Thursday, June 26, 2008

An article published

in Scholars and Rogues today, with generous editorial assistance. Probably my favorite collaborative webzine going.

A review of the media theory presented in The Anarchist in the Library. *link fixed*

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Recommended Book

Decided to include a 'recommended book' feature.

This first time it will be The Misread City, edited by Scott Timberg and Dana Gioia, 2003.

This book, as I mentioned below, was supposedly prompted by Dana Gioia's charge that California letters lacked critical support. What he and Mr. Timberg produced out of that imperative was this terrific series of essays on the literary life of the southland. From Raymond Chandler's treacherous allure of the hard-boiled detective to the expressionist poetry of Wanda Coleman to the narratives of the wild lifestyle of gay model John Rechy, there emerges from literary Los Angeles a bolder and more brilliant cultural panache, never lacking in neither conviction nor diversity, than what one would ever expect to get out of a Friday night at the movies.

Especially interesting is the piece "Surviving Apocalypse" by David Fein, a recently retired professor of English, who describes how subnarratives of looming Apocalypse pervade much creative work that comes out of southern California, literary, film, or otherwise; he goes on to tell us of the geographic, authentic, historical and media-manufactured reasons for this.

Here is a piece from a poem that appears in the collection, Shangri-La, by Suzanne Lummis:

New York, is it true
that in the rest of the world it is winter?

Our state is a mosaic of blue pools
even the Mojave, and the palm trees
line up straight to the Sierra Nevadas,
and the surf comes down slow like
Delirious laundry, even near Fresno

We're sorry we can't be reached
by plane or bus, sorry one can't pull
even the tiniest thing out of a dream
We're like the landscape inside
a plastic dome filled with water

But turn us over, then upright.
No snow falls.


Saturday, June 14, 2008

two poems that got my attention this week

The Danger of Writing Defiant Verse by Dorothy Parker

And now I have another lad!
No longer need you tell
How all my nights are slow and sad
For loving you too well.

His ways are not your wicked ways,
He's not the like of you.
He treads his path of reckoned days,
A sober man, and true.

They'll never see him in the town,
Another on his knee.
He'd cut his laden orchards down,
If that would pleasure me.

He'd give his blood to paint my lips
If I should wish them red.
He prays to touch my finger-tips
Or stroke my prideful head.

He never weaves a glinting lie,
Or brags the hearts he'll keep.
I have forgotten how to sigh-
Remembered how to sleep.

He's none to kiss away my mind-
A slower way is his.
Oh, Lord! On reading this, I find
A silly lot he is.

Phenomenal Woman - Maya Angelou

Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

the Dana Gioia correspondence

This is from May of last year, thought I'd revisit it, in case anyone from this new neighborhood would be interested in the topic. I followed the "Fallen Western Star" debate in the Bay Area when it came out, as usual I seemed to wind up with the less popular view that criticism matters. If there's any point we can take from the career of Dana Gioia, that would be it, I think. The other side argued that criticism was unnecessary, that one's success could be gauged by readership alone. Since Gioia made his point, hundreds of people went on to flame him, but one can notice that criticism has come back, if not in every magazine - and really, who has time to read them all? - then at least in the blogosphere.

What happened next is that I forgot about the issue for a couple of years, then noticed the collection of essays Fallen Western Star Wars, edited with a quasi-dialectical style by the very polite-in-person Jack Foley. I read this and then wrote a response as if the debate were still going. It had pretty much cooled by 02, and I wrote my essay in 05, then managed to send it off to him in 06 sometime. Here is his response, and I'm going to preface it all by saying that I see criticism today in much less either/or terms, but I never saw Gioia as the unyielding Pontiff of Criticism, nor some kind of party-pooper that everyone made him out to be.

"Dear Doug...

I am complimented that my essay, "Fallen Western Star" has interested you so much. You are right that this piece stirred up much discussion - pro and con- when it appeared...I found your response very intelligent and interesting. I have only two small disagreements. If you want to make an economic analysis of literary culture using the concepts of supply-side and demand-side, the Northeast Corridor dominates both the supply and demand side literary economies. It prints most of the books that supply literary culture (as well as supplying most of the jobs) and it generates demand through reviews and publicity. The importance I put on literary critics originates in my sense that they create and sustain the public discussion of the arts that forms both opinion and demand. People in the West often claim their independence from critical opinion, even as their behavior betrays their almost utter dependence on received opinion.

My other small disagreement is with your notion that I think the internet is a way of creating a new collective artistic culture. This is far from my opinion. I do think that the Internet now allows artists and intellectuals to communicate more quickly than at any other historical period, and that this situation had major cultural impacts. But the main point of my essay was that virtual reality is no substitute for local and regional culture. We continue to live in the physical universe, and where we live shapes how we write and think. On this point we agree.

In any event, I was delighted by your letter, and honored by the length and seriousness of your response.

Yours truly,

Dana Gioia

here is what I wrote on it last year -

So, I believe I'll take what he's said into consideration - I had not thought of demand-side at all in my construction of this, but I suppose it's still valid. On the point about internet culture, I don't think I was being clear. So, some work there. Of course, I was hoping he'd say he'd publish it -! but, I didn't ask for publication, only review.

and this year, I'll say this to it, and consider the debate pretty much over:

yes, demand-side is not only still valid, but it is still in many ways the law of the land. In some respects professionally, I have overlooked this. Many people don't think of 'punk' in economic terms, but I can imagine it as sufficiently so if I merely embody what would normally be a fashion or political gesture with an aura of self-sufficiency, which is not that far at all from what punk had to say originally, if you think about it. So, I don't view the lack of criticism on the west coast in comparison to the east coast as part of the Decline of Western Civilization - great movie - but of course the institutions here are newer than those in New York, and Criticism when it appears on the same level will likely be an entirely different animal.

I would say today that the landscape has changed, so that if criticism is truly what you're looking for, you're only a mouse-click away from a reliable opinion. But, one has to seek it out in their desire to improve their craft, if they have such a desire.

The other debate that went on in Bay Area over this topic was about whether we could call ourselves critics without a sufficient body of work already beneath us. Sometimes a guy would tell me that they didn't like Dana Gioia' s poetry, so why listen to his criticism? My thought is that those are different specialties in writing, and we can train ourselves to do either, or both.

In case anyone is still interested, links:

Some local critics did agree with his assessment of the critical scene, especially Scott Timberg of the Los Angeles Times, who was inspired enough to later co-edit The Misread City with D.G., published in 2003 by Red Hen Press. They were interested in what the new literary Los Angeles was all about, at a critical level. What did L.A. have to say in literature, after noir, after Bukowski, after Joan Didion and Bret Easton Ellis?

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Note on Previous Publications

I realize that the links to my work are, in most cases, expired or not directly referential. This is because most of my publications are from 1999- 2001. From 03-06 I mostly blogged, some of that material I still have, but some has been lost to the sands of Time. Within the boundary of the Mediterranean Scrub of Time are some of this earlier material.

In order of appearance, then, a note summarizing these things:

Baja Fresh - I wrote a few speeches for a gal in their HR department - who didn't like to give speeches. I was rewarded not just with cash, but also burritos. Hooray for burritos!

Other Magazine - poetry (this one is pretty recent)

Beathustler Radio - in San Francisco, this one was from spring 2005, an audio recording of four stories, including a modernized buddhist parable, details of my trip to New Orleans and an audioscape about the 4th Amendment, wherein I basically bombast the text of the 4th Amendment in the vain hope someone in the gubberment would, as they should, hear and find it important. Also on my mind that week were the recent deaths of Hunter Thompson and my uncle Barry, a progressive presbyterian minister who had his own interesting take on the 60s.

Cherry Bleeds - I published a short story called "party van" sometime in 99 or so, before Tony Du Shane started archiving in the way he does now. Mr. DuShane has done marvelous things with the humble template he has there, in the time since. Cherry Bleeds used to be subtitled "life affirming stories by suicidal writers". I have never been suicidal, but I found his magazine life-affirming (even though its all in black - go figure)

Orble blog 2006 - three light essays on science advocacy. They seemed to like it in Australia.

Perry's Joint - co-led a brief open mic there in 2003. This place is in Japantown, San Francisco, and they had great ice cream. Today it is under new ownership, and my budz from that scene have all moved on. Great memory tho, I got to read a lot of cool "epic" stuff when I was in that phase

formerly Imaginary Friends - Technically, after my absence, and the departure of the ladies as well, they reformed the group under the name Uphill Both Ways, added some people, and went on to produce a series of funny shows (from what I hear - I only got up to see one sometime in 04) Personal financial difficulties kept me away from the scene. But it was an adventure in sketch comedy, wherein I did manage to write, act in and direct a few things.

Xircom - wrote a few articles for an inhouse corporate newsletter. This was really "back in the day" and may have been my first publishing credit.

Meera Fox Photography - not exactly writing, but mostly videography for a production involving victims of abuse. She is a photographer part-time and an attorney during the week.

Hoard Magazine - they published my poetry several times in 1999-2000, as well as a few journalistic articles later.

There were a couple others, but these are zines or theater groups that were brief and have also disappeared. If you count the theatrical material, I've been "published" somewhere between 15-20 times. I've been looking for some of the people I knew in Oakland but I can't remember the last name of the guy who had a collaborative venture there. Usually I'm good with names, so this is a surprise for me. *it'll come** Also leaving out specifically folks in video production, since in that period I did have more of a video production focus, and writing was something I took less seriously. It bears repeating that should any of those editors happen to discover my blog (I have lost touch with some people) I am once again very much grateful for your assistance in the launching of my humble career.