Category Archives: poetry

2014 Q4 Reading Report

Oh goodness, is this Reading Report overdue. I meant to post this early in January,  but here it is the end of the month and this is my first post of 2015. Ah well, better late than never, right? I read some great books during the last quarter of 2014, as you’ll see below. And I also tweeted about some of my reading as I read, so you’ll get some bonus photos, to make up for being so late.

October

My Sister’s Keeper, Jodi Picoult – I listened to the audiobook on the long drive from Philadelphia to Atlanta at the tail end of the Residency Road Trip. One of the most surprising things about this book, considering how sad the premise is, was that it was easy to get engrossed in the story behind the sadness. It was interesting on a legal, moral, emotional and very human level. I cared deeply about the characters, even when they were being totally annoying or foolish. It felt like a play that came alive in my car as I drove, which was really helpful considering I was on the road for over twelve hours.

Me Before You, Jojo Moyes – Bought this at a sale at my hometown library. I was aware of it from how well it sold at the bookstore while I was working there, but I didn’t really know what it’s about before I started reading. It’s an incredibly grim subject matter (especially considering the book I read previous to this one), but it’s not a story that’s grimly told. Somehow, the book manages to have the blithe lightness of a romantic comedy, while very intelligently and responsibly addressing a controversial, highly charged subject. I flew through the pages, and got really invested in how things turned out.

Lean Mean 13, Janet Evanovich – I listened to the audio of this one on my way back to Nola from Georgia. I think this is the perfect way to engage with the Stephanie Plum books. I’d started to get impatient with the silliness and formulaic quality of them while reading them, but those very qualities make them such perfect stories to listen to while on the road. Not too distracting, but very entertaining. They keep me great company in the car. The lady who reads the books for the audio is very good as well.

Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay – Coming back from the residency, I was such a happy dork picking up all of the books the library was holding for me, especially when it came to this one. I’d been looking forward to reading it for months and it didn’t disappoint. Roxane Gay’s novel An Untamed State is beautiful and brutal and she brings those qualities to bear on these essays, which are also funny and silly and insightful and so, so unerringly smart. She’s one of my new favorite writers.

The Silkworm, Robert Galbraith – Was very eager to read this one after reading the first Cormoran Strike novel, The Cuckoo’s Calling. I wanted to listen to the audio, like I had for the first, but it was unavailable, so I had to be content with old-fashioned reading, which was nice in its way, of course. I just soaked up this second mystery and the dynamic between Cormoran and his assistant Robin Ellacott. Once more, I was a tiny bit disappointed with the quick and tidy wrap up at the end — both endings have felt a bit easy and unfinished. But the journey to get there was delightful.

Practical Magic, Alice Hoffman – Read the ReReading post here.

House Proud, Valorie Hart – I introduced Valorie, a friend of mine from tango, during her talk at the Louisiana Book Festival last year. As preparation for that, I pored over this beautiful design book featuring Louisiana homes, including Valorie’s own home with her late husband Alberto Paz.

November

Gates of Thread and Stone, Lori M. Lee – If I remember correctly, I learned about this one on Goodreads, in a discussion about The Queen of the Tearling and Kiss of Deception Once more, a fantasy Y/A novel, really engrossing and interesting, the first of a series (why do I keep doing this to myself? At least the sequel to this one comes out relatively soon – in March). It reminded me a bit of the books by the German author Kai Meyer, which is a really good thing.

Seven Daughters and Seven Sons, Barbara Cohen & Bahija Lovejoy – Read the ReReading post here.

Sammy Keyes and the Killer Cruise, Wendelin van Draanen – I love these books, love Sammy Keyes and her friends and their hijinks. She’s really grown up in the last several books, finally discovering the identity of her father and having an adventure with him during the titular cruise of this book. While grabbing the link above, I realized another book in the series is already out – and it’s the last one! I’m looking forward to reading it and a bit sad I won’t be reading any more new adventures, but I have a suspicion that she’ll be in a good place by the time we say goodbye.

Yes Please, Amy Poehler – I knew I was going to love this book just from the table of contents. “Say Whatever You Like,” “Do Whatever You Want” and “Be Whoever You Are” happen to make fantastic mantras. Anyway, this book was, of course, hilarious, but also very insightful and inspiring. After writing about the day she was born, Amy Poehler recommends everyone go ask their parents about the day they were born, which made me realize I don’t think I’ve ever heard the story of the day I was born. Just one of many brainstorms and moments of inspiration.

Dark Places, Gillian Flynn – Whew, boy, this book in INtense, just like Flynn’s other books. Unlikeable women who are utterly human (and sometimes monstrous in such human ways) are Flynn’s specialty. It’s a lot to ingest and I usually need a break between books, but I stand in awe of this women’s storytelling ability. I always feel a little creeped out looking at her author photo – she looks so sweet and normal, to write such breathtakingly dark and weighty books. Of all writers, she’s probably the one I’d both want to have coffee with *and* avoid in dark alleys. Just goes to show you can’t judge a book by its cover or an author by her photo. 🙂

Worn Stories, Emily Spivak – This was a pretty cool book. Dozens of essays about articles of clothing and what they represent to the writers/wearers of the clothing. With pictures! It was an accidental find and I was curious. I thought I’d flip through, read a handful and then move on, but I ended up reading every last word. Some were twee and light, but most were (surprisingly, to me) interesting and impactful. It started out as a blog, before it was a book, and the blog continues.

December

Prelude to Bruise, Saeed Jones – I used to be a poet, once upon a time. Sometimes, I still find myself moved by poetry more than almost anything else. These days, while I may read a handful of poems occasionally, I almost never finish an entire book of poetry. I forget, each time, how emotionally weighty poetry tends to be. So I look at a slim volume and I’m like, “Oh, I’ll zip right through this!” But I don’t. I linger and dwell, sometimes for years and never finish a book. So, this is probably the first book of poetry I’ve finished in a long time. I “zipped through,” even though I felt like his poems were eviscerating me with razor wire. But I couldn’t stop. True to form, I obsessed over the lines and words, sometimes getting hung up for a few days before going back and moving on. [You’ll note I tweeted about picking this book up at the end of October, but I didn’t finish it till December.] I had a deadline to finish – this book was requested by multiple people at the library – and I couldn’t bear to return the book without reading it all.

Rooms, Lauren Oliver – Another of my favorite writers, though she’s so fast that I can’t really keep up. This is an adult novel from her, a gothic family story that reminded me of both The Family Fang and Tom Stoppard’s play Arcadia, my favorite play. The way Arcadia uses various portions of the house and estate, as well as time, really echoed here, in Rooms.

The Art of Asking, Amanda Palmer – Oooh, this book was really important for me to read. I found myself sweating and trembling occasionally as I read it. Why is asking so freaking difficult? Why is owning your right to be and ask for what you want and need so hard? I am so very different from Amanda Palmer – in personality and demeanor and comfort zones, but I admire her so much and it turns out that she has been battling a fight that I’ve struggled with a long time. Need to re-read this every year, or maybe every six months.

Doing the Devil’s Work, Bill Loehfelm – Review forthcoming in 225 Magazine.

Fearless Fourteen, Janet Evanovich – Listened to the audio on my trip to Atlanta to visit my parents for Christmas. It was perfect company, made the trip go smoothly (it’s always rough counting on the radio between Mobile and Montgomery).

My Sunshine Away, MO Walsh – Review forthcoming in 225 Magazine.

So that wraps up 2014. I read some really awesome books in 2014 (A little over a hundred! Roughly, 22 nonfiction books and 74 fiction, plus some other stuff.) In this first month of 2015, I’ve already read a six-book series, a screenplay and two books of essays, all really good stuff, so stay tuned for 2015’s Q1 Reading Report in early April.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under books, Friends, literature, musing, New Orleans, poetry, Quarterly Reading Report, review, what I'm reading

The Re-Reading Project Guest Post: One Hundred Years of Solitude

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice. At the time, Macondo was a village of twenty adobe houses, built on the bank of a river of clear water that ran along a bed of polished stones, which were white and enormous, like prehistoric eggs. The world was so recent that many things lacked names, and in order to indicate them it was necessary to point.

1982. Dublin, Ireland. I was a young, naïve kid obsessed with books and movies and tennis, and my buddy, Joe—home from his tennis scholarship in the States—was all MC Hammer pants, the Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” Bolivian marching powder references, and going on and on and on about this book you’ve got to read! We’d shared a love for reading since meeting the year before at the tennis courts of a local club, and loved nothing better than to plow through some Kundera, or lengthy John Irving tome, and head to the city center to catch the latest French or German movie at the art-house cinemas.

Before he left to return to school in Kentucky, he passed over his tattered copy of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, telling me how it was going to change my life.  With Joe back in America, the end of the summer meant more of my dull retail job and the unraveling months of a failed relationship with a heart surgeon’s daughter. So, I picked up the book and read the first paragraph and was mystified by the language and the exoticness. I flung the book into the corner of my bedroom and forgot all about it until near Christmas, I told myself, “If Joe recommended it, then it has to be good.”

Second time around, I dug in the pile of dirty tennis clothes and towels in the corner of my bedroom and uncovered the musty copy of One Hundred Years of Solitude. I read the first paragraph, kept going, and read on into the night. The wind shook the leaves of the banana trees, the old suits of armor clanked in the darkness, and I read on. When Remedios the Beautiful ascended into heaven I knew something magical had happened. And on I read, until around four in the morning, I became Aureliano Buendia, his eyes mine, and the pages turned until the last fantastical sentence sent me into silence for a long time.

[S]he watched Remedios the Beauty waving goodbye in the midst of the flapping sheets that rose up with her, abandoning with her the environment of beetles and dahlias and passing through the air with her as four o’clock in the afternoon came to an end, and they were lost forever with her in the upper atmosphere where not even the highest-flying birds of memory could reach her.

Joe and I are still in touch, less so lately, but always connected by words, images, and music. Every few years I return to Solitude and take that journey once again to Macondo, to the language and the poetry of Marquez, to Melquíades and his gypsy troupe, and to the long, simmering days and nights of the familiar territory of Gabo’s imagination.

This past spring, I went back to Macondo, to the firing squad and the twenty adobe huts, to the humid, stinking jungle and the mysterious time of mass amnesia, and this time I noticed things were clearer, more defined, sharper than in previous readings. Before, the confusion of Buendias, their maddeningly similar names, the hodgepodge of relatives jostling to have their voices heard, all came across to me in a more understandable manner. Maybe it’s the fact that I’m an older, slower reader now, and the rush to turn the page I experienced as a boy no longer takes place, but I was more at home in the mysterious surroundings of Marquez’s world. And maybe it’s because Gabo, el maestro, has departed our world and returned, himself, to the universe he wrought so magnificently from his imagination. I like to think of him there, in the pages, an active participant in his own narrative, condemned, as is Aureliano Buendia, to live out his afterlife in the pages of his greatest book, “condemned to one hundred years of solitude,” and without “a second opportunity on earth.”James Claffey

***

James Claffey hails from County Westmeath, Ireland, and lives on an avocado ranch in Carpinteria, CA, with his family. He is the author of the collection, Blood a Cold Blue.

Leave a comment

Filed under literature, poetry, review, The Re-Reading Project

The Re-Reading Project: Sixth Grade Secrets

It all started with a hat.

Sixth Grade Secrets by Louis Sachar was published in 1987, when I was five years old, and I must’ve read it a dozen times by the time I was actually in sixth grade. I even read it out loud to my older cousin once, at a slumber party – yeah, I was that kind of kid. I remember buying my copy from the Scholastic book sales at school. Selecting books from the book sale catalogue was always the most exciting and agonizing experience, knowing the book sale was coming but that I had to limit my book purchases to whatever amount of money I was allowed to spend. I read Sachar’s Sideways Stories from Wayside School too, because we all passed it around at school and I later read Holes, but not until I was twenty-two.

I remember feeling awed and a little scared, as a kid, at the hijinks that sixth graders could get up to. Reading it now as an adult, it strikes me as both utterly ridiculous and completely realistic. That’s how we acted in middle school! Everything was dramatic and one small mistake snowballed into grudges that lasted forever. Or at least till the end of the year, which felt like forever at the time.

Laura, the main character, is so completely stubborn, but she’s also brave. Several times, she double downs when the stakes get high – continuing to sneak into school to write on the board even when it’s likely that she’ll get caught. She’s smart, mostly honest and believes in fairness. She’s complex because she’s both a good kid and a troublemaker.

There are some aspects of the story that are dated all these years later, mostly the technology related to making telephone calls and recording. Today’s kids would probably operate a grudge war very differently and schools have probably changed a lot since I was a kid. But, the emotions and psychology behind their behavior is still very, very true. So I’d say that the most dated thing about the books is the original cover:

6th Grade Secrets…which always makes me feel really nostalgic because Laura’s blue Hawaiian print sweater and pink corduroy pants are totally something we would’ve worn as middle school kids in the 80s and early 90s. And Gabriel’s blue shirt with the red block and white collar? I bet all the boys had one of those in their closet. Look at the newer version of the cover:

sixth-grade-secrets-louis-sachar-hardcover-cover-artIt just shows Laura and Gabriel and while their clothes are more modern, I’d say it’s a bit boring. The original cover shows an active moment from the story and I can imagine many kids picked up the book because they were thinking, “What is going on here?” Plus, on the new one Laura’s Pig City cap is allll wrong. Regardless, from the Amazon reviews, it looks like kids are still reading and enjoying Sixth Grade Secrets, which is really cool.

Re-reading this book in particular has made me glad I’m doing this project. This was one of my favorite books growing up and I can totally see why. Because Laura is a girl very much like the girl I was, but with some traits I wished I’d had more of when I was her age. If Laura was 11 in 1987, she’d be 38 now and well on her way to being the first female American president. Laura was worried some other woman might be the first one and I’d say it’s a little sad that that honor could still be hers. But what a president she’d be!

1 Comment

Filed under books, family, poetry, politics, The Re-Reading Project, what I'm reading

Who’s got the brag?

I think this may end up being my most massive brag ever.

As usual, Tad has done a fabulous job of keeping track of Peauxdunquian achievements in real time. For instance that Cassie Pruyn is second runner up in the Faulkner-Wisdom’s poetry category, that J.Ed Marston and Tad Bartlett are both finalists, that Maurice Ruffin’s upcoming reading October 3rd, plus much, much more. So I hope you have the Peauxdunque blog bookmarked.

Jeff Roedel was one of 30 writers asked to write a story responding to a photograph by William Greiner for the book Show & Tell.

The Spring 2013 issue of The Eudora Welty Review features Alison Graham-Bertolini’s “Searching for the Garnet Pin.”

The Devil In Her Way by Bill Loehfelm was a “best new local book” on the Best of New Orleans list, picked by Gambit readers.

Ava Leavell Haymon is now Louisiana’s Poet Laureate! Her official induction will be October 24th. Also, her new book of poetry Eldest Daughter was published recently. I attended two events this week where she read from the book, including at a Women’s Week event yesterday at the Baton Rouge Art Gallery, along with Jamey Hatley and several amazing women writers.

Dispensations by Randolph Thomas won the New Rivers Press MVP Prize and will be published soon!

Jenn Nunes has three short fiction pieces at Fiction Southeast.

Blood a Cold Blue by James Claffey is now available. The official launch is this Friday! I love this blog post from his wife Maureen Foley, about being a couple who both write and both of their books being published at the same time.

Che Yeun’s story “One in Ten Fish Are Afraid of Water” has been selected as the winner of Philadelphia Stories‘ Marguerite McGlinn National Prize for Fiction.

Jewel Bush has written several articles for The Uptown Messenger, including a recent one celebrating the 30th anniversary of Community Book Center.

The Booklover’s Guide to New Orleans by Susan Larson has been published!

Cam Terwilliger will be writing an ongoing “field notes” series about his year in Montreal on a Fulbright Scholarship.

L. Kasimu Harris was featured on WDSU‘s pregame show tonight and was photographed by Daymon Gardner for the December issue of Travel + Leisure, which will be available in Nov. Check out this picture that Giancarlo Dagostaro took of the session.

Kasimu

NOVAC’s Web Weekend has three more days to raise the last $200 of their $5,000 Kickstarter campaign goal. Go check out what they have planned for the Weekend, next month, and see the swag they’re offering their backers. Eritria Pitts of She is Alex will be part of the Web Weekend and you can check out her short “Blind Date” to whet your appetite.

Speaking of Kickstarter campaigns… I don’t technically know JJ Tiziou, but I kinda feel like I do since his project “Everyone Is Photogenic” is changing my life. Ever since I saw the video for the campaign, I can’t tell you how many many times I’ve heard someone I care about respond badly to a photograph of themselves. Whenever they do this lately, I bring up this project and we have a great conversation about confidence and photography and beauty.

The t.v. show I spent part of last year and the first half of this year working on has released an incredible trailer. I get chills every time I watch it. The show, True Detective. will air on HBO early next year. Makes me very proud to have been part of it.

Speaking of being proud of a project, 12 Years a Slave opens on the 18th and I’m eager to see it. Hearing the Oscar talk now reminds me of the conversations we had while working on it last year – we knew it was special and we knew it was important. It’s going to be incredibly emotional to watch and I’m so glad it got made.

Since I promised that I will self-brag when appropriate, here’s some news about me and my work. Since my last brag, my reviews of Bill Loehfelm’s The Devil in Her Way and Suzanne Johnson’s Elysian Fields were published in 225. Karin C. Davidson interviewed me for Hothouse Magazine. It was a great experience and I’m honored to be a part of this series, which includes great interviews with Brad Richard and Andrew Lam, among others.

Next month, on the 26th, I will read “Tango Face” at a special event at Cafe Istanbul. Orquesta Fleur will play live tango music, there will be dancing and readings about tango and its history. Should be very cool. At the Louisiana Book Festival (Nov 2nd), I will be conducting a live interview with Josh Hanagarne, author The World’s Strongest Librarian, and presenting a panel with fellow Peauxdunque members Tad Bartlett, Susan Kagan and Maurice Ruffin, which is pretty exciting. And shortly after that, “Tango Face” will be published in the Double Dealer, coinciding with this year’s Words and Music Festival (Dec 4-8). The last quarter of 2013 is looking to be very productive.

Speaking of quarters…I owe y’all my 3rd Quarter Review soon. I hope you enjoy all of this bragging for now – these people and these projects are amazing, so go spend some time with them.

4 Comments

Filed under art, Baton Rouge, books, bragging on, coolness, freelance work, Friends, movies, New Orleans, poetry, pop culture

All Things Brag

Forgive me, it has been two months since my last brag. More than two months. This post is long overdue. The good news when it takes me a while to post is that there’s more to talk about. But that’s also the challenge, too, keeping track of everything.

Shortly after my last bragging post, my interview with Ronlyn Domingue for 225 went live. Ronlyn and I talked for over an hour and pretty much every word out of her mouth was quotable. It was a great problem to have and a wonderful challenge to shape the interview.

Fellow tango dancer, also aerialist and circus performer, Elise Duran was featured in DIG, a Baton Rouge magazine. It’s a great piece and has phenomenal photos of Elise performing.

Brent Newsom has a poem up at PANK Magazine, “Smyrna.” He also tweets. Check him out.

Solimar Otero has a book out, Afro-Cuban Diasporas in the Atlantic World.

In the Mind of the Maker is a documentary by C.E. Richard, a fabulous filmmaker who I was lucky enough to study with at LSU. The film will debut internationally next year. Keep an eye on the website and check out the trailer.

Chicago tango dancer Katya Kulik has a short story called “Verify Your Humanity” on The Newer York’s Electric Encyclopedia of Experimental Fiction.

Karin C. Davidson’s two-part interview with Andrew Lam is up at Hothouse and it’s a must-read. Also, his Huffington Post essays.

One of my tango instructors, Ector Gutierrez appeared on Good Morning New Orleans with Katarina Boudreaux as his partner.

Joselyn Takacs is a finalist in Narrative Magazine’s Winter 2013 contest for her story “The New River.”

Lindsay Rae Spurlock has a new single on iTunes called “You, Baby.”

Missy Wilkinson received an award from the Council of Drug and Alcohol Abuse for a Gambit article she wrote on addiction as a brain disease. She also has an essay about being a in a cult over at xojane.com.

Mary McMyne has three poems over at Painted Bride Quarterly, two poems at Waccamaw, and one poem in The Way North, an anthology from Wayne State University.

Montana Miller has become an accomplished skydiver over the last few years and recently participated in some big-way formations, including the 125-way Perris Flower formation. In her message, she said, “On our second jump, though, when I had almost given up hope that we would ever manage to get everyone to perform their best at the same time, we actually did it! And not only that, we held it for SEVEN SECONDS, which is amazing.” Because of her consistent and stellar performance in formations like these, she was invited to participate in the Arizona Challenge, which I’m told is the most elite and selective skydiving event.

Maureen Foley’s book Women Float is available now.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Kelly Harris has this great “What Are You Reading” post on Bayou Magazine‘s blog. Ted O’Brien from Garden District Book Shop has a “What Are you Reading” the next month. I love this series.

Speaking of Bayou’s blog, they also have a great review of the Sunday Shorts series co-hosted by MelaNated Writers Collective and Peauxdunque Writers Alliance. Over at the Peauxdunque blog, Tad was, as he always is with Peauxdunque news, very good at covering this series, which matched a MelaNated writer with a Peauxdunque writer each week for a month.  I’ll include some of my pictures from the series here.

Now You See Me, a film that consumed a lot of my time in 2011 and 2012, is out in theaters now. I met so many awesome folks on that show and have lots of great memories. Among my takeaways: several decks of cards and the ability to do a one-handed cut, which the magic consultant, David Kwong, taught me. At a friend’s bridal shower, I won a joke deck of cards, so what did I do? I proceeded to teach everyone at the shower the one-handed cut (and they all learned more quickly than I did). The multiple trailers leading up to NYSM’s release drove me crazy till I could finally see it, with a co-worker from the movie, the bride from the aforementioned shower and her now-husband. We had a lot of fun watching it together. Check out one of the trailers:

My aunt, Ruth Staat, completed her first 5K run/walk (in 18 minutes)!

James Claffey‘s latest publications include: fled the tightening rope at the For Every Year Project, green their dead eyes at Blue Fifth Review.

Lee Ware has a story up at Connotation Press.

Quite a few folks graduated or started school recently, which is really exciting. At UNO’s awards banquet, both Che Yeun (Ernest and Shirley Svenson Fiction Award for her story “Yuna”) and Maurice Ruffin (Joanna Leake Prize for Fiction Thesis for his collection It’s Good to See You’re Awake) were honored. Che is also the Stanley Elkin Scholarship recipient for the 2013 Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Maurice also has an essay about New Orleans East
over at New Orleans & Me.

The UNO MFA students and WWOZ have teamed up for UNO Storyville, recordings of the students’ true-life experiences in New Orleans. They ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to fund the project, so check it out.

Speaking of successful Kickstarter campaigns, let me tell you about three more. Mark Landry, a cohort from the Cinema Club (waaay back in my LSU years) and friends launched a campaign to put out a graphic novel called Bloodthirsty: One Nation Under Water. This is a truly fascinating project and I love that Mark lays out how it came together on the Kickstarter campaign page.

Summer Literary Seminars, which brought me to St. Petersburg, Russia in 2007, launched a campaign to publish LitVak, a collection of writing and photography from SLS faculty and students. They made their goal, so look for the anthology.

And last, Helen Krieger’s Kickstarter campaign for the second season of Least Favorite Love Songs is wrapping up in 37 hours. They’ve already met their minimum goal and then some ($7,000+ at last check) and they’re aiming for $10,000 so they can pay their crew a nominal amount. They have major swag at low contributor levels, so it pays to back them. You can watch all of season one for free here.

Whew! That’ll teach me to wait so long between brags!

3 Comments

Filed under book news, bragging on, family, Friends, movies, music, New Orleans Film Industry, poetry, pop culture

Be the brag

This post is shamefully overdue. Not only is this merely my third post of 2012, I haven’t bragged on anybody (in any sort of official way) since December. My friends haven’t stopped being bragworthy, not in the least. If anything, they’ve made it impossible to keep up – which is my clumsy way of apologizing if I’ve left anything out between ‘Tis the Bragging Season and this, my latest brag post.

What reminded me of all the bragging that needed to be done was a delightful event on Thursday – the folks from The Oxford American were in town to commemorate their new issue, announce the Louisiana Music Issue and to celebrate L. Kasimu Harris and his fashion blog Parish Chic. In addition to being a friend to me, Kasimu is a phenomenal photographer and writer – and he happens to be pretty fashionable. An event like the Parish Chic party is like Christmas for a bragger like me because I got to see so many astoundingly talented people (old friends and new friends alike) coming together to brag on Kasimu. Plus, the Parish Chic cocktails were pretty tasty and it was nice to soak in all the style.

Maurice‘s streak of being bragged on in all of these posts continues – his story “Winter Lion” was named a Finalist in the Tennessee Williams Festival’s Fiction Contest, judged by Amy Hempel and since my last post, several of his stories have been selected for publication. Tad Bartlett, who has himself been accepted into UNO’s Master of Fine Arts program (whoo hooo!) has plagiarized my bragging-on concept by announcing the plethora of Peauxdunque achievements. But, I gotta hand it to him, he broke the news about Joselyn Takacs‘s story “Flares of Little Warning” being Narrative’s Story of the Week, so I guess I’ll let him get away with it.

Max Segal, who I met working on Now You See Me, has co-directed In the Shadow of the Mountain, a film about the mountain climbing mentality.

Charlotte Hamrick of NolaFemmes has a few poems at Metazen and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.

James Claffey has been giving Maurice a serious run for his money in the publication race the last few months. That gent publishes something just about every day. He has work at Thrice Fiction and an audio story at The Drum Literary Magazine. These are just two of many, many recent publications and you can keep up with him at The Wrong Corner of the Sky.  In addition to being prolific, he’s had some extremely brag-worthy personal news since my last brag post, which I won’t divulge here, but I will congratulate him on. 🙂 The LSU English News and Notes pages does a pretty good job of keeping track of James’ publications as well, not to mention lots of other talented people.

Coming full circle, while catching up with friends at Kasimu’s celebration Thursday,  DaVida Chanel told me that she is appearing in Dillard University Theater’s performance of “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf.” The last performance is tomorrow (almost today) at 3 p.m., so check it out.

I will do my best to be both more prolific in my posts and more diligent in my bragging, cause these folks are not slowing down any time soon. Thank goodness!

Leave a comment

Filed under bragging on, Friends, literature, movies, New Orleans, New Orleans Film Industry, poetry, pop culture

Yeah, You Write

WYLD FM aired an interview that Hal Clark conducted with Amanda Boyden and myself this past Sunday. So, even though I cringe at the sound of my own recorded voice, I’m including it here because this is going to be an amazing event on Thursday and I don’t want anyone to miss it!

Check it out:

1 Comment

Filed under books, bragging on, Friends, literature, music, New Orleans, poetry, pop culture

The Emily Curse

Earlier this month, Maurice sent me a link to a Radiolab story called “Finding Emilie”. It is a phenomenal story about an art student, her tragic accident and her boyfriend’s conviction that she could recover. It WILL make you cry, regardless of how stoic you think you are.

There’s a point partway through the story where Emilie’s mother talks about how, of all her children, Emilie always seemed to get the bad stuff and she asks, “Why? Everything bad seems to happen to Emilie.” My automatic, flip answer was…”Because of her name!”

Having been an Emilie my whole life (except for a period in my early teens when I tried to make everyone call me Rachel), I have long studied this phenomena. Yes, it is a phenomena and it is real. And here is my evidence.

All of the really famous Emilys are generally creative, often writers, are usually unlucky in love and/or depressed and die early:

Emily Bronte, author of Wuthering Heights, died at age 30 and never married.

-The poet Emily Dickinson lived till age 56, but never married and barely left her room in her later life. Her poetry dealt extensively with death and mortality.

Fictional Emilys seem to fare even worse than real-life creative Emilys (even Maurice admits he has an ill-fated fictional Emily in his work):

-Emily Grierson from A Rose for Emily, who kills a suitor and presumably sleeps beside his corpse in a wedding suite until her own death.

-Emily Webb from Our Town who dies giving birth.

-Emma/Emmeline in the song by Hot Chocolate, who wants to be a famous actress and kills herself because she can’t achieve her dream. (Minute 3:12 will give you chills, but you have to listen to the whole song to get there.) This song is probably based on lead singer Errol Brown’s mother, I’ve read.

More scientific Emilys seem to be longer living. Not quite as famous as the creative ones, they are just as successful. But that makes sense because one of the meanings of the name Emily is to strive or excel or rival. I’ve also heard that Emily means “industrious one.”

I don’t buy into the Emily Curse… but I’m getting a little ticked off by this perception around the name. Doomed, fragile Emilys vs. hard-working scientific Emilys? Why does everything happen to Emily?

And that’s what I like about the Emilie in the Radiolab story above. Though there’s tragedy in her story, I get the impression she is the most stubborn, persistent person. And that she will continue to triumph. I want more Emily/Emilies with her spirit and determination in fiction and in real life.

In that vein, there’s Emily the Strange, a goth teenager with attitude, who doesn’t entirely fit the mold. While she wears all black and never seems to smile, she’s strong and sarcastic. I hear Chloe Morentz may play her in the movie version. All I can think is that after her roles in Kick-Ass and Let Me In, she is NEVER going to smile in a role again.

But, check out a coincidence I stumbled upon while putting this post together:

Emily the Strange

Emilie the not-so-strange

4 Comments

Filed under Friends, funny, literature, musing, poetry, pop culture, random rant, weirdness

Saved by Mormons and bragging on Nick

I thought I had all time in the world, leaving work a little “early” so that I could swing by the house and spruce up for The Dirty Parts at Allways Lounge, which it seemed everybody and their mother was attending. It was a chance to catch up with a lot of folks all at once.

But when I got home, I couldn’t find a single safe and legal place to park. This is becoming more and more of an issue as they’ve extended the times people have to pay to park on Magazine, which means more people park on my street to avoid paying. A lot of people say, “You live right next to several popular bars – you had to know what you were getting into when you moved there.” But it’s not just the bar traffic during the night, it’s all the Ladies Who Lunch shopping at all the upscale boutiques during the day as well. Quite frustrating. So much so that I found myself trying to parallel park on an extremely narrow (yet still two-way) section of Camp Street. The curb had an extreme drop off, but I thought I could do it if I eased off the curb slowly. It would’ve worked if there hadn’t been a bricked-in flower box or something right there which I didn’t see. My back wheel got caught on it and I could neither drive back up the curb or reverse over the flower box. I was well and truly stuck. Meanwhile, there was extremely dangerous traffic trying to go around me in both directions with barely enough clearance for one car. No one stopped to help me, they just did their best to get around me. Ah, New Orleans. But that’s not the city I love. In my city, people generally see each other and do their very best to help each other. Not tonight.

I’ve said it several times. This is a hard city to live in, one of the hardest I’ve ever known or heard of. Luckily for me, just when you feel like the city has taken everything it possibly can and you have nothing left, something incredibly and entirely unique to New Orleans comes along and rescues you. You realize you can never live anywhere else.

This night, two young Mormon elders walked by and saw my distress. It could have been the beginning of a joke, it was so random and unlikely. And yes, funny, because they were dressed in suits and were the only ones who stopped to help me. But I was so touched that they knelt down in those suits, in the dark of narrow Camp Street and heaved me out of my jam. They were so respectful and so quietly competent. So, once I was saved, when one of them asked me if they could give me a card, I said heartily, “Yes, please!” It was the least I could do for all that they did, as I might’ve ordinarily hugged any other helper, but couldn’t, of course, hug them.

Saved by Mormons is a strange way to begin a night that ends up at a show called The Dirty Parts at the Allways Lounge. And that’s New Orleans, for you, that dichotomy. It was a reading by Tony O’Neill and included performances by Ratty Scurvics, Oops the Clown, Trixie Minx, Bella Blue and J. Lloyd Miller, as well. A few members of Peauxdunque were there, as well as my filmmaker friend Helen Krieger and Lee Ware dressed as a cigarette girl and hawking Tony’s books. And guess who was the Master of all these Ceremonies? Our own Nick Fox.

In his newest newsletter, I’d read:

…I decided that if I’m going to be an emcee, I need to look the part. So I went to Soul Train Fashions up on Chef Mentaur Highway and bought three pinstripe suits (one brown, one blue, one burgundy), two pairs of two-tone shoes, three shirts, three ties, and a pair of suspenders. I even went to Meyer the Hatter and got me a brand new hat. I’ve never spent that much on clothing in my life. But it felt good. It’s an investment in something I want to do.

He was wearing the burgundy suit and definitely looked the part. I was sitting next to Tony O’Neill while he was signing one of his books for me when Nick got up and performed a particularly profound and pleasing bit of poetry. Tony said to me, “He’s a genius.” Ain’t that something? 🙂

It’s good to see your friends shine.

1 Comment

Filed under art, books, bragging on, Friends, funny, literature, New Orleans, poetry, pop culture

NaNoWriMo Day 14 (+ brag)

I’ll update later. But for now, allow me to brag.

My brother is a radio personality–Hard Luck Norm–on the Portland hard rock station KUFO this morning!! Mamma Mia! woke me up and it took me a few minutes to swim out of subconsciousness to understand her. But, I’m listening to him live online and it’s the coolest thing ever. My uber-Catholic Papa Bear stayed home from church to listen with Mamma Mia! and I’m listening here, and we’re all texting Norm about how proud we are of him. It’s really cool. I think he was pretty much made for this.

Later today, I’m going to see Jamey read along with Jewel Bush, Kelly Harris and Kysha Brown Robinson at Young, Gifted and Black: Emerging Women Writers in New Orleans.

Lots to brag on here. It’s a brag-packed day.

1 Comment

Filed under bragging on, family, Friends, NaNoWriMo, New Orleans, poetry, pop culture, writing updates