SFF

Posted in Uncategorized on 08/02/2011 by Tim

Sarah emailed me a link to this NPR survey about the top 100 science fiction and fantasy books (in English, it seems). The survey allows you to vote for up to ten titles, and I voted for nine, I think. I feel kind of guilty about voting because I have probably read something like 20 of the many titles offered. I feel like I have gone to the polls uninformed, I mean. It’s like I voted for all my friends in the class election.

Of all the books on the list, though, my two favorites are both by Neal Stephenson. I am not sure if I’ve written about Stephenson here, but if I have it was probably to describe him as one of my favorite authors. What I enjoy about Stephenson’s books is that they are compelling and fast mainstream stories sewn together with the thinnest thread of the speculative. This is especially true, I think, of everything from Cryptonomicon on; we have sprawling stories that explore the development and destruction and fulfillment and etc. of real characters in (only occasionally) unusual circumstances. What genre elements Stephenson uses are often mysterious, to both characters and the reader, so that we don’t get caught up in someone’s magical/alchemical cigar box until we finally realize it’s been used to maybe save a character’s life, and even then it’s only in passing, before the story races onto the next scene. It’s fun to read about someone diving into a sinking sub to pull out a safe of documents, but really only because we know the scene will blaze through in a few pages and the character, who we have come to really know and care about, will either be sucked to the bottom or will escape to move onto the next scene without too many words spent getting there.

Forty Things

Posted in Uncategorized on 08/02/2011 by Tim

The weather here in Minneapolis is hotter than freshly toasted toaster pastries. Are you in Minneapolis right now? Then you know what I’m talking about. I walk to the bus at 7:05 in the morning and by the fourth block I feel like I’ve been lightly misted with a squirt bottle.

It’s even muggier than Orlando, and the apartment is even less air conditioned, and everyone I knew there is far away. Toward the end of my time there I wrote poetry at a theater festival, and one night, well after midnight, I tried and failed to ride the bus home. It just never showed up, and I cursed it quietly and walked home and was escorted part of the way over Mills Avenue by a loud person on a bicycle. I wrote about the walk home, and the essay is up at Otis Nebula. You should go check it out, if only for the wonderful photo I took for the bio page.

Beard Haiku Number Nine

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on 07/26/2011 by Tim

Oh, my fuzzy scrub–

rained to the sink, down the drain,

clogging up the pipes.

MPLS

Posted in Uncategorized on 07/13/2011 by Tim

Moonshot’s been dark. Somebody shot out the Moon. The Moon was destroyed by the Moonotaur.

It’s okay, though; it’s fine. What happened was that I moved across the country. Then I was without an internet connection for several days, unless you count coffee shop internet connections. I was very caffeinated for a while. Now there is a modem and a cat-chewed cable trip hazarding the hallway to this computer.

So now I’m in Minneapolis. This is the reverse of my story “Moved to Florida.”

Some good news is that vis a tergo ran my poem “What You Think About in the Room Before the Room Where They Will Anaesthetize You,” which I read for the first time at the final Broken Speech Poetry Slam in Orlando. I did not sense that this poem was a log flume of success at the time, but it’s probably best on paper (or screen). You should check it out! Did you even know that sometimes in some surgeries there might be complications that require the temporary removal of part of your face? You know it now.

I heard from vis a tergo about this poem during the move, and then I saw the piece live (on my phone) in a pool bar outside Des Moines, where I sat drinking beer and whiskey with Sarah and one friend and the guy mentioned in this review of Des Moines’s Central Library. This was one of the first times I’d been back to the pool bar since the 2004 election night, just after I’d moved to Des Moines. Someone we’d never met, from out of state, came to our table and nearly threw up on us, then asked if we had any weed.

Intendo

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 06/17/2011 by Tim

What do you get when you take off the last letter?

Hard-Hitting, Clear-Headed Reviews of Libraries

Posted in Reviews and Recs with tags , , , on 05/31/2011 by Tim

Today I went to the library, and then I wrote about it. As I skulked around the stacks like a weirdo, taking photos of books and windows, I planned to complain about the lack of organization in the music section, how the only nod to alphabetic sorting is a grouping of everything by its first letter, so that it’s all a jumble, eight or nine stacks of J or whatever, but then when I got to the albums a librarian was sorting them all with the determined and undaunted grumbles of someone up against a hard but beatable challenge. Bless that woman. I still couldn’t find any of the albums I wanted to check out, but I’ll report back after my next attempt.

I will probably also carry this series of library reviews forward. Des Moines had a pretty unfortunate library system and then around 2005 or 2006 they built a new downtown library with free underground parking, a cafe, two fancypants levels with recliners that faced wide windows overlooking the lawn outside and, beyond that, downtown’s buildings. Their downtown branch went from a cramped and yellowed maze that looked like something from an old elementary school to something modern and airy and well-stocked.

I’m curious to check out the Minneapolis library system as well. The website does not inspire confidence, but I have high hopes.

Literary Gauntlet

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on 05/29/2011 by Tim

This weekend I finished reading Arthur Phillips’s new novel, The Tragedy of Arthur. I’ve been interested in Phillips since I read The Egyptologist, which was the first book to fully spring an unreliable narrator on me, and I was happy to find some similarly untrustworthy terrain in the narrative of this new story. The main conflict is driven by a manuscript that may or may not be a lost Shakespeare play; Arthur’s father, a serial forger, gives him the manuscript with a promise that it’s real, and Arthur, once he’s convinced, is glad to be working with his father, and glad for the wave of advance money rushing his way. By the time he again doubts the manuscript’s authenticity, he’s too late to stop the brilliant publicity machine he’s started.

Anyway, this novel is pretty good. It lacks some of the stark darkness of The Egyptologist, and some of its power–it is engaging, yes, and we feel for the characters, but they’re only a couple people, and nobody’s life is at stake, and the action takes place in Minneapolis apartments instead of in poorly-lit tombs. But I’m glad I read it, and if I was into Shakespeare I’d probably be gladder.

Today I worked my last shift at the Poetry Vending Machine, at the Orlando Fringe Festival. It has been a good time. (You can read a brief essay I wrote about it here). I sat with other writers for long hours that didn’t feel long, in lawn furniture that didn’t really feel uncomfortable, and we got a few customers, and wrote some poems. A couple people even tipped, and somebody paid with a beer.  My only regret is that I didn’t bother to see any shows that didn’t occur on the stage a few yards away.

And now, tonight, for the final few steps in this last week’s literary gauntlet, I’ll be in the audience at the city’s first Literary Death Match. Will there be blood? Probably. I’m hoping to see Ashley Inguanta do this to J. Bradley: