30 September 2008

Upcoming interviews

I realized recently that I haven't done any interviews with anybody in a long time. So I'm rectifying that. I'm in the midst of interviewing Diana Spechler about her first novel,Who By Fire, a compulsively readable book about a troubled family, a less than perfect daughter, and a son who flees to Israel to study at an Orthodox yeshiva.

I'm also interviewing Brian Slattery, author of one of my favorite books from last year, Spaceman Blues. Brian's upcoming novel Liberation: Being the Adventures of the Slick Six After the Collapse of the United States of America is due out a few days before my birthday and is frighteningly prescient -- I accused Brian of manipulating the U.S. economy over the past week to better reflect events in his book. Publicity is one thing, but....

Meanwhile, Sarah Palin refused my request for an interview, alas.

Sound Check

I haven't written much here recently about music, mostly because I find writing about music to be the most difficult sort of writing to do, but I've been having fun with some new discoveries recently, and thought it might be fun to share.

For instance, there's a new Okkervil River album, The Stand Ins (a sequel, of sorts, to last year's The Stage Names). I have shed great amounts of praise on Okkervil here in the past, and really, how could I dislike a band that named themselves after one of my favorite Tatyana Tolstaya stories? I can't say I've entirely warmed to these two albums the way I did to Okkervil's earlier work, but they're still plenty interesting. On The Stand Ins, the lyrics to "Singer Songwriter" particularly amuse me:
Your great-grandfather was a great lawyer
And his kid made a mint off the war
Your father shot stills and then directed films
That your mom did publicity for

I saw your older sis on the year's best book list
And your brother, he manages bands
And you're keen to down play, but you're quick to betray
With one welt and that wave of your hand

You come from wealth
Yeah, you got wealth
What a bitch, they didn't give you much else
(Actually, my favorite lyrics are from later on in the song: "It's all in your hand, it's all in your hand/ like a gun, like a globe, like a grand.")

Speaking of lyrics, I've been loving those on Conor Oberst's new self-titled album (previously, he was part of Bright Eyes). The first and last songs are the killers for me. "Cape Canaveral":
Like the citrus glow off the old orange grove
Or the red rocket blaze over Cape Canaveral
It’s been a nightmare to me
Some 1980’s grief
Gives me parachute dreams
Like old war movies
While the universe was drawn
Perfect circles form infinity

Saw the stars get smaller
Tiny diamonds in my memory
I know that victory is sweet
Even deep in the cheap seats
"Milk Thistle":
Lazarus, Lazarus
Why all the tears?
Did your faithful chauffeur just disappear?
What a lonesome feeling
To be waiting around
Like some washed up actress
In a Tinseltown
But for the record
I'd come pick you up
We'll head for the ocean
Just say when you've had enough
For something a bit crazier, I've occasionally been listening to Los Campesinos!, who do such things as title songs "This Is How You Spell 'HAHAHA I've Destroyed the Hopes and Dreams of a Generation of Faux-Romantics'".

And then there's Gogol Bordello, who really just have to be heard to be believed:
Give me everything theory
Without Nazi uniformity
My brothers are protons
My sisters are neurons
I stir it twice, it's instant family
For a very different sort of thing, I've been dipping into This Land is Mine: South African Freedom Songs, originally released in 1965 by Folkways. It complements the soundtrack to Amandla! well and doesn't have much overlap with 2002's South African Freedom Songs (which is now apparently out of print).

More than anything else, though, I've been listening to the legendary Anthology of American Folk Music, which has now displaced People Take Warning!: Murder Ballads & Disaster Songs 1913-1933 as my favorite collection of old weirdness (though really, the two collections complement each other beautifully). It's also led me to conclude that Blind Willie Johnson must be some sort of relative of Tom Waits. And I don't know of another song as simultaneously strange and charming as Henry Thomas singing "Fishin' Blues" -- it goes skipping along for 40 seconds or so, and then suddenly PAN PIPES! And they're perfect! It's one of those songs I suspect I could listen to every day and not grow tired of (this song and some others are available on the Henry Thomas MySpace page, which I assume he created sometime before his presumed death sometime in the 1950s).

26 September 2008

And I Approved This Message

I suspended this blog before John McCain suspended his campaign to work on the economy, so please vote for me on election day. My running mate is an androgynous simulacrum of Eugene Debs and Emma Goldman who spends most of its time arguing with itself about the role and value of government in effecting meaningful change.

I will be de-suspending the blog soon, though, because today I am going out into my backyard to talk with the squirrels about my plan for the economy, a plan that rests its many tentacles on a single bodily proposal: to release all non-violent offenders from prison to make room for various denizens of Wall Street. And to provide free feather boas to everybody who wants one.

Oh no! One of my cats just ate the Squirrel Majority Leader! The squirrels are in an uproar! The whole economic plan is now in jeopardy! Bad kitty! BAD!

My friends, I'm afraid I'm going to have to suspend the blog for a few more days while this crisis is resolved.

16 September 2008

The Singularity Trap

Sue Lange and I struck up a correspondence recently, and at one point she mentioned a slight obsession with the idea of the singularity. "Really?" I said. "Tell me more..."

Sue is the author of We, Robots, part of the Aqueduct Press Conversation Pieces Series.

When Matthew suggested I blog at the Mumpsimus on the subject of the Singularity or any other weirdity, I opted for weirdity. I needed a change. The Singularity is threatening to swallow me whole these days. Too often I feel trapped in it.

I know the Mumpsimus readers are an eclectic bunch. They are not all science fiction fans. For those who have no idea what the Singularity is, I invite you to take a quick primer via an excerpt from my book, We, Robots and meet me back here.

Everyone make it back? Great. Moving forward. The problem with not writing about the Singularity is that anything I do these days: orcharding, horse back riding, applescript writing, pie throwing, etc., seems to relate to it somehow. I can't think about the least little thing without tying it in somehow to nanorobots invading the environment or whether the latest OS will interface with the forthcoming brain implants.

Something as innocuous as a local music festival -- a very weird event more reminiscent of Dante's Inferno than any paradise of virtual reality -- turned into a blog rant on how strange and ugly non-Hollywood humans (i.e. you and me) are in the flesh. That's not what the music fest was about, but that's what I got out of it. This happens with me with everything now. No matter the subject, event, or location, the Singularity is somewhere in the middle of it, whipping the scenario into something ridiculously futuristic.

Here's a werdity I'd rather write about: the telephone, specifically plain old telephone service (POTS). On the surface, not very Singularityish, but not very weird either. Below the surface, though, down where we're going to go, things are different. Think of your great grandmother (Or great, great grandmother, depending on your age. I'm 50 thinking of my great grandmother, so calibrate your thoughts accordingly.) Think of your great grandmother stating, "If God had wanted us to be on the moon, He would have put us there instead of on Earth." Remember how she died in 1968, a year before the Eagle landed?

Good ol' great grandma. She really missed that one. Yet there was probably a time when her mother stated something like "When God wants people to speak to each other, He brings them face to face. None of this talking into a box nonsense." I'm sure great grandma laughed at such Luddism years later as her own phone rested cozily on the shelf in the breakfast nook. Yet she scoffed at Earth to moon communications. I'm sure she never envisioned cell phones, videophones, or free long-distance via SKYPE either. She died on the eve of the revolution secure in the idea that God had no more interest in inventing, developing, or filing for patents.

Why is that weird? Because, at 50, I can see back into great gran's life and recognize her mistake of not believing the unbelievable. Certainly she had the evidence, but she didn't buy it. She couldn't see where we were heading even though it was right in front of her. Things moved slower in her lifetime. The curve to the Singularity was still flat.

In my lifetime things have not moved so slowly. The curve is steeper. I can look up and see where we're heading and at the same time look down and see life without the Internet or instant communication with the entire world. I actually knew people that believed it wouldn't ever be possible. In other words, I experienced the past but I see the future as well. I remember quaintly answering essay questions and I've also filled in circles on standardized tests. Which is the best way? Which is better, and better for you?

Dunno, but even weirder: everything old is new again. I remember when natural childbirth was brought back into style. I watch organic farming--farming the old-fashioned way--become edgy, avant-garde with new science coming out about it every day. I saw Russia's economy turn around because they were the only country still making amplifier tubes and American rock guitarists, well, you know how fanatical they are about "getting their sound."

The point is, my lost generation not only sees the new superceded by the newer, but we also see technology go away and then come back. Great grandma saw only the old superceded by the new. Likewise, the younger folks see nothing but new. Even old stuff coming back is new to them. It's not weird to them that farming with highly designed pesticides and frankengenes is called "traditional" farming. They're so far beyond that, they actually see themselves under a glass dome on Mars, manipulating the soil, temp, and moisture on a world where they don't belong.

I'm not buying it. I'm not looking forward to it. Then again, I don't have to. My unique place in the world allows me to pick and choose my technology. I'm not frightened by software upgrades, but I don't feel the need to buy a new fancier cell phone every year either. If I like the old, I keep it. If the new is too far gone for my little head, I ignore it. Kids demand new and newer. They will have no problem embracing phone implants in their heads when that becomes available. Half of my generation don't even own a cell phone, and if we do own one, we leave it home half the time. I myself use a rotary dial. Of course my DSL comes in through the same line. I see no disconnect there (literally). It's not eccentric to me. It all makes sense.

Me and my peeps prefer wood over plastic, natural fibers over nylon, fresh food over liquid lunch, but only if it's affordable. The new generation is so past that. They'll race beyond plastic and embrace virtually created commodities. The new toys won't even be there, they'll just think they are, and that's good enough for them. The new stuff will certainly be affordable that's for sure. That'll bring us oldsters around and we'll all be happy then.

Meantime, I will scoff at the Singularity with every calcified bone in my body because if God wanted us to live forever She would've given us the perpetual motion machine. She would have given us some way of extracting work with no energy input, because that's what it's going to take: free energy. Living forever--the great promise of the Singularity--is wonderful in theory but who's going to pay for it? What if you're not born wealthy? What if you have to work for a living? How can the working/middle class ever retire under the life-eternal scenario? What if you're a ditch digger or a cleaner of portable johns? Omigod. What if you're a third grade school teacher? How would you like to be forever reminding eight-year-olds to bring their pencils to class and zip their trousers when exiting the bathroom. Sounds like a never-ending nightmare. Ask any third grade teacher if he or she wants to live forever.

Of course there might be no more third grade. As long as there's a set of implants for every American and DSL in every home we can kiss that scenario good bye. But then isn't third grade actually kind of great from the third-grader's perspective? Do you really want to forego third grade bliss?

All I'm going to say beyond that is, the Singularity is not a fake theory or a bit of science fiction fluff. It is a valid idea about as crackpotted as thinking about walking on the moon in 1968 was. Apparently God did want us on the moon after all, so extrapolating...well...kind of scary falling into the Singularity trap, eh?

15 September 2008

Learning to Write

My latest column is up at Strange Horizons: "Learning to Write".

I didn't realize this would be SH's eighth anniversary issue. Eight years of weekly doses of fiction, poetry, essays, articles, etc. An impressive accomplishment, especially given that everyone on staff is a volunteer. They're all a joy to work with, and I think the results are extraordinary in many ways, so congratulations to all of the various Strange Horizon writers and staff over the years.

The new column is a strange one, but then, most of them are. It's centered on Jules Renard's journals, recently reissued by Tin House Books, and appearances are also made by Jacques Roubaud's Some Thing Black and Gertrude Stein's How to Write.

By the way, if you ever teach an intro composition class or something like that, I recommend sticking Stein's How to Write on a shelf, and when a student asks you for the "secret" of writing (or anything to that effect), tell them it's in that book over there on the shelf. Tell them any page of that book will teach them more about writing than anything else. Then watch their face as they read. (Okay, yes, it's a little cruel, but still...)


As you've probably heard by now, David Foster Wallace is dead.

Ed Champion has heroically put together a huge collection of remembrances from all sorts of people, and it's a moving and funny and beautiful testament to the effect Wallace had on his readers. My own contribution to the collection, I told Ed, is written from the land of shellshock.

13 September 2008

The Fall

Will Lasky at The House Next Door suggests that The Fall is destined to be a cult classic, and that seems right to me. It's a movie that causes viewers to split quite strongly, some feeling the film is visionary and powerful, others finding it pretentious and boring. Inevitably, as we try to tell people what we thought of the movie and what the experience of watching it is like, we compare it to other films -- The Princess Bride comes up a lot, but I think that's a bit misleading, and likely to cause dissatisfaction in a viewer who watches The Fall expecting the other film's whimsy. A closer approximation would be Terry Gilliam's The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, a movie that is as full of stories-within-stories as Princess Bride and The Fall, and also shares The Fall's darker view of human motivations, attention to imagery, and sometimes messy (some might even say flabby) narrative structure. The other particularly valid comparison, I think, is to the films of Julie Taymor -- there's an animation sequence in The Fall that is reminiscent of the one The Brothers Quay did for Frida, and director Tarsem says in the commentary for The Fall that he'd originally planned to get The Brothers Quay to do his, then he saw Frida and realized they'd just done it. So he went to different twin animators, the Lauensteins. There are certainly other similarities to Taymor's work as well, especially the careful visual construction of every scene and the strongly divided reactions among viewers.
What can't be denied is that again and again The Fall is visually gorgeous. This has, for some critics, been one of its weaknesses -- bright, colorful beauty is something we have learned to distrust in movies. (Notice how much praise there is for the murky mess of The Dark Knight. [Sorry, I've really come to hate that movie.]) There is a suspicion, even as we are impressed by the framing and the vivid hues, that many of the shots in The Fall are not art, but kitsch: 3-D Dalí.

For me, there were a few mitigating elements that moved the imagery decidedly into the realm of art and out of the trash-heap of kitsch. First, like Dalí's best paintings, the imagery is striking, forcing an involuntary, whispered "Wow" when I first saw a few of the shots. We are not in the realm of Thomas Kinkade.

Second, and perhaps more important, the imagery makes sense within the conceit of the movie. The entire film is filtered through the perceptions of the child Alexandria, stuck in a hospital after breaking her arm in a fall while picking oranges with her family, migrant workers in the early twentieth century. She wanders through the hospital and meets Roy, a silent-movie stuntman who has been paralyzed after falling from a train trestle in a dangerous stunt, one he performed, it seems, to try to win (back?) the love of the movie's leading lady, who has become the girlfriend of the leading man. Roy's body and heart are broken. He begins telling Alexandria a story of a group of heroes who seek to destroy an evil Governor Odious.

Roy tells the story using the most exotic characters he can think of, including Charles Darwin and an Indian. We quickly discover that we are in Alexandria's imagination, though, when, despite Roy mentioning the Indian's "squaws" and "wigwam", the Indian on the screen actually lives in India. Alexandria's frame of reference is different from Roy's. Little details throughout the movie remind us of this.

The imagery also makes sense in contrast to the more objective reality of the hospital, which, though beautifully filmed, has a much more restricted color palette and tighter, less epic cinematography. Alexandria's imagination is full of vivid beauty.

The performances are also notable, particularly the leads -- Lee Pace as Roy manages to find considerable range in the role, and is particularly fine in small, intimate scenes with Alexandria. And Catinca Untaru as Alexandria is phenomenal, giving easily one of the best performances by such a young child that I've seen. Her character, in more than one way, is the movie, and Untaru entirely lives up to the challenge.

Along with the imagery and Catinca Untaru's performance, what most impressed me about The Fall was the courage of its ending. It is sweet and touching without being sentimental, because Tarsem allows Roy's story to grow very dark as Roy himself loses hope in life. Alexandria is too naive and too determinedly idealistic to allow the darkness to fully enter her imagination, though -- she fights Roy to bring the story back to a place of beauty, and the effect is that the story does not change her, as much as it amuses her, but it does change Roy. Or perhaps not. Tarsem has been criticized for being too much of a pop artist, too much still the guy who made TV commercials and music videos, but the criticism is superficial and ignores the tremendous ambuity of the ending and the unreliability of a very young narrator. The final section, with Alexandria narrating action scenes from old silent movies, brings the grand imaginings of the earlier sections of the film toward a simpler kind of beauty, though one that is equally faithful to the idea that imagination is not an escape from reality, but a tool with which to understand and even shape it. The meaning of The Fall is, in the end, left up to us to decide, interpret, and imagine. That, more than anything else, makes it a work of art.

11 September 2008

Special Offer

Occasional Mumpsimus guest blogger Craig Gidney has a collection of stories coming out in November, and his publisher, Steve Berman, is making a truly generous special offer. Craig's struggling to get some necessary, expensive prescriptions at a time when he doesn't have health insurance, and to help him out, Steve is willing to send all the money from pre-publication orders for the book to Craig. See Steve's post for more information.

Craig's situation isn't the least bit unique. The American health insurance system is an atrocity. My father died with a great load of debt to hospitals, and his struggles over the past decade with insurance companies and medical providers were extensive. Myself, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I don't get sick in the next few weeks, because I won't have insurance again until October. But I'm lucky -- healthy, single, no need for maternity care, without much of a history of health problems, and able (for now) to afford $200/month in fees.

I'll be buying a few of Craig's books, out of solidarity and friendship. Thanks to Steve Berman for such a thoughtful and generous offer. Please help pass along this news.

Reginald Shepherd (1963-2008)

Via various sources, I learned that Reginald Shepherd died last night.

I didn't know him, but have friends who did at one time or another. He was a writer I discovered first through his blog, then his poems and essays, and I reviewed his book Orpheus in the Bronx: Essays on Identity, Politics, and the Freedom of Poetry for the print edition of Rain Taxi. Shepherd, I said, called
for poetic ecumenicalism, a search for a path between the various warring villages dotting the landscape of the last half-century of poetic schools, churches, and licensing bureaus. He disdains the insularity of poetry's mainstreams and avant-gardes, its false dichotomies and self-important taxonomies. The contemporary poetry he advocates for is a poetry open to possibility, a poetry written by poets who do not shun a technique simply because of which side of the garden it grew in: "While availing themselves of all the resources of the lyric tradition, such poets remain alert to the seductions of such splendors: they neither stop their ears to the sirens nor are lured onto the rocks by them. They sing, and see, and say, and refuse the temptation or the demand that they choose one or the other."
He stood up for his ideas with both force and thoughtfulness, even as his medical problems grew worse. Reading the posts on his blog or the Harriet Blog at the Poetry Foundation was an education and a revelation, and the unsentimental lyricism of his poetry will sing long past this, our first day without him.

Lake of Fire

I put off watching Tony Kaye's documentary Lake of Fire for months, because it's seldom that I'm really in the mood to watch both raving Christian fundamentalists and explicit medical procedures within a single two-and-a-half-hour period.

And Lake of Fire is full of both. Its primary concern is to depict both sides of the wars over abortion clinics in the 1990s, a time when quite a few people were killed by anti-abortion extremists. We see the picket lines and protests, the people protecting women going into clinics and the people trying to convert them. We hear a lot from various preachers and activists and philosophers and sociologists. We watch abortion procedures and see what gets dumped into the tray in the sink. We see crime scene photographs of doctors who were murdered and women who bled to death after trying to prevent their own pregnancy. At the end, we follow a woman into a clinic and watch as she goes through counseling and the procedure, and then sits, exhausted, afterward and talks about how she feels. She doesn't doubt she made the right choice, but she can't help collapsing in tears.

Various critics and viewers have praised Lake of Fire for being even-handed, for not having a point of view. This isn't exactly the case. The point of view is utterly clear by the end -- the issue of abortion is a complex one, and there are no simple answers. It is no accident that the film ends with a woman who is certain of her choice and yet, as she says, full of all sorts of thoughts. The final image is of her with her head in her hands, sobbing. The editing of the movie deliberately leads us step by step through juxtapositions that give the most gravity and force to moments of complexity: the film's tag line could easily be, "There are no easy answers."

Tony Kaye, who previously directed commercials and American History X (and pretty much made himself into a pariah/clown), nearly destroys the documentary's ability to present a reasonable case for or against abortion by his fascination with extremes. It takes a massive effort of empathy to even begin to understand the worldview of most of the anti-abortion activists in the film if, like me, you think of yourself as someone who values reason and thought. Maybe it's impossible -- maybe they're really all as far off the edge of rationality as the folks in the film. (I paused the movie to watch Rachel Maddow, who devoted some time to the craziness of Sarah Palin, whose views seem to be similar to those of the right-wing extremists in Lake of Fire. Hooray for progress!)

Kaye tries to balance the crazy fundamentalists with people who are often considered leftist extremists -- Noam Chomsky, Peter Singer -- but it would be a rare viewer who would not see them as calm, thoughtful, rational, and relatively sane when cast against people who claim that anybody who uses the word "goddamn" ought to be executed. One of the few people offering an anti-abortion position that doesn't seem to have been smoked in fire and brimstone is Nat Hentoff, who proclaims a "seamless" pro-life position of being against not only abortion, but also the death penalty, war, poverty, etc. (basically the "consistent life ethic").

It's notable that the only pro-choice person in the movie who comes off as even in the same league of craziness as the fundamentalists is a rock singer who covers her breasts with electrical tape and sticks a coathanger in her crotch. She becomes the concrete representation of the anti-choicers' vision of fundamentalist feminism -- naked women screaming jungle music!!! -- just as most of the openly gay people in the film are at protests where they're in full camp mode. As the fundamentalists scream against blasphemers and sodomites, across the police barrier stand the personifications of their fears. Maybe they deserve to be faced with those personifications, but as cinema the effect is a levelling one: everybody's a freak!

Lake of Fire is about things other than just abortion. It is, for instance, about men's opinions of women's autonomy. Certainly women are major players in the film, and are the protagonists of most of the most powerful scenes, but the commentary is dominated by men. Women's bodies are central to the most vivid and memorable images, and yet the most forceful anti-abortion voices are those of men, the few women who are provided as commentators are mostly given less time to speak than the men, and all of the abortion doctors in the film are men. Women counsel and help, but they are more often the objects, not the subjects, of action and commentary.

Thus, for all my admiration of Tony Kaye's craft (the cinematography and editing are often exquisite) and his obvious commitment to representing a complex issue in its complexity, I fear that his film almost collapses into an obsession with extremism and ultimately a fetishization of women's bodies as things to be acted upon and talked about, legislated and sentimentalized, violated and repaired -- instead of lived in.

And yet... I said "almost collapses", and I meant that almost. Because in the end, we watch one woman, her difficult experiences, and her conflicting and overwhelming emotions. The only extremism we are left with is the extremism of her life and all its challenges -- abusive relationships, depression, financial instability -- and the dreams and hopes and wonders she hesitantly, but powerfully, expresses. For me, at least, it was enough.

04 September 2008

Delany's Jewel-Hinged Jaw: June 2009

You can now pre-order Wesleyan University Press's reissue of Samuel Delany's first collection of essays, The Jewel-Hinged Jaw: Notes on the Language of Science Fiction, from Amazon. My contacts at Wesleyan have confirmed that the book is, indeed, due to be released in June.

Aside from my excitement at having these essays back in print (including "To Read The Dispossessed", which alone is more than worth the price of the book), I'm particularly excited for this edition because I got the opportunity to write the introduction. I owe Justine Larbalestier more than I could ever offer her, because she put Chip in touch with me, and one day I returned home from work to a message on my answering machine: "Hello, Matthew Cheney, this is Samuel Delany..." I almost fell over. Then he asked if I'd do him the tremendous favor of writing the introduction to a book of his. And I think I did fall over.

Since then, I not only wrote the intro to Jewel-Hinged Jaw, but also to the reissue of Starboard Wine that will be coming out from Wesleyan in (fingers crossed) the fall of '09. Much as I admire Jewel-Hinged Jaw, it's the Starboard Wine reissue that will, I hope, set the world on fire. When it was first published, not many copies of SW got released, and getting your hands on one can be a challenge. Jewel-Hinged Jaw shows Delany's growth as a critic, and it shows him discovering all sorts of new influences, which is great fun to watch. But Starboard Wine is more coherent and more consistent, and it is, I think, a book that could have had a tremendous effect on science fiction criticism, because though many of the ideas within it get echoed or reiterated in Delany's more easily accessible (in every sense of the word) books, essays such as "Dichtung und Science Fiction" bring various ideas together that he has seldom brought together anywhere else. I hope the reissue brings it the attention it deserves, and that the ideas are discussed and debated for a long time to come.

In any case, I'll have more to say as the publication date of Jewel-Hinged Jaw approaches, along with some excerpts and out-takes from the intro (it went through an intense and fruitful drafting process).

Meanwhile, if you're in the mood to pre-order something from Wesleyan that will be released this year (and I know you are!), they're bringing out My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer, which should be one of the great publishing events of the year. More on Spicer's connections to Philip K. Dick -- and Samuel Delany -- at another time...

02 September 2008

The First Day of School

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the first day of classes at Plymouth State University, where I'm teaching now.

This is my eleventh year of teaching. Nonetheless, as ever, the first day looms as something both terrifying and exciting. This year is terrifying for new reasons, most having to do with teaching college for the first time, but last year was a very different environment, too, and I adjusted to that well enough. After the first class or two, the terror will go away, and probably some of the excitement, too, as we settle into a routine, but the unknown is always nerve-wracking.

I've spent much of this week preparing for classes. If you're curious about the sorts of things I'm doing, I've put some information up here. Those pages will grow and change over time, of course, and at least one of them is mostly a placeholder right now, waiting for me to get more time to add to it.

Meanwhile, if you're looking for something to watch, Reprise came out on DVD today in the U.S. I've got it on my Netflix list and will be curious to see if I respond to it as strongly now as I did when I saw it in the spring, when it was, for reasons that are somewhat mysterious to me, exactly the movie I needed.

Also, the Great and Glorious Hannah Tinti, editor extraordinaire of One Story, has welcomed her first novel into the world: The Good Thief. I bought a copy at a local bookstore; if it's made it to New Hampshire, it ought to be just about everywhere by now. I hate going into a book with huge expectations, but Hannah's just about the best editor I've ever worked with, and I loved her story collection Animal Crackers, so it's impossible for me not to expect marvels and wonders galore. We shall see...

01 September 2008

The Art of Frédéric Chabot

I discovered Frédéric Chabot's work when we were looking for cover artists for Best American Fantasy 2008. We looked at art from a bunch of different people, but I kept coming back to Frédéric's images. For a while, in fact, he was going to be our artist. Alas, the publishing world is mercurial, and in the end some marketing forces pushed us in other directions. It happens all the time, and I certainly understand. But this is such marvelous art, I couldn't help but share my enthusiasm with the world...

More of Frédéric's images are available here and here.