Tuesday, September 1, 2009

End of Summer Updates

A couple of quick notes for updating purposes. I just returned in the last week from a triumphant camping trip and year after the fact honeymoon in around central Ontario and the Capital Region. The part of Canada is a gorgeous as always. I've plowed through the drafts of a couple of new pieces; one set in Hamtramck and the other in Livingston, MT. I've recently found myself more interested in the writings of Jim Harrison and am just starting into a collection of three of his novellaes. If you're not familiar with his work you should check out Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations Episode about Montana. He plays a pretty major part in it. The episode, I feel as does the mrs., manages to capture Montana fairly well.

With the summer almost over, it might be nice to end with a little bluegrass jam. Here's a solid one I found on you tube.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Some Freshies from the 90s

I'm not quite sure what got me thinking back to my days at the University of Windsor, but somehow my mind drifted on back to the mid-1990s when I was doing a show on CJAM. Stealing Beauty, the film, was out and was quite popular at the time, but the soundtrack found its way into the Radio Station library. I remember playing the hell out of it, mainly on the good number of graveyard overnight shifts I did. They were marathons of just trying to stay awake. Anyways, here's a cut from that soundtrack as preserved on youtube. Made props if anyone can name the main sample from the piece

Hooverphonic - 2 Wicky

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Quick Review of One Story No.121: Interrupted Serenade

I just recently subscribed to the literary publication One Story. For those of you unfamiliar with One Story, the basic premise is that the journal publishes one story every three weeks and sends it to you as sort of fiction chapbook. The pieces (that I have read thus far) range from about 14 to 30 pages and are well laid out on fine paper stock. For anyone interested in contemporary fiction, One Story is a must. The writers are stronged, varied in their form, and offer a solid window into what is being written in American short fiction today.

I'm still a little behind the publication schedule here, but I recently finished up looking at issue 121 (June 1/2009) and James Hannahan's story "Interrupted Serenade." I have to say that enjoyed this particular piece very much so in terms of subject matter. The story is essentially about Lopey, a younger kid growing up in Yonkers, and trying to make sense of his parent's recent divorce and the presence of his father's new wife(?) or girlfriend. Lopey has become a sort of problem child, slipping into the seeder side of Yonkers, but soon his parents discover his raw ability at piano and see it as an escape.

There is a lot of potential commentary in the piece about race issues in America (Lopey is black, so is his father, but his new "mom" Erika is white) that pervade the piece. These are handled well on the whole and Hannahan's balanced approach to illustrating them really help the story as a whole. There is a universal here that Hannahan manages to tap into with this story though; the powerful place of chance and choices in the growth of kids in America (while this piece is urban, I can see it pushed onto the rural). There is certain element to the piece that is reminscent of Jonathan Letham's Fortress of Solitude. An element that might offer more of a cross-over than a mimicking. Hannahan's story is strong and unique and it wouldn't be possible to consider it anything close to mimicry.

I might like to see a more controlled sense of narration in "Interrupted Serenade." This is primarily because Lopey is such a strong character and I feel that I would like to see more wholely into his head. Erika's viewpoint almost seems intrusive and at times folds the story towards something that might take away from the piece. Then again, that might be the point of her presence. Either way, I'm looking forward to finding more pieces by Hannahan after enjoying this particular piece.

If you haven't checked out One Story by all means you should. They have a great website with interviews they've conducted with the writers of a lot of their stories. Here's the link to their interview with Jonathan Pratt.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Sweet Rollings of Summer

Bloomington is at just about its most quiet during the year as the summer rolls along. Most of the students are away and a lot of the locals have headed off vacation-ways, yet here I sit. No real complaints, its actually quite pleasant to find an easy sit at Soma or many of the other various haunts. With the heat index finally starting to reach its more or less appropriate level, I thought there might be some goodness in posting some jazz awesomeness to relax and embrace this peak of summer slumber. Here's two links to the great and powerful Sonny Rollins (don't ask me where #2 is, couldn't find it. Turn the lights down and enjoy.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Contest of Note

The Naugatuck River Review is hosting its first ever Narrative Poetry Contest. They are a well-designed publication full of very well written poetry. (Yes, this is a bit of plug given I have poem in the Summer issue). The Contest Fee is $20 and includes a copy of issue where the winners will be published. Send up to three poems in. It's an electronic submission system too.

Contest Page Here

Summer Reading Again: A little Joyce

I seem to recall that most every recent summer (minus perhaps this one) CBC radio has run a little challenge to its readers to pick up and get through all of Joyce's Ulysses. Sadly, no, I haven't read or even opened his masterpiece. But I thought it rather appropriate to read something by Joyce to make my summer reading list at least respectable. So I picked up Dubliners.

For that small percentage of readers out there who haven't heard about this brief collection of short stories, Joyce paints through his pieces in this book the day-to-day lives of the working class of Dublin in the first decade or so of the last century. It is important because Dubliners tells stories that everyday working class people experienced (or could have experienced). This is a nice change give the more modern day obsession with the cult of personality/praise of the rich that seems to float through the works of regularly praised writers such as Rushdie and yes, Dan Brown. What Joyce shines through with is his ability to illustrate the everyday in a manner that engages the reader and propells oft ignored voices and experiences.

Moreover though, Dubliners shows writers the way to write economically and successfully at the same time. I know that many MFA programs push for higher page counts (mainly for the reason of forcing the budding fiction writer to get the mechanics of composition through physical memory). As an off-shoot of this, writers sometimes forget that you can accomplish a lot with a little. Joyce shows us in this collection that shorter fiction can work and do so wonderfully.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Catching up with some Hockey Poetry and Henry Miller

I know I've been off the whole blogging thing for awhile. This Norwegian summer language immersion has been rather intense and has afforded me little time in the way of posting. It's been a good summer of reads nonetheless. I recently finished Tropic of Cancer, the class by Henry Miller. I had been pestered for sometime by a writer friend of mine in Seattle to read it. What can I say other than he was right. Miller can get a little far gone with the obscenity at times. Thing is that just have to hold on and he works you through those moments to a nice shared mental space with narrator. For those of you not aware of the entire Tropic of Cancer story, it is a first person narration on an expatriot American writer in early twentieth century France (but more specifically Paris). The book was banned for many years in the US. But such has not been the case for sometime now. Regardless of history, Miller does a great job of placing us in his narrator's head. Think of it as proto-HST picaresque. It's an interesting balance against Hemingway's Moveable Feast.

Secondly, I recently finished Randall Maggs' Night Work: The Sawchuk Poems. I've typically had issues finding solid literature about hockey or centred on the hockey world. This particular collection seems to answer that problem. Maggs teaches at Memorial University in Newfoundland. He does some very nice work here bringing poetry to the hall of fame goaltender Terry Sawchuk's life. There are some very memorable pieces in this collection, most specifically "The Back Door Open Where She's Gone to the Garden" and "Long Memories." I have to admit to a soft spot for well written poems set in and around Windsor and Detroit. It's a nice piece of work and I highly recommend it as a great summer read.