Read A Book

o-END-OF-THE-TOUR-facebookWhen I heard about The End Of The Tour—long before a trailer, when it was just a production whisper and a still of bandana-wearing Jason Segal as David Foster Wallace—I knew I’d see it, realistic or not.

Based on writer David Lipsky’s book, Though Of Course You End Up Becoming Yourself, the film follows Lipsky (played with aplomb by Jesse Eisenberg), on assignment from Rolling Stone, following Wallace on the last bit of his book tour for Infinite Jest, in the midwest winter of 1996. I haven’t read the book, which was written nearly verbatim from Lipsky’s tapes, but heard the film echoes it near perfectly. Meaning the film is word-for-word scripted from Wallace’s and Lipsky’s conversations, making it much more compelling than something supposed; and making me, an avid Wallace fan, intent on hearing that voice I love and look to finally speak to me, even if through an actor’s mouth.

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we gave a party for the gods and the gods all cameIn the latest incarnation of CR Fashion Book, Dance, much improved from the slightly disjointed first issue, there is this lovely little piece of graphic art by John Giorno. Across the spread is his poem “It Doesn’t Get Better,” which is rarely transcribed but is, for once, here, because Carine is a wonderful person. I wish it was a little bigger, but layout constraints prevent image enlargement (damn you, minimalist theme!) so you’ll have to squint a little. It’s worth it.

it doesnt get better john giorno

a hauntingly beautiful speech cum eulogy by Aaron Freeman on NPR that my best friend (and superb Tumblr) Molly sent me, and which we immediately put in our notes for funerals along with the Do Not Invite list we made in high school

“You want a physicist to speak at your funeral. You want the physicist to talk to your grieving family about the conservation of energy, so they will understand that your energy has not died. You want the physicist to remind your sobbing mother about the first law of thermodynamics; that no energy gets created in the universe, and none is destroyed. You want your mother to know that all your energy, every vibration, every Btu of heat, every wave of every particle that was her beloved child remains with her in this world. You want the physicist to tell your weeping father that amid energies of the cosmos, you gave as good as you got.

And at one point you’d hope that the physicist would step down from the pulpit and walk to your brokenhearted spouse there in the pew and tell him that all the photons that ever bounced off your face, all the particles whose paths were interrupted by your smile, by the touch of your hair, hundreds of trillions of particles, have raced off like children, their ways forever changed by you. And as your widow rocks in the arms of a loving family, may the physicist let her know that all the photons that bounced from you were gathered in the particle detectors that are her eyes, that those photons created within her constellations of electromagnetically charged neurons whose energy will go on forever.

And the physicist will remind the congregation of how much of all our energy is given off as heat. There may be a few fanning themselves with their programs as he says it. And he will tell them that the warmth that flowed through you in life is still here, still part of all that we are, even as we who mourn continue the heat of our own lives.

And you’ll want the physicist to explain to those who loved you that they need not have faith; indeed, they should not have faith. Let them know that they can measure, that scientists have measured precisely the conservation of energy and found it accurate, verifiable and consistent across space and time. You can hope your family will examine the evidence and satisfy themselves that the science is sound and that they’ll be comforted to know your energy’s still around. According to the law of the conservation of energy, not a bit of you is gone; you’re just less orderly. Amen.”

— Aaron Freeman “You Want A Physicist To Speak at your Funeral” (npr)

An amazing interview with the famous graphic novelist for The Guardian. A great long read, even if you’ve never read any of his works, about the creative process and doing what you love (also, magic). Select choice quotes include…

On money

“I’ve developed a theory that there’s an inverse relationship between money and imagination. That if you’ve got lots of imagination then you don’t really need much money, and if you’ve got lots of money then you won’t bother with much imagination.

“You’ve got to be able to pay your bills, otherwise you’re not going to sleep at night. But beyond that, the world inside my head has always been a far richer place than the world outside it. I suppose that a lot of my art and writing are meant to bring the two together.”

On magic

“Do I believe, for example, that by using magic I could fly? No. How would you get around gravity? Impossible. Do I believe that I might be able to project my consciousness into a very, very vivid simulation of flying? Yeah. Yes, I’ve done that. Yes, that works.”

Does it require that you take… “Sometimes you have to take drugs, yes. Sometimes you can do it with dreaming. Sometimes you can do it with a creative act. Writing is a very focused form of meditation. Just as good as sitting in a lotus position.”

On typewriter abuse

He currently writes on an industrial-strength keyboard made of metal, properly meant for use in foundries and conflict zones. The plastic sort used to last him a few months before melting under the constant spray of cigarette ash, or otherwise breaking from overuse.

“You can’t learn to write in college. It’s a very bad place for writers because the teachers always think they know more than you do—and they don’t. They have prejudices… The library, on the other hand, has no biases. The information is all there for you to interpret. You don’t have someone telling you what to think. You discover it for yourself.”

So said Ray Bradbury in a 2010 interview with the storied literary magazine, an interview that you can now access, along with the hundreds of others published since Review’s birth in 1953, from the palm of your hand. For free.

The Paris Review app is here, everyone, and what a tool it is. The magazine’s entire library archive is available for preview or purchase, plus all its tremendous interviews from Angelou to Updike that will leave you swimming in quotable nuggets and inspiriational writing advice. There’s also The Daily, their cultural gazette. And it’s all portable, able to slip into your pocket via iPhone (or bag via iPad) for the best on-the-go library… well, maybe ever. Got writer’s block? See what got Borges going in 1967. Forgot a book on the train? There are pages of undiscovered fiction and poetry in each new issue. And, as Bradbury so correctly put it, the choice is up to you. Your favorite authors, your creative exploration, your words-on-a-page escape. No required reading list.

the nugget: It’s free, and better than that pontificating grad student presiding over your 40K Intro to Brit Lit class.

Free-99 at the app store.

When I told my maternal grandfather that I was moving to Williamsburg, his first reaction was silence, and then a soft, “Well, how ’bout that.” A first-generation son of Polish immigrants, he was born in a railroad townhouse (that housed his entire family between its few floors) in northwest Greenpoint in 1930. He spent childhood years tromping between McCarren Park, Newtown Creek, and the East River docks, amidst factory smokestacks and vestiges of oil refineries, before his parents packed up to Queens for more space. 82 years later, the news that his first grandchild was starting her adult life in that same neighborhood–also in a half-century old railroad apartment–was no doubt startling. “Why?”, he wanted to know. Well Grandpa, you see, there’s this thing called gentrification that took over the old ‘hood…

The tale of said “refurbishment” (or, white-people-takeover) of the Northside Williamsburg/Greenpoint neighborhoods is not a new story, but it hasn’t been quite so artfully told than in Robert Anasi’s memoir-cum-oral history The Last Bohemia: Scenes From The Life of Williamsburg. Anasi moved to a $300-a-month hellhole on Union and Grand in 1991, where he stepped over heroin addicts to get inside his front door. The book is not a woeful remembrance of “the good ol’ days,” though, but plaintively told accounts of neighborhood locals and colorful eccentrics taken from Anasi’s years of notebooks (aspiring writers, take note). Both the born-and-raised and the poor struggling artists pushed out of Manhattan and the East Village by rising rents have a voice, as do long-gone establishments like the L Cafe and Kokie’s (it is what the name implies). It’s history of gentrification by one who lived it; from carney parties in abandoned warehouses to the influx of dotcomers with more money than the artists to the millions of dollars in condos that took over the East River waterfront and forced Anasi, and many others like him, out of the neighborhood for good. Note the photo on the cover: the Williamsburg waterfront, before and after, graveyard of stolen cars to young adult concert venue. A beautiful but totally guilt-trip read that makes you at once pine for what was but also appreciate the ability to walk home alone at night without getting solicited for sex. “Good ol’ days,” maybe, but would you have lived there? Probably not. Even if you’re not a New Yorker, or into history, it’s fascinating.

the nugget: Here is the story of the coke bar that used to be where your trendy artisanal bodega is now. Feel guilty about living in Brooklyn. Be nice to your old Polish neighbor.

On Amazon and all other places where really bad ass books are sold.