The Library is Open and I Am Swearing A Lot

I began July with three books half-started and I left it with two half-finished.

Are you interested in hearing about the what and why and how I felt about them? If so, you just hit the jackpot. The following reviews/recommendations/rants are all my own:

  1. The Complete Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino
    Cosmicomics Italo CalvinoAs soon as I cracked this one open, I felt like 8-year-old me reading the first page of The Sorcerer’s Stone againThat is not to say, of course, that Rowling and Calvino are both accessible to grade-schoolers, but that they do share the ability to captivate & mesmerize. These stories somehow manage to evoke very human pathos for characters as varied as dinosaurs in disguise, mathematical concepts, and aquatic curmudgeons.The collection opens with “The Distance of the Moon,” a tale about a time when the moon was close enough to earth that one could simply prop a ladder up against it and climb up to its craters. Darwin posited this theory more than a century ago (minus the ladder bit) and Calvino, using his creative sorcery, manipulated it into a beautiful tale about unrequited love. It may or may not have made me cry.

    Disclaimer: “A Sign in Space” is essentially an ode to semiotics, and a few other stories require some similarly dense wading-through, but this is by far the most original, creative collection of stories I’ve ever read on Life’s Big Questions, and I can’t wait to re-read them in English.

    SHOULD YOU READ IT? If you are at all intrigued by what a mollusk might have to say about passion, yes.

     

  2. el libro de las aguas by Eduard Limónov (I can’t find it in English, so maybe it doesn’t exist).
    Limonov Shelf
    Limónov’s memoir-ish work el libro de las aguas is about war, politics, and a rotating set of women whose vaginas (and souls, supposedly) have played a part in his life.  He wrote it while in prison, expecting to live out his last days there. All of the events discussed, battles fought, and women boned, are centered around bodies of water–oceans, rivers, swamps, you get the idea. Founder of the National Bolshevik Party, guerrilla fighter, and unapologetic misogynist, Limónov certainly has a lot to say. I really wanted to enjoy his autobiography, and I did want him to be the sort of asshole I’d hate to love.

    Unfortunately, I couldn’t, and he wasn’t.

    I’ve taken some liberty in my interpretation of Limonóvs writing on women. However poetic it may have actually been, this is what it sounded like to me:

    “Little tiny Nastia was 19 and wrote furiously. People probably thought that I was her grandfather, but little did they know we fucked the shit out of each other at home. I also would like to let you all know, again, that she had a young, very young body, which was pure art. Also,  it is important for me to let you know that many people have been jealous of and impressed by the number of perfect butts that I have bedded over my lifetime. I am going to prison now and I am so sad, because I do not know what this 19-year-old will do without my dick. Surely, she will never find another one like it.”

    These types of sentences made me want to roll myself onto the metro floor and invite the masses to stampede me. I was more interested in hearing Nastia’s story and I tired rather quickly of Limónov’s appraisal of female body parts. It is not not by any means the bulk of the book’s content — I have, however, had it up to my EARLOBES with tedious analyses of the perfect curve, breast, loin, and so on, so I decided to move on with my life. Dear Men Who Write, I do not want to castrate you — I would just like for you to stop boring my tits off.

    I will give the book another shot once I’ve brushed up on my eastern European history because yes, I will admit, there may be something more there. For now, however, she’s going back on the shelf.

    BUT SHOULD YOU READ IT? If you are into guns, dicks, and the male ego, this memoir will get you hot & bothered in all the right ways.

  3. Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace
    david foster wallace
    Consider the Lobster begins with “Big Red Son,” an exposé on the American pornography industry told through the vehicle of the AVN awards (the adult movie industry’s Oscars).

    Holy
    Effin’
    Shit.

    I tried to read Infinite Jest at 20 and I ended up leaving it in Granada because I was too busy being nasty-happy to indulge Wallace’s love for the footnote. This essay, and a great majority of the following ones, however, were a joy to read. To be honest, I could have done without “Authority and American Usage.” If you’ve read any of this blog, it should be obvious that I’m not particularly fond of grammar rules.

    IS IT WORTH READING THO? If you love a well-crafted, humorous, borderline manic argument and/or exploring America’s wacko cultural phenomena, these essays will not disappoint. Although they were written in the late nighties and early aughts, it’s shocking and just a little bit disturbing to see how relevant many of them continue to be, especially where media and politics are concerned.

Well, would-be finger-waggers, please take that final glowing review as evidence that I can indeed appreciate art even when it is made or written by misogynistic trolls. I’ve been having an issue with this lately, because I still feel like I need to apologize for wanting to read about female characters who are more than “perfect” curves or owners of astoundingly gorgeous asses that YOU CAN HARDLY BELIEVE ARE OVER THIRTY! I don’t understand why part of me feels that I am being “too harsh” on this topic. A very heterosexual friend of mine recently complained to me that it’s just, like, men can’t do or say anything anymore!

I don’t know. I love beauty as much as the next idiot, but as soon as I realized that I was an actual person, these sort of descriptors got real old, real quick. Any competent editor will tell a writer to dig deeper, but these butt-ballads are as surface level as it gets.

So, women and men: have you any wisdom? What have you been reading?

Love,

Seo

When All Else Fails, Write Shit

I sat alone on Sunday afternoon and tried to work the words “cieno,” (mud/mire) “guadaña,” (scythe) and “amago” (feint or tricky gesture or can someone please come up with a better translation?) into a “poem.” My greatest regret in life is having thrown out the tiny camo notebook I used to hide under my pillow in grade school. In its pages I wrote poems dramatically lacking in depth and technique–in other words, not much has changed. I’m writing in Spanish lately not because I am trying to improve, but because I find comfort in my ignorance: I sense that the writing is trash but I don’t know that I’ll ever be entirely sure why.

The park in the photo above is in Suanzes. I suppose it’s the sort of neighborhood you move to after having children but, as with most things, I actually have no idea. Incidentally, it is a great place to go when you feel that you cannot physically endure one more gulp of city exhaust. I presume that much has been written about the price of metropolitan life and that many a human within Madrid’s gates has  begged for some gaddamn peace and quiet. I never thought that I would count myself among their number, but lo and behold…

I Don’t Need a Calendar

Dec7th 022

I know it’s May when I start thinking about getting a career counselor and fantasizing about being reborn as a bohemian richboi.

Bohemian Richboi: Mid-twenties/early thirties, smart guy, lives in a lovely apartment but has never paid rent. Two Masters deep. Parents: biological Mom & Dad and also The State.

In Spanish: Hijo de papá.

I don’t really want to be a bohemian richboi, of course. I like paying my own bills. I get membership, at least, in one of the biggest but most exclusive clubs on earth: people who pay and have little left over. I am willing to admit that I might only say this because I am brainwashed to believe that there is something to be proud of about having less. It is also possible that I just like having something to tell myself when a BRB annoys me. The truth is that I too want to live in libraries and on bar-stools. I too want to believe that knowing the name Jacques Derrida makes me better than.

“Whatever, at least the money I use to buy beer and say stupid things is mine.”

A man I love often said “No sabe hacer la ‘o’ con un canuto.” We used this idiom for a lot of things. She may be a doctor of Philosophy, but she doesn’t know how to save a file. He may have written 400 pages on Economic Theory, but he doesn’t know how to ask the waiter for the check. She may be this country’s premier Agricultural Scientist, but ya boo has never touched a shovel.

“The conversations of straight white men…” a friend of mine says. He never completes the sentence. We have our own ways of making people small, less about who’s read what and who’s been where than it is about OK, who here has ever wanted or really thought about what that might mean?

I went to Warsaw two weeks ago. I stayed with a stranger who became a friend. On the midnight bus to Ostrobramska we laughed so hard that our ribs hurt and tears jumped from our eyes.

“What’s the best thing about being Polish?” I asked a factory worker on the Vistula River.

“I am proud of being Polish. We are poor but we have fought for our history” my new friend translated.

I may not be a BRG but I do have enough to dip into worlds that aren’t mine and drink wine there.

A thing called “wealth therapy” exists. It’s often geared towards those who have inherited their fortunes. Therapists teach trust fund babies how to overcome the guilt that being part of the 1% creates and how to accept their fortunes and reach their full potentials (note: the BRB and the trust fund baby are not the same but surely they have some things in common). I read an article about group therapy of this type at Central Park. The group must smell very good. Rich people always seem like they’ve just had a shower. There are tiny AC units under their armpits that puff out essential oils at all the right moments. I can’t be the only one who thinks so. One man in the article said that being rich felt like his “dirty little secret.” It is not possible for me to take this seriously.

He was born, had everything he could ever wish for, and grew up to be successful” is not the sort of story that anyone I know is interested in, but I certainly don’t feel bad for the main character.

Where does rich guilt fall on the hierarchy of shame?

It was May. It ended quickly.

Luv and labor,

Seo

Scenes from a South Philly Saturday

Today’s post is sponsored by my love for all things Philly and silly. It is also an effort to avoid talking about the fact that THE WORLD IS IN A TERRIBLE STATE OF CHASSIS (here’s some Irish love).

sideeyechild

Saturday night after I returned home was one of many karaoke nights at Adobe. We walked in shortly before last call, mostly because we’d lost track of time while talking about morticians. A short Italian guy was half way through singing “Burning Down the House” to a crowd of unimpressed, totally loaded South Philly natives and hipsters. And I was thrilled to be there–I mean it. The first week or so after I return from Spain is always a whirlwind of bagel consumption and love for  all the linguistic subtlety I probably miss when speaking Spanish.

Continue reading “Scenes from a South Philly Saturday”