Month: July 2012

Martin Amis in New York

Now that Martin Amis has relocated to Brooklyn from the UK, he found time to do an interview in last week’s New York. He chats about many topics including but not limited to: “Terrorism, Pornography, Idyllic Brooklyn and American Decline.”

 It sounds schmaltzy to say, but fiction is much more to do with love than people admit or acknowledge. The novelist has to not only love his characters…[t]he difference between a Nabokov, who in almost all his novels, nineteen novels, gives you his best chair and his best wine and his best conversation. Compare that to Joyce, who, when you arrive at his house, is nowhere to be found, and then you stumble upon him, making some disgusting drink of peat and dandelion in the kitchen. He doesn’t really care about you. Henry James ended up that way. They fall out of love with the reader. And the writing becomes a little distant.



Distractions : The Cheever Letters

I once had a roommate whose mother didn’t find Seinfeld funny at all. Needless to say–and for various other reasons–I did not like this roommate’s mother. She couldn’t even explain herself! (she also didn’t like New York City and thought Los Angeles was the greatest place). What a loon!

I love the references to New York City-specific things but also, they have great literary references every now and then. Enjoy.

those places that inspire us

This week, I finished up with a project that was 3 years in the making. Now that my brain has started to temporarily rebuild itself (part of the process is drinking wine, listening to Hall & Oates loudly on the car radio, and watching reruns of Seinfeld), I’ve been thinking of some of the places I would go to work on this aforementioned project. Also, a few days ago subtlekate wrote a post about writing haunts, “[t]hose magical cafe’s and hotels that have hosted the best can inspire us to keep going.”

One of my faves is The Hungarian Pastry Shop. Okay, so this place can be packed and the coffee is sub par, but if you go in the morning or during other “off” hours and just stick to the made in-house pastries and lattes, you’re set. Also, the outdoor seating is perfect for people watching. I am always especially productive here when I’m dealing with jet-lag. Up before everyone else, I hit up the laundromat right when it opens and then take my notebook and make my way to the Hungarian, where you’re joined with the two or three others with sleep woes.

Last year, Untapped New York ran the article, “The Hungarian Pastry Shop, a literary outpost.” Michelle Young writes,

When author and professor David Grahame Shane (of Recombinant Urbanism) asked me to meet at the Hungarian Pastry Shop on 111th and Amsterdam, I knew it was going to be a great place. You see, Shane’s speciality is on heterotopias–those places within cities that trigger creativity and spur urban evolution. In fact, he says they function as cities in miniature and that’s kind of what the Hungarian Pastry Shop is like…The shop puts the book jackets of its patrons on the walls…It’s also where a scene in Woody Allen’s Husbands and Wives was filmed.

Some photos that writer took:

a good ole fashion summer ghost story??

Does a summer ghost story exist? We usually want to read something fast and gripping while sitting on the beach sipping our tropical drinks. No, ghost stories or haunted houses must be for the winter when we are all cold and draped under multiple layers of blankets and cursing the blizzard outside.


I am just about to finish up with a project that has been years in the making. My head is about to explode! The thought of looking at a word processor for one more minute is going to make me scream! Now it’s time for a good ole fashion ghost story (or haunted house or small town in Scotland where the townfolk are harboring a dark secret). One of my absolutely favorites is Shirley Jackson’s, The Haunting of Hill HouseOn a side note, you can also read her fantastic short story, “The Lottery,” online here.

So, bring it on. Any suggestions?

post script

One of my favorite blogs is Multo (Ghost). “This is a blog about ghosts — literal, fictional, and metaphorical. It’s also a blog about whatever I want it to be about, so sometimes, the connection to ghosts may be a bit tenuous.”

post post script

I know I can be a bit behind the times, but I finally setup a Facebook page. Hopefully, this can be another “follow” option if you don’t want to receive emails.

women’s suffrage & the cookbook

“Neither idiots, lunatics, paupers, felons nor women shall be entitled to vote.”

It wasn’t until the first part of the 20th Century did women have the right to vote in the United States (even with the support of various learned men and women throughout the ages declaring what pish posh it was for women not to have this right).

I don’t recall learning in high school history class about cookbooks in conjunction with the Women’s Suffrage Movement, but it appears that they used this genre as a tool in their arsenal. What smart ladies! Selling suffrage cookbooks allowed for others, who would not have normally been involved in the movement, to get their hand in the game. Besides recipes and other household potpourri, the cookbooks included lists of names of the contributors who were often doctors, lawyers, etc., the suffragists’ goals and opinions, and quotations by aforementioned supporters.

author John Greenleaf Whittier: “For 50 years I have been in favor of Woman’s Suffrage. I have never been able to see any good reasons for denying the ballot to women.”

President Abraham Lincoln: “I go for all sharing the privileges of the government who assist in bearing its burdens — by no means excluding women.”

I also find these books incredibly fascinating from a historical point of view. Besides the appropriately named, “Rebel Soup,” there are also recipes for “Waterlily Eggs” and “Mock Turtle Soup,” dishes that have fallen out of fashion. In the Woman Suffrage Cook Book (available in its entirety online), there is also information on the care of invalids.

Again, Project Gutenberg comes through. The Suffrage Cook Book is also available in its entirety and as an ebook (photos included). You can find the recipe for “Pie for a Suffragist’s Doubting Husband,”

1 qt. milk human kindness
8 reasons:
White Slavery
Child Labor
8,000,000 Working Women
Bad Roads
Poisonous Water
Impure Food

Mix the crust with tact and velvet gloves, using no sarcasm, especially with the upper crust. Upper crusts must be handled with extreme care for they quickly sour if manipulated roughly.

every librarians worst nightmare

The image of a librarian slide tackling an X-Acto knife wielding artist was the precise visual that popped into my mind when I stumbled across the book sculptures of Alexander Korzer-Robinson.

The artist is precise in his collages and the book sculptures really are stunning. He uses mostly 19th Century children’s books filled with explorers and adventures in far-off places. According to his website,

I make book sculptures / cut books by working through a book, page by page, cutting around some of the illustrations while removing others. In this way, I build my composition using only the images found in the book.

When I looked through the artist’s work, I also couldn’t help but think of the illustrations of Henry Darger.

TO VIEW : slide show | artist’s website

‘Cartoons’ Of The Artist as a Young Woman

Exciting news for Flannery O’Connor fans–a new book entitled, Flannery O’Connor: The Cartoons  is available. In the NPR article, Glen Weldon writes,

But to focus entirely on O’Connor’s linework is to miss the true insights these works afford. Because of course they aren’t still lifes or anatomy studies, they’re gags. Which is to say: stories, often darkly funny ones, distilled to their essence — captured in a snapshot and usually accompanied by a droll description or characterizing bit of dialogue. What better training ground for a fiction writer?

If you want a quick peek, NPR has also posted some excerpts.

Distractions : Philip K. Dick, Gogol, and the thrifty library

As a poor writer of no importance, I must keep my spending in check. Of course, I wish I would have an endless supply of cash money and one of those fancy home libraries that  really only exists in the movies. So, to help with my compulsion, I check out the cheap books that the sellers on the New York streets offer, utilize the public library, and hit up those wonderful organizations like my favorite Project Gutenberg, et al.

I have been stuck in ¡total distraction! perusing the many free titles on Amazon’s Kindle store. When I think of free books, I generally think of books in the public domain–classics, mythology, etc. Yet, yesterday, I came across a ton of stories by Philip K. Dick that are being offered for free. If you’re like me, the summer is time for some plotty fun. Perfect!

Also, not for free but for $0.99, are The Works of Nikolai Gogol, which includes the short story, “Viy,” which was made in to a fantastic film in Russia in 1967.

a new translation of Solaris by Stanisław Lem

What good news!

A new translation of Stanisław Lem’s 1961 classic science fiction novel, Solaris, has come out. Although a favorite book of mine, English readers without the ability to read the original Polish or translated French had to suffer with what his website calls,

[C]hildren’s “broken telephone game”; initially the book was translated from Polish into French. Then the French text served as a basis for the English edition.¹

The novel is not yet available in book form but you can find it as an Audible audiobook or for a special ebook price of $1.99 at Amazon. If anyone has seen this translation anywhere else for sale, let me know so I can add some links.

¹ I don’t know what the actual term for this type of translation is but I love the idea of referring to it as telephone translation.

When You Are Silent, You Are Worthless

For the past few months, I have been hearing from a dear, dear writer friend, Carmen Adamucci, about a fantastic author in Greece (she translated some of his stories into Greek for publication). At the risk of sounding cliché, Antonia-Belica Kubareli, is clearly a Renaissance woman–writer, translator, activist, educator, editor, thinker, to name just a few of her accomplishments.

In our discussion, what really struck my attention was the crisis, but it is not the economic crisis that we hear or read about so frequently. It is a crisis for the writers, the open-minded, the people.

As an American-based writer, the concept of censorship is barbaric to me and can only occupy the realm of the brainwashed nitwits that, unfortunately, skip around our country.

Carmen told me about Belica’s most recent headache.

As a prominent translator, Belica has translated many famous writers into Greek: Salman Rushdie, Jumpa Lahiri, Audrey Niffenegger, Zadie Smith, Margaret Atwood, etc. So, naturally, she is very much aware of the book trends in English-speaking countries including a certain trilogy that is EVERYWHERE, whether we want it to be or not (for various reasons, this trilogy’s name and other like books are being withheld from my blog post; please also read the links and available texts I’ve posted–you will get the gist of it).

Antonia-Belica Kubareli

In short, the books are being marketed as women’s literature (or better known as “chick lit,” a term that has always driven me up the wall). So, like the ballsy woman she is, Belica took pen to paper and wrote an article about her experience and her personal opinions of the books,

It is degrading and demeaning for my intelligence to have such texts promoted as women’s literature, not because I am a littérateur but because I am a Woman and a Human! GREEK | ENGLISH

When I first wrote to Belica asking her for an English translation of the original article, she told me that the article was mostly about certain situations in Greece. Phewy! Yes, she does include some facets that are specifically Greece-orientated, but I think her crises–censorship, politics, sexism–can speak to us all. During her initial writing of this article, Belica proffers the idea that she might be “punished” for publishing this. In a follow-up interview, she writes what has happened to her in the Greek publishing industry,

 [T]hey retreated (sic) my books from all the bookstores, they took back the translation I was doing without paying me and they also informed me that “due to the crisis I won’t get my royalties this year”, so you see how the system works in Greece. I am a typical example.

Along with others, Belica has been fighting the good fight. With the promise from her Greek publishers “that [she] will never get another translation in [her] life,” Belica will be leaving Greece for Dublin,Ireland.

Still, art was always Greek. Small groups are trying hard to offer something new. Yet in this huge turmoil that is going to last for decades, I am afraid that art will suffer. In fact, I am relocating in August…

Soon, she will be studying at a university in Ireland and working on translating her own books into English.

All links are available throughout the post, but they are organized below for more convenience.

post script

Yesterday, I received a frantic email from Belica (not only is she a writer/translator but a passionate activist). The Albanian-born journalist, Niko Ago, is being threatened with deportation. He has lived and worked in Greece for over 20 years (as his family) and has jumped through hoops in regards to immigration. Read Belica’s letter to find out more about what’s happening with Niko Ago (“Niko is also a novelist and a member in the leading committee of the Hellenic League for Human Rights”).

**correction: I originally wrote that Belica was also asked to translate these trendy books into Greek but this is not the case.**