radfrac_archive_full: (bat signifier)
Over at the Lannan foundation podcast, there is a recording of Samuel Delaney interviewing Junot Diaz.

What more could you want? Seriously.

There's an introduction by Delaney, then some readings by Diaz from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, and then a discussion.

The pleasure of this reading and conversation is immense. During the discussion, Diaz speaks about the interfeed of science fictional concepts with "the recent and the deep history of the Caribbean," -- both colonial foundations and post-colonial dissonance. "The Caribbean figures deeply in what we would call the power chords of science fiction." Love that.

Interplay about genre, form, reading, everything.

I got the podcast through iTunes, but it can also be got at: The Lannan Podcast. The specific program (from January) is here.

My one concern is that Delaney sounds like he is having some trouble breathing, and it worries me.

* * * * * *

I found the talk yesterday when I was looking for more Michael Silverblatt interviews. My Bookworm podcast hadn't updated yet, and I was feeling bereft.

He's got several interviews on the Lannan site. I also listened to an interview Silverblatt gave on the Marketplace of Ideas podcast. This was less satisfying, though I think it might have been the source for my Lannan Lead.

I am very fond of the great badger, and many of the things he said gave me delight, but he made a mistake.

He made a couple of mistakes, actually. The central error, though, was in saying, roughly, "Why shouldn't I be arrogant, if my abilities are superior?"

And the answer, also very roughly, is "Because in this same conversation, you have incorrectly defined 'anodyne' as though it had the same meaning as 'placebo', which it has not, and earlier you made another similar mistake."

That is, o great silver badger whom I love, even terribly terribly clever people get things wrong, and it's better if you leave yourself some leeway. A little false modesty serves very well when you find yourself in unexpected need of real modesty.

My wisdom. Hard-earned.


*O Barthes that you were with us now
radfrac_archive_full: (Ben Butley)
Michael Silverblatt's proposition that public radio and television fund-raising should offer phone sex with famous authors as a premium.


Today's coffeespoons:

Radiolab - music and language
Bookworm - Leonard Cohen (recent); Oulipo; Elliot Perlman; John Lahr; AIDS project/Gore Vidal (1990), Nicholson Baker (twice: 1991, 1992); Matthew Stadler (1994), Michael Lally (1997)

About the Leonard Cohen interview. I think you wouldn't like it. Rather, I think it might hurt you. It seemed to me that he spoke, very humbly and simply, with an acknowledgment of himself as somehow used up, and the work he read seems to show this exhaustion.

If there were ever anyone I thought of an inexhaustible, it would be Leonard Cohen. His mortality, and the mortality of his art -- these things are more personal than my own, in a sense. He is vital for all of us. He calmly names himself ruined; it is a pleasant warm-voiced ruin but oh.

Michael Silverblatt is really extraordinary. In the Elliot Perlman interview, he challenges and gently bullies the author into admitting the depth of his own grief and intent. I nearly started crying, because what greater gift could you give an author than to force them to admit the richness of their purpose?

radfrac_archive_full: (And you wonder...)
My coffee spoons are 28 minutes and 42 seconds long.

Anne Carson (repeat because I missed part of it the other day due to Actual Work) (from Jan 07)
Jennifer Egan (the keep) on the gothic (Dec 06)
Chris Adrian - The Children's Hospital (McSweeney's author!) (Dec 06)
Zadie Smith - On Beauty (Nov 06)
Clifford Chase - Winkie (Nov 06)
W.S. Merwin - Present Company (In tribute to Bee's love of Merwin.) (Aug 06)

So far the two authors who have really been able to match Silverblatt at his level are Anne Carson and Zadie Smith. W.S. Merwin asked *him* a question, which was delightful.

Zadie Smith: "The [contemporary] model of a reader is a person watching a movie, [rather than] an amateur musician playing this piece of music, [the novel]"

This connects for me with the problem I seem to have with recent novels which appear to engage complex ideas, but disappoint me, I think in part because they instead display a series of static moral tableaux.

I believe I completely missed that On Beauty was based on Howard's End.

* * * * * *

One of the interesting problem-solving bits of my work right now is that there are many fragments of badly-transcribed French. My French is not always good enough for reliable translation, so I supplement with an online translator, which is usually enough for job titles and things like that -- except when it isn't, or when the French text is too badly spelled or mis-punctuated to be translatable.

What pleases me is making small grammatical or spelling changes, based on my half-remembered intuitions about the language, which (on my hitting the "translate" button a second time) suddenly resolve the sentence into meaning, so that, for a simple example:

in the service of the fires of Montreal

Becomes, with a minor adjustment, what it seemed obvious it should become:

in the fire prevention service of Montreal

which is less beautiful, but more immediately purposeful. (And then "in the service of the fires of Montreal" belongs to me.)

radfrac_archive_full: (Default)
Today's Bookworm shows: Allen Kurzweil, Curtis White, Jonathan Dee, Oliver Sacks (all from 2002).

Sacks and Silverblatt talk about science writing as phenomenological poetry, which reminds me of the little book about geographical topography that I bought at the now-vanished-beneath-gentrification Oak Bay Bookstore, every line of which reads like thoughtful natural poetry.

It seems to me that the brief moments of transcendence I get from encounters with natural beauty in this town are something like the GST cheque. A small allotment of a thing needed in much greater quantities, coming at intervals just close enough to forestall complete despair, keeps you going on just enough that you do not have to consider the changes necessary for you to go on with joy and satisfaction.

In my youth, I used to find out about authors not by reading their work, but by reading biographies of them. In this way, I learnt about the details of their lives, and usually some aspects of a critical analysis of their body of work, but I had almost no contact with their actual style. Instead, I became intimate with the particular voice of biography, which actually may have made the literary work -- more complex in style, less immediate in detail -- more difficult to engage with.

I'm all about the mediation.

radfrac_archive_full: (robot love)
Listening to Michael Silverblatt interviewing Anne Carson about tragedy. Having discovered a seventeen-year online archive of audio files of Bookworm, his interview show.

Which could be something like 400 hours of recordings, assuming some time off for vacations. Or seventeen days of interviews.

It isn't as cheerful as his usual interviews, but they've attained a kind of equal focus and gravity, and the interview has as astounding weight, as though it were spoken in some heavier material than air, some more substantial wave than sound.



radfrac_archive_full: (Default)

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