Thursday, September 27, 2007

I is for I've missed you, dear readers!

NOW READING: Cuba and the Night by Pico Iyer

Well hello my little literary chickadees of the blogosphere. Where have I been? Oh, you know, just all over the place. Looking for an apartment, attending classes, commuting, drinking, entertaining people, entertaining myself, reading law case books, learning, working...the usual. I have, however, embarked upon my 'I' author and read all of 78 pages so far. (Are you thinking this is going to turn into a two-year rather than a one year project? Yeah, me too.)

Let's talk about Pico Iyer. He is a bit of a different choice from some of my previous alphabet author choices, as he is not primarily a fiction writer but a travel writer. Then again, travel narratives are very novel-like, and Umberto Eco writes in many genres, and all that. I'm not being exclusive about it or anything. Anyway, the 'I' pickings were kind of slim, and my other main choice was Washington Irving's Sketch Book, which is also part travel narrative-like and part short story.

Speaking of previous authors, everyone who's anyone has surely already read this FABULOUS New Yorker article about my 'D' man Philip K. Dick. Trust me: whether or not you've read the PKD, this article is a gem. If you are a fan, so much the better. Go. Go read it. I'll be here when you come back.

So anyway, back to Pico. And by that I do not mean the street in Los Angeles. I first came to know about Pico Iyer when I worked for the now defunct public radio show The Savvy Traveler. He was one of the many thoughtful travel writers we interviewed and often invoked, and I had the pleasure of cutting the tape of his interview, in fact. He said many inspiring things, among them his noting that we just have an unexplainable affinity for certain places, the same way we have an inexplicable affinity for certain people. The one to which he referred at that moment was Japan. He grew up lots of places in the world, but when he showed up in Japan one day it just felt different and more a part of him in a way he had never known. I totally got what he was saying because I've felt it before about Cuba and New Orleans, for starters.

Pico Iyer was one of the things my fellow Savvy staffers, who were all older and wiser than was I, would go on and on about, showing just how intelligent/literary/NPR-like they were. Then they would cast sideways glances across the editorial meeting at me, the 22- or 23-year-old upstart who was like, "Uh, Video Night in Kathmandu? Never read it. Moscow? Never been there. Architectural Digest? Why the hell would I subscribe to that? Who? What? Where?" etc. They really knew how to make a lowly p.a. feel ... indoctrinated. Actually, I'm mostly joking. My two good friends, the producer and assistant producer, never made me feel bad about my naivete. Only a certain other staffer who shall not be named. But he secretly respected me, too, for at least having up and traveled to Cuba.

And that brings me back to the point: Cuba and the Night. This is Pico Iyer's novel. And by novel I mean thinly veiled travel narrative. Which, as you may know unless you live under a blogless, MySpace-free, text-message-lacking rock, is exactly what I've been writing (for years): a thinly veiled travel narrative about my time in Cuba that from time to time I call a novel. So you can imagine how much fun it is to read Pico Iyer's.

My edition is ISBN 0-679-76075-X.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A fine lot of lollipops

NOW FINISHED: The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett

Fun fun fun. I finished it a few days ago but being back in school and going to Boston and running a 5K have all taken time away from posting. I am excited to watch the movie. I just love to read the book and then watch the movies. That is a fun way to approach life.

Of course I love the ending. I love Sam Spade and I knew we could count on him. As for Ms Thang O'Shaughnessy, whom I just knew was not going to turn out to be as good as Effie Perine had said, I thought it was great when Sam basically said "peace out, lady" even though he would have loved to keep getting cozy with her and when he said "you haven't played square with me for half an hour at a stretch since I've known you." You go, Sam. Send her off to the gallows. Anyway, it's not as if there's any shortage of ladies in Sam's life, it would seem. And then he gives her crap for playing all the men, which is funny.

Also funny is how Joel Cairo is gay. Who knew? Were we supposed to figure that out at the begining because he spent his time going to the theater? Perhaps something in the clothes he wore. But it's fun how Dashiell Hammett has to describe his actions and suggest things between the lines to tell us he's gay without telling us he's gay. It reminded me of how Willa Cather in One of Ours told us that Enid refused to have sex with Claude on their wedding night or even thereafter without ever actually saying that. Deftly handled. I love it. Go, writers of the 1920s!

But in the end, does it get any better than this:

"Jesus God! is this the first thing you guys ever stole? You're a fine lot of lollipops!" -p. 188

Monday, September 03, 2007

"The falcon cannot hear the falconer..."

Well, you had to know I was going to ask this. It's the quintessential question to pose and thoughtfully consider, isn't it, when one is reading The Maltese Falcon? The question is: what is your price? What value would an object have to have for you to be willing to sacrifice everything to get your hands on it?

It seems so ridiculous. People getting murdered, everyone wanting to get their hands on this "priceless" historical object. Millions. A huge cut for Sam Spade even -- if they're not lying, if they really would keep him alive after he handed it over. It's all so ruthless and I just always wonder, how can you ever really get any value from something when everyone just wants to kill you for having it? That, to me, would make the value go down substantially.

Yes, I'd rather be alive and safe and poorer.

I suppose some of our so-called leaders are willing to slaughter at least as many people hourly for oil as have so far been slaughtered for this falcon. And the oil does bring them billions...

"Mere anarchy loosed upon the world," indeed.

(Thanks, W.B.!)

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Sam Spade is destined to win

Everyone is a little bit sketchy, a little bit off, but no one can put one over on ol' Sam Spade. He just does his thing, gets out of scrapes, and seems to pretty much always get what he wants. I kind of think no one in the book besides him will end up actually being a good guy, with the possible exception of his little secretary type friend. I think they might even be wrong about Ms Thang of the three names, one of which is Brigid O'Shaughnessy.

Still don't exactly know what the Maltese falcon is, although I know more now. But why does everyone want this bird statue? Why is it so valuable? I had to put the book aside for this week as I was ever so slightly busy starting law school. But don't worry. Sam Spade and I are still going to spend some quality time together. And then I will watch the movie.

I love how ol' Dashiell describes people. He pegs them so well. I keep trying to see if I fit into his "She was the type of woman who..." descriptions. Most recently, I've read about Spade meeting with the fat man, who contributes this:

"I do like a man that tells you right out he's looking out for himself. Don't we all? I don't trust a man that says he's not. And the man that's telling the truth when he says he's not I distrust most of all, because he's an ass and an ass that's going contrary to the laws of nature." - pp. 106-107

That last bit kind of reminds me of law school.