28 September 2007

A Few Quick Notes

It's likely there won't be much in the way of updates around here for at least a few days, but I have a few fragments of information and marginal bits of thought to share before I go...
  • John Joseph Adams wrote a nice piece for SciFi Wire about Jeff and Ann VanderMeer's guest editing of Best American Fantasy.

  • Speaking of Best Americans, all the various ones from various publishers now seem to be out in stores. I stayed up much too late last night, utterly engrossed in The Best American Essays 2007, guest edited by David Foster Wallace. I always find a few essays in that book to be fascinating or impressive, but none of the other volumes I've read have so completely hooked me -- indeed, in all the other volumes I've encountered at least one essay that cured insomnia. That's not the case with this edition. I was reading the first essay, Jo Ann Beard's "Werner", last night at a pizza place across from Cooper Union, and I not only nearly missed the Jonathan Lethem event because the piece was so gripping, but it was a struggle not to burst into tears at the end of it. Breathtaking. As are so many of the other essays.

  • I am doing everything I can not to run out and buy a copy of Denis Johnson's new novel, Tree of Smoke. The good people at McNally Robinson can attest to my immense powers of self-control. They watched as I struggled with the Mr. Hyde that kept pushing me toward it, toward it, toward it... People emailing to say how much they're enjoying it and how brilliant it is do not help the cause. I actually petted a friend's copy of it when we went out to see the play Have You Seen Steve Steven?. Even though it's a heavy book, she is addicted to it and carries it around with her wherever she goes. Actually, I think she does this to torture people like me, who lack the time to tackle a gazillion-page tome of brilliance right now. What else would explain her putting the book on the table at the bar we went to? In the middle of the table? Why why why do my friends insist on tormenting me?!?

  • How was the play? Entertaining, generally well acted and directed, but the script (an amalgamation of Albee and Ionesco) falls apart in the last third, as if the writer didn't really know what to do with her set-up and threw her hands in the air and said, "Well, whatever!" I liked what was going on in the end more than what was going on in the beginning -- a bit too much of a familiar "aren't people in the mid-west funny?" and "isn't middle-class suburban life suffocating?" attempt at satire, despite some marvelous lines -- so it would have been nice if the script actually created a context for the absurdity of words divorced from meanings to be more, well, meaningful (the play becomes a game of ping-pong with free-floating signifiers). The end is amusing enough in its oddity, but there's no weight to it. It's strange, but not estranging. Nonetheless, watching the play was not at all a boring or tedious experience, and 13P is a really great venture, one I hope to continue to follow.

  • Finally, as Woody Allen once said, "In summing up, I wish I had some kind of affirmative message to leave you with. I don't. Would you take two negative messages?"