Should the spirit of protest occasion a crowd, far be it from me to be its exorcist.

Unsurprising to the nice round number of zero, Adam made it known this week he is wary of protests. His post indicating as much is one-half cheek and the other half teeth. As it happens, his (& a good many of your) reservations squeakily hinged on the fact that protests too rarely work. We Leftist-intellectuals are a busy lot, after all, and good time management requires that we cut out the ineffectual fat from our schedules, to make way for retweeting memes and attending committee meetings. I popped up in the comments of Adam’s post, a resident, tolerated troll, objecting in my own opaque way. I thought I might elaborate with a short post. Read the rest of this entry »

Adventures in Bookselling: A Few Lessons Learned

For the past year and a half or so I’ve been employed in a kind of noble profession, if such exist: selling books at a local independent bookstore. This is my story of things learned along the way.

Truth told, I was a little surprised I got the position. The job advert emphasized previous book selling as a prerequisite. While I had a year’s worth of such, it had been nearly fifteen years earlier. Following that, my job experience got a little weird & deeply unhelpful in terms of placing me professionally.* One of the owners was born & raised in Glasgow, Scotland, so I suspect my time spent there, conversational affection for Alasdair Gray, & anecdotes about getting in a fight following a Partick Thistle match helped. The lesson: embrace your odd-ball affections.  Read the rest of this entry »

One more plug for Allen C. Shelton’s Where the North Sea Meets Alabama

Hey, San Francisco Bay Area AUFS-ites, perhaps you’ve read my previous plugs for Allen C. Shelton’s book Where the North Sea Touches Alabama, and you thought to yourself, “My goodness, this Allen C. Shelton character sounds interesting. I’d sure love to meet him.” Well, August 18th will be your lucky day! He will be at Diesel Bookstore in Oakland, discussing said book — taking questions, telling stories, and maybe hints into his newest work — at 7 pm. Do come out. Yours truly will be there, and hopefully others. Adam K. will be there in spirit, fresh from his reading of the book (that makes it bona fide, right?).

Haven’t read it and are unsure if you’ll get a chance to do so before then? There’s always the wonderful book trailer for it. (I’ve never before, and don’t imagine I ever will again, be able to say that without soul-deadening sarcasm.)

Posted in books. 1 Comment »

Naming of the Trees

This is ordinarily something I’d keep to my own private haunt, Departure Delayed, but today is too special a day for my understandably minuscule following there. The 90th birthday of a man, William H. Gass, whose writing I perhaps too slavishly adore, requires eyeballs, even if they are likely set to blink and quickly flit away.

I recorded a while ago this small section I still read, perhaps too often. It’s from Omensetter’s Luck, arguably Gass’ greatest novel, and is where Henry Pimber walks into the woods and names the trees, like the first goddamned, depressed Adam, bound for a hanging high, improbably high, in the trees.

And in that spirit, I re-post it here:

Should you feel so included, other Gass-related excerpts and adorations can be found elsewhere

Oh, and yes . . . should you indulge in the vanity of Googling yourself, Mr. Gass, Happy Birthday. 

“clumsiness & truth are so often intertwined we tend to take their copulation for granted.”

[Re-posting this old piece of mine — conjuring days of old in the spirit of May Day.]

Dear ________,

You misunderstand me, so let me be clear: I do not want the City to “support” the Occupy movement or its Commune. Indeed, though I risk misunderstanding yet again so soon after such momentary clarity, I think it would be very foolish public policy for them to do so. Much better, I think, to go the disingenuous route of the Councilperson whose letter you’ve attached, and insist on a vapid sympathy.

While I agree with the message of the Occupy movement and consider myself, along with all City Employees, including the men and women in our Police Department, to be part of the 99%, I disagree that occupying Frank Ogawa Plaza, shutting down the Port, or calling for a general strike against our City, is going to impact the 1% that this movement is supposed to be targeting.

What genius is on display here in one of the more nakedly clumsy co-opting of populism in my recent memory. The Councilperson doesn’t even bother to give the dignity of a period to his agreement. Here in the opening paragraph of his letter, the feeblest of commas is all that separates his agreement with “the message of the Occupy movement” and his self-consideration as “part of the 99%” from the declarative strongman of this magnificent sentence, “I disagree.” Provided the Occupy movement does not camp, strike, or shut down a port, which is to say, provided it does precisely nothing it has in actual fact done the past three weeks, he supports it completely. The only reservation he has concerning the Occupy movement is its actual existence. Would that it could be but a “message”! — by all means, a call to be dissatisfied, even angry, but to be so at home, please, as quietly as possible, yes, at least until election day, when those so called might vote for cynical opportunists like himself.

This Councilperson is in the minority, I believe, in his clumsiness, but not in the desire to show support for the Occupy movement on his own terms. And while I understand perfectly well why the City, all of its administrative stars & ideological stripes, would go this route, I fear you don’t appreciate why the Occupy movement would do well to develop a strong allergy to any & all public expressions of sympathy by those who are formally in (or are seeking formal) power. It seems to me that the moment a city officially loses the “but” after its stated solidarity is the moment the truth of this allegiance has been lost — clumsiness & truth are so often intertwined we tend to take their copulation for granted. (Or, I should add, it is the day after a revolutionary upheaval. But, alas, I am not at all confident any of us have enough dying light remaining actually to see that morning. Rome was not unbuilt in a day, as a friend said to me recently, and arguably our allotment of days are insufficient to the cause, if not the struggle itself.)

So, in close, while we agree that the Commune should remain illegal, I have no interest in its relocation. I would much prefer that it be declared illegal and remain exactly where it is, in order that it might continue to test the City’s ability to uphold the consequences of that illegality. The gross flouting of the law–or at least its outright disregard–this is what seems necessary to expose its many inadequacies (& those of its administrators). In this way, the Commune’s symbolic value as a site of disobedience is also the unavoidable germ of its undoing. The present age, you’ve insisted in the past, has had very little real use for such symbols, but are either of us yet prepared to say the same of the future that remains?

Yours,

Posted in politics, Rhetoric, Writing. Comments Off

Saturday Movie: Haneke’s The Seventh Continent

Thanks, biblioklept.

Posted in film. Comments Off

“Do you have a branch campus in Florida?”

From a footnote of his magnificent book Where the North Sea Touches Alabama, Allen C. Shelton recounts a job application letter for an unnamed university teaching position he scrawled by hand while shivering through a “blizzard of the century.” He presumably did not send this draft. In any event, he points out, “I didn’t get the job.” I thought a good many here might appreciate reading.

I’m writing this bundled up in as many layers as I can wear and still more. I’m wrapped up in the wool blanket, wearing the only gloves I own—a pair of brown gardening gloves with a finger missing. My dog chewed the finger off. It’s probably twenty-five degrees inside. Outside, the greatest storm of the century is knocking my house for a loop. The weatherman of the battery-operated radio makes me feel almost privileged to be here, shivering in the dark, without power. “This is the storm of the century,” he hums, like the wind shredding the win on my barn roof. The worst of it is I’m bored to death. There’s only so much sleep and staring into space that I can take before I crave watching TV. I feel like a stroke victim—cold and numb. The wind is gusting up to fifty miles an hour. I can feel it. I live in a house built in 1834. It has its own respiratory system. I can see the curtains wheezing. My dogs have taken over the kitchen. My wife and son have taken over the big bed. That leaves me with either a wick-backed sofa or where I’m stuck now, at my desk. This was desperation. Reading was impossible. I couldn’t turn the pages with my gloves on. I read too fast to take the gloves on and off and those slow, meditative books I’ve been putting off reading—I’m putting off reading. I think they make me colder. So why did I listen to my wife and unhook the woodstove? It made sense at the time. I could move in some more books. We hadn’t used it in years. Now it’s the storm of the century and I’m freezing. So I’m writing. My toes are cold. I look like a character in A Christmas Carol. Amazingly, the ink isn’t freezing in my fountain pen. It must be cold in the North Carolina mountains. Do you have a branch campus in Florida? Unless it’s the Keys, it might be cold there though. I just remembered the weatherman with his right arm sending arrows streaking through Florida before the cable went out. My house is set off in the country. The nearest house is a half mile away and I’m related to them. The nearest hamburger is seven miles over the mountain. The nearest house right now with running water and power is twenty-six miles down the road, but that changes by the hour. The closest may be in Florida by now. (212-213)

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