Friday, July 29, 2011

Someone I'd Like You to Meet in the Atlantic Monthly

Normally, I hesitate to brag about the achievements of writing friends because it makes me feel a bit like Cartman in the South Park Movie: "Yes, that's right, I saw the Terrance and Phillip movie. Now who wants to touch me?" But I'll make an exception in this case, because it's a great story and I want you to read it. The name of the story is "Someone I'd Like You To Meet." The author is Santa Cruz's own Elizabeth McKenzie, who is a Kresge lecturer at UCSC. Here is the story, right here.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Cat massage link, and apologies for accidentally deleting a bunch of my postings

Um ... I never have any idea if people are actually reading this blog unless I erase something accidentally, and then, suddenly, I get lots of complaints. Sorry. I will try to restore the things I erased by mistake. Must have pressed the wrong darned button.

By the way, someone just asked me to publish this goofy link about massaging cats properly. Wow -- I had no idea there were time-tested techniques for such a thing. To be honest, I think this link is kind of weird, although I thought the feline facial exfoliation part was pretty hilarious.

By the way, I used to have a "spyware" program that gave me IPO addresses of people who read this blog regularly and told me where the "hits" are coming from but I got bored with it so I unsubscribed. In other words, I have no way of knowing who is tuning in. In other words, if you want to be a blog stalker, go right ahead.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Stop writing books!

I love reading books (and writing) and yet I found this Bill Keller article perversely comforting, especially the part about making bail.

Monday, July 11, 2011

What would Falstaff wear? (and how about the Tavern Tarts?)

Sir John Falstaff is a boozer, a braggart, and a womanizing slob. He claims he can fight 50 men at a time, but flees from any hint of danger. He says his waistline was once as slender as an eagle's talon. Now his stomach threatens to pop out of his shirt. Still, he's very fond of himself.

Falstaff is one of Shakespeare's richest characters, but the great playwright had surprisingly little to say about his costume, or the clothes of any other character.

How would such a vain and dissipated man dress himself? What would those clothes say about Falstaff's past, his view of himself, and how he wants others to see him?

Such questions drive costume designer B. Modern as she puts together the clothes for Shakespeare Santa Cruz's upcoming production of Henry IV, Part One, which opens August 5 at the Mainstage Theater on campus.

Read the full story here

Friday, July 08, 2011

Pieces of memory: Alice LaPlante's Turn of Mind

You (my one reader) have carped.

You claim that I'm giving you too many dark and unsettling book recommendations. Too much old age (Emily Alone), too much bigamy (Silver Sparrow) and romantic regret (Say Her Name.).

Well, here's another dark one, but maybe you should read something uplifting and zany before making your descent into Alice LaPlante's Turn of Mind, a novel written from the perspective of a former surgeon, long retired and speaking through the clouds of advanced Alzheimer's.

This is a story about an aging woman's "half state" existence, and her "life in the shadows.'' Does this sound like a bummer to you? All I know is that I'm hooked.

I just started reading Turn of Mind this week; that's why I had to (politely) shush someone in the audience at the Capitola Book Cafe, where LaPlante read on Thursday evening; I feared she was about to spoil the ending. Don't look for chapters here; LaPlante wrote this book in short blocks of prose with ominous white spaces between them; it's like looking at rocks through a fog. LaPlante's reading was unsettling; you get a strong sense of disorientation and unfamiliar faces. You sense the former doctor casting her clinical eye on details she never noticed before; she's held onto her analytical powers, even as her mind erases its own memory cues. The doctor must delve into her surviving memories, and her notebooks, to help her understand why people react to her so strangely. "I bitterly accept that I'm famous, beloved even, among strangers," she says, "a legend in my own mind."

LaPlante, the author of several well-regarded texts about the writing process, could have chosen any number of ways-in for this novel, but she threw herself into the story by writing from the perspective of Dr. Jennifer White. This created a challenge: how do you get inside such a character's mind without leaving your readers confused and left behind? LaPlante solved this problem by drawing freely from the "unreliable narrator" tradition (at the Book Cafe, she mentioned Nabakov's brilliant but morally suspect Humbert Humbert in Lolita, and Ken Kesey's hallucination-prone "Chief" Bromden in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.) Like Nabakov and Kesey, LaPlante makes sure to leave some touchstones to help the reader. Though the main character's grip on reality loosens throughout the story, LaPlante is kind enough to leave a few reliable sources for us: some notebook entries, written before the onset of White's dementia, and a cast of supporting characters who (unlike White herself) can be taken at their word.

By the way, if my recommendations are making you sad, you can always send a funny recommendation. I'm open to suggestions, but I won't blog about it unless I like it.

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Oodles of baked goods for Santa Cruz doggie

I have it on good authority that a certain local dog owner takes his fuzzy friend to The Buttery and feeds it a warm croissant every week.

My eyewitness saw the whole thing.

"He leaned over and gave the dog half," she said. "It seemed like it went down in one bite."

This doesn't sound like a good idea. Wouldn't a dog react to a rich puff pastry in disgusting ways? The people over at addressed the issue in a recent posting. Their verdict is this: "Yes dogs can eat croissants, but i wouldn't recommend feeding them croissants regularly, on occasions as a treat would be fine but dog food or treats are better." Wow. That is one of the most horribly written sentences I've read in a long while!

Anyhow, you'll never guess the breed of dog.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Read this next: Tayari Jones, Silver Sparrow

First of all, I am glad you liked Emily Alone. That is good to hear. Now, the one to read is Silver Sparrow by Tayari Jones. The book is a pitcher plant. You just fall right into it, right from the beginning, and you never get a chance to escape. After a while, you dissolve. OK -- block that metaphor -- but it's nice to see a literary work that consumes you like this. One other thing -- I like the way it hauls the problems that drive the story into the light, but it doesn't try to solve them all like some cheesy ABC After School Special. It does what a good story should do -- shines a light on human lives and situations, and when the book ends, the characters go on living without your help. In several instances, I wanted to intervene -- help these people out -- and then I remembered that she made it up.