie Smith's NW, excerpt seven)

from NW by Zadie Smith:

Naomi threw things in the cart. Natalie threw them out. Naomi threw them in. Spike soiled himself. People looked at Natalie. She looked at them. Back and forth went the looks of paranoia and contempt. It was freezing outside, freezing inside. They managed to join a queue. Just. They only just managed it.

"I'll tell you a story, Nom-Nom, if you stop that, I'll tell you a story. Do you want to listen to my story?" asked Natalie Blake.

"No," said Naomi De Angelis.

Natalie wiped the cold sweat from her forehead with her scarf and looked up to see if anyone was admiring her maternal calm in the face of such impossible provocation. The woman in front of her in the queue came into view. She was emptying her pockets onto the counter, offering to relinquish this and that item. Her children, four of them, cringed around her legs.

Natalie Blake had completely forgotten what it was like to be poor. It was a language she'd stopped being able to speak, or even to understand.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

the last book I ever read (Zadie Smith's NW, excerpt six)

from NW by Zadie Smith:

Natalie Blake's clients called at inappropriate times. They lied. They were usually late for court, rarely wore what they had been advised to wear and refused perfectly sensible plea deals. Occasionally they threatened her life. In her first six months at RSN, three of her clients were young men who "went Brayton," although they were much younger than Natalie Blake herself. This caused her to wonder if the school had gone downhill--further downhill. She snatched lunch from the jerk place opposite McDonald's, sat on a high stool and had trouble keeping the oil off her suit. Pattie, dish dumpling and a can of ginger beer, most days. She tried to vary this menu, but at the counter any spirit of adventure abandoned her. A long-term plan existed to meet Marcia and Marcia's sister Irene, who lived nearby, for lunch, but this fantasy appointment, with its two hours of idle time and no need to read briefs, never seemed to arrive, and soon enough Natalie Blake understood that it never would. Fairly often she saw her cousin Tonya on Harlesden high street. On these occasions--despite her new status as a big lawyer lady--she experienced the same feelings of insecurity and inadequacy Tonya had compelled in her when they were children. This afternoon Tonya wore sweatpants with HONEY written across the posterior and a close-fitting denim waistcoat with a yellow bra underneath. Her fringe was purple, the hoop of her earrings brushed her shoulders. Her platform heels were read and five inches high. Despite the toddler and the baby in her double buggy Tonya retained the proportions of a super-heroine in a comic book. Natalie meanwhile was sadly "margar," as the Jamaicans say. To white people this translates as "skinny" or "athletic," and is widely considered to be a positive value. For Natalie it meant ultimately shapeless, a blank. Tonya's skin was never ashy but always silky and gorgeous and she was not prone to the harsh pink acne that sometimes broke out across Natalie's forehead, and was present today. Where Natalie's teeth were small and gray, Tonya's were huge, white, even, and presently on display in a giant smile. As Tonya approached, Natalie was sure she, Natalie, had dumpling oil round her mouth. But perhaps all this displacement of anxiety into the physical realm was a feminine way of simplifying a far deeper and more insoluble difference, for Natalie believed Tonya had a gift for living and Natalie herself did not seem to have this gift.

Monday, November 5, 2012

the last book I ever read (Zadie Smith's NW, excerpt five)

from NW by Zadie Smith:

The Baijan told Keisha Blake and Rodney Banks they must have a plan. All three were aware that Marcia Blake had her own plan: enrollment in a one-year Business Administration course at "Coles Academy," really just a corridor of office space above the old Woolworths on the Kilburn High Road. A racket, an unaccredited institution, taught by some Nairobi acquaintance of Pastor Akinwande, and requiring no move away from home.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

the last book I ever read (Zadie Smith's NW, excerpt four)

from NW by Zadie Smith:

In the absence of Leah--at school, on the streets, in Caldwell--Keisha Blake felt herself to be revealed and exposed. She had not noticed until the break that the state of "being Leah Hanwell's friend" constituted a sort of passport, lending Keisha a protected form or access in most situations. She was now relegated to the conceptual realm of "those church kids," most of whom were Nigerian or otherwise African, and did not share Keisha Blake's anthropological curiosity regarding sin nor her love of rap music. To the children of her own background she believed, rightly or wrongly, that she was an anomaly, and to the ravers and indie kids she knew for certain she was the wrong kind of outcast. It did not strike Keisha Blake that such feelings of alienation are the banal fate of adolescents everywhere. She considered herself peculiarly afflicted, and it is not an exaggeration to say that she struggled to think of anyone besides perhaps James Baldwin and Jesus who had experienced the profound isolation and loneliness she now knew to be the one and only true reality of this world.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The 49ers at McSweeney's, episode four: Mark Schauer

the fourth installment of The 49ers: Oral Histories of Americans Facing 50 for McSweeney's is with former United States Congressman from the Michigan 7th Mark Schauer.


Please visit The 49ers Facebook page for further updates.

the last book I ever read (Zadie Smith's NW, excerpt three)

from NW by Zadie Smith:

A generous person, wide open to the entire world--with the possible exception of her own mother. Ceased eating tuna because of the dolphins, and now all meat because of animals generally. If there happened to be a homeless man sitting on the ground outside the supermarket in Cricklewood Keisha Blake had to wait until Leah Hanwell had finished bending down and speaking with the homeless man, not simply asking him if there was anything he wanted, but making conversation. If she was more curt with her own family than a homeless man this only suggested that generosity was not an infinite quantity and had to be employed strategically where it was most needed. Within Brayton she befriended everyone without distinction or boundary, but the hopeless cases did not alienate her from the popular and vice versa and how this was managed Keisha Blake had no understanding. A little of this universal good feeling spread to Keisha by association, though no one ever mistook Keisha's cerebral willfulness for her friend's generosity of spirit.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

the last book I ever read (Zadie Smith's NW, excerpt two)

from NW by Zadie Smith:

He found himself on the pavement. As he got back up on his knees, he heard one of them say, "Big man on the train. Ain't the big man now." And instead of fear, a feeling of pity came over him; he remembered when being the big man was all that mattered. He reached into his pockets. They could have his phone. They could have the lone twenty in his pocket if it came to that. He'd been mugged many times and knew the drill. When he was younger they might have wounded his ego; now the old fury and humiliation were gone--they could have it all. Everything he cared about was elsewhere. He tried to laugh at them as he handed over his meager valuables: "Should have caught me two hours ago, blud. Two hours ago I was loaded." The kid gave him a dead-eyed look, face set in a violent pout. It was a necessary mask, without which he could not do what he was doing. "And the stones," said the kid. Felix touched his ears. Treasured zirconias, a present from Grace.