Monday, December 24, 2012

adobe books

All the books are now 60% off, but Andrew McKinley, among the kindest and most generous bookstore owners on earth, will still try and make you pay even less. Peter Orner on Adobe Books in The Rumpus 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

it fades, but never completely

Another recent encounter has been Joyce’s “The Dead,” which I’ve read many times. It needs to be considered as a novella, the perfect novella, entirely separate from the rest of “Dubliners.” An annual winter party; afterwards, a scene of marital misunderstanding and revelation in a hotel room; a closing reflection on mortality as sleep closes in and snow begins to fall — I’d swap the last dozen pages of “The Dead” for any dozen in “Ulysses.” As a form, the novel sprawls and can never be perfect. It doesn’t need to be, it doesn’t want to be. A poem can achieve perfection — not a word you’d want to change — and in rare instances a novella can too.
Do you have a favorite literary genre?
The novella. See above.
Do you read poetry?
We have many shelves of poetry at home, but still, it takes an effort to step out of the daily narrative of existence, draw that neglected cloak of stillness around you — and concentrate, if only for three or four minutes. Perhaps the greatest reading pleasure has an element of self-annihilation. To be so engrossed that you barely know you exist. I last felt that in relation to a poem while in the sitting room of Elizabeth Bishop’s old home in rural Brazil. I stood in a corner, apart from the general conversation, and read “Under the Window: Ouro Preto.” The street outside was once an obscure thoroughfare for donkeys and peasants. Bishop reports overheard lines as people pass by her window, including the beautifully noted “When my mother combs my hair it hurts.” That same street now is filled with thunderous traffic — it fairly shakes the house. When I finished the poem I found that my friends and our hosts had left the room. What is it precisely, that feeling of “returning” from a poem? Something is lighter, softer, larger — then it fades, but never completely. 

Thursday, November 29, 2012

you once overheard me say that I liked it

Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised as a Love Poem
Here’s what I’ve got, the reasons why our marriage
might work: Because you wear pink but write poems
about bullets and gravestones. Because you yell
at your keys when you lose them, and laugh,
loudly, at your own jokes. Because you can hold a pistol,
gut a pig. Because you memorize songs, even commercials
from thirty years back and sing them when vacuuming.
You have soft hands. Because when we moved, the contents
of what you packed were written inside the boxes.
Because you think swans are overrated.
Because you drove me to the train station. You drove me
to Minneapolis. You drove me to Providence.
Because you underline everything you read, and circle
the things you think are important, and put stars next
to the things you think I should think are important,
and write notes in the margins about all the people
you’re mad at and my name almost never appears there.
Because you make that pork recipe you found
in the Frida Khalo Cookbook. Because when you read
that essay about Rilke, you underlined the whole thing
except the part where Rilke says love means to deny the self
and to be consumed in flames. Because when the lights
are off, the curtains drawn, and an additional sheet is nailed
over the windows, you still believe someone outside
can see you. And one day five summers ago,
when you couldn’t put gas in your car, when your fridge
was so empty—not even leftovers or condiments—
there was a single twenty-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew,
which you paid for with your last damn dime
because you once overheard me say that I liked it.

by Matthew Olzmann from
Rattle #31, Summer 2009  via oh (for M)
Photo: 10:59 by Brian Ferry of the blue hour 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

the truth is inside

If you had to give on piece of advice to people in their twenties, what would it be?
To go to a bookstore and buy ten books of poetry and read them each five times.
Because the truth is inside.
Photo mine

Friday, November 2, 2012

we have a house in our two imaginations

How like an island we are in love encouraging
moss & like an island we are barely moving Just
to exist takes much concentration & like an island
in love we have a house in our two imaginations &
they intersect It strengthens the house & our feelings
Unlike an island we wake up An island never sleeps
That is its duty & ours to remain in love barely moving
We do not want to disturb the house Do not want it
to fall into the ocean that is always so nearby It surrounds
us & is moving Like an island the ocean does not see us
or care why though we persist in loving it at one rate
or another & are waking close together in the dark

Photo: Margaret Kilgallen on view at SFMOMA

Sunday, October 21, 2012


When I was a child
I played by myself in a
corner of the schoolyard
all alone.
I hated dolls and I
hated games, animals were
not friendly and birds
flew away.
If anyone was looking
for me I hid behind a
tree and cried out “I am
an orphan.”
And here I am, the
center of all beauty!
writing these poems!

I'm memorizing this poem, "Autobiographia Literaria," 
by Frank O'Hara for A Cup of Jo's Fall Challenge #2
Photo: The Sartorialist

Thursday, October 11, 2012

god knows it has nothing to do with the heart

You say that everything is very simple and interesting
it makes me feel very wistful, like reading a great
                                      Russian novel does

from Yesterday Down at the Canal, Frank O'Hara, 1961

Thursday, October 4, 2012

even the doubt

When I teach, I tell my students:
Write. Trust your own voice, your own instincts. Learn your own process. Write. Learn what works for you and trust in that. Writing is a discipline. No doubt. It takes persistence, hard work, and drive. It is about working and reworking a passage, a page, or the arc of a story until it breathes. There is a learned ruthlessness that writing demands, when you can go back through a manuscript and pare out what you love—strip even those lines you most long to keep—it gives what remains a kind of luminous intensity. And there is also that other ineffable, but deeply essential aspect of the process: what is mystical, Muse-given—the obsession, the inspiration, even the doubt—all of which to my mind are only different turns of the same coin. from Life in Fiction by Dawn Tripp in the Rumpus
  Photo: Samuel Barnes' Bruno Munari mask making workshop 

with my daylight mind

I write for the same reason I read: to free fall into a story and live in that world for a while. My novels begin in tiny glimmers—of character, story, scene. When those pieces surface in me, I feel them, not with my mind, but in the body. They have a feverish intensity—a dreamlike immediacy—they feel alive. And when a story comes to me that way, I begin to write into it longhand to see how it evolves. I toss that old rule Write what you know, and I write into what moves me, what I am impelled by. I’ll fill a notebook, sometimes two, and if that burn persists, if those bits of story are still zipping around like liquid silver in my veins or falling through me while I am out for a run with the dog, or washing the dishes, or down on the beach with my kids; if they continue to snap me awake at 3 a.m., if the story has that kind of life, even if I can’t see—with my daylight mind—how it will all come together or where it will go, if I continue to feel it that way, in the body, I know it’s a piece I am meant to write. from Life in Fiction by Dawn Tripp in the Rumpus
Photo: Samuel Barnes' Bruno Munari mask making workshop 

her voice from that concord

I stood listening to that musical vibration from my lofty slope, to those flashes of separate cries with a kind of demure murmur for background, and then I knew that the hopelessly poignant thing was not Lolita’s absence from my side, but the absence of her voice from that concord. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov via Jeffrey Eugenides in the NYT

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

in portland

And the stories we tell ourselves are not the only stories. Uses for Boys

Are you in Portland? I'm going to be at Wordstock on October 13-14. Come if you can. I'd love to meet you. 

Illustration by Yelena Bryksenkova for Sad Girls

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I had just hung up from talking to you

I had just hung up from talking to you
and we had been so immersed in the difficulty
you were facing, and forgive me,
I was thinking that as long as we kept talking,
you in your car in the parking lot of the boys’ school
as the afternoon deepened into early evening,
and me in the study, all the books around
that had been sources of beauty to us,
as long as we stayed in the conversation
padded with history like the floor of the pine forest,
as long as I thought out loud, made a joke
at my own expense, you would be harbored in that exchange,
but the boys were leaving the track
and after we hung up I looked out the window
to see the top of the bare January trees spotlit to silvery red,
massive but made from the thinnest
twigs at the ends of the branches at the ends of the limbs
they were waving and shining in a light
like no other and left only to them.
By Jessica Greenbaum in Poetry via ? 
Photo: La Garconne

Thursday, September 20, 2012

of romance, vanished european cities, long-dead ballerinas

Around 1964, Cornell, himself sixty, was looking to try sketching from a live model. The thirty-five-year-old Kusama, an admirer of his, was sent over to pose. There is a strong possibility that this was the first time Cornell had ever seen a naked woman. As Deborah Solomon notes in her biography, the sketches he did that day look as if his hand “was trembling.” From "Alchemy of Inspiration" by Jessica Lott in the Art21 blog.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

cross off and move on

Adela, Bernice, and Charna, the youngest—all gone for a long time now, blurred into a flock sailing through memory, their long, thin legs streaming out beneath the fluffy domes of their mangy fur coats, their great beaky noses pointing the way. From "Cross Off and Move On" by Deborah Eisenberg, full story on NYRB
Painting: Confrontation 1 (1988) by Gerhard Richter, via Tate

Thursday, September 13, 2012

some love for a truman

Some love for a hound dog puppy from M Dash and Animal Madness. Thank you so much. 
Photo: Truman all doped up after surgery

Sunday, September 9, 2012

it happens with every book

So what happened?
I got two years into the novel and got completely stymied and felt like it was an utter flop. I wanted to put it aside but my wife talked me out of it. She said she cared too much about these characters and wanted to find out what became of them. I had to start all over again, keeping the characters but reinventing the story completely and leaving behind almost every element with the exception of the birth that goes wrong – that was the only significant element that I preserved.
You've had this experience before…
It happens with every book now, I hate to say. I abandoned my second novel completely. Writing Kavalier & Clay, I had several moments of utter collapse. Same with The Yiddish Policemen's Union. I'm obviously just not very good at this. Michael Chabon in conversation with The Guardian

Friday, September 7, 2012

san francisco when you're in love

Below are several of M. and my favorite date night walks:

Takeout from Out the Door eaten on the benches outside the Ferry Building, watching the ferries go in and out. Followed by a walk up the Filbert Steps to North Beach, a quick viewing of the murals in Coit Tower (smash a penny), a stop in City Lights Books and then cocktails at Cafe Zoetrope. 

Walk to the top of Bernal Hill. Walk back down. Stop at Red Hill Books on the way to Wild Side West.

Flora Grubb for coffee. 

Cocktails at Mint 54.

Lunch at Darwin followed by a walk to SFMOMA. 

A visit to Headlands Center for the Arts followed by doing nothing at all on Rodeo Beach (aka Fort Cronkite)

A little shopping at Mollusk Surf Shop followed by the General Store. A meal at Outerlands and then canoodling on the beach.

A visit with Emmett and Deanna at Inside Modern and then cocktails and song at Martuni's. 

Happy hour tacos at Pancho Villa followed by window shopping up Valencia Street (Monument, Paxton Gate, Shoe Biz, 826 Valencia, The Curiosity Shoppe), a peek into Clarion Alley, a loop around Dolores Park and then pizza at the counter at Delfina's. 
Photo: our favorite bartender, Maura

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

then go write

Break your deadlines, default on your due dates, wander in the streets, go to the movies, eat lavishly, fornicate, blaspheme, bless a street urchin, browbeat a civil servant, and when you’re done with these things, if you feel excited by what you’ve seen and heard, then go write. Rick Moody via Top Ten Books 

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

love, friendship and solidarity

Another element of my memoir — the stupendous importance of love, friendship and solidarity — has been made immensely more vivid to me by recent experience. I can’t hope to convey the full effect of the embraces and avowals, but I can perhaps offer a crumb of counsel. If there is anybody known to you who might benefit from a letter or a visit, do noton any account postpone the writing or the making of it. The difference made will almost certainly be more than you have calculated. Christopher Hitchens (from Hitch-22) as quoted in NYT

Tuesday, August 28, 2012


Sometimes I see a photo like this and think, I should just clear our my reader and read 3 blogs. And then I start counting them and it's way more than three.
Photo: Vic

Saturday, August 25, 2012

this is truman

Our rescued hound dog. He almost died. We're having a fundraiser in San Francisco on Friday, September 14th to help pay his medical bills. Join us?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

the texture of her family

She was just beginning to speak in short sentences. She was at the juncture in her babyhood when it was possible she knew everything worth knowing. She understood the texture of her family; she understood territory and rage and love, although she couldn't say much more than ball and moo, I want, pretty girl, and bad dog. From A Map of the World, Jane Hamilton

Saturday, August 4, 2012

meeting, never to meet again

Within ten seconds
I knew I wanted to kiss your eyelids.
This is why I kept staring
Past you, as if to a cold horizon.

You were not boring me, as you thought.
I was looking to where you stood

Monday, July 30, 2012

there are ravens on the roof

There are ravens on the roof
of both places.
Perhaps they are the same ravens.
I can’t tell.
If Roni Horn were here
she’d say ravens
are like water,
they are wildly constant.
They are a sign of Iceland.
from "Wildly Constant," Anne Carson

Saturday, July 28, 2012

fat and salt

Favorite places to eat in SF? ...Commonwealth, Delfina, Delfina Pizzeria, Flour and Water, Bar Tartine, Range, Zuni Cafe, Outerlands, and Kappou Gomi.  Leif with Ashley Rose Helvey

Friday, July 27, 2012

our have more plan

Adrienne and Jay of Vallejo's Food Rescue are growing kids, raising vegetables, building family and community, while playing records, facing cancer and being grateful. You can follow along at Muddy Feet Farms, Food Rescue, Muddy Feet Memoirs and deyoung deconstructed.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

in the center of it

Every poem holds the unspeakable inside it. The unsayable... The thing that you can't really say because it's too complicated. It's too complex for us. Every poem has that silence deep in the center of it. Marie Howe

Friday, July 20, 2012

jack holmes & his friend

Cover to cover. Started in the backyard and finished, just now, on this warm afternoon. A wildly satisfying novel.
Photo by my love

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

the wide river of rain

A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead. I say 'one chooses' with the inaccurate pride of a professional writer who—when he has been seriously noted at all—has been praised for his technical ability, but do I in fact of my own will choose that black wet January night on the Common, in 1946, the sight of Henry Miles slanting across the wide river of rain, or did these images choose me? It is convenient, it is correct according to the rules of my craft to begin just there, but if I had believed then in a God, I could also have believed in a hand, plucking at my elbow, a suggestion, 'Speak to him: he hasnt seen you yetGraham Greene, The End of the Affair

Sunday, July 8, 2012

and so on

I may be stating the obvious here, but in my house, as a general rule, we sleep in the bedroom, wash up in the bathroom, cook food in the kitchen and so on. As with most rules there are exceptions of course. On special occasions we get to have cookies and juice in bed; on very special occasions, I get to take a nap on the living room couch. From House Party by Alix Browne in Apartamento #09

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

and in one wash

I sometimes think my vision of the sea is the clearest thing I own. I pick it up, exile that I am, like the purple ‘lucky stones’ I used to collect with a white ring all the way round, or the shell of a blue mussel with its rainbowy angel’s fingernail interior; and in one wash of memory the colors deepen and gleam, the early world draws breath. Sylvia Plath via Le Projet D'Amour

Friday, June 22, 2012

every family

If every family chooses someone to punish, I was the one chosen by mine. Mr. Harding, for instance. When he came to lunch, Ma always put him next to me. Why me? I wanted to know. Why not Miranda, she's a freak herself? Every night Miranda woke up screaming that the Germans were coming for her over a wall. War I kept telling her, it's war, not wall! But Ma just told me to keep my oar out of it, Miranda had a fixation, she said, and anyway, what would I know about the war, I hadn't even been born until it was over. So it was hopeless. Every Sunday I was stuck next to Mr. Harding, and every night Miranda was allowed to go on screaming until Ma came down the passage with the DDT. From The Servants' Quarters by Lynn Freed
Photo: Wilhelm von Gloeden c. 1895 
via my dear friend Deanna Marrujo

Friday, June 8, 2012

Thursday, May 17, 2012

you are tired (I think)

You are tired,
(I think)
Of the always puzzle of living and doing;
And so am I.

Come with me, then,
And we'll leave it far and far away—
(Only you and I, understand!)

You have played,
(I think)
And broke the toys you were fondest of,
And are a little tired now;
Tired of things that break, and—
Just tired.
So am I.

But I come with a dream in my eyes tonight,
And knock with a rose at the hopeless gate of your heart—
Open to me!
For I will show you the places Nobody knows,
And, if you like,
The perfect places of Sleep.

Ah, come with me!
I'll blow you that wonderful bubble, the moon,
That floats forever and a day;
I'll sing you the jacinth song
Of the probable stars;
I will attempt the unstartled steppes of dream,
Until I find the Only Flower,
Which shall keep (I think) your little heart
While the moon comes out of the sea.

e.e. cummings 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

whatever impossible beauty

And my nation was there. We were there: a loose association of lost causes and would-be scribblers, heart-broken artists and more- and less-happily out-of-work actors. We were from everywhere else and hadn’t fitted in. We probably still didn’t, but we were at home amongst ourselves. We talked nonsense and made cups of coffee last all afternoon in little cafes on St Martin’s Lane. We blagged free tickets for whatever we could get: exhibitions, concerts, readings, plays. We walked under blue spring skies between the big wedding cake buildings of South Ken, or down by the river, or along the King’s Road where there’d be more elongated coffees in the Farmer’s Market, or the Chelsea Bun, or Picasso’s. A blend of awkwardness and self-harm and self-obsession and a lack of proper jobs meant we were all holding out for what we wanted, whatever impossible beauty that might turn out to be. From "That Whole London Thing," A.L. Kennedy in Granta

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

the jumble of words

Finishing a novel is always linked with shameor rather, the lack of it. There's a moment when I realize I'm no longer ashamed of the jumble of words I've produced, that the embarrassment of having written a mishmash of ideas subsides and I'm no longer terrified of The Public reading it. This is when I begin to think of my manuscript as a novel. I never know when this is going to happen; during the writing of the manuscript, it sometimes feels as if that moment of clarity is never going to arrive, that the novel will never arise from the manuscript's fuzziness of thought and expression. I have friends who read the manuscript in its final stages, and this helps lessen the acute awkwardness of having to go public with my work: the comments give my work a kind of validity, a right to exist. Tash Aw in Daniel Alarcon's The Secret Miracle

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

on the starboard hand

But oh! shipmates! on the starboard hand of every woe, there is a sure delight; and higher the top of that delight, than the bottom of the woe is deep. Moby Dick
Photo: Renee Lilley, Dead Horse Bay, Brooklyn NY, January 2012 by Elizabeth Weinberg

Saturday, April 28, 2012

they were stars

At first they had difficulties with the camera. Instead of framing someone's face, as they intended, they often photographed his knees or feet. There were no windows in the mountain huts where they slept, and they had rarely seen television, so the idea of "framing"was utterly foreign to them: they had never seen their surrounding through anything. I asked them to carry a piece of paper with a hole in it and look through it at everything they came upon. Within a couple of weeks the problem of using the viewfinder was solved.  Wendy Ewald in the introduction to Magic Eyes; Scenes from an Andean Girlhood

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

an uncertain chimera

All right, but it's an unpleasant one. Sometimes writing has to be forced. In starting out, the shape and timbre and texture of what is to come is an uncertain chimera shimmering from behind a veil. You must not wait, loiter, dilly-dally. You must force your way painfully through. And then, but only then, the thing will go on its own power, it will hold the reins, and you need do nothing but hang on.

straight is the gate

What are your other inspirations? 
Aside from literary friendships and books and writing? I can admit to no others. Strait is the gate.