Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse 1983-2011

"Tears dry on their own."

Friday, July 22, 2011

Lucian Freud 1922-2011

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It Can Be Done

"As I approached my fiftieth birthday, I had become more and more enraged and mystified by the idiot decisions made by my countrymen. And then I had come suddenly to pity them, for I understood how innocent and natural it was for them to behave so abominably, and with such abominable results: They were doing their best to live like people invented in story books. This was the reason Americans shot each other so often: It was a convenient literary device for ending short stories and books.
"Why were so many Americans treated by their government as though their lives were as disposable as paper facial tissues? Because that was the way authors customarily treated bit-part players in their made-up tales.
"And so on.
"Once I understood what was making America such a dangerous, unhappy nation of people who had nothing to do with real life, I resolved to shun storytelling. I would write about life. Every person would be exactly as important as any other. All facts would be given equal weightiness. Nothing would be left out. Let others bring order to chaos. I would bring chaos to order, instead, which I think I have done.
"If all writers would do that, then perhaps citizens not in the literary trades will understand that there is no order in the world around us, that we must adapt ourselves to the requirements of chaos instead.
"It is hard to adapt to chaos, but it can be done. I am living proof of that: It can be done."
--Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions (1973)

Monday, July 18, 2011


Monday, July 4, 2011

76 American Books

I set myself to this task as a way to celebrate my country on its 235th birthday--as traditionally observed to the exclusion of the histories of its earlier inhabitants. For conciseness, I have limited myself to just one work per author. I have also limited myself to the books I have actually read, not just read about or wish I'd read. I gave myself 76 minutes to complete the task, but it took almost two hours.
    I have made no effort to make the list politically correct or canonical. I have welcomed and tolerated my idiosyncrasies in taste--and the limits of my memory. These are the works that shaped my concept of the United States of America, of American writing style, and of myself as an American. These are the American books I measure myself against.

    1. A Death in the Family by James Agee
    2. Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
    3. The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin
    4. The Smallest People Alive by Keith Banner
    5. Snow White by Donald Barthelme
    6. The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
    7. Little Big Man by Thomas Berger
    8. Trout Fishing in America by Richard Brautigan
    9. The Wild Boys by William S. Burroughs
    10. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
    11. The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
    12. Bullet Park by John Cheever
    13. Closer by Dennis Cooper
    14. A Home at the End of the World by Michael Cunningham
    15. God Is Dead by Ron Currie Jr.
    16. Apples and Pears and Other Stories by Guy Davenport
    17. An Autobiography by Angela Davis
    18. Underworld by Don DeLillo
    19. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt
    20. Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
    21. Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard
    22. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
    23. American Tabloid by James Ellroy
    24. Light in August by William Faulkner
    25. The Circus of Dr. Lao by Charles G. Finney
    26. Tender Is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
    27. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
    28. Fat City by Leonard Gardner
    29. Howl and Other Poems by Allen Ginsberg
    30. Second Skin by John Hawkes
    31. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
    32. The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway
    33. The Talented Mr. Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
    34. Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran
    35. Dear Mr. President by Gabe Hudson
    36. The World According to Garp by John Irving
    37. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
    38. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
    39. Elmer Gantry by Sinclair Lewis
    40. The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer
    41. Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
    42. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
    43. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
    44. Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
    45. Edwin Mullhouse by Steven Millhauser
    46. Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
    47. Becoming a Man by Paul Monette
    48. The Four Fingers of Death by Rick Moody
    49. Beloved by Toni Morrison
    50. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
    51. Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
    52. Meditations in an Emergency by Frank O'Hara
    53. Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
    54. The Last Gentleman by Walker Percy
    55. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert Pirsig
    56. True Grit by Charles Portis
    57. Gain by Richard Powers
    58. City of Night by John Rechy
    59. Another Roadside Attraction by Tom Robbins
    60. Goodbye, Columbus by Philip Roth
    61. Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
    62. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
    63. The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
    64. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
    65. After Dark, My Sweet by Jim Thompson
    66. Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
    67. Myra Breckinridge by Gore Vidal
    68. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
    69. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
    70. All the Kings' Men by Robert Penn Warren
    71. A Worn Path by Eudora Welty
    72. Miss Lonelyhearts by Nathanael West
    73. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
    74. Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
    75. The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
    76. Close to the Knives by David Wojnarowicz


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