Sunday, December 18, 2011

Holiday Writing News

November and December have been good months for writing news. This evening I will be reading at the Release Party for HOARSE Quarterly, a locally produced literary magazine in Seattle. The theme is "Professor," and I will be reading a very short piece, plumbing the term, while wearing the most professory get-up I can assemble from the contents of my closet. My short piece, "I Am the Professor," will be featured in Issue 5 of the magazine. You can check out HOARSE and order a copy here. It's a beautifully produced magazine.

Another short piece of mine, "Praying," has recently been accepted by Wigleaf, a journal that publishes very short fiction. "Praying" is probably the first true short short I ever wrote, and I have remained fond of it. I'm quite excited that it is finally finding a home somewhere, especially among the fine company of so many other dynamic short shorts. I will keep you posted when "Praying" is up on their site.

Happy Holidays, blog readers! Stay tuned for more big writing news in the 2012...


Just Shelved

The White AlbumThe White Album by Joan Didion

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Joan Didion has the same rare and inimitable style as Dame Rebecca West. She coolly observes the scene around her, and when she makes a pronouncement on anything--whether it be Jim Morrison, the Hoover Dam, shopping centers, or her own neuroses--she does so like someone ringing a clear, pure bell. It sounds, and it seems final; it seems bare and essential. I don't know how she manages to do this in such an economy of words, but she does. This collection of micro-essays comes together and does more than simply sketch the end of the sixties in Southern California; it does something more rare, imparts a flavor, a re-animation. One imagines Didion slipping into the background of any scene wearing huge glasses, able to seem both invisible and authoritative. I hope this bell continues to sound.

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My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book very quickly--it has one of those puzzlebox plots, where one awaits a conclusion that ties the intersecting storylines together. I would say it's enjoyable to read, and the prose is very smooth (lots of periodic sentences...don't fear the semi-colon or the dash, Nicole). Somewhere deep down, however, I didn't entirely buy it. The objects and personal failings/obsessions that catalyzed so much repetitive sorrow for the characters didn't seem believable to me. The voices of the characters themselves were engrossing--some more than others--and I believed in the grief of their pasts (except for the lady novelist who writes successfully from her ivory tower but bemoans her ability to connect with others). I don't believe in grief that's entirely organized around an object or destructive fixation, however. By the end of the book, the poor desk of Great House groaned beneath the weight of so much symbolic significance. I would still be interested to read other work by Krauss, however.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Late Night Writing Tangent

I have eaten the Velveeta cheese intended for the dog; I have re-vivified the frozen peas; this is my dinner. I can feel the drift of my ass across the seat cushions. Did you know that to sit is to kill? When we die, our buttocks renounce the seat. I cannot sustain an interest in anything, not even the hair on my chin. Yesterday, I could. Yesterday I believed I was fair of face and at least destined to ride in a hot air balloon. Funny, that, because I am afraid of heights, no matter how beautiful and bulbuous. When I stand at the top of the cathedral, I do not feel closer to God, merely closer to the casual jointmanship of disgruntled 14th century stone masons. Thus, realism kills the grace. Writing with my discarded sweater set to the side and my one foot encased in a fur slipper, I am sure to be remembered by the ages. I am sure to remember about Norwegians. I am sure to forget what I ought to have remembered. I cannot even sustain the attention to fashion this memory. I shall have to stand and admit surrender.

(Stephansdom, Vienna)

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Just Shelved

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a book about the self-fashioning of an artist. A young woman surrounds herself with totems; she bends towards and away from the artistic visions of others; she finds muses and is herself a muse.

This is certainly a love story. This is about being in the right place at the right time (but surely chance meetings with Janis Joplin and Sam Shepard and William Burroughs say just as much about what kind of magnetism Smith herself must possess).

I wept through the end of Just Kids; I found it very moving as a testament to a friendship and a person and another artist. When do we become an artist? Is it when we declare it? Is it when we've been recognized for our art? Is it when we dedicate ourselves to it? Is it simply when we believe it of ourselves?

I also thought about poverty as a purifier for Smith and the circle of creatives around her in NYC during this remarkable time. I've never been comfortable with giving up material comfort for art. Smith and Mapplethorpe begin as young ascetics, and yet they're getting things done; they're making the connections they need to succeed. I believe it's a function of my background: once comfortably middle to upper middle class, forever hoping to keep that standard. But it's not hard to feel a sense of envy or nostalgia for Smith's romantic vision of art-as-sustenance, for this brave girl showing up in New York with nothing but a few possessions and a belief in where she needed to be, and making a go of it. She demonstrates blistering courage. Of course I don't have regrets, but it is provocative to consider the paths of others, especially someone like Patti Smith who began not even sure what medium would be hers, but was so clearly meant to be a VOICE, and now, successful memoirist.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Miscalculation of the Day

A Dvorak Pandora station does not necessarily create a soothing soundscape for writing. Am now tempted to add bayonets, homicidal swans, and men with florid noses to my story-in-progress.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Just Shelved

The Swerve: How the World Became ModernThe Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you are the kind of person who thinks finding a crumbling old manuscript in a dank monastery that turns out to be a fascinating glimpse into a nearly-vanished pagan philosophy on living written in verse would be cool...then you and I have a lot in common, and we both like this book already. We are also both nerds, and that's okay. We should probably travel together in order to avoid irritating our companions.

Greenblatt is clearly a scholar of considerable erudition on the Renaissance and European art and thought. While very engagingly written, I do sense that Swerve was written for the general reader rather than a more specialized audience. Perhaps because I have studied and written on similar subjects in the past, I yearned for more overtly scholarly writing (which does NOT have to be boring--The Age of Wonder and its endlessly-entrancing digressions comes to mind). I would have been happy to read several hundred more pages, especially about the ripple effect in Renaissance art that Greenblatt cunningly traces back to the discovery of Lucretius' poem. More than anything, I realized that going to the primary text--"On the Nature of Things" itself--will be the key to serious explorations of this subject.

So, on the hunt I go, but with some delightful background knowledge to buoy me.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Just Shelved

Drop CityDrop City by T.C. Boyle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sometimes when you are trying to express the worldview and interior, like, tone of your characters, it becomes necessary to write in the passive voice, and then you are writing all of the descriptions of action in the passive voice, and you are relying on that technique pretty consistently. And could it be repetitive? Is asking a lot of questions in a row something a hippie might do? Does that seem like a realistic trope? Yeah, man, because they've got a shaggy dog style of talking and thinking and appending to their thoughts with more and more filler and more and more interjections.

It is possible you are annoying your readers with these stylistic tics, despite the fact that there are vivid characters, strong dialogue, and some appreciated ribald humor in your book.

Whatever, man. Let's get high.

(Drop City recommended for entertaining and briskly plotted look at a band of flower children trying to hack out their Utopian farm ideal in Alaska. Caveat: the annoying prose style cited above.)

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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

On Deadlines and Resisting the Hot Dog

I recently challenged myself to write a page per day of my novel-in-progress. I finished most of the beginning almost a year ago before being distracted by other projects, other calamities, other beers, and other vacations. But no more! I am pleased to say that I have stayed true to my goal since I made it...a few days ago. (7 pages must be the gross product of a week; make-up pages can be turned in on Sundays by midnight). It's really amazing how well I work under a deadline or artificial mandate. That's why I've often preferred to write short pieces: I generally finish them in one sitting, and the sense of the finite time around the act of writing itself tends to make the stories sharper, leaner, and better. So far, I've been rather pleased with how I've kept to this fledgling goal. The only problem is when my one page go-get-'em attitude kicks into gear, it is almost invariably 1:30 in the morning. This work ethic was slightly more okay in college and grad school, when I had occasional mornings off from work, class, and teaching, or only had to fill a seat rather than engage. It doesn't work as well with a lifestyle that includes an every day job. It's not even that I'm not sitting in front of the computer before the 1:30 mark. Not at all.

Allow me to illustrate for you: let's say I am baseball player with a decent hit (no idea why I would choose a sports metaphor given my lack of knowledge about sports, but bear with me). I head to the field, or, erm, the batting cages to practice my swing. Except, I don't practice my swing at first. Even thought it's afternoon and there are other people around practicing their swings and catching and pitching and waving my way, I'm not ready yet. I think about getting a hot dog and then I DO get a hot dog. While there, I do a bit of a condiment taste test. Oh, yeah, sauerkraut is disgusting. Now I remember! How hilarious. I find someone to talk about condiments with. Actually, you know, the more I think about it (alone now with just my thoughts and the hot dog), there's something so relatable about a hot dog; something that taps into a shared experience of America, ya know? Hot dogs. They tie together the tipsy person on the street corner at 2 a.m., the weekend weenie roaster, and anyone with a functioning microwave. I even made a hot dog solar cooker when I was eight years old using tinfoil! At this thought, I tear up. And, suddenly, I am filled with the conviction that HOT DOGS are where the meaning really lies. Why have I wasted my time on something so comparably esoteric? My pastime is neither delicious nor sandwiched by an oblong bun. It's a fool's pastime. You know what? Maybe I should get into hot dogs. I've always liked them, after all. Almost as much as hitting.

(time, maybe, five minutes of time)

Anywhere, where was I? Oh, hot dogs? Yeah, I'm not going to finish this one. They are soooo unhealthy. I can't wait to hit a perfect ball. THAT'S what I really want to do. But first I need to have this conversation about why astroturf is weird. Yes, I know, I've said it before, but this is an essential conversation, and it clearly needs to be had. I have different points than yesterday. Like, maybe one slightly less rehashed point about the qualities of fluorescent greens as illuminated by floodlights. So, I chat about astroturf with whomever happens to be handy. Odd how that guy that sweeps the edges of the field always seems to be on the other side of the field whenever I'm in the mood to have this discussion.

(time passes)

Man, where has the time gone? I am EXHAUSTED! It must be all those fine motor skills I used wiping that ketchup off my shirt. Wait, was that five hours ago?! I guess that astroturf conversation was pretty gripping. Or maybe when I was wandering around trying to find the bathroom....? Regardless, I don't even know if I have the energy to hit today. I mean, I hit a few yesterday, right? Some people have never even been to a major league game before! Hitters like me are rare, after all. I can probably pat myself on the back just for, you know, dreaming of hitting a homer now and again. Or you know what? Even driving here. I mean, I put my bag in a car and I drove here. That's pretty good, right?

So, I start getting my gear together and start heading off the field. I notice that all my other teammates are gone; even the guy that sweeps the edges of the field is gone. Someone is turning off the floodlights, one by one, and darkness whooshes into each portion of the field where the lights have been shining. Finally, there's just one lone floodlight still going--perhaps they've left it on for me and are even now waiting for me to get the hell off the field.

Except I'm not. Suddenly, I'm ready. Drop my bag to the ground. Get my bat out, and magically, a ball pops my way from somewhere off in the darkness (don't think too much on the details) and I swing and swing, the cracks of wood meeting canvas echoing throughout the stadium. And one or two of those hits might even be good (I'm not totally sure, since they're flying off into unlit stadium stands, but whatevs). It feels good, though. It feels really good, like--

--and the last floodlight is switched off. Crap. And I had a really good metaphor for that feeling, too.

That, in short, is my writing work ethic if I were actually a baseball player. You might not want to pick me for your team, but I am still going to finish this novel. One page, one day at time.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Just Shelved

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Great collection entirely comprised of up-and-coming (and firmly established) female writers of fantastical, fabulist, and, well...weird fiction. I loved the presentation and careful curation of this book--clearly exciting things are happening at Tin House. Some of the bigger names (Lydia Davis; Miranda July) were represented by fairly slight (dare I say lazy?) pieces, but there were plenty of other gems and new writers to discover. A few stories tended towards the fey or overly cute--always a risk of this genre--but there was enough unsettling, and indeed, unfeminine, weirdness to go around. I also think the tone of fantastic fiction lends itself well to describe coming-of-age journeys: a freakish time, indeed.

Particular favorites:

Aimee Bender's "Americca"
Judy Budnitz's "Abroad"
Julia Elliott's "The Wilds"
Samantha Hunt's "Beast"
Kelly Link's "Light"
Lydia Millet's "Snow White, Rose Red"
Alissa Nutting's "Hot, Fast, and Sad"
Stacey Richter's "The Doll Awakens"
Karen Russell's "The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach" (my favorite)
Gina Zucker's "Big People"

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Just Shelved

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is one of the better Best American collections I've read. There weren't any stories I disliked, though as usual, some were far more memorable than others. Here are the gold star stories:

E.L. Doctorow's "A House on the Plains"--So creepy and well-done in its incremental reveal of disturbing information. Pitch perfect voice.

Melissa Hardy's "The Heifer"--Not as striking as some of the others, but great prose and a bit of comedy, too.

Alice Mattison's "In Case We're Separated"--A more traditional relationship story, but very well-done, with a poignant ending.

Jill McCorkle's "Billy Goats"--Worth a read for the communal narration.

Alice Munro's "Family Furnishings"--Of course. And extra intriguing for its glimpse into autobiographical details of this master's life. The finest story of the collection, in my opinion.

The stories by Akhil Sharma, Mary Yukari Waters, and Tom McNeal--all excellent family stories. Quite different from one another, but I enjoyed all three.

Jim Shepard's "Love and Hydrogen"--Sent me straight to Google afterwards to read up on the Hindenburg disaster. Probably my second favorite of the collection. How does he do it?! He enters the past and makes it new, fantastical, and wonderfully human. No small feat when one chooses to write about already word-saturated events.

Also liked Arthur Miller and Leonard Michaels' stories. So, actually, I suppose I'd recommend almost all of the stories.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Just Shelved

Justine (The Alexandria Quartet, #1)Justine by Lawrence Durrell

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Like a banana going soft on your counter, smelling overwhelmingly--cloyingly--of itself, there seems to be something too intense about the prose in Justine, too intense about the destructive love affair it desultorily describes and discards.

I had to throw out the banana. I couldn't finish it.

If that sounds vaguely phallic to you, then I see I've hit the right tone for Durrell's prose. It's a shame, because I can honestly say that his writing in Prospero's Cell--a magical travelogue/sketch diary about the isle of Corfu--was some of the best I have ever read. Just incandescent. The prose here, however, feels bloated. I suppose it mirrors its subject somewhat: Alexandria. Can a city be bloated? Perhaps with trash and tragedy and poverty--the Alexandria inhabited by Justine and the narrator.

Read until you reach the famous line about cities taking on a new meaning once you love someone within the city. Then, honestly, you don't have to continue.

(I may actually pick Justine up again, since it does provide an interesting version of the metafictional novel. It wasn't right for me this time around, however.)

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Wednesday, August 31, 2011

From the Annals of Rentals Past

From an email written to a past landlord:



The past couple of days, I've been noticing an unpleasant smell in the living room area. I couldn't figure out what it was, since there's nothing in there but the usual things, but I think I may have figured it out. It seems like there might have been an animal underneath the house that died and that's what the smell must be--it's a familiar one, and only really strong in one part of the room. Anyway, I don't know if there's anything that can really be done except wait for it to go away, but I wanted to let you know that I do think there have been some kind of animals beneath the house. Occasionally, I've heard loud scratching/hissing coming from underneath the bathroom tub. Did previous residents ever mention this? Well, I know that's a bit unsavory, but thought you might like to be aware.

Thanks a lot and hope you are having a nice weekend.

Kirsten Rue

Friday, August 26, 2011


So...I have decided to publish some of the self-important ramblings I've found while careening through my hard drive, mainly because I still like them, and also because if not here, where?!


Where are the love songs for our living? Why do I need to find a partner when I have been so well-fostered as a child, set on my tender feet with careful palms.

Mother, this is for you. That I know the proper way to make the bed, and that even though I am lazy and don’t pull all the fabric properly on the last corner, I know how it should look – as fine as oblivion. You’ve taught me that.

Father, this is yours. That your coats always carried the cold in them when you came home from working, and when I hugged you, I’d feel it in surprising little pockets. I’d come away pricked with sawdust, which smells like work itself.

Sister, remember when we fed the horses, and I was too skittish, afraid of those great muzzles, but you were not and held up your hay with bold arms, tiny as they were.

Brother, that once you fell in a stream and I jumped in after you and I held you and the current went around me, and it was not a deep stream at all, and still, I thought only of your preciousness.

You are the ones who matter.

I love you beyond reckoning, beyond reasoning. If there is a mineral at the base of this flesh, it is sedimentary of your making, and I am pressed of your strata.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Weeping of the Violins

I save things. I save playbills, airline tickets, museum plans, subway tokens, every letter I've ever received, childhood journals... I save things. Usually these saved items end up as a scurf patterning the floor of my room. However, this can sometimes be a good thing. A couple of days ago, I reclaimed a program from the general melee that I had saved from my trip to Europe in the spring. I remembered exactly why I had saved it: for one thing, it had been a glorious evening of music by a chamber quartet that we had watched in the Sala Terrena, a room in a house where Mozart had once played. Mozart, the darling of Austria, was of course the main composer presented, but the second piece, the Lento portion of Dvorak's "American Quartet" had stunned me into one of those rare moments of true sublimity. I remember being so struck--and so moved--by the experience of being transfixed in that tiny room, hearing the breaths of the performers, and seeing their faces as they leaned into this music, this feeling stretched out to us from more than a hundred years ago. Once, all culture had been like this--something experienced living, and not to be reproduced or lived in the same way again. So, now I own a copy of this beautiful music, and I hope you will enjoy it, too (Click Here!). I'm also including a little scrap I wrote in the past year about classical music. It's more of a tiny sketch, but just rediscovered it and it reminded me of this experience.

Piano Music for the Stormy-Hearted

The grand, and the crescendoed. The fingers, bone-white and ivory. The hearts of deep metal and the eyes of flashing summer and the faces of gods. Oh, the chest cavity and orchestra; the deep tuba of the last act, the violin on the night path. The cymbal crash when love is sighted. The weeping of the clarinets.

Live with no note too somber, no trill frivolous. And my God, play the keys off it. Wear the pedals thin.

(photo of the ceiling inside the Sala Terrena in Vienna)

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Just Shelved

A Time of GiftsA Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If Patrick Leigh Fermor were to hold up a sign while hitching on the highway, it might say: "Lovable scamp. Gives good prose. Charming conversationalist. Will cheerfully eat or drink anything you offer. Will feature you in book."

I would totally give him a ride.

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Monday, July 11, 2011

Fine Line Short Story Competition

I found out today that one of my stories was short-listed for the Fine Line Short Story Competition prize, sponsored by The Fine Line Editorial Consultancy , based in Edinburgh. Congratulations to the winners and fellow finalists!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Formal Inquiry Premieres Tonight!

Tonight my friend Carrie Purcell--with The Heroes, poets, and visual artists--will be presenting an evening of investigation into form: specifically, the sonata and the sonnet. She will also be premiering a sonata she wrote herself! This should be an amazing event for literary, musical, or artistic collage types. Here is a sneak peek:


Formal Inquiry is playing June 10-12 at the Velocity Dance Project at 1621 12th Ave, 7:30 p.m. For more information about tickets and also to read the very delightful Formal Inquiry blog, click here. See you there!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

Writers' Retreat

On Friday and Saturday, seven friends and I set off to Bainbridge Island, just over the water (but apparently in a separate cloud system) for a writers' retreat. Laptops were powered on; feet were sunned while reading; photographs were taken; food and wine and revelry flowed. I also got to catch up with another writer friend of mine who lives on Bainbridge and we talked plot and character development concerning her novel-in-progress. I left feeling very rejuvenated, and yes, I did get some writing done. I also indulged my side-hobby of sticking my camera lens very close to weird (and often dead) things. Enjoy these salty, sea-gifted fruits.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Just Shelved

As part of my (continuing) self-education about Croatia and Greece, I began these two books before and during my travels, and just wrapped them up over the past couple of weeks. Both were delightful reads, and added so much richness and depth to my experience of these places. A well-read tourist is a happy tourist!

The Impossible Country: A Journey Through the Last Days of YugoslaviaThe Impossible Country: A Journey Through the Last Days of Yugoslavia by Brian Hall

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It is incredible--the feats of understanding and compassion that can be achieved simply by talking to people. This remarkable book holds a glass to the multiple voices of the Balkans, just as the former Yugoslavia was beginning to dissolve into violence and genocide in the early nineties. Hall, like a novelist, presents us with people and their stories first. He asks difficult--sometimes explosive--questions of those he meets while traveling throughout what is now Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, and Bosnia. He doesn't give us an easy "answer," but he provides us with portraits, and in so doing, troubles the notion of nationalism and ethnic divisions everywhere, not only in the "impossible country." It is a deeply moving, lovingly written book.

Prospero's Cell: A Guide to the Landscape and Manners of the Island of CorfuProspero's Cell: A Guide to the Landscape and Manners of the Island of Corfu by Lawrence Durrell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When the Northerly wind blows, find solace here, in some of the most beautiful writing you could read. You will taste the olives. You will feel the sunshine. Corfu of the late 1930's will come alive. And you will even learn some things about Greece, and about silence.

"Presently the carbide lamp is lit and the whole miraculous underworld of the lagoon bursts into a hollow bloom--it is like the soft beautiful incandescence of a gas-mantle lighting. Transformed, like figures in a miracle, we gaze down upon a sea floor drifting with its canyons and forests and families in the faint undertow of the sea--like a just-breathing heart."

--Durrell, "Ionian Profiles"

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Saturday, May 7, 2011

Images From Barnstorm

Here are some shots I took at the Barnstorm Cabaret last night. I stayed until closing and had a fabulous time! The post-it shots are from artist Clare Johnson's entrancing autobiography piece. Tonight is the last night, and I highly recommend you check it out before this pop-up event is folded up and carted to a new location sometime in the future.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Barnstorm Preview!

I wait at the bus stop at 3rd Ave and Virginia quite a bit--almost daily--and yet I've never noticed the empty glass storefront facing the Bed, Bath, & Beyond until today. It turns out that this space has remained empty on its ground floor for at least the last ten years. Airy, full of exposed brick, and deceptively large, it seems like an ideal space for...something. A show space, an art space, a mingling space? Arts production team extraordinaire Quiet Heroes On A Rainy Night is actually aiming to combine all three, giving the cabaret tradition a modern kick in the pants and elevating 1927 Third Ave into a laboratory for art, celebration, and audience participation.
I got the chance to tour the Barnstorm: Cabaret Re-Imagined site with Bond Huberman, a Heroes board member and producer for the event, who gave me a peek at what will be in store for Cabaret attendees this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights from 6pm-2am. Let me tell you: it is a lot. I poked my head through a cordoned-off section in the back of the space, my head brushing the fronds of a light installation hanging from the ceiling--a space Bond informed me had been created by artist Jessie Wilson to explore Ars Moriendi, or the art of death. During Barnstorm, this will be a living art installation drawing in cabaret-members who are curious, morbid, or simply want to pull back the curtain. In addition, a square of neatly-assembled post-it notes currently cover one section of wall, and will cover more. This is artist Clare Johnson's 5 year autobiography-in-process. Glossy, large paintings were also hanging on the wall and snagged me in for a closer look.

More traditional performing space, however, will dominate the center of Barnstorm, where a raised stage holds court among low tables and chairs (the image I always have for cabarets myself). On this stage, a variety of acts will titillate, provoke, and engage Seattleites, with acts ranging from electronic music to tango to a multimedia play featuring cartoon stereotypes. Bond wanted to make it clear, though, that in the spirit of true cabaret, the audience for any of these pieces is decidedly not supposed to sit in an attitude of polite, golf-clapping appreciation. Oh, no, no, no. Think raucous laughter, conversation, and well, generally having a fabulous time. QHRN Productions aims for an audience that blends with the performers and crosses that aqueous space between self, art, and the consumption thereof. In that spirit, a section dubbed the "soft spot" has been created in the style of a cozy sitting room in order to pull cabaret attendees back from the wooden stage and into something else--perhaps a transfixing piece of artwork, a conversation with a stranger, or maybe even a kiss. Here's hoping.

As they often are, my eyes were drawn to the hand-built bar, which wraps itself in a sinuous curve around the edge of the long room. This baby, like everything else involved in the extensive Barnstorm buildout of 1927 Third Ave, is a labor of love created from donated or salvaged materials, and constructed by dedicated volunteers and the production team. Its surface is scrawled in charming, hand-painted letters by another talented volunteer and friend of the organization. Funded by a small city grant, a Kickstarter grant, and QHRN's own savvy thrift, Barnstorm is a great example of low cost, high impact art-making. The team found an empty space (which was donated for the event) and fundraised, borrowed, and made everything else. It's a venue built from scratch--a crucial difference from producing an event in a readymade venue. Bond noted that this aspect came with a steep learning curve, but has been an invaluable experience for all of the artists and producers involved. And the coolest part? All of the presenting artists are getting paid. A non-profit venture, this was always a major part of Barnstorm's goal.

So, now, a neglected building in the heart of downtown Seattle gets a new coat of paint; a cast of artists, performers, and writers; and a dedicated team of fellow artists to facilitate the magic. The only missing element is you--the audience. You are the last olive in the martini, the Alka-Seltzer tablet that makes the glass of water fizz, and the top-billed actor in the performance. You are kind of a big deal at Barnstorm: The Cabaret Re-Imagined. Better hightail it over there before your chance is gone.


Barnstorm is running May 5, 6, and 7 at 1927 Third Ave from 6pm-2am. There is no program--that's sort of the point. Come any time you please! $5 gets you in at the door and if you want to plan ahead, advance ticket sales are HERE. Need more info? Please check out Barnstorm's official website. 21+

In case I didn't mention this, there will be a bar and catering. Yum. I will be attending on Friday night and hope to see you there!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Hello, Muse!

It's funny, this sudden pocket where I want to write, where I can divine the thread of perception, where I know there are words there: supple and willing like the best lovers. From whence? Wherefore? It would be easy to believe that I am not also this person. It would be easy to believe that this is not also my brain. It would be easy to believe so many things (untrue! unjust!), and yet here, the simple fact remains. And the word on the page. And the word on the page.

Funny pocket: dear, lined in ermine. Silvery, with a silky feel. Slide into you like a tongue over the teeth: accustomed to the old drops and crags, but not the slick, hard surface which is suddenly new and sheer. Suddenly alliterative; suddenly in a fine shape. Playful like a bird with its questing beak, moving seed to the side, and moving seed to the other side. Metaphors winging up with all their associations, unspooled, suddenly saved. Months of things hoarded, moving up in an unseemly parade. Like Noah and his menagerie: two by two of timbre and shade. A trope on parade. And hope on parade.

Rare, precious, timely you came. Invocation to play; invitation to praise.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Miscalculation of the Day

I just mistook a basket of of rocks for a basket of chocolates. Glad I did not attempt to bite one.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Just Shelved

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this book in an effort to give myself a crash course in the histories of some cities I will be visiting this spring. Thematically, this was a perfect book to begin with because we will be visiting Vienna first, and chronologically, the events of 1888-1889 described set in motion a chain of events that would ripple through the Balkan states, and the rest of Europe. We will be visiting Croatia after Vienna, and then Greece, so in a way, we'll be following that ripple effect across Europe.

The author, Frederic Morton, does an excellent job of creating brief but incisive anecdotal snapshots of the strata of Viennese society, from high to low, and the many people, some destined for greatness and infamy, who strolled the Ringstrasse during that fateful year. It is remarkable how many geniuses--thinkers, writers, composers, playwrights--lived in the city at that time: Freud, Mahler, Brahms, Strauss, Klimt, Herzl, Schnitzler, etc. Towards the end of the book, a great scandal occurs involving the liberal Crown Prince Rudolf and his teenaged mistress, and even though Morton sometimes overreaches in connecting this event to everything that would follow in modern life, in many ways he does have a point about rising nationalism, hysteria, and other afflictions of the "modern" era that dog us even now.

Content-wise, this is all very enjoyable and informative, but I feel I must issue a warning about the author's rather florid and repetitive writing stye. His wording is as rococo and baroque as the lavish imperial buildings of the city he describes. It's sort of like Cogsworth (oh, he of Beauty & the Beast fame) narrating an entire novel. If you can handle that, then Nervous Splendor is definitely worth a read.

Now on to the beginning of Black Lamb, Grey Falcon!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Just Shelved

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A must-read for anyone devoted hopelessly, helplessly, and sometimes even selfishly to books and authors. Full of delightful literary criticism, memoir, personality sketches, and excursions temporal and otherwise, The Possessed is one of the most enjoyable books I have read in a long time. It's also very funny and will add book after book to the mountain of books you were already intending to read. I had some quibbles with Batuman's attack on MFA programs in the Introduction, even though some of her points were well-taken. I also think that at times, the author's flat narrative voice can cast a tone of mockery on people that I doubt she meant to mock, such as her dedicated teachers in Uzbekistan, who were being paid less than $200 to tutor her in poetry and history for an entire summer. There were times I disagreed and felt piqued, but these feelings did not draw me away from the collection of essays; rather, they made me wish that Batuman was an acquaintance and that I could argue with her in person. I think she is a critic and writer who may very well become a big star.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Just Shelved

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Solid short story collection highly worth checking out.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Postmodern puzzlebox of a book, linking characters' lives like a spiderweb - tenuous, touch and go. I was alternately moved and frustrated. An interesting companion piece to Cloud Atlas, which attempts similar disruptions in form. Surprisingly, the chapter that engendered the most skepticism -- a chapter told entirely in Powerpoint -- ended up being one of the most moving. I keep taking back my fourth star and then returning it. Egan, we aren't through.