Archive for September, 2010

Some film festivals cater mainly to filmgoers. Some bring together filmmakers, distributors, critics and others involved in the art and the business of movies but don’t encourage the general public to participate. Certainly events of both types have their functions, and can achieve them with élan.

But some festivals successfully merge the commonly distinct audience- and industry-orientation. Indie Memphis is one of those special events that offers movie-lovers opportunities to see some films that otherwise might not make it to their local multiplex (as well as others that will end up there later on) and brings together the peers and colleagues responsible for those films. The organizers do a great job of putting together a fine, fun event.

Nancy and I are very pleased to have a work from the Poetry in Pictures Series in Indie Memphis for a second time. A Noiseless Patient Spider was part of the festival’s 12th annual programming in 2009. Imperfect Armor will be a part of Indie 13 in October.

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Imperfect Armor will be screening as part of the Los Angeles International Film Festival’s opening night festivities at the Beyond Baroque Theater in Venice on Thursday, October 7. See the film screening list for details. As mentioned previously, the Poetry in Pictures Series short film my wife and I made won a couple of prizes.

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Some books seem engineered to sell big and feel written with the sale of movie rights in the author’s mind. These bids for bestsellerdom take a dramatic event and treat it as if it occurred at the nexus of major forces – history, politics, the environment, the economy, etc. – but without dwelling to much on the boring bits included to make the bloody story seem important.

The Oregonian has posted my review of John Vaillant’s The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival. See the Sunday, September, 19, 2010, edition of the paper if you prefer print.

Vaillant is scheduled to read from The Tiger at Powell’s City of Books on October 1.

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The complete Wordstock Festival schedule has been posted.

I’ll be sharing the McMenamins Stage with Matt Love on Saturday, October, 9, 2010, from 2 to 3 pm. Love’s new book is Gimme Refuge: The Education of a Caretaker. I’ll be reading from Fighters & Writers.

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Philosopher, boxing trainer and newspaperman Gordon Marino has an insightful column about the benefits of boxing – mainly related to the acquisition of the underappreciated virtue of courage – over at The New York Times “Opinionator” blog.

Though in a piece reprinted in Fighters & Writers I dispute remarks Marino made years ago in another boxing-related column at his usual paper, the Wall Street Journal, I do recommend his September 15, 2010, Times piece. (I don’t suggest wading through the readers’ comments, however. There are too many of the reflexive, simplistic “boxing hurts brains” type. Certain kinds of readers must feel the need to say something, anything, even if doing so only demonstrates that they paid little or no attention to the article in question.) I also address the oft-overlooked upside of boxing an essay in my book.

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An image from Imperfect Armor adorns the festival guide for the 2010 Kansas International Film Festival. The still shows a clay elephant, one of several stop-motion puppets used in the film, which also features sand and shadow puppets as well as animation involving paintings and life-action footage. Along with the other animated shorts listed beside the picture, Imperfect Armor is scheduled to show at 7:25 pm on Tuesday, October 5.

Later in the same month, the film (created and directed by my wife, Nancy) will also be shown as part of the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival. Another installment in the Poetry in Pictures SeriesA Noiseless Patient Spider (based on Walt Whitman’s poem) – was an official selection of the 2009 CICFF. Imperfect Armor will be part of the “Relative Thinking” program on Thursday, October 28. (The organizers evidently deemed my poem most appropriate for high school aged “children.”)

As of this writing, the Carmel Art & Film Festival, which will also include Imperfect Armor, has yet to post its schedule.

More to come…

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The October 2010 issue of The Ring includes a story about the Independence Day celebration of the Jack Johnson-Jim Jeffries fight. Joseph Santoliquito’s article focuses on the happy meeting of relatives of two fighters who didn’t shake hands either before or after their bout – something I also reported after returning from the centennial events in Reno.

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For this fall, the good people at Spot Literary Magazine, a literary journal that has published several of my essays, arranged back-to-back readings in Long Beach, California, and I’ll be participating in both.

On Saturday, November 20, at 7 pm, I’ll be reading from Fighters & Writers (Mongrel Empire Press). I’ll be joined by a trio of poets who’ll be reading from their new books:

Tobi Cogswell is a Pushcart Prize nominee and co-recipient of the first annual Lois and Marine Robert Warden Poetry Award from Bellowing Ark Press. Her work can be read in SLM, Penumbra, Spoon River Poetry Review, Decanto, Illya’s Honey, Slab, Rhino and Blue Earth Review among others. She is co-editor of San Pedro River Review. She will be reading from Poste Restante (Bellowing Ark Press).

Fred Voss has been a machinist for thirty years and a poet for twenty-two years. He has twice been the subject of feature programs on BBC Radio 4, and he has done six reading tours of Great Britain. He will read from Hammers and Hearts of the Gods (Bloodaxe Books; U.S. distribution by Dufour Editions).

Joan Jobe Smith, founding editor of Pearl magazine and the Bukowski Review, has published seventeen books of poetry and two cookbooks. She’s a Pushcart Prize recipient and her PowWow Café was a Forward Prize finalist. Ambit has published chapters from her memoir Tales of an Ancient Go-Go Girl, a James Jones First Novel Fellowship finalist. She will read from Joan’s Own Good-4-You Cook Book (Pearl Books).

On Saturday, November 21, at 7 pm, SLM contributors will read from Volume 4, Number 2.

Both events are slated to occur at the same site:

Borders Books

2110 N. Bellflower Blvd., Long Beach, CA 90815 (between Sterns & the 405 fwy)

Mongrel Empire Press has posted details about these events as well as Wordstock, where I’ll be reading in October, on its events page.

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“When you have to attend to … the mere incidents of the surface, the reality – the reality, I tell you – fades,” narrator Charlie Marlow says in Heart of Darkness. “The inner truth is hidden – luckily, luckily.”

Joseph Conrad’s novella, in which so much is called mysterious, impenetrable, inconceivable and inexplicable – in which the essentials lay deep beneath the veneer of vague appearances – might not be the best candidate for reworking as a comic book. Yet that has now been done, with drawings by Catherine Anyango and text adapted by David Zane Mairowitz.

The artist admitted to some reservations about the endeavor, according to a Guardian article about it. “I wasn’t sure initially if it was a good subject for a graphic novel as the writing is so dense and the style of it is partly what attracts me to the book,” Anyango said. “As I knew we couldn’t keep most of the text in, I tried to make the drawings very rich in detail and texture so that immersive feeling you get, especially when he describes the river and the jungle, was carried across.” Although some of the words supposedly had to go, others, from Conrad’s account of an 1890 journey on Congo, were brought into the illustrated book to give it greater “immediacy.” This decision reflects what the Guardian story suggests is an abiding concern with the history and politics of colonialism rather than sensitivity to or awareness of an essential element of Conrad’s fiction: the undermining of certitude.

Then again, the newspaper account isn’t reliable either. For one, it perpetuates the practice of calling Conrad Polish, even though it would be more accurate to say he was born to Polish parents in Ukraine. At the time of Conrad’s birth in 1857, as biographer John Stape points out, “Polish” was “an ethno-linguistic and cultural, not a political, identity.” Another simpler, but hardly trivial, problem also relates to dates. The Guardian says Heart of Darkness was published 108 years ago in reference to the tale’s first appearance between book covers in 1902. In fact, it was first serialized in a magazine in 1899. It’s a nineteenth-century – not a twentieth-century – work.  

All that aside, I’m not convinced readers need it pre-interpreted with pictures, no matter how well made.

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Convincing people that there’s something to mourn in a “post-art” era, and that what has been lost can be recovered with a renewed commitment to art, will take more than exclamation-point laden proclamations about art’s importance. Reviving interest in neglected artists requires more than italicized insistence on their meritorious achievements. Yet these sorts of inadequate maneuvers too often characterize Encounter, Milan Kundera’s latest tribute to the novel and other art forms. (I offer a more detailed discussion of the book in the September 2010 Open Letters Monthly.) I wish I could have mustered the enthusiasm for Encounter that John Simon does in the New York Times, but I simply couldn’t.

As it happens, I often agree with what Kundera says, but I know that asserting something and effectively making an argument aren’t the same things, which he seems to forget. The writer of some glorious novels and some superior nonfiction could have displayed a bit more care for the art of the essay this time around, in my opinion. (I say more about Kundera, as well as Albert Camus, whom I also discuss in connection with Encounter, in an essay in the forthcoming fall 2010 issue of Spot Literary Magazine.)

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