Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Proust Questionnaire – Answers by Sarah Line Letellier

My friend Sarah Line Letellier lives in New Zealand and has just finished her novel Nights in Paris. The novel is a “fictional exploration of the lives” of writers AnaïsNin and Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette. Her writing has won numerous prizes. I can't wait to read the novel, for writers' lives makes great fiction. Let's face it, Rimbaud wrote great poetry, but the poetry that he made out of his life is what attracts readers to him. Sarah was kind enough to take some time off her writing schedule to fill out the Proust Questionnaire. Please check out her excellent answers below. Also check this blog and her own website for updates regarding her upcoming writing projects.

1. What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Warm bed. Thermos of tea. Biscuits. Purring cat. Great book to read.

2. What is your greatest fear?

That I’ll die before my novel is published.

3. What is the trait you most deplore in yourself?


4. What is the trait you most deplore in others?


5. Which living person do you most admire?

Hilary Mantel: sheer genius. (Why is it not uncommon for a male writer to be referred to as a genius, but so rare for a woman writer?)

6. What is your greatest extravagance?

If I could afford it, I’d dress in clothes from the 1890s, 1900s and 1910s.

7. What is your current state of mind?

Slightly anxious, which is my usual state of mind.

8. What do you consider the most overrated virtue?

Chastity. I just don’t see the point.

9. On what occasion do you lie?

Only when I have to.

10. What do you most dislike about your appearance?

The shadows under my eyes. They’re genetic; I think I was born with them.

11. Which living person do you most despise?

I’ll tell you later.
12. What is the quality you most like in a man?

Femininity (and gentle hands).

13. What is the quality you most like in a woman?

Masculinity (and strong hands).

14. Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Yes; okay; all right.” I’m far too amenable.

15. What or who is the greatest love of your life?

My favourite books are my life-long friends. I re-read them in difficult times: they keep me sane.

16. When and where were you happiest?

I’m hoping that day is yet to come!

17. Which talent would you most like to have?

The ability to time travel at will would be fascinating.

18. If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

To be less agreeable.

19. What do you consider your greatest achievement?

The novel I’ve nearly finished writing.

20. If you were to die and come back as a person or a thing, what would it be?

An indulged, pampered cat.

21. Where would you most like to live?

Where I can see the sea, and hear seagulls and blackbirds.

22. What is your most treasured possession?

A beautiful photograph of my grandparents in the 1940s.

23. What do you regard as the lowest depth of misery?

A combination of shame, guilt and loneliness.

24. What is your favorite occupation?

Writing my novel, when it’s going so well it’s almost effortless.

25. What is your most marked characteristic?

My addiction to tea – also my resulting frequent trips to the loo.

26. What do you most value in your friends?

27. Who are your favorite writers?

Colette, Anaïs Nin, Guy de Maupassant, Hilary Mantel, Alison Bechdel, Sarah Waters and a dozen others.

28. Who is your hero of fiction?

Claudine, from the Claudine novels by Colette.
29. Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I often identify with the person I’m researching or writing about: at the moment, Colette.
30. Who are your heroes in real life?

My favourite writers.

31. What are your favorite names?

I love Arthurian and Welsh names: Galahad, Guinevere, Lancelot, Gawain, Gwyneth, Gwydion, Gwendoline – all those lovely ‘w’s and ‘y’s.

32. What is it that you most dislike?

Stupidity and prejudice. Oh wait: they’re the same thing.
33. What is your greatest regret?

That I have so many regrets.

34. How would you like to die?

When I’ve decided I’m ready.

35. What is your motto?

I’ll do it later.

Monday, January 21, 2013

No War With Syria/ Formerly Obama Inaugural Poem

Obama I have given you all and now I'm nothing.

Obama eighty two dollars and twenty two cents January 21, 2013.

I can't lift my own heavy heart.

Obama why did you continue the human war?

Obama when will you stop the drones?

Obama are the drones coming for me?

Obama please hide the drones from my nephews Alex and Christopher.

Obama go fuck yourself with your drones?

Obama when will you be worthy of your million Reverend Wrights?

Obama are you more black? Or more white? Or more Dominican?

Obama what's with the funny name?

Obama is your middle name really Hussein?

Obama was George W. Bush really that bad a president?

Obama are you Bush 3.0?

Obama scratch my back.

Obama are you aware of how many doors were slammed in my face in Little Havana when me and Howie volunteered for you?

Obama has it been four years already?

Obama did America ever fuck it self with its Atom Bomb?

Obama please don't take away my Bushmaster .223 semi automatic rifle.

Obama does it really take the massacre of white babies to move the heart of America?

Obama Chicago is a river of african american blood. Does it matter to anyone?

Obama I am scared.

Obama I arrived here in 1986 with my mother and older brother. Obama we watched Rocky 4 on the plane.

Obama communism scared me cause they were gonna take away my toys.

Obama I am madly in love with Dostoyevsky.

Obama did you ever have anal sex with another man in college?

Obama will you let me marry my dog?

Obama do you believe in God?

Obama are you the anti-Christ?

Obama do you love the Koran?

Obama how many visions of Mohammed did you have on the morning before the killing of Bin Laden?

Obama why did you save the American auto industry?

Obama why are you so damn good looking?

Obama will you give me some of that swagger?

Obama are you and speaker John Boehner having a secret love affair?

Obama why do you hate white people?

Obama what kind of new American are you?

Obama did you pay Donald Trump money to help you get reelected?

I don't know who I am anymore.

Am I Arab? Am I an immigrant? Am I Salvadorian? Am I a Catholic?

Obama take me swimming to Hawaii.

Obama I love black women too let's have a beer.

Obama you won the lottery when you met Michelle.

Obama I want to be loved too.

Obama when will I meet my Michelle Obama?

Are you holding her hostage? Are you water boarding her?

Is she a Jew?

Obama why do you hate Israel?

Obama how about moving the Palestinians to Alabama?

Obama I never knew my father either and he might be a communist.

Obama will you save us from ourselves?

Will you let your cape hang freely and fly into our ghettos?

Will you call us honky and run away?

Will WWIII start on your watch?

Will you smoke crack in the white house?

Will you hang a whip next to Lincoln's portrait?

Will you hang a rifle next to Kennedy's portrait?

Obama will you let the earth kill humanity?

Obama will your hair be completely white like Mandela's at the end of your term?

Obama is Bin Laden's body under the sea?

Is he really dead?

Will you save us from his ghost?

Will you save us from the ghost of our absentee fathers?

Will you save us from the self hatred?

Obama will you push America to finally look in the mirror?

I am drunk with capitalism and high on consumerism!

Barack Hussein Obama will you save us from ourselves?

JM Hazan & Allen Ginsberg

Saturday, January 19, 2013

My attempt at a Harry Knowles Review * of The Other Normals by Ned Vizzini

In high-school, in my sophomore year, due to some weird mistake I was placed in yearbook class. I was going to transfer but there was a girl that I had a crush on. She was an all-American blond cheerleader. I was a somewhat newly arrived, green behind the ears immigrant with a funny name from a tiny country in Central America. The odds were against me but I didn't know it because I was from somewhere else and I believed the world was mine thanks to the American dream combined with my huge, aimless ambition at 15. I was shy but bold, so instead of trying to become friends with this girl, I would just stare at her the whole class like if she was a unicorn. The bold part wast that I sent her flowers once but never talked to her. She was aware of this and to this day I think she found it mildly cute (but not really). Looking back now, I guess I was kind of a stalker. Oh well! C'est la Vie!
So as I sat in that class room on the row to her right, three seats behind her my imagination would take flight. It would take the form of a ninja/terrorist attack at the school by a Cobra-like (G.I. Joe reference) terror organization. And of course, yours truly would come to her rescue. But the basic theme of this fantasy was that the geeky immigrant kid from a tiny country was really an undercover CIA agent who kicked butt and was a cool ass MOFO under pressure. So I'd kill all the terrorists with my Karate skills, save the cheer leader, and she'd fall in love with me. This other action packed world lived in my head for a while before I fell in love with books.
Reading Ned Vizzini's The Other Normals brought me back to my own youth in Junior High and High School. The anxiety of life at that age is traumatizing. It reminded me of the dreams and stories I created in my mind - non which I'd write down. So yes, you don't have to necessarily put pen to paper to be a writer. The most important thing is to let your creative mind fly.
The narrator of the Other Normals, Peregrine “Perry” Eckert, is a 15-year-old kid who has no friends and he's obsessed with a role playing board game called Creatures & Caverns. He spends most of his time in his room alone playing C&C and he loves it. His divorced parents are worried about him but Perry is a writer too for he creates characters and thinks of adventures. Perry might think he's content but not really. He doesn't really know how unhappy he is probably from the divorce. His older brother drinks too much and he's hardly the guiding force he should be.
Eventually Perry gets told he will be shipped to a summer camp because all he does is play C&C. He hates the idea. Fortunately, he makes a friend before being shipped off. A kid named Sam that is also into C&C. They play C&C after school and become buddies. Then when Perry arrives at camp Washiska Lake (where he's the only white kid) he runs into Sam (he had no idea he would be there) who ignores him and due to an incident with a bully named Ryu, Perry ends up at the nurse's office. After escaping from the nurse in order to find his confiscated C&C rule book he runs into a creature named Mortin and he's straight out of C&C – a ferrule - which Perry ultimately follows into the world of THE OTHER NORMALS.
The world of the Other Normals corresponds to the normal world with every person having a “correspondent”. Anything you do in the Other Normals will have effects in the real world. With that in mind, our hero befriends Mortin Enaw, the pebble smoking “ferrule” and his beautiful blue haired intern Ada Ember. He also makes enemies, with various types of creatures with fish or frog heads and normal bodies.
In the world of the Other Normals Perry feels alive from the rush of adrenaline and newly discovered purpose of trying to rescue a princess that's been kidnapped by the monster Ophisa. Back at summer camp, nobody really wants to talk to him, not even his now “secret” buddy Sam. And not just that, but the fate of the princess might hang in the balance if Perry cannot foster a romantic moment with a fellow camp goer who may or may not be the correspondent of the damsel in distress.
Perry's bouncing from summer camp to the Other Normals leads to hilarious and embarrassing situations. Ned Vizzini could have gone a number of directions with this story but he makes all the right turns to keep you interested in both worlds that Perry inhabits. The book is a fun read. The juxtaposition of Perry at summer camp versus him in The Other Normals world reminded me of that 80s movie The Last Star Fighter about an arcade playing kid who lives in a trailer park that gets called up by aliens to save the galaxy. The book gives off the same type of wonder as that film - the normal kid that's on the verge of entering a whole new world.
The other theme of this novel which I found interesting being that life threatening situations and/or facing one's own mortality gives one perspective about the things that we should really worry about. This was a subject which was touched on as well in What is the What by Dave Eggers in which Valentino Achak Deng goes back and forth between the ridiculousness of America (waiting many hours to be admitted in an emergency room) and the near death experiences he faced on his trek in Sudan. What both novels remind me of, despite being from two totally different genres, is how the American pipe dream is a new level of mental anguish. We're not fighting lions and trolls everyday but isn't the rat race a kind of indescribable monster like Ophisia? But I will not go off on a tangent.
The Other Normals is a well written novel that I wish someone had given me when I was entering adolescence for it could have opened my eyes to the wonderful thought that I wasn't alone in my action/adventure fantasies. Also, if you've never read a fantasy novel, I highly recommend this as an introduction. But I will be passing The Other Normals to my 12 year old nephew Alex. This will undoubtedly be his first step in the long trail that will lead him to Tolkien and other great fantasy literature.

You can buy the novel HERE

Ned Vizzini's website is HERE

The two reviews that inspired my review were:
*Harry Knowle's Review of Django Unchained
And the late Christopher Hitchens' review of Bouvard and Pecuchet by Gustave Flaubert 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Tao Lin Interview at Vice

You can read it here

Tao's new Novel Taipei coming soon.