Intellectual Curiosities and Provocations

The Sea of Possibilities

By Levi Asher on Wednesday, November 17, 2010 11:35 pm

1. Just Kids, Patti Smith's beguiling memoir of late 1960s New York, the Chelsea Hotel, Robert Mapplethorpe and the early 1970s St. Mark's Church punk poetry scene, has won the National Book Award! Quite impressive. I totally called this back in February, you know. The winner's circle above includes Jaimy Gordon, Terrance Hayes, Kathryn Erskine.

2. Doonesbury turns 40! I grew up with this comic strip. I used to especially love the counterculture literary references: Uncle Duke was Hunter S. Thompson, and several characters lived at the Walden Puddle Commune. (This was probably a reference not only to Thoreau's Walden but also to B. F. Skinner's then-fashionable Walden Two.)

Before I found out Patti won the National Book Award I was going to illustrate today's blog post with a picture I found of Zonker scuba-diving in Walden Puddle. The image is too good to waste, so here it is:

3. Michael Orthofer of the Complete Review has written a book, The Complete Review: Eleven Years, 2500 Reviews, A Site History, about his experience creating and maintaining that website and the accompanying blog Literary Saloon. I've read it, and it's a charming, candid look at the kinds of questions, decisions and private struggles that animate the life of a serious independent blogger.

4. Rainn Wilson of The Office explains why he is a Baha-i, and why he wrote a book called Soul Pancake: Chew on Life's Big Questions. Looks like some wise stuff -- I may chew on some of these questions myself.

5. The history of Soft Skull, which may or may not be coming to an end.

6. A friend alerted me to the Yale Repertory Theater's production of Dostoevsky's Notes From Underground, starring Bill Camp. Looks good, though I still like my version too.

7. . "It ain't fair, John Sinclair". A video performance by the Michigan activist, poet and one-time manager of the MC5, directed by Laki Vazakas.

8. Breaking the Poetry Code: where poetry and electronic publishing meet.

9. If Other Directors Made The Social Network. My favorite: Christopher Guest.

10. Antonia Fraser has written a book, Must You Go, about her marriage to the late playwright Harold Pinter.

11. The Most Difficult Book I Punched In The Face.

12. Wikileaks and War Poetry by Daniel Swift.

13. Ten things that get called (mostly incorrectly) "Kafkaesque".

14. A much-needed documentary about the great, anguished, complicated 1960s-era folksinger/protest singer Phil Ochs, There But For Fortune.

15. Taoism is being allowed a revival -- a very modest one, but a revival nonetheless -- in China.

16. Reza Aslan talks about the latest Words Without Borders anthology Tablet & Pen on the Colbert Report. Also don't forget The Ecco Anthology of International Poetry, also from Words Without Borders, edited by Ilya Kaminsky and Susan Harris, and here's a website of literary international jokes called An International Joke.

17. Wanderlust, a dynamic display of "history's greatest journeys, from Magellan to Kerouac".

18. 20 Awesomely Untranslatable Words From Around The World.

19. Speaking of words, I'm pissed off that bluth was not chosen as the Word of the Year. Maybe it'll make the list for 2011.

3 Responses to "The Sea of Possibilities"

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/11/18/headlines#14
I heard part of an interview with Patti Smith on the radio and was amazed to find out that Gregory Corso was at her first poetry reading at a church in NYC.
She said Corso would heckle you if you were boring.
Before that interview, I never knew she was a poet before she was a punk-rocker.

The piece on untranslatable words is very good.

You bet it's fishy! In what was arguably American publishing's lowest, most reptilian year, in which we saw multi-million dollar money-laundering payouts to the likes of professional charlatan and demagogue Sarah Palin and mass-murderer George W. Bush, one can't help noting the incredible cog dis between who was chosen this year to front the industry and the real aims of corporate publishing as a propaganda arm of the top 1% of the world's wealth hoarders. It's getting weirder every day. I guess the only thing to hope for in this scenario is that more listeners will be attracted to Patti Smith's music as a result of the media attention prompted by the award, and be rocked hard enough to want to resist.

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