This just in a man has begun writing a poem
in a small room in Brooklyn. His curtains
are apparently blowing in the breeze. We go now
to our man Harry on the scene, what’s
the story down there Harry? “Well Chuck
he has begun the second stanza and seems
to be doing fine, he’s using a blue pen, most
poets these days use blue or black ink so blue
is a fine choice. His curtains are indeed blowing
in a breeze of some kind and what’s more his radiator
is ‘whistling’ somewhat. No metaphors have been written yet,
but I’m sure he’s rummaging around down there
in the tin cans of his soul and will turn up something
for us soon. Hang on—just breaking news here Chuck,
there are ‘birds singing’ outside his window, and a car
with a bad muffler has just gone by. Yes … definitely
a confirmation on the singing birds.” Excuse me Harry
but the poem seems to be taking on a very auditory quality
at this point wouldn’t you say? “Yes Chuck, you’re right,
but after years of experience I would hesitate to predict
exactly where this poem is going to go. Why I remember
being on the scene with Frost in ‘47, and with Stevens in ‘53,
and if there’s one thing about poems these days it’s that
hang on, something’s happening here, he’s just compared the curtains
to his mother, and he’s described the radiator as ‘Roaring deep
with the red walrus of History.’ Now that’s a key line,
especially appearing here, somewhat late in the poem,
when all of the similes are about to go home. In fact he seems
a bit knocked out with the effort of writing that line,
and who wouldn’t be? Looks like … yes, he’s put down his pen
and has gone to brush his teeth. Back to you Chuck.” Well
thanks Harry. Wow, the life of the artist. That’s it for now,
but we’ll keep you informed of more details as they arise.
“Man Writes Poem” by Jay Leeming, from Dynamite on a China Plate. © The Backwaters Press. Buy the book!
[Memo to didactic self: Great to discover a poem that could be used in a writing class and also in a media studies class.]
Made in 1973, it is easily among the best films produced in post-Independence India. So much pain, so much waiting, each exchange rendered with enormous delicacy, as if one more harsh word or gesture would make everything absolutely unbearable.
When I posted the above note on this blog about Garam Hawa (1973), I got several messages asking me whether I knew where one might get a copy of the film. I don’t know. But today I chanced upon the qawwali from that film. What joy!
One evening last fall I joined a small crowd in a dusty room off busy Qasr-Al-Nil street in Cairo, facing a banner that read, “Welcome to the Cultural Salon of Dr. Alaa Al Aswany.” Many of those seated around me seemed to be simple celebrity spotters, there to see in the flesh the biggest-selling novelist in Arabic, Al Aswany, who is also an increasingly bold critic of President Hosni Mubarak’s regime, which in Egypt has held power uninterruptedly for 27 years. The rest appeared to be aspiring writers or students eager for literary and political instruction. Austerely furnished with a single fluorescent light, half-broken chairs and a solitary table scarred with overlapping teacup rings, the room defused all expectations of literary glamour. Nevertheless, it offered a frisson of political danger. When the salon was held the previous year, Egyptian intelligence agents so intimidated the owner of the cafe where the meeting was taking place that he screamed at Al Aswany and his audience to go away. He later apologized, explaining that he had done it for the sake of the government spies who were watching him.
begins Pankaj Mishra’s report in the New York Times Sunday Magazine
Like Kumar Barve in the radio segment linked above, talking about the first film, I’m very glad to see the name Kumar in a movie marquee. Also, in the same segment, Linta Varghese deals with the historical issue. And, in an email message, the ever-sophisticated Heesok Chang lays down the line thusly:
What I would say here is that the actor who played Kumar was so much better than Harold that I felt — as an East Asian — sort of short-changed.
Having said that, I enjoyed this film very much. And yes, I liked that Asians were protagonists in the film, and that they played against filmic/cultural stereotype (the burden of the film, I suppose, so mission accomplished).
Might I add that it’s possible to view this film as an Asian without identifying with either of the characters? It’s bleak to think that the future lies in representation. I identified most of all with Neal Patrick Harris, because that was a character bursting his rep with a memorable joie de vivre, and not answering to any racial decorum. An Asian lapsed Doogie Howser, MD: that’s what I’m talking about.
This is music for a (stirring) non-denominational funeral, or, 10 (not unconventional) songs to play at a service where you don’t know who’s coming:
1) The Garden, Van Morrison.
2) The Vigil (the sea), Jane Siberry.
3) Are We the Waiting, Green Day.
4) The Face of Love, Jewel.
5) Hoppipolla, Sigur Ros.
6) A Case of You, Joni Mitchell.
7) For a Dancer, Jackson Browne.
8) Friend of the Devil, the Grateful Dead.
9) Dimming of the Day, Richard and Linda Thompson.
10) If It Be Your Will, Leonard Cohen.
11) My Father’s House, Bruce Springsteen.
12) With or Without You, U2.
says, Pico Iyer
When Mohsin was here at Vassar the other day, he was telling my students that what his novel meant–what could be concluded as happening in its final pages, for instance–would very much depend on what the reader brought to the scene. Your assumptions, your biases, your suspicions shaped the meaning of whatever was on the page.
And now comes this story whose telling also depends on the interactive reader. One of its characters says “But there are always at least two ways to tell a story.” Well, on reading “The (Former) General In His Labyrinth” you’ll find that there are many more ways of reaching the end. But is there only one end? Who knows what happened to General Zia? What is going to be the destiny of (Former) General Musharraf? And what is the fate that, thanks to you, dear reader, will befall Shaan Azaad/Sheherazade?
Also see this
In the 1940s, the Lackawanna steel mills employed over 20,000 people. It was the world’s largest steel factory. The company mostly hired immigrants – people from Ireland and Poland and also Yemen. It brought in Arabs to stoke the vast furnaces, whose heat, the company surmised, they would be able to bear as they were used to the desert heat. The Lackawanna Yemenis created their own world in a part of the new town, converting a church into a mosque and creating their own shops.
When these giant steel factories rusted into decrepitude by the early 1980s, the children of the Yemeni workers found that they could not follow their fathers into these union jobs. They inherited joblessness and uncertainty (the rate of unemployment is upwards of 40 per cent). Neither the factory nor the mosque provided them with stability. The former closed in 1983 and the latter had spent too much time on the project of assimilation to be useful when there was little to assimilate into. The promise of integration crumbled, and these young people turned elsewhere for their succour.
As if timed to appear alongside the news of Buffalo’s Steve Kurtz, which I posted about earlier today, Vijay Prashad has written about the Lackwanna Six in Frontline.
JUDGE DISMISSES MAIL FRAUD CASE AGAINST BIO-ARTIST KURTZ
Buffalo, NY—A process that has taken nearly four years may be coming to an end. On Monday, April 21, Federal Judge Richard J. Arcara ruled to dismiss the indictment against University at Buffalo Professor of Visual Studies Dr. Steven Kurtz.
In June 2004, Professor Kurtz was charged with two counts of mail fraud and two counts of wire fraud stemming from an exchange of $256 worth of harmless bacteria with Dr. Robert Ferrell, Professor of Human Genetics at the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.
Dr. Kurtz planned to use the bacteria in an educational art exhibit about biotechnology with his award-winning art and theater collective, Critical Art Ensemble.
Professor Kurtz’ lawyer, Paul Cambria, said that his client was “pleased and relieved that this ordeal may be coming to an end.”
While preparing for class, I came across this 1991 interview with Don DeLillo, conducted by Vince Passaro:
DELILLO’S BOOKS ARE not friendly; they don’t “flatter the reader’s prejudices,” as Howard puts it. But if there is any comfort to be found in them, it is in that “moral force” of sentences coming out right. The architecture of DeLillo’s fiction — its formal harmonies, parallel devices and symmetries and the machine-tooled precision and conviction of its language — brings an odd pleasure no matter how unsettling the world it illumines. Everyone to whom I spoke about DeLillo noted this effect. Frank Lentricchia, a prominent critic and English professor at Duke University, has written about DeLillo and taught his novels in courses. He is the editor of a recent collection of essays about the author’s work called “Introducing Don DeLillo.” DeLillo’s writing, he says, “represents a rare achievement in American literature — the perfect weave of novelistic imagination and cultural criticism.”
It was in the course of this interview that DeLillo offered the following observation: “In a repressive society, a writer can be deeply influential, but in a society that’s filled with glut and repetition and endless consumption, the act of terror may be the only meaningful act.”