October 24, 2012
July 18, 2012
After who knows how many days of a persistent heat wave, the clouds just broke into a thunderous rainstorm. The construction workers on scaffolds outside my window ran into the middle of the street cheering. One man in a white tank top and back brace raised his arms and head to the sky laughing. I can’t help but smile — we’ve all been waiting for this.
Somehow, I <3 you Brooklyn (even as I sit here in my sweat-soaked no-air-conditioning t-shirt).
July 17, 2012
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My translation of a personal essay by Andrei Krasnyashykh just came out in the Summer 2012 issue of The Massachusetts Review. The essay “On the Dream Within a Dream,” is about dreaming about dreaming, about not being able to wake up, about trying to escape from a dream trapped inside another dream. The essay is funny, fantastical, and strange. Typical Krasnyashykh. The cover (left) is a gorgeous photograph by Harry Gamboa. Here’s an excerpt from the essay:
In Kafka’s fantastical nighttime world, the everyday logic of daytime suddenly invaded. Nightmares became a combination of delusion and logic, or more accurately, the delusion, without rhyme or reason, suddenly stopped playing by its own rules and discovered an internal everyday logic. Reality within the unreal (by the way, in magic realism, though it often feels dissonant, it’s the other way around: the surreal is within the confines of reality, and the experience of reading Kafka is noticeably different from reading García Márquez. The latter isn’t scary, and, after all,—I keep getting further and further away from the subject of my piece, but there’s nothing I can do about it since it’s already happening—the first story of García Márquez, “The Third Resignation” (written in 1947), is considered Kafkaesque because he writes about the feelings of a dead person, not as the subject matter but rather as the atmosphere of reality within the unreal).
February 16, 2012
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From an op-ed by singer/songwriter/author Alina Simone in the Wall Street Journal:
But as recent headlines make clear, we still haven’t managed to outrun some of our Cold War-era habits. There is an I-told-you-so kind of glee in U.S. reporting of the Russian protests over mishandling of the elections, the same glee that’s reflected in coverage of the “Occupy” movement by Russian news outlets. “Mass arrests in the United States” a nightly news report on Channel 1 bleated. Thirty-one protestors had been taken into custody in Washington D.C. — hardly a revolution, but such is the distorted glimpse we tend to get of one another’s politics.
I witnessed the same thing when I first visited Moscow, Russia in 1994. From an essay I wrote about that trip:
That first time in Russia, I couldn’t figure people out. They had a strange air of contradiction in their essence. Architecture was torn between modernism and an attachment to classical forms, Greek-style columns painted over with awful pastel greens or yellows that were now flaking off. The youth were torn between making jokes at the expense of Americans and between a strong desire to imitate American culture. Life was torn between glamorous fashion magazines and crumbling Khrushchev-era apartments.
I first heard about Alina from this silly article in The New York Times Style Magazine about a new wave of Russian literati and media makers. Can I have in, please?
February 10, 2012
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I’ve been thinking a lot about experimental genres these days, and have stumbled upon flash nonfiction. Did I invent this? I guess it’s the same as flash fiction, but I’m self-consciously telling you about myself.
Below is one of my first attempts at flash nonfiction. It’s inspired by a translation of a Juan Villoro story published at Words Without Borders.
I hate flying because I can never be present, in the meditative sense. By the time I’ve taken stock of where we are, the plane has leapt forward another 65 mph mile.
January 1, 2012
Here’s a snippet from a recent “Brevity” blog post by Anna Vodicka that really resonated with me:
The poetry class did not make me a poet. I wrote a lot of bad poems. But it did turn my attention to the short form—the art of economy and responsibility. With Kinnell’s poem and Wrigley’s words in mind, I thought, “Yes. Prose, it is.”
I plucked a few lines from their stanzas, let them settle responsibly into the new space of a paragraph, and cautiously let prose in. That’s when I heard the sound. It went, “click.”
I am currently working on an experimental essay all about how poetry and literary translation has affected my nonfiction prose writing and pushed me in a, well, experimental direction.
Can’t wait to finish it and (hopefully) find a published home for it. Then I’ll share it here!
December 8, 2011
If the guilty pleasure in watching reality TV shows is derived from the voyeuristic clips of outrageous, hair-pulling catfights and the chance to glimpse the homes and lifestyles of the rich and not-so-famous, then Russian Dolls won’t satisfy even the basest TV-watching desires.
From my review in the newest Bitch magazine. Read the rest below, or buy the print or digital edition here!
After I wrote the review, the Lifetime network ran a marathon of all the remaining episodes in season one. It is still unclear whether the show has been cancelled or if it will return for a second season. My review should make it pretty clear which option I prefer.
December 7, 2011
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About 150 homeless campers and activists affiliated with the OccupyNOLA movement were evicted from Duncan Plaza yesterday, Tuesday December 6. They had been occupying the space across from the New Orleans City Hall for two months.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu said that “public health issues, such as unsafe electrical outlets and unsanitary conditions” were part of the motivation for the police sweep. After some homeless were offered temporary shelter, remaining protestors dragged their belongings across the street. “By 7:30 a.m. on Tuesday…dozens of city workers had already piled tents, sleeping bags, and other personal items into dumptrucks parked in the plaza.“ The plaza was fully cleared and scrubbed clean with power washers.
Some photos of the forced eviction from WWL.com:
Here are photos that I took in the very same Duncan Plaza on approximately December 21, 2007:
Yes, it looks eerily familiar. In ’07, the encampment was a post-Katrina right-to-affordable-housing protest. Homeless people and those kicked out of the soon-to-be-demolished public housing units were demanding that public housing be reopened and that the city not forget its poorest residents. City-contracted waste removal employees dragged tents and belongings into trash compactors, clearing the plaza, which earlier had been filled with hundreds of homeless people. (See more from my original reporting back then.)
One theory from 2007 that seems perfectly applicable to this recent eviction: that the forced removal was timed for the holiday season beautification and to make sure that tourists didn’t see the tent city. (The Mercedes-Benz Superdome, where the much-beloved New Orleans Saints play, is located nearby.)
So really not much has changed. Much of New Orleans’ public housing stock was demolished even though it wasn’t significantly damaged by Hurricane Katrina. There are little to no viable replacements. People in 2011 are protesting skyrocketing rents and a city government that is out of touch with the needs of the 99%. A forcible eviction of tents in Duncan Plaza comes around Christmas time.
The only good news is that today, a Judge overruled the Mayor’s decision and has allowed occupiers to return to the Plaza, but only for seven days while the judicial reprieve process is worked out.
The only lesson we ever learn is that we never learn.
July 11, 2011
I’m writing an essay about my experiences in post-Katrina New Orleans, and I thought I’d give you all a taste of the first few paragraphs. My hidden agenda: perhaps the comments will help motivate and inspire me to keeping on plugging along with the writing.
How can I characterize my love for a place that I only came to know after its destruction? It is a strange kind of attachment, one that comes out of witnessing devastation and, later, sometimes, resilience.
I am not from New Orleans, nor do I have any familial connection to the place or to any place in the southern United States for that matter, but the days I’ve spent in that city have left more of an impact on me than my time spent in any other place. I am compelled to recount my experiences as if to justify or earn my love, as if my guilt about being yet another white Northerner who fell in love with New Orleans too late can be undone with sufficient stories indicating my connection to the city and its surroundings. We’ve been through quite a bit together, though this city never needed me, never even knew me until it was undone by storm and flood and injustice. My love for this place is the other side of the coin of heartbreak, and sometimes the line between the two isn’t so clear.
April 22, 2011
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And you can read it here!
I entered a literary contest and my piece didn’t win but I got to read it out loud anyway to bar crammed with word-hungry patrons. It was fun. People seemed to like it. So I figured I’d put it on the internet for all to see.
Now it’s Sunday morning. Eleven forty in the afternoon, actually. I just woke up. There’s still snow–at least a foot–covering the streets, sidewalks, rooftops, cars and abandoned bikes. The snow is grey and pockmarked with dog shit, cigarette butts, and the lids from the bottles of sports drinks. It’s Christmas in Bay Ridge.
Read the rest over at LitDrift.