Vendredi noir

2 12 2008

On vient sur ces côtes de passer Thanksgiving, fête politiquement problématique dû à ses origines coloniales, donc devenue prétexte anodin pour se réunir en famille. Rien de plus simple pour une fête ; on ne doit pas l’examiner de près, et l’on peut facilement imaginer de pire. À en juger par mes amis, les américains ne prennent plus au sérieux les fêtes, peu nombreuses, qui leur restent. Ou bien se peut-il que je ne sache plus m’enthousiasmer pour ces repères qui m’importent de moins en moins avec le temps. Il y a dix ans déjà David Mamet disait que les vraies fêtes américaines n’était que deux: le Superbowl et le jour du scrutin. Soit, cette année ce dernier nous avait donner de quoi nous réjouir, mais le rituel du football américain m’a exclu depuis enfance. La jeune nation est dynamique, se dit-on ; à force de s’inventer à plusieurs reprises, on court toujours après de nouveaux rituels, en quête de quelque chose de durable et de nourrissante, qui s’évide moins vite de son stock de sentiment (“We in America need ceremonies, is I suppose, sailor, the point of what I have written.”). On a l’impression, je ne sais comment, d’avoir épuisé les nôtres ; vu sous cet angle pessimiste le Thanksgiving n’est que la voie ouverte au délire de dépenses qu’entraine Noël commercial. Les magasins nous guettent, prêts à nous gober (pauvre con d’interimaire piétiné à Walmart!); dans leurs interminables galeries ornées de ceci et de cela on s’efforce de s’afficher un peu de gaieté, tout en se doutant de l’inanité du seul impératif qui semble nous rester, la consommation. Mais trève de marxisme simplet.

Me Reading, Sunday Salon, Stain Bar, 11/16

14 11 2008

UPDATED 11/30: video footage, thanks to Sunday Salon co-hostess Nita Noveno, of me reading part of G.O.-C.’s short story “The Pavilion and the Linden” (Le kiosque et le tilleul), an earlier version of which is available online at The Cafe Irreal.

A quick and all-too-close-to-the-date note to say I’ll be giving a reading of translations and my own writing at the Sunday Salon in Williamsburg this weekend, with three other writers: short-storyist Leni Zumas, psychologist-memoirist Daniel Tomasulo, and African-American novelist Kim Coleman Foote. It starts at 7pm, at the Stain Bar. (L to Grand, then 1 block west. Stain Bar is located at 766 Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY 11211. Bar opens at 5 p.m. 718.387.7840.)

To share some good news: the French fabulist whose work I’ll be reading, Georges-Olivier Châteaureynaud, just won the Grand Prix de l’Imaginaire for his latest novel, L’Autre rive, at the Utopiales festival in Nantes (kind of to Euro sci-fi what Angouleme is to comics. Kelly Link just won the same prize in the Best Foreign Story Collection category for an edition of stories selected from her two American collections—Yay!)

And two new publications: Châteaureynaud’s story “The Only Mortal” will appear in Dec.-Jan. issue of The Brooklyn Rail, and his story “The Denham Inheritance” has been accepted for publication in a forthcoming volume of British quarterly Postscripts. Thank you, editors!

In a recent letter, the author offered his congratulations on our recent election.

A future post on the novel itself is pending.

Hope you can make it!

A more formal version française after the jump: Read the rest of this entry »

The Mathematics of Greatness: A Numbers Game; or, Feeling the Pinch of Age, Are We?

17 10 2008

Great anticipator that I am, I was readying this quip shortly before my 30th birthday: 33 is important to Christians, of course, as a time of stock-taking and reckoning, but as an Asian, I’ll soon only have 2 years left to kick ass, take names, and leave my mark on the world, since Bruce Lee died at 32. Of course, given the pace of preceding life, I didn’t really think I’d get anything fantastic done by then, short of winning money in a lottery whose tickets I never believed in enough to buy. I have since delivered variations on the theme thereof, at variously inopportune occasions, to variously unenthusiastic receptions. It’s reminiscent of the paragraph in Snow Crash when the narrator reflects, as Hiro Protagonist speeds northward on a motorcycle, that up until the age of 25 we can all still hold onto the illusion that, given the necessary bleak conditions, like the sudden murder of our entire family, we can still plunge ourselves into ninja training and emerge the baddest badass in the known universe (Neal Stephenson, forgive the paraphrase).

I did my dutiful research for turning thirty. I delved into novels, naturally. Turning thirty, wouldn’t you know, is a pastime in American literature. Read the rest of this entry »


22 05 2008

S.B. & I popped by Film Forum last week, thinking to catch 2 ou 3 choses que je sais d’elle during the monthlong Godardfest, but I’d misread the dates, so we wound up dunked in the Mao of La Chinoise. Far be it from me to complain. I loves me my Godard. His ludic, manic invention begs us to read his films against their apparent didactic frontload… a sort of “unreliable didactation,” (do you take didactation?) if you will. The effortlessness of his filmmaking seems to supply, on the fly, all the traditional cinematic exaltations even as his characters espouse away. To our surprise, Richard Brody, a New Yorker film editor and Godard nerd, was introducing the movie. Is there no end to art house hijinks (preserved posters on the walls in foreign tongues, the carefully curated review clippings yellowing under glass)? The bushy-bearded eminence, Shavian in his glee, wrapped up his remarks with “His sense of cinema was… innate. The man… couldn’t make a bad film if he tried–though after this one, he started trying a lot harder.” Elephantine red columns flank the cramped rows of the Film Forum’s screening rooms, every seat of which honors a sponsor with a small plate on its back.  Rather fittingly, the podium remained at the head of the room, a hard shape in the dark—too short, thankfully, to be silhouetted against the silver screen, though sometimes the small brass lampshade caught the light that fell from the luminous faces of the stars.

I’m Back!

22 04 2008

And just in time to stop the true love I foolishly betrayed with her best friend (unbeknownst to me, for she was in disguise that tragic night) from marrying the evil second cousin removed I never knew I had–who happens to look just like me (or was it the surgery after the submarine accident?), and be my sister’s secret lover! Stay tuned as the backstory behind my two-month disappearance is doled out in suspenseful glimpses over the next few dramatic blogisodes!

(You may, of course, also have heard about the blogger’s guild strike that kept me away from my keypad. Workers of the world etc.)

Three Shadows Update

14 02 2008

Dude, I’m in New York Magazine. Color me astonished. Between Lou Reed and Nicole Kidman. Check it.

Kudos and thanks to Mr. Pedrosa and the team at First Second.

Invisible Cities

10 01 2008

“Isn’t it this building over here?” GB caught my sleeve as I headed for the awning that said National Arts Club. He pointed to the building two doors down, on the corner.

“No, that says SVA. And it’s number 17.”

I turned back for the brownstone with the awning as GB checked the post-it note in his hand. A boy in a white watched us from behind the many tiny panes of a mahogany door, a double row of buttons on his jacket gleaming gold.

“But this building doesn’t look like it has eight floors.” Read the rest of this entry »

Thanksgiving Redux

26 11 2007

For the second year–but not in a row–my brother joined me in New York for the turkey days. At Harry’s Steak they stuck us in a back room like a vault made of wood, away from all the round, convivial tables with their centerpieces. The cherry finish framed frescoes of peasant revels: monks and villagers in wine cellars of massive barrels. As we sat down, half a family of Latinos—a father, two children, and his mother—was just getting up to leave. The old lady was being slow—inching along the bench to where she might heave herself up—and her grown son curt. He gave the jacket he was holding out to her a limp shake: bored matador and tired cow.

Beyond them, further steps descended to an alcove whose exposed brick had been painted white and shelved with magnums and bottles. There were candles lit on all the tables. No one came to sit there all evening. We were later attended by a rotating staff, none of whom were Latinos.

In the corner of our room was an attractive couple; much to my brother’s envy, the man, who spent the night expostulating to his date, ended slumped across the banquette, jacket open as if in illustration of the digestive ease afforded by his posture, but the blonde remained upright, chin in her hands, tasseled earrings swinging just below her clipped hair. I make his laissez aller sound a gross lapse of decorum, but in fact the hush and tastefulness of the surroundings—the panels of menu slate behind them awaiting the day’s chalked prices—lent everyone class: the little girls all decked with frills and teenage sons in college sweatshirts, the calculated outfits of girlfriends brought home for the holidays, Asian or Indian every one, who passed through, the Emperor’s or Maharajah’s children in parade review, on their way back from the unlimited dessert bar to still further rooms, pumpkin mousses dainty on saucers. Read the rest of this entry »

The Efficacy of Threats and Pecuniary Competition

25 10 2007

This man

Courtesy of Jamie Tanner’s flickr

told me to update my blog more regularly. Or he will do this:

Courtesy of Jamie Tanner’s flickr

So, today, some thoughts on eating at parties, and looking good afterwards:

Lest I give the impression that I appreciate party guests only in proportion to how much food they dispose of, let me tell you about this paranoid reality I survived when I first started trying to lose weight. As at many middle-class American gatherings, talk at the parties I attended often revolved neurotically around diet and suitably cosmetic emaciation. Young wives paraded their newly trim husbands, boyfriends displayed on an arm their slim dates, such words as “yoga”, “pilates”, “South Beach”, and “Atkins” fell like so much chattered confetti on the luscious dip of pure sour cream while hands darted for the brownie squares. I felt the presence of a feral undercurrent around the snacks buffet. Read the rest of this entry »

Sardine Emergency

10 10 2007

I’m not sure how I feel about this. I hope that doesn’t make me sound a grouch. It’s a mean cutlass, though. And it’s proof positive Sardine is being read, to say the least.

I’d wrapped the next Sardine, on which Guibert flies solo (no Sfar), a few weeks ago. Always a pleasure to see what puns can be smuggled across the language border. Got called in today for an emergency on-site translation of a last-second substitute story. This is about as exciting as the profession gets, folksfrantic editors and a sense of mission! Felt grateful I wasn’t halfway around the worldjust in Jersey. On the way into Manhattan, the train stalled twenty minutes for a drawbridge. This was a first. All around me, people shuffled papers, shifted briefcases, sighed, texted, left messages, ruffled their hair so they’d arrive, I suppose, looking frustrated in explanation for their lateness. Across the aisle, a girl bet her grandfather that the Amtrak stopped beside us would get to go first.

“See, I told you,” she said when it pulled away. I shared a smile with the old man.

Money makes the world go round. Read the rest of this entry »