Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Dog Cat Rat (Man)

While dining in a sidewalk cafe on Throckmorton Street in Ft. Worth yesterday, I saw these four creatures:

Yep. A rat sitting on a cat standing on a dog being led by a man. I said to my colleagues, "Hey, look, a dog and a cat and a rat." And they double-took. And one of them said to the guy at the next table, "Hey, did you see that rat on the cat on the dog..." and the guy said, "Oh, yeah, that dude's always walking around downtown. Crazy homeless dude."

Back at my hotel, I googled Ft. Worth+dog+cat+rat, and this vid came right up. The "homeless dude" doesn't seem crazy at all--he just prefers animals to people, sort of like Temple Grandin. And I'm actually more interested in the animal pyramid than I am in him--especially that cat, which didn't fall off when I saw the act live. The balance of a surfer, the restraint of an aikido master, and the bored expression of...a cat.

Now I'm home from Ft. Worth. There's nothing quite like this oddity here. But having seen their little promenade makes me want to pay closer attention to beautiful obsessive weirdness everywhere.

By the way, I also recently met Temple Grandin, which is a whole other story, involving a whole other hotel. And pig-stunning. Also: Throckmorton. Just wanted to say it again.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Books Ruin Everything

February 2010 was the first month in which I failed to post anything since I started neglecting this blog back in aught-six. At first I neglected it in favor of freelance work. Then I neglected it in favor of Twitter. But lately, I've been neglecting Twitter, freelance, this blog, and life itself, in favor of books.

Books. Remember those? They're supposed to be part of what this blog is about, but when's the last time I wrote about a book here? Well, this is about a bunch of books. In the past six months (mostly in the past three), I've read the following:

Netherland by Joseph O'Neill ★★★★½
(I loved this novel so much, I started writing one, then began to suspect that my opening was plagiaristically close to that of a novel I'd read a few years ago, so I checked to see, and got hooked again by that all-too-influential opening, and thus ended up rereading in its massive entirety...
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen ★★★★
East Is East by T.C. Boyle ★★★
Mudbound by Hillary Jordan ★★½
Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem ★★
Nobody Move by Denis Johnson (★★★½) which made me reread...
Angels and Jesus' Son by Denis Johnson (a composite ★★★★)

But did I just read novels? Nay, I did not, viz.:

No One Belongs Here More Than You stories by Miranda July ★★★½
Haywire poems by George Bilgere ★★★★
Refusing Heaven poems by Jack Gilbert ★★★
Dearest Creature poems by Amy Gerstler ★★★★
Open House poems by Beth Ann Fennelly ★★★
Unmentionables poems by Beth Ann Fenelly ★★★½
All In The Timing fourteen plays by David Ives (funny little one-acts) ★★★★

I read a memoir:

House of Cards by my pal David Ellis Dickerson (must recuse myself on the rating, because I'm pseudonymously featured in the book and heavily biased in favor of the author)

I read a screenplay:

A Serious Man by Joel and Ethan Coen (I give the film ★★★★, but the weirdly flat script ★★--I don't know how they knew they could make a great movie from it.)

I read what I guess you'd call a how-to:

Story by Robert McKee ★★★ (the best thing of its kind, but that's damning with faint praise)

At work, I was researching The Beatles and ended up rereading In His Own Write, by John Lennon ★★★★. What a hoot.

I also read a fat, densely-packed old issue of McSweeney's, guest-edited by Chris Ware--mostly comics, but it took me longer than any of the other books. I'd rate it from no stars to ★★★★★, depending on where you are in it.

I think that's it.

Why list all these? Simply to say that I'd recommend every one of them, except maybe Chronic City, an oddly detached disappointment. And that I was reminded, these past few months, of how thoroughly books kick television's ass. TV had begun to swallow the evening hours with a habitual couchslump, apr├Ęs-boy-bedtime. I haven't cut it out of my life entirely, but I've begun shoving books between it and my face. They almost always win.

I'm back to reading like I used to read: compulsively. Now rereading Humboldt's Gift and loving it. So there'll be more blog lapses. I suggest Joseph O'Neill et al. as worthy blank spot filler-inners. If you've let books slip to the periphery of your busy life, bring 'em back to the center of the camp. It feels good.