“Whenever I went someplace, I liked to present myself with such problems that gave me—someone who could find no particular reason to stay there otherwise—a reason to stay.”
Jung Young Moon, Seven Samurai Swept Away in a River
If you ask me (nobody did), the problem is that people consider every thought in their head to be their own because somebody told them so.
Neighborhoods feeling cinematic this evening.
Intentional or not, the line breaks in this Thanksgiving menu email I got seem more…honest…about things.
Big Bend National Park, Texas
The mechanic’s was too chatty for real reading so I read the news today (oh boy). Reminded why I avoid it because good god, how overstimulating, manipulative, narrow, pathetic most “news” is. Between that and facebook, its no wonder people are ragged and confused. Time to unplug!
Malpais Lava Flow, NM
Guy at bar: “So what kind of music you been listening to?”
Me: “A lot of anti-Nashville country and Arab funk/disco, some Tom Waits, random classical. A little West African psychedelica.”
Guy at bar: “Spotify’s amazing, huh?”
📍 Now I’m in… Las Cruces, NM
Just finished Havana Year Zero by Karla Suárez 📚. It’s been a while since I’ve been so thoroughly delighted by a novel. Wonderfully written, beautifully told, and fun to read.
Sigh…baseball season is over…guess I’ll read
Fascinating to learn that Persian identity once transcended the boundaries of political empires, ethnicities, and religions. A glimpse of a road abandoned in favor simple nationality.
Updated my Tribute page to include the native inhabitants of every place I’ve visited in North America, in order, since starting full-time travel in 2016. I’ve learned that: much detail is lost in the telling of any history; every map is incomplete; I’m just a visitor here.
Starting an argument is not the same as making an argument.
📍 Now I’m in… Albuquerque, NM
Aporetic (adj) - characterized by an irresolvable internal contradiction or logical disjunction.
For years now, I’ve endeavored to more mindfully consume everything from food to stuff to media. It’s led to a healthier, simpler life less weighed down by things and less cluttered by noise. But most importantly, it’s taught me to be thankful for what I have. So I keep at it.
📍 Now I’m in… Santa Fe, NM
I was drinking my tea this morning while watching the sun on the mountains and sketching some idea or another in my notebook when I got to thinking about how I used to post online all kinds of things I’d write, but as the years have gone by I seem to have lost interest in sharing. I believe this is because I’m not sure who I’d share for, or why. I still write all the time, but I’ve come to realize I do so for myself; it’s a form of therapy, a way of thinking, a practice in seeing. As a result, my writing has become wilder, less purposeful, and much more mine.
Canyons of the Ancients
📍 Now I’m in… Dolores, CO
📍 Now I’m in… Salt Lake City, UT
📍 Now I’m in… Cheyenne, WY
Just finished Mona: A Novel by Pola Oloixarac. I dont know what to say…I’m not totally equipped…a quick book about writers and writing and identity and stereotypes and literature and the arc of everything else. Loved it. 📚
Late late summer light in a prairie city
Just finished You Can’t Go Home Again by Thomas Wolfe. A beast of a book, certainly of its time, and yet shockingly familiar. Worth the effort.📚
🍺 Favorite brewery in the great city of Omaha! Scriptown Brewing Company, Omaha, NE
When I grow up I want to be David Byrne.
“I think we have lost a very important science: ethics. People admire lying. They admire cheating. They admire a man being a millionaire. The things that are important, really important, are the books a man reads, his feelings, his actions, while opinions are not. They come and go. I’ve been a nationalist, I’ve been a communist, a quiet anarchist.”
My home town—Golden Meadow, Louisiana—has had a very rough time from Hurricane Ida. Thankfully, it seems the levees held, but everything else (power, water, communications, roads) has given way. Nothing to do but wait for word from family. Remember: coastal people are tough.
Finished “Cloud Atlas” (again) / “Aimlessness” by Tom Lutz / “Portraits Without Frames” by Lev Ozerov / “The Dreamed Part” by Rodrigo Fresan / “At the Lucky Hand: aka The Sixty-Nine Drawers” by Goran Petrović / “Recitation” by Bae Suah / “Tram 83” by Fiston Mwanza Mujila (again) / “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” by David Foster Wallace (again) / “Heavens on Earth” by Carmen Boullosa / “Out of the Cage” by Fernanda García Lao / “Inherent Vice” by Thomas Pynchon (again) / “The Overstory” by Richard Powers / “Cannery Row” and “Tortilla Flat” by John Steinbeck / “Destruction and Sorrow Beneath the Heavens” by Laszlo Krasznahorkai (again) / “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thompson (again) / “Lady Joker vol. 1” by Kaoru Takamura / Currently reading “Autobiography of Black Hawk” by Black Hawk / “Postcolonial Love Poem” by Natalie Diaz / and “Sudden Death” by Álvaro Enrigue (again)
📍 Now I’m in… Sioux Falls, SD
Whether whiskey, beer, or bread, I love rye.
Today we finally decided that we’ve had it with the rediculous “efficiencies” of map app routing, the associated “app knows best” coddling, and otherwise user-hostile design, so we’re back to the ol Rand McNally road atlas like god intended.
Three rocks in the forest
Just finished Lady Joker, Volume 1 by Kaoru Takamura. Crime fiction, but also a great look at the development of the postwar Japanese economy and society, as well as a study on the nature of victimhood. Sadly, Volume 2 wont be out until next year. 📚
📍 Now I’m in… Appleton, WI
On this day in 1856, the Last Island Hurricane made landfall in Lousiana as a Category 4 storm, splitting Last Island (Isle Derniere) in two, wiping out every structure and killing 200+. The land that remains today is maintained by dredging and serves as a wildlife refuge.
📍 Now I’m in… Madison, WI
📍 Now I’m in… Chicago, IL
🍺 It’s Friday and the beer garden is full of sunlight, breeze, and families. Nocterra Brewing Co., Powell, OH
I ❤️ the produce in international grocery stores.
📍 Just plane gawking National Museum of the U.S. Air Force, Riverside, OH
Love a good door
When people don’t encounter anything different, they can’t know any better.
This week I’m being low-key subversive by finishing only the work I need to finish then passing the rest of my day offline, reading, writing, and sitting outside being quiet rather than going somewhere to spend money. It’s certainly no sacrifice.
The question is not ‘Where is the truth?’ It is: ‘Who is being truthful?’
On the epistemological crisis of the modern (and from my perspective, particularly the American) world:
Summer Saturday evenings with Osmer
These loooong summer evenings still fly by
📍 Now I’m in… Columbus, OH
Ohio River Scene, Jeffersonville, IN
Crossing the Ohio River at Louisville
📍 Across the Ohio we go! Big Four Station, Jeffersonville, IN
🍺 Friday at my favorite Arkansas brewery… Lost Forty Brewing, Little Rock, AR
Summer days only look empty and quiet
Now I’m in… 📍 Maumelle, AR
Today I learned about mautâm, a cyclic ecological phenomenon occuring every ~50 years, when vast bamboo forests in northeastern India flower simultaneously, resulting in abundant seed, a boom in the rat population, then a famine when the rats run out of seeds and turn to crops.
Finished At the Lucky Hand: aka The Sixty-Nine Drawers by Goran Petrović last night. Wonderful little story about love and literature, and to me the best novel about reading since Italo Calvino’s If on a winter’s night a traveler. Looking forward to re-reading one day. 📚
While an honest assessment of the past might make us realize “the low likelihood of the present and the future turning out any differently…we still must care for one another as the tragedy unfolds.”
Enjoyed this review of The Counterforce, a book that seems right up my alley in proposing that “Pynchon can help us diagnose much of what’s wrong with our culture in general, and literary culture in particular” and suggesting the cultivation of “eccentricity as an antidote to a world gone mad.”
Finished The Dreamed Part by Rodrigo Fresán (sequel to The Invented Part). I love when reading a book is (and here’s Fresán, succinctly explaining my tastes) “a work, a labor, a challenge parallel to that of writing it.” Impatient for the translation of La Parte Recordada!📚
Ghost and zombie urbanism: a symptom of 21st century capitalism.
A history of the filing cabinet and information infrastructure in the 20th century.
I love translated literature. I love stories written by people from other places and cultures with different ways of seeing and telling. I am awestruck by the art of translation. I’ve come to read translations as an escape from what I’ve come to regard as an increasingly stagnant corpus of navel-gazing, perpetually oh-so-timely, and frankly rather boring Anglophone literature. True, there is a certain selection bias at work here, but all the more reason to cherish small presses that publish translations (among my faves: Deep Vellum, Charco Press, And Other Stories). I would urge you to read anything they have on offer.
I especially enjoy Latin American literature (which is a terribly broad term); another universe of literature, parallel to (and often appearing to be far more fascinating and unconstrained) than my own, yet similar enough to be familiar and immersive. Yes, I got started with Bolaño, but in the years since I’ve spread my reading as wide and deep as translations will allow me, and I haven’t even scraped the surface of course. So I’m slowly (but steadily) working my way through the small presses, who are cranking out translations at an admirable pace, and I am slowly (but oh so slowly) learning to read Spanish at least, so I don’t have to rely on others curation to guide my exploration.
All that said because this article provides an excellent overview of the intricacies of publishing Latin American literature in the international market, the perils of selling (and reading) translated literature in general, and has given me plenty of food for thought.
The possibility that accompanies the approach of an unfamiliar car along a quiet road, then fades as it passes by with the whisper of a incompleted journey; parentheses around a moment on a saturday afternoon with the windows open
Cathexis (n) - investment of mental or emotional energy in a person, object, or idea.
Just finished Portraits without Frames by Lev Ozerov. Picked it up after reading this review. A beautiful, tragic, and tenderly inspirational collection of poems caturing the spirits of a wide swath of Soviet artists, written by their contemporary. 📚
I have recently realized that no other work of literature has shaped me more than Calvin & Hobbes.
Today I learned that turkey vultures’ sense of smell has been used to locate leaks in an oil pipeline: ethyl mercaptan, a chemical redolent of rotting meat, was pumped through a 42-mile pipeline, and the maintenance crew just looked for the vultures to find the leaks.
On this day in 1958, Ben Carlin became the first (and only) person to circumnavigate the Earth by amphibious vehicle, traveling 17,000 km by sea and 62,000 km by land. It took him ten years and seems to have been quite the odyssey, as could be expected.
I’ve always loved having a library and perusing the libraries of others. When I started travelling, I had to give up my personal library and move to ebooks in the name of portability. But now, visitors to my website can peruse my virtual library!
Here’s a fun short read: Berliner Maqama, or the Hitchiker from Heidelberg by Haytham el-Wardany, translated from the Arabic by Katharine Halls
Today I learned that euhemerism is an approach to the interpretation of mythology in which mythological accounts are presumed to have originated from real historical events or personages.
Today I learned that in the second century BCE, Eratosthenes developed an algorithm used to this day to find primes, drew perhaps the first ‘scientific’ map, and calculated the circumference of the Earth to within about 2%. His work was lost with the Great Library of Alexandria.
Finished “Hurricane Season” by Fernanda Melchor / “PrairyErth” by William Least Heat-Moon / “The Missing Piece” by Antoine Bello / “Under the Volcano” by Malcom Lowry (again) / “Satantango” by Laszlo Krasznahorkai (again) / “I’ll Sell you a Dog” by Juan Pablo Villalobos / “Kingdom Cons” by Yuri Herrera / “JR” by William Gaddis (again) / “In Patagonia” by Bruce Chatwin (again) / “A Brief Episode in the Life of a Landscape Painter” by Cesar Aira / “The Amalgamation Polka” by Stephen Wright / “Interior Chinatown” by Charles Yu / “Waterloo” by Andrew Roberts / Currently reading “Cloud Atlas” (again) / “Aimlessness” by Tom Lutz / “Portraits Without Frames” by Lev Ozerov
One of the strangest parts about aging for me has been the discovery that I love birds, hate Twitter, and am therefore turning into Jonathan Franzen.
Every simple post I try to write always ends up super long because I want it to be perfect, but it also (counterintuitively) ends up too inchoate to share. So I post nothing, but at least the notebook keeps growing. How do you decide when a peice of writing says enough?
Along the James River, VA
I’ve come to find comfort in a reading of history, less cynical than it seems on its face, that admits that human beings have always been a mess and its only every so often that we’ve managed to muster up any real progress instead of just inventing more efficient ways of being (and making each other) miserable. I guess it reminds me that there have always been and will always be challenges and tragedies, that events are terrifying when they’re bearing down on you, and that some people rise to their times and some don’t, but most simply endure them with whatever grace they can. This helps me to worry less about the direction things are headed and be more aware of right here and right now, which, regardless of what happens, is the only place I’ll ever actually be and thus the only time I can ever actually act.
It’s funny, the difference between a wise guy and a wise man…