I just spent a month in Greece with Clara. A few people have asked me how it went and what tips I had, so I thought I would collect them in one post before I forget. Clara was 7-8 months while we were away, so past the newborn napping lump phase, but not fully mobile yet either. She figured out how to crawl half-way through the trip, and also realized that she wanted to pull up to standing whenever she could, so things got trickier once that happened. She also sprouted her two top teeth — drool machine, but thankfully not especially fussy. Anyway, tips!
I’ve subscribed to various TinyLetters over the past few months, and there’s something really nice about getting random missives in my Inbox. I like the (artificial, I know) intimacy of it, the chattiness, and most of all I like how easy it is. I check my email way more than I check blogs. And then I realized that I do so much writing on my phone these days, enough that I can cobble together a little newsletter much more quickly than a blog entry.
I’ll still use this space to talk about my book and various events in the fall, but I’ll save the chattiness for email, at least for now. So, subscribe?
I didn’t make many resolutions this year, but one of them was to work on other forms of writing, not just fiction. I especially wanted to practice writing about food. I’ve always loved a particular type of food writing – wordy, heavy on the personal side, not so much preoccupied with recipes or techniques. I often resisted writing about food because I’m not an above average cook, I don’t have the most refined palate and various other reasons that were really just excuses. So, I set up a new blog and have resolved to write one food essay per month during 2013. A place to figure things out and exercise a different writing muscle.
The site is over at http://waystocookanegg.tumblr.com, and my first essay is called Drawing Lines. It does not give any suggestions on ways to cook an egg, but I’ll get there eventually. I also use the space to post bits of food related marginalia I’ve found online over the years.
It’s summer vacation time and I’m heading to California – San Diego specifically – for 2 heavenly weeks. Well, I’m assuming it will be heavenly, and given the concentration of beaches, taco stands and crab shacks in the area plus rumours of roadtrips to Las Vegas and Los Angeles, all of this spent with some of my favourite people? The odds are high.
I won’t be updating this site until I return, but in the meantime here are some things for you to enjoy:
- Have you read all of my uninterviews?
- Greece is going through another round of tough times and it’s easy, from abroad, to write off the country as being too unstable to visit. If you need a reminder of how lovely it can be, here are all the entries I wrote about it last year.
- The Wire! I’m probably the last person in the world to say this about the show, but oh god, it’s so good. I can only vouch for the first 2 seasons, but I have no doubt the rest will be just as fulfilling (maybe not Season 5?). But, since you’ve probably watched The Wire twice already and spent too long discussing it with your friends, what about Peep Show, my other recent favourite TV show? It’s a British comedy about Mark and Jeremy, a pair of awkward/sarcastic/selfish best friends/flatmates/nemeses. Here, get started. It’s addictive.
- Wait, it’s too nice to sit inside and watch television. Take a walk to the park and read instead. Some books I’ve recently enjoyed include Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton, Distillery Songs by Mike Spry and True Story by Mike Holmes.
- Or just bring a bottle of cold white wine to the park. It’s summer.
- I discovered Beth Wawerna of Bird of Youth while looking for performances of this song on YouTube, and was instantly smitten with her voice. Then her album came out in May (produced by Will Sheff of Okkervil River), and I’ve been listening to it non-stop for the past few weeks (Andrew can vouch for me on that one – sorry, dude.) Her songs are ultra-wordy and worth listening to closely, and there’s something about her lower timbre, almost flippant voice that absolutely bewitches me.
See you in July, friends!
Montreal: Friday November 5, Drawn & Quarterly – be there! http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=660580223&v=app_2344061033#!/event.php?eid=101613523241948&index=1
Toronto: Monday November 8, Dora Keogh – be there! http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=660580223&v=app_2344061033#!/event.php?eid=164378236920509&index=1
And… Toronto: If you can’t make it on Monday or if you want to see me another night or if you just wanna come to a good party, Katie, one of the contributers in Rememberer helped organize a launch for it on Tuesday November 9. 107 Shaw Gallery – be there! I’ll be reading at this too. http://www.facebook.com/#!/event.php?eid=103456643056575
A few things:
1) I’m driving to Toronto on Friday night and will be reading at Canzine on Sunday. I hope to see you there! You should come early to browse through all the tables. I’ll be with the Invisible folks, so you can buy the book if you want.
2) Or my zine.
4) And now I’m off to see Louis CK!
Favourite meal: Oh god, Sylvia’s. After a day of walking all over the city we wanted food that stuck to our bones and warmed us up. Soul food. So, we went to Sylvia’s and the meal was nothing less than completely satisfying and delicious. Miss Sylvia herself was at the door greeting the diners and my only regret is that I was so stuffed I couldn’t order a slice of Red Velvet Cake for desert. Such is life. Between us we ate: many slices of cornbread, fried chicken, ribs, collard greens, mac and cheese, okra gumbo and garlic mashed potatoes.
Favourite Nabokov-inspired art piece: You would think the International Centre of Photography would have more… photography, but the first floor was devoted to excerpts from photographer/designer/ installation artist, Barbara Bloom’s collection, including a few Nabokov inspired pieces, like the cover of Lolita in rug-form or, my favourite, a butterfly box with tiny drawings of Vladimir, each one named by a different pseudonym used in his career.
Odds of someone quoting the scene from “Annie Hall” where Woody and Diane are in line at the movies while waiting in line to watch a Godard film at Film Forum: 100% maybe? Is it just inevitable? On Saturday night, after dinner and aimless wandering, we felt like sitting down and zoning out to a movie. We were in Chelsea at the time, and Godard’s “Contempt” was about to start playing, so we bought tickets. Within 10 minutes of standing in line, we listened as a guy explained that Annie Hall scene to his date. What is perhaps strange
r is that she had never seen the movie. Note: Like the Whitney Biennial, don’t watch Godard when you’re feeling sleepy. Oops.
Best hot chocolate ever: The City Bakery. With a homemade marshmallow.
Favourite book purchased from a cute bookseller: Steinbeck’s memoir of driving around the U.S. with his dog, “Travels With Charley”. I had just returned a library copy of the book before leaving, and was charmed by Steinbeck’s ambling descriptions. I wanted a copy of my own, so when I saw it sitting on the bookseller’s table, I gladly forked over six dollars for it.
Most a propos poetry collection purchased from The Strand: Frank O’Hara’s “Selected Poems”. O’Hara’s New York is so vibrant and romantic, exclamation marks and orange-coloured things everywhere. His love poems melt me quicker than ee cummings. Whenever we had some downtime, his poems were the only things I could digest.
The fun thing about living with a photographer is that I get access to books that I wouldn’t think about buying/borrowing myself – big, beautiful coffeetable books, certain art theory and criticism, etc. I was reading some essays in Robert Adams’ Beauty in Photography: Essays in Defense of Traditional Values and was particularly intrigued by an essay called “Truth and Landscape”, which tackles the question of what makes a landscape photography different from say, regular documentary reportage. It was timely because we had just come home from an afternoon spent poking around the little galleries at 372 Ste Catherine, and I had especially enjoyed the landscape photos of Lawrence Beck. I’ve also been recently thinking about Andrew’s photos, the types of landscapes he prefers, trying to contextualize them, I guess, explore different ways of understanding or appreciating them.
The truth is that I’ve generally been the kind of person who likes photos “with people in them”, who can’t always sit still long enough to drink up the hugeness and the detail offered by a landscape photo. But this is starting to change now that I’ve actually started paying closer attention. I was also recently flipping through my Virginia Woolf books (yes, I flip a lot through my books, especially when I’m sitting at my desk trying to write. I figure it’s better than e-stalking via Facebook). I came across that section of To The Lighthouse that is simply a description of the passage of time. And then there are those big chunks of The Waves which are pure written landscapes.
Anyway, this is all to say that when I was reading that Adams essay, I came across this really elegant description he gives of landscape photography, and realized that it applied just as easily to writing and stuff I’d been thinking about, that it helped me string together my meandering thoughts on landscape photography with naturey writing descriptions. And it was kind of satisfying.
Landscape pictures can offer us, I think, three verities – geography, autobiography, and metaphor. Geography is, if taken alone, sometimes boring, autobiography is frequently trivial, and metaphor can be dubious. But taken together, as in the best work of people like Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Weston, the three kinds of information strengthen each other and reinforce what we all work to keep intact – an affection for life.