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The Bookshelf

Doug's bookshelf: read

AntwerpWarsaw BikiniIcelandHow the Soldier Repairs the GramophoneThe Original of LauraBrief Interviews with Hideous Men

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  • 1252 days, 3 hours, 33 minutes, 25 seconds ago

Video Inspiration: Tom Waits Edition




On the Ebert Profile

rogerebert-736078-261x300 In today’s installment, I am going to jump on the ‘share the Roger Ebert Esquire story with the world’ bandwagon.  I know I am at least a couple of days late, if not more.  Ah well.  I will start out by saying that I do not read Roger Ebert.  I do not really watch movies that often anymore, and so I care even less about one particular man’s opinion of them.  I never watched his television shows with Gene Siskel or Richard Roeper.  I have, however and oddly enough, linked to Ebert’s material on two previous occasions: his deeply personal write-up (and what I called at the time, on twitter or something, probably his most important review) of Alcoholics Anonymous, and my favorite film critique of all time, his evisceration of the movie North.  So I suppose I hold some affection for the man, or at least his writing, even though I can hardly claim to keep up with him (I did not, for example, have any idea of how sick he had been until I read the Esquire piece). 

Anyhow… yes, Chris Jones’s article is touching.  It is sad in places – in the places where such stories are supposed to be sad.  And it is inspirational in its description of Roger’s perseverance and courage and prolificacy in the wake of his life’s recent misfortunes.  But the feeling I came away with was an overwhelming sense of shame. 

Here is where I am posting the link to the Esquire article.  Click it.  Read it.

How dare I complain about a lack of inspiration?  How dare I wax quasi-poetical on the modern rat-race world’s intrusion on my personal creativity?  How dare I make excuses for why I do not write? 

Here is a man for whom writing is all that is left.  He cannot speak, eat or drink.  He is disfigured (though not horribly, I must point out… I enjoyed Jones’s observation and description of Roger’s permanent smile).  He struggles to walk.  He has endured numerous surgeries – mostly, it seems, failed attempts to restore some of the more basic faculties that we, the unafflicted, take for granted.  He must write to communicate with his family, his friends, and the world.  For him, every word counts.  Each is important.  To write is to live.

That is an oversimplification, of course.  By all accounts I’m sure he still enjoys movies.  He enjoys the companionship of his wife.  So on.  Etcetera.  Still, even though he has always been a writer, now he writes not simply by choice, but out of necessity.  Meanwhile I am content on most nights to procrastinate – to put off writing until tomorrow.  Until there is time.  Until it is convenient.  Until my muse inspires me once more.  What a crock. 

I understand why so many people feel moved by the story.  It is uplifting and inspirational and absolutely should be read by everyone.  Take those words as ones with real gravity – as they come from someone who carries a hearty disdain for celebrity profiles and pop culture pieces. 

Western Winter Scene


Western Winter Scene


click here for photo gallery

Feb Miscellanea

We all know I have not been writing much, but… I have been reading quite a bit.  So instead of writing about how I’m not writing, I think I will share some of what I have been reading.  (These are not going to be book reviews.  Follow the links or wikipedia the authors if you want to know more about these works.)  Let’s begin. 

Book-wise, I finally finished David Foster Wallace’s Brief Interviews With Hideous Men – a collection of short stories that I began on my flights out to California and back in January.  If you are looking for some edgy, disturbingly insightful material written both ingeniously and more than just a little irritatingly, this may be the book for you.  My reaction is a sort of ‘wow, that’s really brilliant, but enough with the abbreviating and the footnotes already.’  And how in the world has John Krasinski turned this into a film? 

I also took a couple of days and read the finally-published (against the great author’s expressed wishes) fragments of Vladimir Nabokov’s The Original of Laura.  While I find the punch-out-and-rearrange index cards a bit gimmicky, the actual material is amazing.  For a Nabokov fanatic, being able to see his handwritten words, his margin notes, scratched-out lines and first thoughts is breathtaking.  The book is not even close to being complete… in fact, it does not really contain a cohesive narrative, though you can see where it was going to some degree… but if Nabokov had been able to complete his final novel, it would have been tremendous and complex.  I put the book down feeling sad, exhilarated and teased.  In a very good way. 

Now I am one and a half novellas into Edith Grossman’s translation of Álvaro Mutis’s The Adventures and Misadventures of Maqroll.  Thoroughly enjoyable thus far, though I guess we’ll see how I feel about things 500 pages later.  I discovered this gem by way of  Okay.  I thought I’d discovered Mutis at The Millions blog, but apparently I was mistaken.  Perhaps it was The Rumpus or HTML Giant.  Anyway, I recommend all three for some good online literary discourse.  I’ve added all sorts of things to my Amazon wish list because of them.  I recommend combing through the blogosphere and making some discoveries of your own.  While I languish in the creative doldrums, at least I can surround myself with the masterful creations of others. 

In closing, and in honor of the upcoming Valentine’s Day weekend, how about a love poem (of sorts)?  This is "Cascando" by Samuel Beckett (which I found by way of Kate Zambreno’s blog, whose commentary on Beckett’s poem and love and loss I will not even try to compete with here).  Mit liebe,


why not merely the despaired of
occasion of

is it not better abort than be barren

the hours after you are gone are so leaden
they will always start dragging too soon
the grapples clawing blindly the bed of want
bringing up the bones the old loves
sockets filled once with eyes like yours
all always is it better too soon than never
the black want splashing their faces
saying again nine days never floated the loved
nor nine months
nor nine lives


saying again
if you do not teach me I shall not learn
saying again there is a last
even of last times
last times of begging
last times of loving
of knowing not knowing pretending
a last even of last times of saying
if you do not love me I shall not be loved
if I do not love you I shall not love

the churn of stale words in the heart again
love love love thud of the old plunger
pestling the unalterable
whey of words

terrified again
of not loving
of loving and not you
of being loved and not by you
of knowing not knowing pretending

I and all the others that will love you
if they love you

unless they love you


Is that not gorgeous?

So, Meanwhile.

via BlackandWTFIt is incredibly frustrating to find myself here:  struggling to force myself to do what I once did because I could not NOT do it.  Create.  Even this blog is a struggle.  I am consumed with organizing and compartmentalizing thoughts, techniques, ideas, facets of my life.  I spend most of my idle waking moments in an endless state of gathering… while edging no closer to the starting line.  (If I could only pare down my rss subscriptions or find the right tool to export my blog posts to twitter, then I could finally focus on writing or photo-editing… oh, and after I find some new lightroom presets and textures and read a couple of photoshop tutorials and find some interesting books or magazines to read, then… oh, and…)  Instead of feeling inspired, I feel increasingly oppressed by my own immobility.  I even try to come up with, in the absence of being compelled to capture and sketch life in words or pictures, a creativity-themed topic for this website.  And I keep returning to the subject of creative block.  What are the obstacles?  Identify.  List.  Name.  What I really need is to have a writing space.  How to write in the midst of external stress.  How to find the extraordinary in a mundane, day-to-day existence.  It is a circular path.  I have stood in this place before.  Standing for years. 

In the cabinets under the bookshelves among the untrashable clutter of the home office, my stacks of black notebooks silently age – curling and yellowing their pages imperceptibly but as surely as time clicks on and on, all the while growing no taller.  Stunted.  It is not for lack of time.  Even now, during my busiest quarter, there are plenty of hours in the day.  That is no excuse.  And I know I could, if I wanted to, blame it on a profession where creativity has no value.  But that is unfair and untrue.  My career allows me to keep my personal expressive endeavors entirely separate from my livelihood.  My burnout has no effect on my earnings or my job performance.  See: compartmentalizing even now.  How many posts have I devoted to categorizing my life?  Even if there is truth to it, or even if there is some merit in examining one’s existence and ensuring order and meaning in its routines and processes, you still must at some time reach the point of diminishing returns.  I am stuck in a muddy pit and, instead of grabbing a rope, have been content to sit and describe the mud.  While I starve, the rope dangles right there above my head, well within reach.

There must be a way to jumpstart the growth again.  And I am fairly certain the answer is something along the lines of giving up trying to find the right tools, the right mindset or the right voice.  Giving up and just jumping in and doing what you have always done… what you used to do without hesitation and without restraint.  Giving up and giving in and allowing yourself to be reckless and raw and unedited and piss-poor.  Starting.  Starting now.  Begin.