/ literati:

“when i was your age, television was called books!”—Peter Faulk, The Princess Bride

/ sep 2011

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Elegy for Jesse: The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

“Song For Jesse” | Nick Cave & Warren Ellis | Official Soundtrack | 2007

Earlier lamented, it’s been a while since I finished a book. Started half a dozen, each eventually laying fallow on shelves and tables, ponds briefly tested by tentative toes. Steinbeck, Murakami, McInerny, Ellis, Capote – in the previous year, these authors had ruined my interest in other stories, imposed a restlessness with narrative that lasted up till now.

During the heavy rains that plagued Brooklyn’s summer months, my window sill, serving as one of many shelves around the apartment, sprung a leak, soaking through my volume of Jesse James. I proclaimed it a wash, nearly tossing it for trash, then reconsidered. Over a few days I fanned its damp brown pages until its limp leaves once again regained a now warped rigidity. Pre-soak, I’d chipped away at less than a fourth of its weight, but my volume’s early pages were inked with annotations and underlines that convinced me this was the right book, at the right time. Upon finally drying, my copy took on the tactile quality of a weathered keepsake, dilapidated but still very much intact. It was light yet substantial in my hands, it’s spine pliable, it’s curled edges making them easier to turn. I found my place and began again…

Robert Hansen’s book is a keenly imagined, historically accurate account of the assassination of celebrity outlaw Jesse Woodson James, known across the American west and beyond as a man both notorious and revered; ruthless yet genial. A man of almost preternatural energy and cunning that captured the imagination of scores of his contemporaries. It’s unnecessary to recapitulate the story of his legend and downfall here. What’s remarkable about this book is the language – a narrative of tattered, stately, old-fashioned language made musical with solemnity and lyricism. I’ve never looked up so many words in my life. Beguiling words: furbelow, stentorian, bungey, perfidy, bivouac. Words lending anachronistic spice to sentences so finely crafted you actually, really do go back and read them again. And again. This book reminded me of why I read books in the first place.

I was apprised of the novel by the movie of the same name, a faithful adaptation that boasted finely nuanced acting, a superb script and the always stunning cinematography of Roger Deakins, who that year was nominated twice as Best Cinematographer, once for Jesse James and again for No Country For Old Men. (Old Men won). But thankfully, the film is not just an exercise in style and visual beauty – the script wisely inserts verbatim snatches of language into its narrative and invents new scenes and dialogue so true to the tone and language of the book, you’d think the author himself had scripted it.

“His thoughts glanced away from ensnarements like minnows… His nose…not long or preponderant, no proboscis, but upturned a little and puttied, a puckish, low-born nose, the ruin, he thought, of his otherwise gallantly handsome countenance…[He] let his fancies run like red-eyed ferrets, letting the experienced air educate his senses. … He also had a condition that was referred to as “granulated eyelids” and it caused him to blink more than usual as if he found creation slightly more than he could accept.”

Need I say more? Go pick up a copy. It and the hauntingly beautiful soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. The two fit together like a bullet in a chamber.

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/ may 2011

Weather Report: Died on the Vine

Dead On The Vine
iPhone 4G + CameraBag, © maunet.com

“Dead Flowers” | Townes Van Zandt, Roadsongs | 1993

For seven years, ivy has grown slowly and steadily across my living room windows. Sparse at first, its delicate leaves dotted the screen with splashes of brilliant green, like parsley placed just so atop some fancy dinner dish. Gradually, dots became patterns, vines like tangled tributaries mapping the landscape of my view. Eventually it grew lush, thick as shag carpet, obscuring completely the inside glimpse to my private quarters.

One would think these thick organic blinds would darken and gloom the room, snuff the play of light on the wood floors and navaho walls, but no. Sunny days dappled the apartment with a patchwork of yellow-green light, the ivy an iridescent lattice that defied the city’s dreary brick and mortar. For the few short months of spring and summer, my apartment was transformed into a verdant sanctuary, a lush retreat from the hot concrete of my Brooklyn streets.

I loved my ivy drapes, my leafy blinds. Then they fucking killed them.

One morning last week, I woke to find my brood of brightly budding leaves drooping like disappointed children, wilted comrades struggling to stand against an unseen force. Apparently, my neighbors below didn’t share my affection for this beautifully pernicious plant that weakens brick and obscures the urban view of our glassed-in little boxes. Seems the super had snipped the ivy dead at the root, pruned its proud tendrils away from my neighbors’ window panes so they could use instead their store-bought blinds to keep eyes from prying into their domestic affairs.

No one thought about the country life they brought to our urban existence. No one thought about palette and contrast. No one thought to consult me.

Related:

Weather Report: Green Grows the Ivy
Weather Report: Dead Vines, Empty Blinds. Windy, Wet and Cold
Weather Report: G11′s Long Exposure to Snow

 

  1. Monday 05.16.2011 | 8:23 EST

    Brian B says:

    I recall those vines and the lines they curved. Time to re-plant. Re-life. God I miss Brooklyn! Mau- I am flying to ATL on Thursday to see the Flaming lips play the Soft Bulletin. ALL the way from CR> Then Flying back on Sat. Music!

  2. Sunday 05.15.2011 | 1:12 EST

    yula says:

    What a shame Mauri. I’m so sorry. I loved those vines too.

  3. Saturday 05.14.2011 | 9:32 EST

    mb says:

    boo.

Light/Dark

pitch

“Ballad of Distances, Part 1″ | Stars of the Lid, The Tired Sounds of… | 2001

in a windowless room i lie
beside you, stretched out long
and lithe, your thigh draped over mine.
i am breathless as you lie
breathing in this lightless pitch.
I cannot help but watch your unlit face
beaming in the dark

/ apr 2011

Spring Dress?

Spring Dress

“Another Sunny Day” | Belle & Sebastian, The Life Pursuit, 2006

Is this dress too spring-y?
It is spring.
Is this dress too spring-y?

She emphasizes the specificity of her statement with playful sternness. Specificity is important to us. It suits our desire for people to listen to words with the respectful admiration they deserve. Like a film script. Every word carefully placed for a reason.

I am unsure what the criteria for too spring-y is.

This isn’t an April dress. More July, doncha think?
I think I know what she means.

Put it on. I like watching her ready herself in the morning

She slips on one of those stretchy form-fitting undershirts girls wear under things. (I think it alone is fine as a top, why don’t you wear that ?). She then slips the vintage dress over her head, waggling her hips to help settle it around her waist and legs. Knee length, three buttons at the bust, it’s white silk with a pervasive pattern of green vines, punctuated by large, pink tulips. Pink tulips? Maybe this is too spring-y. Too summery, too. Just too, um “too.” But two epaulet-type half-belt & button thingy’s flank either side of the dress, and when fastened, they cinch her small waistline nicely, giving it shape and grace. I’m beginning to overlook the pink.

Well, what do you think, inspecting herself in the mirror, her back to me.
Turn around

She turns, kicking her hip slightly to the right, tilting her head coquettishly to the left. With her blond hair and pale skin, she looks like a vanilla ice cream cone with sprinkles on top. I’m beginning to warm to the pink.

I like it. Wear that.

She proceeds with the required accessorizing, first debating cardigan color options. Green? Too much green. Pink? Wow, there’s that pink again, but then again, it does create a nice balance to the ivy. Without a word from me, it’s settled, pink it is. She then leans forward at her bureau, rummaging through a selection of earrings and necklaces latticed and tangled as the vines on her dress. She chooses emerald hoops encrusted with small diamond-like stones.

If you’re gonna be girly, you gotta be girly.
They look lovely.

Then come the shoes, vintage closed-toed pumps in a color that I believe is called “nude.” I have little doubt about those, seasons be damned. As she walks down the hallway, down the stairs and out into the brilliant spring morning sunshine, the silk shimmers against her skin, a tangential glimmer that catches the eye of a tall gentleman passing by us. His eyes shift in a subtle double-take (nicely done, man). The season matches her step, her walk itself a springy event. In any season, I love to watch her walk.

Another sunny day, I met you up in the garden
You were digging plants, I dug you, beg your pardon
I took a photograph of you in the herbaceous border
It broke the heart of men and flowers and girls and trees

Cardigan Coverage

cartography-conjugation

“Dot” | Gonzales, Solo Piano, 2005

Over a lovely green dress, straps not quite enough wide,
you tried on four black cardigans.

One was too long
One was too warm
One didn’t provide the coverage required
to keep eyes from prying about our affair

I marked you.

Under an army green shirt I am writ with
spidery scratches, the cartography of conjugation

You marked me, but I have nothing to hide.

 

Celica Dreams

Celica Dreams

“Smiles” | Spiritualized, Laser Guided Melodies, 1992

I lie in your bed for the first time. Your steady breath slows my cocaine heart. I dream…
It’s morning. We wake in your bedroom, smiling. Your parents house in the ‘burbs. Kentucky? You rise by the window, body slim, skin like milk. Astrid scampers on the bed. I am taking pictures. She licks the lens. I keep asking: is this ok? Your dad in the room down the hall, expecting him to catch us at something. But we are chaste and innocent in our first night. You reassure me. I feel trusted, endeared to him.

We ready ourselves together. Your bathroom expansive, not like cramped New York. Sink top populated densely by girl things – lotions and ointments, perfumes, orphaned earrings, makeup-dappled tissue. Bright sunshine streams through large windows, refracting off steam. The mirror is fogged, your arms raised, lips pursed, tossling your wet hair with a towel.

Atlanta morning traffic. We are driving. Somewhere obligatory–to work? to school? Orange 1982 Toyota Celica. Showered with Southern sun through the T-Top. We remember. It’s President’s Day. No school. No work. We are smiling.

We reach my parent’s home. Day bright as a diamond, we pull up the driveway. Huge lawn, green and yellow for yards and yards and yards. Mom and dad on the veranda. Introductions. She smiles brightly at you, his eyes tender, knowing.

Kitchen, large as a house. Steepled roof, exposed beams, terra-cotta tiles. My childhood nanny making tortillas by hand. She is 73, crows-footed, eyes wrinkled by years of smiling innocently, broadly. She turns to greet you. I wake up. You are rising. Smiling.

Celica: derived from the Latin word coelica meaning “heavenly” or “celestial”.

Orange 1982 Toyota Celica

/ feb 2011

Looking for Snodgrass

W.D. Snodgrass

An unnervingly familiar recount of a wandering mind that looks but cannot find:

Looking
by W.D. Snodgrass

What was I looking for today?
All that poking under the rugs,
Peering under the lamps and chairs,
Or going from room to room that way,
Forever up and down the stairs
Like someone stupid with sleep or drugs.

Everywhere I was, was wrong.
I started turning the drawers out, then
I was staring in at the icebox door
Wondering if I’d been there long
Wondering what I was looking for.
Later on, I think I went back again.

Where did the rest of the time go?
Was I down cellar? I can’t recall
Finding the light switch, or the last
Place I’ve had it, or how I’d know
I didn’t look at it and go past.
Or whether it’s what I want, at all.

Grief has a way of stealing your memory. In response:

Looking
by M.C

Looking
I saw the calendar has passed three weeks, like wind
I’ve been flying better, better still
better living still through chemistry

I see my books are off the racks again, birds uncaged
Swooping back I peck at Snodgrass’ verse on memory

I see how close it all still is, like thugs
Mugging bright thoughts down dark alleys
I see how veiled it all remains, like smoke
Suffocating vivid thoughts to whispers

Looking
I saw how lost I still may be
In this addled high fake energy

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