Thursday, January 29, 2015

Miranda July in Conversation with Lena Dunham

Last night I attended a wonderful event at BAM: a talk between Lena Dunham and Miranda July about July's new novel. I recently finished, and adored, The First Bad Man, and it was so exciting to hear the author discuss her work. She talked a lot about what the writing process was like for her, and her ideas and feelings about the characters and events in the novel. Lena Dunham asked great questions, and spoke about her own reactions to certain parts. This was very interesting, and made me question my own reactions. I read The First Bad Man so quickly, that maybe I didn't fully absorb what was happening. That's what made this conversation so valuable to me -- it deepened my experience of the work.

There were also lots of fun and humorous anecdotes, and lots of laughter. The two writers are friends IRL and I think this added to the fun.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Black Mirror

I had a little trouble with Black Mirror: The Selected Poems of Roger Gilbert-Lecomte. The writing is beautiful, but I was never fully drawn in. Somehow I didn't fully enter these poems. I enjoyed much of the lyricism and rich language. Many, many lines stood out for me. But few entire poems grabbed me.

"The pallor/of one's foibles."

"To the forever unfinished and ever agonized/Human face"

"Become the secret of blind change"

"To loathe myself and drink through my thin skin"

"The prodigious appearance of the lovely monsters it creates"

My favorite: "To me alone a lovely scandal"

Lovely and Amazing

I first watched Lovely and Amazing probably over a decade ago, and was blown away at the time. I just saw it again and it totally holds up.

It is a painful look at a family of women -- a woman who is getting liposuction, her two grown daughters, and her adopted 8 year old daughter. The story centers around the operation, and provides a very close look at the small sufferings of each flawed and struggling character. The movie explores female experiences of body and appearance, validation from men, insecurity, resentment, and anger. One terrific moment after another, many depicting tiny cruelties and disappointments.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The Wolf of Wall Street

I kinda hated The Wolf of Wall Street. I was repulsed by the whole thing. Yet I watched for three hours. It details the excesses of Wall Street, and tells the story of Jordan Belfort, an asshole who became a broker and rose to riches.

One of the things I hated was how meaningless and gross these riches were: prostitutes and drugs mostly. An incredibly exhausting amount of each. I know some people might look at this lifestyle and think, "Wow! That looks like fun!" -- but it made me feel like there's no reason to crave wealth because there's nothing to do with it.

I guess The Wolf of Wall Street was successful as a critique of materialism. And there was something about it that made me keep watching in spite of my repulsion. It was just so impossible to relate to on any level.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The First Bad Man

I just finished The First Bad Man by Miranda July, and it is AMAZING!!! I loved her book of short stories and was so excited when I recently learned a novel was coming. My copy came right away, pre-ordered!

The First Bad Man starts off wonderfully -- with a neurotic and sweet narrator who is a painfully exquisite observer of her internal world. The interiority here is fascinating and intense and brilliant. I expected little in the ways of plot, however, thinking that the character study would carry the novel. I was wrong! The story really revs up in a complex and satisfying way. Cheryl, who is 43, has her life thrown into chaos when her bosses ask her to take in their 20 year old daughter. The unique dynamic between them, and the way it shifts and develops is the heart of the novel.

There are a number of surprises, but it is all held together by the odd yet logical consistency of Cheryl's voice. There are many, many hilarious moments in this book, but also many that are painful, and many that are oddly beautiful. By the end I was in tears of happiness, so pleased.

I loved The First Bad Man so much. I don't know what I'll do until Miranda July writes another book!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Into the Woods

I saw Into the Woods yesterday afternoon, and was okay with it. It definitely wasn't great, but it was watchable and for the most part entertaining.

Into the Woods takes a bunch of fairytale characters and scenarios -- Cinderella, Jack and the Bean Stalk, Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, etc, and intertwines their story. There are two main motifs -- a baker and his wife attempting to find objects for the witch to remove a curse (the witch is played by Meryl Streep). And all the characters trying to appease an angry giant destroying the land.

The first half of the movie was fine. I was into it. But when the giant came into the picture the whole thing seemed to unravel and become self conscious and trying to impose more meaning on the whole thing than necessary. I was impatient for it to end.

I loved the lyrics, which were funny and clever, but found most of the music pretty boring melodically. One exception: the duet sung by the two charming princes at the waterfall. That was totally over-the-top and funny. Everyone's acting seemed kind of precious and affected. So, not a great flick. It would have been much better if it had been edited, cutting about 40 minutes of fat.

Monday, January 12, 2015

The Year of Yellow Butterflies

What a marvelous feeling: The Year of Yellow Butterflies, a poetry collection by Joanna Fuhrman, left me breathless; it is a literally breathtaking book. I say this because I could not put it down, and there is a light dreamsicle quality to some of the language that reading these poems gave me a wonderful floaty feeling. I had to force myself to slow down, to digest a poem before going on to the next.

One of the things that made this reading experience so extraordinary is the way delight operates here. The author delighting in language, delighting in writing, delighting in observing, in participating -- in starting and finishing delightful poems. BUT - at the same time there is something haunting at work: what world have we entered?

The Year of Yellow Butterflies is rich in images, rich in characters and animals and sensations. The richness is controlled, though, and the poems are beautifully crafted. There are so many little surprises -- from phrase to line, these poems move in unexpected directions and shift in sentiment and perspective in a dazzling way.

I loved the book as a whole, but some that stood out for me: the entire section "The Year of Yellow Butterflies"; "Goodbye to the Double Bells"; "Notes on the End of Thought" (both); "Summer" -- (with its stunning ending); "The Letter"; "Trigger Guard";  and "New Eyes for the New Year".  I want to quote so many lovely lines and sections, and entire poems, but I am choosing one section from the long center poem ("The Year of Yellow Butterflies"):

"It was the year everyone decorated the outside of their houses to look like the inside, and the inside to look like the outside.

You liked to wear a jumpsuit with an X-ray of a skeleton silk-screened on it. I liked to wear an earring shaped like a decaying liver.

Once I crashed into a friend's wall because I thought it was the sky.

We placed our teacups on a tree trunk ottoman and rested our heads on waterfall pillows.

You were wearing an ocean on your mouth, and I was dressed like the sun."

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Kate Copeland, Adrianne Lenker, and Buck Meek!

Wow! I enjoyed some seriously beautiful music by some seriously talented musicians singers and songwriters last night!

The evening at Lethe Lounge began with Adrianne Lenker and Buck Meek (Buck and Anne). Lenker's hauntingly sweet voice is incredible and the songs are both delightful and a little heart-wrenching. So gorgeous. I bought both of their CDs and can't wait for more.

Kate Copeland performed original songs, backed by Kiyota Sage, Mark Ettinger, Sam Veatch and Douglas Goldstein. Copeland has a beautiful rich and sultry voice and writes phenomenal and powerful songs. They range from soft and intimate, to more "boot stomping". Her songs have wonderful heart and wit. One in particular, about cutting words, I've heard her perform before, and has really stuck with me. She is an incredible talent. I was also incredibly moved by Kiyota Sage's vocals. He has a very special voice. Copeland has a CD coming out in June and I absolutely cannot fucking wait to get it!

The evening also included a brief performance by Paul Foglino. He sang two smart and witty songs, and I would have loved to have heard more.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Without/Color at Figureworks

Last night I attended the opening of the incredibly lovely exhibition, Without/Color. At Figureworks in Williamsburg, this show currently features three artists (there will be a second iteration of the show with an additional three artists). The first room features evocative pencil drawings of female figures by Joanne Scott. The second room features haunting watercolors by Meridith McNeal. Both rooms are guarded over by intricate and powerful terra-cotta ravens by Alexander Ney.

There is a heavy softness to this show, which emphasizes delicacy and absence. The beauty of whites and greys... The sadness of a colorless world. Both work together to create something that is more than beautiful, richer than sad. This effect is particularly enhanced by McNeal's watercolors, bleak and clouded images of The Statue of Liberty. The viewer must strain towards the hope implied by this icon, as optimism has been washed away.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

The Changeling

The Changeling is a kind of slow movie about a woman in the 1920s whose son goes missing. In spite of the monotonous pacing, it is an engaging movie. There are a few themes and plot strands that are each interesting (the treatment of women, abuse of power) and it is based on the true story of Christine Collins and "the chicken coop murders". The acting is very good, although there are no standout performances. Angelina Jolie has a serene quality, even when she's crying. Except for a few intense scenes, her facade was sort of oddly calm, like a beautiful mask of distress.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Comeback, Season 2

On the last day of the year I watched the finale of the second season of The Comeback. I had completely loved the first season, back in the day. This return to Valerie Cherish after nine years was very good, but not quite as fresh, perhaps, as the first season. And slightly less cringy and uncomfortable.

However, the finale was so, so good! I was literally crying tears of joy at the end. I was so happy for the character. I don't want to give anything away, other than to say she steps out of her insecure nervous persona and is finally a real person. This was so meaningful to me because in spite of how rude and oblivious she can be, I was always rooting for her, and not just for her professional recognition, which she badly craved, but for some sort of respite from her own nerves.