Friday, December 30, 2011

On Denis Johnson's Seek

"No one, I think, captures better certain kinds of ecstasy, a spastic transcendence, better than Johnson, and no one better describes the worlds we'd rather not be living in."

Matthew Specktor writing on Denis Johnson, who continues to be one of my favorite writers. It's an insightful essay on a pretty strange book, which is essentially a collection of travel articles. Except that the subjects of his stories are places like war-torn Liberia and rural Idaho -- "worlds we'd rather not be living in" -- rather than commercial paradises.

I agree with Specktor, by the way, that
Angels is Johnson's best book, with Jesus' Son coming in close behind. Resuscitation for a Hanged Man, Nobody Move, and the more recent Train Dreams are all worth your time, as well.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Magazine

by Alex Gallo-Brown

Trains have always soothed me.
Or movement has.
I think of the car rides
my father used to take me on
when I was young and fussy,
driving towards nothing,
no destination but my better mood.
So it is with fathers, or good ones.
I was lucky.
He took me on real trips, too,
to Vancouver, Montana, and Mexico.
“La cuenta, por favor,” I learned to say early,
feeling the pride flush his fatherly face.
He looked full of flavor and love
and probably astonishment too
that the movement of a pen
could bring us here,
to this beachy, sun-washed place,
where his son could order, in another language,
a bill that he would never have to pay.

The magazine I understood, even then,
to be a figure of caprice.
It meant trips to San Francisco
to fire miniature powdery grenades at the ground
and seclude slender plastic ninja
swords from their sheathes.
It meant fortune cookies and fancy meals
and afternoon walks on the beach.
But it also meant mornings soaked in stress,
breakfasts with women whose smiles
made you feel grubby and unwanted.
It meant arguments with himself out loud,
stopping the soliloquy only to instruct me
next time to eat my bacon with a knife and fork.
It meant egotist editors chopping his best lines,
puffy promo pieces he preferred
eschew his name.

But mostly the magazine meant movement,
release from the dogged domesticity of home
into a bright and bursting unknown.
It was his car ride to nowhere but
a place you don’t yet know,
somewhere new and weightless
and entirely without fear.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

A Labor Movement

A great piece in n + 1 about the heretofore awkward relationship between Big Labor and Occupy Wall Street. Occupy has been thus far loathe to associate itself with labor unions, for some of the traditional reasons that people on the Left often find themselves skeptical of unions: because they're corrupt, or bureaucratic, or socially conservative, or simply too big. But labor is universal, writes Saval, binding us together; it's the stuff solidarity, that heady concept, is made of. "Labor is the thing one does to sustain life, and the thing one hates for that very reason; it creates wealth, and takes wealth away from the wealthiest. Everything we make for our wants and want to make is labor." 

"The 'Occupy Movement, which, when it lets its guard down, admits that it wants equality, might do worse than submitting to a name that represents the struggle for it in the past, and call itself 'a labor movement.'"

Monday, December 5, 2011

On the Success of Occupy

"The most important facts about our society, widely known but seldom mentioned, are now the first order of conversation. Dylan Byers, of Politico, recently reported that the use of the phrase 'income inequality' in the media has more than quintupled since the beginning of the occupation. In this sense, Occupy Wall Street has already done its work."

George Packer writing on Occupy Wall Street. The piece features several profiles of people who were drawn to Occupy Wall Street from out of town, including one Seattle man who took a Greyhound across the country, only to find himself homeless on the streets of New York after the park was cleared out by police. It's well worth a read.