Monday, January 10, 2011

Anis Shivani

"Next door in a bookstore, the power of the blast made the thin, dusty volumes of French novelists translated into Persian totter and fall off the shelves, although the thicker British and Russians stayed put."  from "Tehran" by Anis Shivani

Every rare once in awhile I discover a new writer that I would sing about if I could sing, so write I will.  I first discovered the brash young Anis in his reviews at the Huffington Post, where he takes on the Canon and introduces many writers I never heard of, which for me are the best kind.  Soon after my introduction I obtained a copy of his collection of short stories, Anatolia and Other Stories, and began reading alongside a number of other books.  Anatolia soon won out.  The stories all grapple with multiculturalism, or shifting culturalism, as well as issues of race and class, yet they are in no way the politically correct liberal takes that fill the best literary journals, no sire, Anis likes to raise hackles, similar to his character Simone Carpentier in "Go Sell It on the Mountain," a vicious little take on a Breadloaf-styl writing workshop. The stories are set in the U.S., Dubai, India, Iran, Turkey and other locales.  Everywhere the winds of change are shifting the landscapes, and characters are caught up in these changes.  And these are Stories!  No po-mo shape-shifting for Anis.  Each story is filled with scrupulous detail, indigenous language, and fascinating characters.  They are touching, funny, angry, unjust, irritating and gentle to name a few.
The initial story, a very Kafkaesque peice, Dubai, tells of a construction worker who came to Dubai from India many years ago, and on the eve of his returning to India is visiting friends and reminiscing.  A disturbing incident from the past however interferes.  And the other stories, are well worth the visit to a library or book store.  And Anis Shivani is someone very much worth singing, or writing about.

Language Poetry Gone Awry

Judge: David-Winn: Miller, the wanna-be avant garde poet who believes the U.S. government is controlling us through it's use of grammar is a possible influence on the recent tragic Arizona shooting.  The shooter, Jared Loughner, apparently believed the most effective way to fight bad grammar was with a .9mm, something our schools are failing to teach (which he was also pissed about).  This seems related in methodology to the "Hit Squad" school of literary criticism, ala Salman Rushdie.  Watch your commas and CAPS, writers.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Old Stuff, Overheard in the National Gallery and adjacent Sculpture Garden

Young girl to young man: " I'm really getting arted out."

Young man to young man: "My dad is NOT a lawyer."

Man in blue vest: "How can time be a circle when there is no such thing as time?"

Stephen Machmanovich Free Play!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Denis Dutton

I just recently read that Denis Dutton had died at the far too early age of 66 (only 6 years my elder).  I had recently been introduced to Mr. Dutton by a friend, Jeff Purdue, and found his book The Art Instinct, an investigation of the role of evolution in the artistic process and appreciation.  The book was terrifically well-written, and threw out numerous hypotheses.  It was not Mr. Dutton's self-identified task to conclude anything, but rather open doors of inquiry, something he did masterfully.  I also became aware of his website, Arts & Letters, a virtual collage of reviews, opinions, and at times, madness.  Men of his honesty, directness and charm will be missed.

On other notes, recommended reads include the South African author J.M. Coetzee's (a new author for me) Boyhood: Scenes from a Provincial Life, a memoir of sorts about growing up in South Africa.  This is a marvelous and at times searing book.  I am looking forward to his next two in the series: Youth: Scenes from a Provincial Life II & Summertime.

And a highly recommended movie: The Social Network.  A must see!