Kamby Bolongo Mean River named one of 25 Important Books of the 2000s by HTML Giant
Friday, August 26, 2011
Imad Rahman is the author of I Dream of Microwaves, a collection of connected stories. He teaches at Cleveland State University & directs the Imagination Writers Workshop & Conference.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
In the late summer of 1990 I spent a week trying to learn to surf in a fishing village not far from Sendai on the eastern coast of Japan. There were five or six of us in an old wooden house – three or four Japanese guys, me and my friend Mike. We had been invited by the son of one of the English teachers in my school. The school was in Kumagaya, a few hours away, far from the sea. At the school I taught seven classes a day in windowless rooms the size of large closets. These were not necessarily always dreary sessions but the memory — here, now — of being on the coast, with those guys, in a large, airy old house is a good one.
We slept on the floor, it goes without saying. One of the guys ground his teeth all night. Another of the guys, Koji, was a looker and spent a lot of time talking to his girlfriends. The third guy, whose nickname was Skeleton, was very tall. The fourth guy, if there was one, I can’t remember.
The guys were well-equipped for their surfing labors. They and all the other surfers on the beach had good gear. Good gear was important for sporting activity in Japan. Waves were important, too, but there weren’t a lot of them that week. Enough though that Mike and I, who had never been on surf boards before (or since), got smashed repeatedly onto the hard sand. We also got scraped up, lacking wet-suits, by the wax on our boards. What the fuck, right? It’s pathetic, grotesque even to talk about surfing in those waters, I know that, but there the memory is, there is sits, bobs, attempts to stand.
So, anyway, we tried. Koji and crew were okay. They caught waves. Mike and I may eventually have caught a wave or two as well. Mainly though I remember the hard sand stuff and a bunch of guys in good gear bobbing in the water and the blue sky and the warm sun.
Then we played beach volleyball. I think I got a little aggressive and wacked the ball into someone’s face. That wasn’t nice. Then a typhoon struck. We spent days in the old house. I think we may have played cards. Poker for yen. Certainly we drank beer. Conversed. Told jokes. One day we ventured out to a bathhouse. Some of the local Yakuza were there. One had a missing finger. All were tattooed. We laughed and pointed at each other. You know. The hottest bath was hot enough to make you cry. “You” being me and Mike. There had been some horsing around before the bath part. During the spigot part. But during the bath part everyone just sat still and tried to keep it together.
Generally, we ate a lot of rice and fish and seaweed. Ramen too. At night the guy who ground his teeth ground his teeth. Or is that grinded? I wish I could remember what Skeleton was like when he was sleeping. Actually, I can. Only I don’t know how to write it. Koji probably slept handsomely. The years go by. Mike and I probably snored.
A few days ago someone asked me to write something featuring water that has been poisoned. They meant write about Japan. The rain from the typhoon has grown very warm in my memory of it, but quite possibly we were shivering a lot during that so-called week of surfing. I wasn’t much liked, but Mike was popular. I was just starting to try to write and was already a little distant. Now, radiation from the Fukushima plant is leaking into the ocean. Some of the leak is deliberate. Part of a strategy. According to some international experts this is not a problem. It is hard to know what they could possibly mean by this. Or what they think they mean by this. People say stuff. I think of the scientists in all those Japanese nuclear horror monster movies. Saying stuff. What are they saying? What can they mean?
Meanwhile, Skeleton is kind of curled up in my memory of him sleeping. He is smiling too. That kid is still grinding his teeth. The Yakuza guy’s finger is still gone. We are all still bobbing in the waters. Much of Sendai was wiped out by the tsunami. I’m sure that little wooden house we spent those days in all those years ago now was too.
Laird Hunt is the author of a book of short stories, mock parables and histories, The Paris Stories (2000), originally from Smokeproof Press, though now re-released by Marick Press, and four novels, The Impossibly (2001), Indiana, Indiana (2003), The Exquisite (2006) and Ray of the Star (2009) all from Coffee House Press. His translation from the French of Oliver Rohe’s Vacant Lot is recently out from Counterpath Press.
Monday, August 15, 2011
They call it a 'living fossil', essentially identical to specimens unearthed from before the age of dinosaurs. The tuatara can live well over 100 years, maybe as many as 200, they don't really know. They're nocturnal, they're endangered, they're cannibalistic. The Maori tribes who named them believe they are messengers of the God of Death, that no pregnant woman should eat them. They have a prehistoric third eye on their forehead, the legendary pineal eye, a light-sensing node. It helps them know where the sun is, what season it is.
We melted over 40,000 pounds of snow today. The mound is almost gone. The men here don’t like the dark that lasts all day. I don’t mind. The shifts are over before I know it. Time seems to disappear in the dark.
Despite the popular belief that I adhered to until reading this article, most reptiles aren't really cold-blooded. When the temperature drops too low, they die. Not the tuatara. It can survive at just a few degrees above zero, a temperature at which any other reptile would freeze. Or not 'any other', because they're not reptiles. They are a different thing. A distinct creature.
I used to think I was smart. People told me I was smart as a child. I was put in the training camp called 'Gifted and Talented'. My particular gifts or talents were never enumerated. While the other kids memorized spelling lists we made creative things out of papier-mâché. I can't spell papier-mâché.
Take the Neanderthal. They weren't just another step in human evolution, they were a different branch entirely. They existed side by side with Homo Sapien Sapien. Modern humans like you, sometimes me. Neanderthal tools, Neanderthal language. We interbred with them. And then we probably killed them off. Or they died of cold. This is all speculative. And controversial. I encourage you to look it up when we get back to the station.
The crux is that a Neanderthal was fundamentally different than a human. They were another human-like creature living at the same time as humans. As I walked over with lunch just now I kept thinking: What if they hadn't died out? Imagine it: bigger, different, hairy human-creatures living right along side us. Forget conflict over religion or race or nationality. Slide science to the front page. They had bigger brains than we do. It wasn't Harry and the Hendersons. They were smarter, less violent. Your laugh is disgusting. They were like prehistoric Europeans, cultured.
You see, I wanted to say something at lunch about how I feel now: that I matter less, that it's less important who I am. Just anyone, checking my reflection in the side of this glacier, frowning at the sea. But it doesn't matter to you either… no, I know it doesn't. And it's OK. It doesn't matter to the world. It does not feel important. Does not feel important to say it to you, does not feel important to say it to myself, does not feel important to set it down for posterity. What does posterity consist of? No Neanderthal, maybe tuatara, but only for a blink, for a breath of time, back at work with 780 pounds of snow on the news truck, you calling out some stupid joke while locking up the hatch. I don’t laugh. Ever. This is death’s country and we’ve got a pet store to build.
Zach Dodson’s hybrid typo/graphic novel, boring boring boring boring boring boring boring, came out in 2008 under the nom de plume Zach Plague. He has also launched such experiments as Featherproof Books, Bleached Whale Design, and The Show N’ Tell Show. He enjoys pleasant weather.
Monday, August 8, 2011
Today in Celeb News
by Carmen Giménez Smith- Hollywood’s Deep Insider
In today’s celebrity news, Kiera Knightley slid out of the sheets of her fluffy bed at New York’s premiere W Hotel’s to curl up with her new iPad from which she’s reading the new Mark Twain biography. She was lamenting the days in which it was de rigueur to read great books while sitting in one’s canvas actor’s chairs, Marilyn Monroe reading Joyce’s Ulysses, etc., so she decided to buy herself a proper copy as a ruse. She had to change out of the same sweats she’d been wearing for the last two days, and put on a pair of Balenciaga gladiator boots just to go down the hall to knock on her assistant’s door—its more polite that way—and send him to buy her a copy of the book. She hates hotel hallways.
On Johnny Depp’s private island, trouble is brewing…between his children. Lily-Rose Depp refuses to let Jack Depp play with the Wii in the screening room, which forces little Jack, named after Depp’s groundbreaking role as Jack Sparrow in the film, Pirates of the Carribean, based on the 1967 Disney ride that terrified this journalist’s 3-year old son who insisted on riding the ride despite this journalist’s apprehension about the skeleton parts. The journalist’s child was indeed traumatized by the experience, and this journalist vowed to not return until the boy was of age, but in addition, recognized the inanity of buying food at Disneyland, what with the exorbitant prizes, and felt a profound sense of grief at having nagged her working class parents to buy burgers, even when she wasn’t hungry. At any rate, the Wii debacle led to Depp, age 47, to send both his children to frolic on the fine sand of their private island. He has since vowed to prohibit his children from using the Wii in the screening room. Actors-just like us?
Back in Hollywood, Jennifer Aniston, age 41, our favorite spinster, is frantically insisting that her staff do something about the strange smell emanating from her refrigerator. The assistants have already thrown out the doggie bag from Eva Longoria’s restaurant Beso as well as some undated protein shakes delivered by her personal trainer without dates on their lids. Insiders say she’s holding on to the last jar of yogurt that Brad Pitt ever ate from, but friends say that’s “patently offensive, she’s been over him for years.” Did she and Eva exchange divorce lawyer phone numbers? We’ll see soon!!!!
George Clooney, 49 and his beautiful new arm candy, Italian television presenter, Elisabetta Canalis, 32, attended a matinee screening of the new hit film, True Grit, at the Century 8 in North Hollywood. Fans only recognized him when Elisabetta left the screening to use the bathroom, and returned to the darkened theatre and yelled, “George! George! George Clooneeeee!” Luckily, there were only seven other attendees as most people have been downloading Oscar contenders as torrents, so a potential riot was averted. The couple was reported to have consumed a large Sprite, a bag of peanut M&Ms and a medium popcorn, no butter. Clooney graciously signed one fan’s bosom, which she promptly had tattooed at famed tattoo parlor, High Voltage Ink, owned by 28-year old tattoo icon, Kat Von D who was not present during the tattooing of this unnamed Clooney fan. Perhaps she was busy with her new purported secret beau, Chicago mayor contender, Rahm Emmanuel.
Guess Who? Which A-list celebrity still argues with his B-list wife about who should take out the garbage each week? Mr. A insists that it’s the responsibility of their housekeeper, but Ms. B, with her working-class upbringing (and TV show role, hint,hint), feels that Mr. B should assume a more traditional role and take out the garbage himself. Hint: It’s not Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith.
Newly uncovered records reveal that Daniel Radcliffe, age 21, has not always been the star pupil he played at Hogwarts. A recently released history paper he wrote for an on-set tutor was practically drenched in red ink with language such as “redundant!” and “where’s the bloody thesis?” In 2001, this journalist once had dinner at a restaurant in Paris where Daniel Radcliffe and his family were having dinner. The only celebrity this journalist had ever had proximity with was Jack Klugman, at the Santa Anita Horse Races when she was a child. This journalist was absolutely transfixed by the boy and his celebrity and couldn’t stop staring, which made Daniel Radcliffe’s (alleged) sister very sour. Radcliffe left the restaurant wearing a NYPD hat, this being 2001. His representatives insist that this history paper was out of keeping with most of his studies, and that Radcliffe was “a diligent student of British history on and off set.”
Oh wait, this journalist saw LaToya Jackson at the Galleria in the late 80s. She looked like a tiger. And in the late 80s, Neil Patrick Harris was purported to have stopped at the men’s boutique two doors from the Eyexam 2000 where she worked at the time, but she missed seeing him by moments. That day, however, hearing that he had gone to this particular boutique, she began to wonder about her dream marriage to this actor, that is, if it would pan out, as one of the shop boys had mentioned a certain flirtation with said shop boy.
Guess Who? One tween music and television star is in hot water with his/her literary salon after using the word “volumptuous.” This super-exclusive literary salon, said to be attended by literary luminaries such as Ally Sheedy and Suzanne Somers is metaphorically “up in arms” at the faux-pas. Will this young up and comer survive this pronunciation predicament? Find out, next week, in the next installment of Today in Celeb News!Carmen Giménez Smith is the author of three collections of poetry -- Odalisque in Pieces (University of Arizona, 2009), The City She Was (Center for Literary Publishing, 2011), and Goodbye, Flicker (University of Massachusetts, 2012) -- and a memoir, Bring Down the Little Birds (University of Arizona, 2010). She is the recipient of a Juniper Prize for poetry and a fellowship from the Howard Foundation for creative nonfiction. She is the publisher of Noemi Press, the editor-in-chief of Puerto del Sol, and an assistant professor in the MFA program in creative writing at New Mexico State University.