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Showing posts from December, 2006

And We're Back

I am now home, having returned safely from two weeks in Kenya. My friends up here in New Hampshire very kindly ordered a big snow storm for my return -- a few days ago, I was in the intense equatorial heat of Lamu Island, and yesterday I drove up from Boston and saw one car after another off the road, felled by snow and ice. (Indeed, a friend of mine was in a big pile-up that closed a section of the highway for two hours. He's not hurt, but his car was totalled.)

I've been trying to figure out how to write about all I did and saw and learned in Kenya, but right now it's such an undigested mass of experience in my head that I distrust much of anything I might say about it all, for fear of generalizing too much, for fear of blathering on, for fear of ranting. I've been dreading the inevitable questions such as, "How was your trip?" because there is no way to sum it up succinctly. The best thing to come up with is to say that if I were able to go back in a t…

Ships in High Transit

Below is a discussion by Njihia Mbitiru of "Ships in High Transit" by Binyavanga Wainaina.

Thank you to everyone who so kindly wrote of their anticipation of the following:Around the age of twelve I took a highly significant shit. The actual shitting was not that special; what gave this otherwise banal episode an aura of importance was what happened after: as I pushed down the handle, I noticed for the first time, painted on the side of the porcelain tank in faded bold print: Made in Sussex.
That same evening I told my father of my discovery, expecting as children typically do that parental enthusiasm for the banal would be equal to or greater than their own, not understanding that by the time older folk have started having kids, the exotic origins of the downstairs crapper are as banal as the shit they were made to move.
Matano's boss may very well have his toilets made in Sussex and shipped to Kenya and all parts of the Commonwealth. I went on to peg most every toilet I …

A Few Resources

I'm here in Nairobi, having an amazing time with all sorts of writers from around the world, learning so much that it's going to take me weeks and months and years to sort through it all. For now, though, and while Njihia formulates his next guest post, I thought I'd share a few resources from people who are here, are associated with the Kwani LitFest, or are just particularly interesting:Kwani LitFest Blog
A Kenyan Urban Narrative
Chimurenga magazine
Transition magazine
African Bullets & Honey
Women of Uganda NetworkThat's all I have time for at the moment. Once I get back to the States at the end of December, I'll have much, much more.

Thanks to Matt

Hello all. I didn't realize that Matt's never done this before--had a guest blogger--something he failed to mention when he suggested I try it...
I apologize for having kept you all waiting--I realize Matt meant for this to come on sooner, but I've been having cold feet.
But, I'm very excited and grateful to Matt for the opportunity. He and I had dinner the week before his departure, and our conversation has stayed in my mind. The prospect of his visiting my hometown had the curious effect of making me feel as though I had just arrived in the US, as opposed to having lived here for several years.
I also realized, with pleasure, the swarm of connections that each person has the ability to make by simply leaving one place and going to another. Perhaps there will be time to talk in some detail about these connections in my entries. I feel in this moment generous enough to make a number of philosophical remarks about chance and fate and so forth, but as my papa says, this …

Guest Blogger: Njihia Mbitiru

I'm getting packed up and ready to head to Kenya for a couple weeks, and while I'm gone I will try to post an occasional update, but I also thought it would be fun to try something I've never tried around here -- a guest blogger.

And it only makes sense that while I'm in Kenya the first Mumpsimus guest blogger should be Njihia Mbitiru, who is in the same masters degree program as I am in at Dartmouth, is a Clarion Workshop graduate, and is originally from Kenya. In fact, my participation in SLS Kenya owes a lot to him, because he stopped me one day at the Dartmouth library and said he'd just read an amazing Kenyan story -- "Ships in High Transit" by Binyavanga Wainaina. That put Wainaina's name into my head, I read up on his literary organization Kwani, and started paying more attention to Kenyan writers. When I chanced upon a reference to SLS Kenya somewhere, I was intrigued, and when I saw Wainaina was involved, I decided to apply.

So please be nic…

"Words Can Mean Anything"

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EURYDICE
Orpheus never liked words. He had his music. He would get a funny look on his face and I would say what are you thinking about and he would always be thinking about music.

If we were in a restaurant, sometimes I would get embarrassed because Orpheus looked sullen and wouldn't talk to me and I thought people felt sorry for me. I should have realized that women envied me. Their husbands talked too much.

But I wanted to talk to him about my notions. I was working on a new philosophical system. It involved hats.

This is what it is to love an artist: The moon is always rising above your house. The houses of your neighbors look dull and lacking in moonlight. But he is always going away from you. Inside his head there is always something more beautiful.

Orpheus said the mind is a slide ruler. It can fit around anything. Words can mean anything. Show me your body, he said. It only means one thing.

(She looks at her father, embarrassed for revealing too much.)

Or maybe two o…

Duotrope's Digest

Via a discussion at the Metaxucafe Forums, I discovered an amazing tool: Duotrope's Digest, which bills itself as "Markets for Writers", but I can also see it as a useful tool for readers who are curious to find magazines, journals, and publishers they haven't encountered before.

For writers, indeed, this is a treasure-trove, providing detailed information on a stunning variety of publications. It's also got a great search engine that lets you filter results by all sorts of different criteria, including genre, length, media, payscale, submission type, country, theme issues, and even what awards the publisher nominates for. The site claims to update daily, with every market checked at least once a week.

The White Diamond

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After reading Tom Bissell's appreciation of the films of Werner Herzog in the December Harper's, I decided to use the wonders of Netflix to catch up with Herzog's documentaries, because though I revere many of his feature films, of the documentaries I had only seen Grizzly Man and My Best Fiend: Klaus Kinski.

Now I have added The White Diamond to that list. It is an astounding film, strange and powerful, filled with rich imagery and immense, subtle depths of emotion and philosophy. It presents many of Herzog's favorite themes and character types, making it feel like a cousin to Aguirre and Fitzcarraldo, but it is a gentler film, more hopeful and less corruscating in tone, but no less powerful in its portrayal of obsession, vision, and nature.

The White Diamond tells the story of Dr. Graham Dorrington, a British aerospace engineer who created an airship to fly over the canopy of the rainforest in Guyana -- rainforest canopies have been mostly unexplored territory, and a…

Quarterly Conversation

My essay "What is Appropriate", about literature and high school and sex, is now live at The Quarterly Conversation, where lots of other interesting stuff is also available -- despite my appearance there, it has become quite a strong webzine, a place for enlivening and enlightening discussion of books and writers, as well as various other cultural arts and artifacts.

Katherine Min at The Happy Booker

Here at Mumpsimus Central, we love it when our friends hang out together, and so we're having a little party* to celebrate Friend of the Mumpsimus Katherine Min guest-blogging for Friend of the Mumpsimus The Happy Booker. As Hero to the Mumpsimus Col. John "Hannibal" Smith used to say, we love it when a plan comes together. Or something like that...

In any case, we loved in particular these sentences of Katherine's:I come to fiction from the premise that reality isn't so great. Reality is what we're stuck with. Fiction is compelling precisely because it takes us beyond what is merely real.*What is a little party at Mumpsimus Central? All I'll admit is that it usually involves archaic words, obscure books, and shotgun shells.

Salon Fantastique Giveaway

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Update 12/2/06: The contest is now closed, because we have three winners: Aaron Hughes, Livia Llewellyn, and Mario Milosevic! Many thanks to everybody who responded. I have appended the correct answer to the question below.


I have come upon some extra copies of the new anthology Salon Fantastique edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, and so it's time for a giveaway.

The first three people who email me the correct answer to the following question will receive a free copy of Salon Fantastique:Who established the salon at the Hotel Rambouillet?

Answer: Catherine de Vivonne, Marquise de RambouilletHere's the table of contents for the book:"La Fee Verte" by Delia Sherman
"Dust Devil on a Quiet Street" by Richard Bowes
"To Measure the Earth" by Jedediah Berry
"A Grey and Soundless Tide" by Catherynne M. Valente
"Concealment Shoes" by Marly Youmans
"The Guardian of the Egg" by Christopher Barzak
"My Travels With Al-Qaeda&…