Sunday, June 30, 2013

the last book I ever read (Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, excerpt eleven)

from Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp:

I made another crude and virtually unknown New York movie in 1978 too, a faux-noir feature call Final Reward. It was largely copped, I eventually realized, from Jules Dassin’s 1955 masterpiece of a dark heist flick, Rififi, but was shot for almost nothing in 16mm black and white. I think I was the only actor in it who was paid. The director, Rachid Kerdouche, thought I was the blank Mickey Rourke, art-slum music’s romantic tortured embodiment of coolness. (All my career I’ve been described as quintessentially “cool” or “hip.” I supposed I’ve fostered this, on levels, in order to seem desirable to girls and to avoid standard hypocrisy and routine consumer life, but I am not cool. I’m cranky under pressure, I’m a mediocre athlete, I get obsessed with women, I usually want to be liked, and I’m not especially street-smart.) Rachid’s view of me was flattering, all things considered, but I wouldn’t have made the movie if he hadn’t paid me the $50 a day or whatever it was I needed to maintain my drug habit. My acting in it was even worse than in Lommel’s flick, mostly because my degeneration had had a few more months to progress since then.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

the last book I ever read (Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, excerpt ten)

from Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp:

I’ve seen over the years how a person sometimes absorbs bits of behavior from friends—speech mannerisms or gestures. It can be eerie to recognize it in yourself after the friend has died. There was a thing Bob would do. Instead of smiling, he would just stretch his lips across his teeth in a cursory sign for “smile.” His eyes wouldn’t change at all, just his mouth for a moment. It was actually friendly—a signal that he was not unwilling to expend the energy to give a little reassurance. I catch myself doing that now and feel switched with Quine for a second.

Friday, June 28, 2013

the last book I ever read (Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, excerpt nine)

from Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp:

I think Quine was the best rock and roll guitar soloist ever. He found a way to mix art with emotion that put him ahead of everyone. It’s sad that he made so few recordings. His best playing was with me, and we made fewer than three albums’ worth of material. There haven’t really been many interesting guitar soloists in rock and roll. Mickey Baker, James Burton, Grady Martin, Link Wray, Jeff Beck, Jimi Hendrix, Lou Reed, maybe Jimmy Page, maybe Chuck Berry (he and Keith Richards and Pete Townshend are really rhythm players), maybe Tom Verlaine and Richard Thompson, and Quine. I don’t know. (I’m leaving out blues musicians too.) No one has had the combination of creativity and feeling that Quine did. Most of the great rock and roll guitarists stand out for their wildness and momentum and humor, and that’s plenty. It’s suitable for the material. Quine brought feeling to the mix.

I’ve played with a lot of exceptional guitarists, but the thing I’ve noticed about nearly all of them compared to Quine is the gap between skillful creative brilliance and genius. Quine was a genius guitar player. He assumed as fundamental the qualities that were the highest aspirations of most soloists, and he would then depart from the platform into previously unknown areas of emotion and musical inspiration. He was a complicated, volatile, sensitive, very smart person who humbly channeled everything he was and knew into his guitar playing. It was axiomatic with him that emotion was the content created by the language of the musical instrument and the genre of the composition. Yes, he liked noise too, and subverting convention. That was the reveling, defiant, purely sound-oriented, unsentimental artist in him. And the antisocial one. But ultimately it was the depth of feeling, not any pioneering explorations or any technical facility or any kind of academic sophistication, that set him apart, just as was true of Miles Davis and Charlie Parker.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

the last book I ever read (Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, excerpt eight)

from Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp:

Who’s good and who’s bad anyway? People like the villains as often as they like the heroes. Americans love winners all the more if they lied and cheated and coerced to get to the top. People admire mobsters like Joe Gallo or John Gotti—or con men like P. T. Barnum or Colonel Tom Parker, or ruthless tycoons like Jeff Bezos or Joe Kennedy. Baseball, the apotheosis of romantic American self-image, is a good example of the national appreciation for winning dirty. Does a guy sliding into second ever honorably return to the dugout because he knows he was tagged before he touched base? No, the player cheats and lies if it increases his chance of winning. We take that for granted as built into the national pastime. Americans are not “gentlemen.” Baseball is not cricket, which is played differently because the object is not “to win” but to get exercise, and the players are “gentlemen.” In America losers are considered fools if they haven’t played dirty enough. Winning justifies everything.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

the last book I ever read (Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, excerpt seven)

from Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp:

Dee Dee would often come over to my apartment to visit and we would go around the corner and get ourselves each a bag of dope from the baby runners. Dee Dee was practically a baby himself, in his boy bob and his eagerness. It never occurred to me at the time, but I’ve read that Roberta says that Dee Dee secretly would have liked to be a Heartbreaker. This might have been true a couple or five years later, when he’d become a hard-core junkie. I can imagine him chafing at the regimented comic book style of the Ramones and wishing he could be in a real happy-go-lucky bad-boy band that attracted the more fun girls and wouldn’t try to hamper his drug use. But back in 1975 he seemed happy in the Ramones; he was excited about them. At that time he didn’t know any of the Heartbreakers but me.

Dee Dee, like Johnny and Jerry, and Richard Lloyd, and Gruen, never much cared about the quantity of factual content in the stories he told. He was probably the most uninhibited fabricator of punk anecdotes of them all, especially since he eventually published a lot of “autobiography” and gave a lot of interviews and was such a comic riot. He was like a boy Marilyn Monroe or Jessica Simpson with his cute dizzy-dumb persona. In rock and roll, in show business, there’s not much value placed on integrity. People say and do what serves their interests and what seems entertaining. That’s just as well, if for no other reason than that it’s inevitable. Ultimately what difference does it make what actually happened? Things look different from different perspectives, and the conquerors write history; and what reality do the stories of the past have except as entertainment and mythology? Obviously, “reality” is slippery anyway. “Print the legend,” as advised in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

Still, to me, it’s interesting to try to figure out what’s actually going on, what really happened. I want to get the most accurate idea I can of the way things are. To me, that’s a lot of what “art” is about. Of course I have my vested interests too: even disregarding any pride involved, my earning power depends partly on my reputation and my role in past events, so I might try to straighten the record where I regard it as misrepresenting me. But I try to be as faithful to what happened as I can, however what happened might reflect on me. I want that to be part of my reputation too. Whereas Dee Dee’s purposes were served more by keeping it funny, and maybe “funny” is more real than “true.”

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Live Stream Of Texas State Senator Wendy Davis As She Attempts To Filibuster Against Senate Bill 5 Until The Special Legislative Session Ends At Midnght Tonight

the last book I ever read (Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, excerpt six)

from Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp:

The power and beauty of it was unimaginable until then. It can’t be overstated, that initial rush of realizing, of experiencing, what’s possible as you’re standing there in the rehearsal room with your guitars and the mikes turned on and when you make a move this physical information comes pouring out and you can do or say anything with it.

It was like having magic powers. The ability to create action at a distance. The sounds that came from the amplifiers were absurdly moving and strange, the variety of them so wide in view of the fact that they came from flicks of our fingers and from our vocal noises, and the way that it was a single thing, an entity, that was produced by the simultaneous reactive interplay of the four band members combining various of their faculties. We were turned into a sound, a flow of sound. I remember having a moment of weird revelation once, that each moment of a phonograph record being played, each millimeter of information conveyed via the needle to the amplifier to the speaker to the ear, is one sound. A whole orchestra is one sound, altering moment by moment, no matter how many instruments go into producing it. And, as our band rehearsed, in each moment we made the sound spray out in arrays we could instantly alter, emanating from inside us and our interplay and our inner beings combined, playing. And the sound included words.

Monday, June 24, 2013

the last book I ever read (Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, excerpt five)

from Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp:

At Tom’s there was strength in numbers, even if the numbers were only one, two. There were lots of things we could say to each other and ways we could behave that no one else we knew appreciated or even perceived. I don’t know how much the nature of it was a function of our youth or our low social status and lack of power—our placement outside of any society but each other—but it was the most meaningful friendship I’ve had, I think, and the last male friendship of its importance. While in many ways we didn’t even like each other. Years later I got a note from Ted Berrigan inviting me to a reading he was giving with Ron Padgett. He wrote that it was the event of the season or something like that and added that he and Ron hated each other as only best friends can. It was the first time I’d seen that syndrome identified, but I knew exactly what he meant, because of Tom and me. The hatred came a little later though. When our friendship was at its most intense, when it was fully active, the hatred was more a kind of tension or confusion, a kind of unease at being a little off balance half the time. We needed each other, and because that made us vulnerable, we resented each other for it, and, after a while, also, just because we’d gotten to know each other so well, we might have despised each other a little. Then there was the unspoken competition going on. This is a particular, atypical type of friendship, but I don’t think it’s unusual among young artists, at least among egotistical ambitious young artists.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

the last book I ever read (Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, excerpt four)

from Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp:

Those years—1969 to 1974, from when Tom got to New York until we began playing at CBGB with our band Television—seem to have lasted such a long time, to have contained more than could be possible, because everything was new and made such strong impressions on us and we were changing so quickly. But during the time itself, those four or five years felt like forever for the opposite reason: that there was nothing to do. But our ennui actually contributed to our sense of freedom—we were so bored and isolated we might try anything.

For a few months in the spring of 1969, we shared an apartment on Eleventh Street just west of Second Avenue. It was a typical little three-room shotgun flat five or six floors up in a tenement. The refrigerator had been leaking on the kitchen floor and the landlord had ignored our complaints. One boring afternoon we squeezed it through the window to the airshaft. There’s not a much better-feeling suspense than that endless second or two during which a heavy machine is falling from a great height.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

the last book I ever read (Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, excerpt three)

from Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp:

When I was a young teenager, the clothes in the shops on West Fourth Street were all eggplant and cream and tan colored, like “October in the railroad earth”—horizontal-striped T-shirts and thick dark-leather belts with big brass buckles, corduroy jeans, and boots, and work shirts, and suede and leather sports coats or work jackets. It’s what the beatniks and folkies wore. On one visit I bought a Levi’s suede cowboy jacket, same as their denim version, but suede. Even as a teenager, I still aspired a little to the cowboy.

Her apartment was like Superman’s telephone booth to me; when I entered it I became another person, or the person I was to myself, rather than the person I was in everyday society. I became not only a citizen of Gotham but powerful and interesting, because she treated me like that.

During the first few months I lived in New York in 1967, she had me over to her apartment for dinner every week or two. After those first months I saw her less, and the last few times I saw her, a couple of years after I’d arrived, she was losing the ability to care for herself. I didn’t have the maturity to know how to respond to that. I was spooked and bewildered. Her memory got bad, and the apartment became overrun by cockroaches, and she would fart continuously as she walked around, confused but chiding herself. Soon Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Dick took her in upstate, and a year or two later, when it got to where she needed constant attention, they put her in a nursing home.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Big Star Go To The Movies: An interview with drummer Jody Stephens and 'Nothing Can Hurt Me' director Drew DeNicola

"And what I thought was really revealing, and it's in the film, is we have all these little tidbits of the band doing overdubs in the studio. I listened to them over and over again, and all I can tell you is that Chris Bell was running the show."

I'm happy to have had the opportunity to interview Nothing Can Hurt Me director Drew DiNicola and Big Star drummer Jody Stephens for Spin.

the last book I ever read (Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, excerpt two)

from Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp:

I didn’t buy into the mythology of rock and roll bands though. As I said, the music was just a common feature of the environment. I wasn’t a “fan.” The style of some of the groups was exciting, but the musicians were people who had taken a chance into music. (I still prefer that angle on it, the way it is when a band starts out.) Half the beauty of rock and roll is that “anyone can do it” in the sense that it’s not about being a virtuoso but about just being plugged in in a certain way, just having an innocent instinct and a lot of luck. That’s why it’s the art of teenagers. There wasn’t anything awe-inspiring or even especially interesting to me about bands. (It’s only since I’ve had a fair amount of firsthand contact with pop musicians that I’ve come to see that they actually are, or, more precisely, have become a breed apart. I’m still not susceptible to the fascination with them, but “sacred monster” is definitely the job description, at least for the front person, the singer in a band. Being a pop star, a front person, takes indestructible certainty of one’s own irresistibility. That’s the monster part. If that ego confidence doesn’t eventually come so naturally that living at all is to flaunt it, you won’t have what’s necessary to give your audience the show, the stimulation, it needs. The audience needs it from the performer in order to identify with it, to give themselves the sense of their own power, to get the full effect and function of rock and roll. It starts off natural and even cute, in the beginners, but is fed and tested on the way to stardom until it’s grotesque in every dimension except that of performance, where it is thrilling and uplifting, which is the sacred part. It’s also usually a monster of stress on its adepts; not really a fate to be desire. Which is another reason the stars are so cranky. They hate everyone for making them into what they’ve turned out to be, so they rub everyone’s faces in it.)

Thursday, June 20, 2013

the last book I ever read (Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp, excerpt one)

from Richard Hell's I Dreamed I Was A Very Clean Tramp:

We played army in the dirt piles. Scouting over a hill for enemies, I had the first scientific insight I can remember. I realized that in order to see anyone, I had to expose enough of my own head that I’d be visible too. You had to come out of hiding in order to see anything.

Cowboys and Indians, though, was the main game. I loved my cap-gun six-shooters and holsters and neckerchief and cowboy hat. The caps came in matte red rolls, with little disks of black powder set in them. You’d thread the roll inside your metal pistol. When you pulled the trigger, the strip advanced, and the hammer hit the next cap with a bang, and smoke rose. I would like to smell the smacked burnt snap of a detonated cap like that again right now.

There were the fan clubs, or the brotherhoods, of the heroes of the Saturday-morning TV shows. Flash Gordon, who lived in the future and rocketed through outer space. I joined his club. You found out how to join them from the back of cereal boxes and sent in for a membership card and an ID ring. Sky King, who was a modern-day rancher who flew a little private airplane. Spin and Marty, modern kids at a western boys’ camp as presented by The Mickey Mouse Club. Zorro and the Cisco Kid and the Lone Ranger. There was often a wandering hero and his devoted sidekick, who provided comic relief. That happened over and over in Howard Hawks and John Ford westerns too. (Whenever I could, I’d take the bus into town on Saturdays to go to a double feature. Often they were John Ford and Howard Hawks movies, by which I was contaminated with the Code of the West.) There were also buddy teams in which the members were equal and were complementary in other ways than as hero and faithful clown. Tonto wasn’t a clown with the Lone Ranger, nor was Dean Martin with John Wayne in Rio Bravo (Walter Brennan was the clown on that team). The Three Musketeers.

I grew up thinking men worked best in wandering small teams, usually two-man. You needed someone to conspire with, someone to help you maintain the nerve to carry out your ideas. Someone to know what you were thinking (otherwise your thinking didn’t really exist). Someone who had qualities you wanted, maybe, too, and that you could acquire to some degree by association.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, excerpt fifteen)

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

So heavy was the pall of damp and lassitude upon the Bog Castle, the nights were spent in joyless carousing, and the playing of draughts; but, as an elderly bent-backed servant informed Todd, the game was no ordinary game of draughts of the kind played by persons in civilized lands, but a most ingenious and deadly species. For the winner was not only privileged but required to chop off the head of the loser in full view of the assembled court!—which feature the Master had initiated upon his return from the East some years ago, that the ennui of the castle might be stirred. And now all were mad for the game, and had acquired an insatiable desire for blood—the blood of others, that is. “When you hear a bestial roar erupt in the early hours of the morning,” Todd was told, in a lowered voice, “it’s the response of onlookers to yet another ‘execution.’ And nearly as horrific a sound to hear, as it is a sight to see.”

Todd would have liked to question the man further, but he thought it most prudent to remain speechless. For some reason, it is human nature to speak more openly to one who appears to be mute.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, excerpt fourteen)

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

One thing was clear: the eye-piercing sunlight of the Antarctic was beautiful beyond all human language, and Josiah counted himself blessed to have come so far unscathed. So frigid was the air, one could not easily judge whether it was injurious to the lungs and heart, or communicated a voluptuous thrill as it pinched, pricked, stabbed, slashed, and seared white-hot, seeking entry into the human body at every exposed pore.

I do not hurt! I give no pain!—so promises the Cold. I shall numb your senses in the sweetest oblivion.

Monday, June 17, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, excerpt thirteen)

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

Of my own experience at Princeton as a graduate, with honors, of the Class of 1927, I will not speak: except to say that it was instructive, and illuminating; and if I had to repeat it again, I would hang myself.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, excerpt twelve)

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

Yet, what was the seminarian’s mortification, and shame, when he learned a few days later that the unclothed, badly beaten corpse of a young Negro female had been found in a wooded area in Cold Spring, in Hopewell Township, a quarter mile from a public house of local notoriety; knowing at once that this was Pearl and that the rust-red-haired man and his companion had very likely beaten her, and murdered her.

Yet Winslow’s terror of exposure was such, he could not force himself to step forward to speak; he could not, would not, volunteer to help in the identification of the murderers.

It was not that God failed to give Winslow Slade the clear knowledge of what he should do, but rather, God withheld from him the strength with which to do it.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, excerpt eleven)

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

Johanna stared, trying not to scream; for even in her panicked state she did not want to waken and alarm the sleeping baby.

Could it be?—the shadowy figure was Adelaide Burr.

The poor woman lifted her hurt, bloodied bare arms to Johanna—her ashen face, bloodied too, was lifted in an anguished appeal; her eyes were wet with tears, and—a mass of bleeding wounds where her small flat breasts had been . . .

Johanna do not turn away. I am your sister, I am awaiting you. Do not leave me here alone . . .

Johanna turned, blinded; in terror, she collided with the crib, and wakened the baby; the figure of her old friend Adelaide Burr seemed to shimmer, and fade, as if in disappointment, or repudiation of her; for she was very cowardly, and could not bring herself to speak to Adelaide, who appealed to her with such yearning. For there is the fear—a wise fear, I think: that if we speak just once to the dead, the dead will cleave to us in their desperate loneliness and never leave our sides.

Friday, June 14, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, excerpt ten)

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

Exiled to the dank cellar, which was a vast cavernous space like a cave, amid garbage, raw sewage, rats and other vermin, I found myself a comrade of similar laborers; one of our tasks was to bail excessive sewage out of the cesspool, and carry it to a woodland ravine a quarter mile from the house; our task was the continuous filling of buckets, and the continuous emptying-out of buckets, hour after hour, day following day, amid the most nauseating of odors and sights; with provision for no more than a few minutes’ respite for a frantic feeding, of poorly baked dough, and leftovers from the kitchen; and brief periods of scanty sleep, amid the very stench of the cellar in which we toiled. Sixteen hours of stoop labor daily—then eighteen—twenty!—as autumn rains fell thunderously, and increased the water-level of the cesspool, and the Palace was threatened with flooding; entire days were spent in such labor, under threat of death from Axson Mayte, who could not abide “mutiny.” Our miserable cellar-crew of which I was surely the weakest member were obliged to crawl where we could not walk upright, and where the jagged stone ceiling was low we had to squirm like snakes, on our bellies . . . At which times the thought came to me stern and judicious This is your Hole of Hell, to which you have brought yourself.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, excerpt nine)

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

Upton was speaking with such passion, Meta had to pluck at his wrist, to quiet him; for individuals on the platform were listening, very curiously. And Upton fell silent, abashed. For in the next seconds there came along the track the three-car shuttle called, by locals, the Dinky, making its way from Princeton Junction to the village of Princeton, its thin perky smoke puffing upward. Upton Sinclair hurriedly scrambled out of the railroad bed and up onto the platform, helping his wife beside him; he would have stayed to watch the half-dozen passengers climb onto the little train, with a kind of envy, had not Meta, hugging her cotton shawl close about her, murmured: “Upton, please—I want only to go home now.”

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, excerpt eight)

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

On the return to Princeton, Winslow could not keep his eyes from drooping; he could not concentrate on the book he’d hoped to read, the newly published The Life of Reason by George Santayana, of the Philosophy Department at Harvard. In a light doze in his private compartment on the train Winslow woke abruptly to stare out the window at a creature of some sort—a horse? a deer?—running and stumbling alongside the speeding vehicle—seeing then to his astonishment that the figure was human, and wraith-like. Why, it was Annabel!—his beloved granddaughter Annabel!—running barefoot in the rough terrain, thin bare arms pitifully extended to him; her long tresses blown wild, and her fair, childlike face wildly contorted. Grandfather! Help me! Don’t abandon me! Intercede with your God for me!—even as the train seemed to be gathering speed, and pulling away; and Annabel was left behind, staggering desperately through the sere and tangled grasses beyond the railroad bed.

So noisy was the train’s clattering, no one heard the elderly man’s cries of horror, and for help. No one was to discover him collapsed on the floor of his compartment, half his face contorted in a look of terror, and his eyes rolled back inside his head, until a conductor slid open the door, at Princeton Junction.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The 49ers at McSweeney's, episode fifteen, with writer David Leavitt

"I have never fantasized or dreamed of a fountain of youth. I would never want to be younger again."

from the 15th installment of The 49ers: Oral Histories of Americans Facing 50 for McSweeney's, this with writer and University of Florida professor David Leavitt.

Mr. Leavitt's fiction includes The Indian Clerk, Collected Stories and the forthcoming The Two Hotel Francforts.

the last book I ever read (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, excerpt seven)

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

Josiah is well aware that dueling is illegal—it is a class-A felony—in the State of New Jersey. Already in the time of the infamous duel of Aaron Burr, Jr., and Alexander Hamilton, in 1804, dueling was a class-A felony in the State of New York, though somewhat less stringently outlawed in New Jersey, where the duel was set, in Weehawken. In Southern states, where laws are legislated with an eye toward preserving “tradition”—(statutory laws banning miscegenation, for instance, and “sodomy”)—law enforcement officers are less likely to seize and arrest dueling gentlemen, as they are less likely to seize and arrest individuals who have participated in “lynchings” of Negroes, still less are juries likely to vote such individuals guilty.

Monday, June 10, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, excerpt six)

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

Closing his eyes, so moved, Upton recited for Meta several exhilarating passages of Zarathustra, that couldn’t fail to sway anyone of sensibility; ending with the thrilling words—“‘A free life is still free for great souls. Verily, whoever possesses little is possessed that much less: praised by a little poverty!’”

To which Meta said, “Then we are much praised, I guess! For we are more than a little poor.”

Sunday, June 9, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, excerpt five)

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

The dilemma is, in the United States, each penniless citizen believes that, with luck, he might become a millionaire; and so doesn’t want to put restraints on “robber barons”—he might become one, one day!—so Upton mused, and would inscribe in his journal that night.

On such matters Upton had often lectured Meta, in the early months of their marriage. Particularly, Upton was given to quoting Nietzsche’s Zarathustra—Only where the State ends, there begins the human being who is not superfluous.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, excerpt four)

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

It was a bourgeois social institution: the family, and at its heart the couple. Yet, Upton considered it with much wistfulness.

His own marriage, his own dear wife Meta—ah! how troubled, and how precarious, lately; Upton had walked into town, rather than borrow a horse and buggy from his neighboring landlord-farmer, to escape the confines of his writing-cabin and the confines of his brain, lately obsessed with this marital dilemma to the detriment of his creative energies.

For Upton dearly loved his wife: yet, he knew that such love is hobbling, and enervating; and not worthy of the Socialist ideal. And he knew that such love can be precarious, based upon a bedrock of sheer emotion, and not the intellectual rigor of Marx, Engels, and other Revolutionary thinkers.

In the open air, that was just slightly over-warm, and distinctly humid, Upton brooded upon his wife: her unhappiness, her desperation, her mysterious change of personality, in the past several weeks. How was he, in his mid-twenties, untutored in the skills of marriage and parenthood, to contend with such an alteration? Just the previous night after a botched dinner she had prepared in the ill-equipped farmhouse kitchen Meta had been weeping angrily, and then weeping hopelessly; declaring that she “could not go on, but prayed for the strength to be delivered from her misery”; to the horror of her husband, Meta had dared to press the barrel of a revolver against her forehead, and could not be persuaded to surrender the weapon to Upton for at least ten agonized minutes.

Friday, June 7, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, excerpt three)

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

According to the diary kept by Henrietta Slade, Winslow’s daughter-in-law, Dr. Slade, is, at this hour, sequestered away in his favorite corner of the jardin anglais at the Manse, immersed in one of his scholarly pursuits; whether work on Biblical translations, or labor at assembling his old sermons, or scribbling entries in his journal—(this journal to be, unhappily, destroyed in the spring of 1906)—she does not know; but Henrietta does note a “troubling change” in her father-in-law, who had always been of an even, placid disposition, as well-disposed to his family as to his public, rarely irritable or even fatigued or distracted; but lately, Winslow has been “not himself”—quite irritable, fatigued, distracted; and less inclined to spend time with his family, or with friends in the habit of dropping by to visit him in his library, than he had been. Perhaps he is anxious about the wedding, for so many people have been invited. Perhaps he is worrying about the weather, for an outdoor fete is planned here at the Manse. And Henrietta, mother of the bride-to-be, drifts onto pages of fretting about the wedding, of very little interest to History.

And Josiah Slade makes the impulsive decision to join several friends bear hunting in the Poconos, though it is but a few days before his sister’s wedding, in which he is to play a prominent role. “But what if—something happens to you?” Annabel asks, pleading; and Josiah says laughingly, “Nothing will happen to me, I promise,” and Annabel says, “You will return, won’t you? The night before? No later? Josiah?”—almost begging her brother, You will return, you won’t leave me alone to this—will you?

And handsome Lieutenant Dabney Bayard, being fitted in an Egyptian cotton shirt, and slim-tapered trousers, chances to note, out of boredom, a small black insect on the neck of the Italian tailor kneeling before him; idly he reached down to pinch the thing in his fingers, and give it a sharp dig with his nails, with the result that the tailor screams in surprise and pain, and lurches away from Dabney—for the black speck isn’t an insect but a mole or tiny wart, deeply rooted in the man’s flesh.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, excerpt two)

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

In our egalitarian American society, it is considered a kind of evil to feel superior to other Americans; though the lower strata of all human societies yearn to feel superior to other, yet lower, strata, still it is sacrosanct to pretend that this is not so; that snobbery, in all its forms, is aberrant as well as evil.

This may be a convenient time for me to provide to the reader some information concerning the subtle yet crucial differentiations in social rank between those persons in our chronicle who belong to the old “county” families, of long-established lineage and wealth, and those of a more recent sort who have but lately, that’s to say within the past century, migrated to the area.

The original category is pilgrims, settlers, or colonists; the second, much vaster, is immigrants.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, excerpt one)

from The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates:

After ascending to the second floor of the house, which was an exertion for one of his girth, Grover Cleveland idled at the rear of the excited little group making their way through the rooms, hoping to catch his breath; while others were elsewhere, marveling at one or another charming feature of the house, Cleveland wandered into an empty room, as it happened, a children’s nursery; he chanced to pass one of the tall windows in this room, that was part-shuttered, and overlooked a steep corner of the roof; there, he saw, or seemed to see, a terrifying sight, there at the very edge of the roof; imagining it at first to be a large, ungainly bird, a great blue heron perhaps, for such prehistoric-looking waterbirds were not uncommon in rural Princeton, the affrighted man literally rubbed his eyes to see a child, a young girl, perched at the edge of the roof; playfully, or prankishly?—the girl was tearing into pieces a handful of calla lilies, letting their torn petals fall to the ground below; her wavy dark hair tumbled loose down her back; her gown long, and white, and curiously soiled; her bare feet ghastly pale—all of her skin ghastly pale, with the unmistakable pallor of the grave. Oblivious to the astonished observer, the child managed to get to her feet, at the edge of the roof, laughing, and tossing the remainder of the calla lilies into the air, as if she were about to step off into space; and how should Cleveland save her?

He shouted—“No! No! Stop! You must not!”

Cleveland was at the window, grunting to raise it, and to push open the shutters, shouting wildly—with the result that, to his further astonishment, and horror, he saw the girl turn to him to reveal herself as his own beloved daughter Ruth—who had died but the previous year, of diphtheria, at the Clevelands’ summer home at Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Prince of Silicon Valley by Randall Smith, excerpt four)

from The Prince of Silicon Valley: Frank Quattrone and the Dot-Com Bubble by Randall Smith:

Unlike in the first trial, when jurors slept or wrangled over trivia, this group formed a cohesive, collegial bond. They often discussed which actors resembled the key players. Movie buff Sheldon Silver, the public relations receptionist who was himself a former actor, thought Keker resembled James Caan, and that Judge Owen looked like Jason Robards or Lionel Barrymore. He also thought Quattrone resembled Kevin Spacey, or maybe Dylan McDermott.

Miller, juror number one, kept some notes of his reactions. When Peikin stood to deliver the government opening, he reminded Miller of Sergeant Joe Friday from the old TV series Dragnet. Miller thought, “He is brilliant. I like him right away. He is crisp, clear and confident, without any arrogance.” His remarks were organized “just like high-school English class.”

When defense attorney Little gave her opening statement, Miller found her argument “fragmented and weak.” He and a few other jurors thought she looked like actress Glenn Close.

Monday, June 3, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Prince of Silicon Valley by Randall Smith, excerpt three)

from The Prince of Silicon Valley: Frank Quattrone and the Dot-Com Bubble by Randall Smith:

The best measure of speculative froth that animated the stock market during the bubble was the NASDAQ composite index. It rose from 1,771 at the end of October 1998 to 2,686 by June 1999. But its most explosive gains came in the second half of 1999, when it rose 51 percent, to 4,069. The speculative top came quickly after that. The NASDAQ composite peaked at 5,049 on March 10.

On March 9, just at the NASDAQ peak, the IPO of Selectica, an Internet selling-systems software company based in San Jose, was priced at $30 a share. Demand was white-hot. Selectica became CSFB’s second biggest first-day gainer, rising 371 percent in price to a close of $141.23. Fidelity Investments, the Boston mutual-fund gorilla, got 150,000 shares. Munder Capital Management, home of an $11 billion Internet mutual fund that would fall 87 percent in price by 2002, received 25,000. Larry Bowman’s fund got 20,000.

Several Lustig traders received Selectica shares, too. Energia Global Group, run by Andy Siegal, received 5,500, as did Ascent Capital, run by Steve Kris. In all—without naming names—the SEC would later claim customers willing to share their profits with CSFB, in the form of outsize commissions, received 324,903 shares out of 3.9 million CSFB allocated.

The following Saturday, in an issue dated March 20, 2000, Jack Willoughby of Barron’s wrote a sobering and prophetic cover story entitled, “Burning Up: Warning: Internet Companies Are Running Out of Cash—Fast.” He noted that without additional financing, 51 out of 207 Internet companies included in a research study would run out of cash within twelve months. One of the first he mentioned was Intraware.

The following Monday, March 15, 2000, the NASDAQ began falling. In the first three days of that week, it fell 10.2 percent, to 4,583, and the 5,000 level eventually became a distant, fleeting memory.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Prince of Silicon Valley by Randall Smith, excerpt two)

from The Prince of Silicon Valley: Frank Quattrone and the Dot-Com Bubble by Randall Smith:

One big factor in Dachis’s choice of CSFB was the assurance that their Web consulting services analyst, Mark Wolfenberger, would not only attend every road-show meeting but also every sales call. Because Quattrone could field analysts in such numbers, all reporting to him, his team could pay more attention to selling deals than those at other firms.

Dachis, who had an undergraduate degree in dance and dramatic literature from the State University of New York at Purchase, had arrived the afternoon before Razorfish went public for the pricing meeting. There was just one problem: his dog Sophie. No dogs allowed, the security guard said. The dog comes or we don’t go, Dachis said. The security guard backed down.

There was another conflict over the IP price, and this time Dachis didn’t prevail. Dachis wanted $17 a share; CSFB’s head of technology capital markets, Andy Fisher, held the line at $16 a share. Dachis didn’t fully realize that the deal was heavily oversubscribed, and that the price would more than double on the first day of trading. If the deal had been priced at $17, Razorfish would have received an extra $3 million. The company could have used the money, Dachis thought later.

What galled Dachis years later was that his company got lumped in with dozens of others he considered of lesser quality that were taken public after his, later in the cycle. He found himself and his former company defendants in billion-dollar lawsuits brought by investors who had lost money when the bubble burst. It wasn’t just CSFB, Dachis thought—all the Wall Street underwriters had relaxed their standards. “The banking standards went out the window,” he said.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Prince of Silicon Valley by Randall Smith, excerpt one)

from The Prince of Silicon Valley: Frank Quattrone and the Dot-Com Bubble by Randall Smith:

With the markets faltering, Jackson wasn’t sure his deal would get done. It would be humiliating to return without the $60 million the IPO was supposed to raise for his company. The day the deal was finally completed and the stock began trading, his children skipped school to watch in his office, and Jackson appeared on TV with Neil Cavuto on the Fox network. “Well, who said a rocky market is no place for an IPO? Not the folks over at Intraware,” Cavuto said. “Despite today’s high-tech tumble, guess what? Shares of the Internet software consulting firm surged nearly 15 percent on their first day of trading.” Jackson responded that the IPO proceeds would enable him to expand globally. Right behind him was former heavyweight boxer George Foreman, who was promoting his grill.

Suddenly, Jackson was worth $65 million on paper. He was about to hire three hundred people. He rounded the corner from the Fox studios and, alone on the streets of Midtown Manhattan, he burst into tears.

What he didn’t know what that over the next two years, he would nearly lose control of his company. Venture capital investors would conclude that Intraware was bleeding money hopelessly. Intraware would come close to running out of cash and being delisted by the NASDAQ stock market. Lise Buyer would leave CSFB, which would stop publishing research on his stock. And the CSFB bankers would stop calling.