Tuesday, May 22, 2012

First Sentence I Can Find New Yorker Caption Contest!

. . . (wherein I caption the New Yorker Caption Contest cartoon with whatever sentence I first see in whatever book is nearest to me)

This crypt is described as a psychic "fortress" and "monument," a fortress as monument where a secret commemorating a catastrophic inaugural event is buried.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre

"Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre" is one of my favorite stories.  I read it in One Story, which is an awesome journal that publishes, y'know, one story per issue, and each issue comes out every three weeks.  It must feel really good to get a story in One Story--of everybody in the world, you're the only one who made it into that issue.

So it's a really consistently great publication, and Seth Fried's "Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre" is my favorite thing I've read in it.  Apparently Mr. Fried has a collection of stories out, and "Frost Mountain" is in it.  I will be needing to get that.  The "Overview" of the book in the above-linked online book retailer's page for Fried's The Great Frustration mentions Steven Millhauser and George Saunders in the first sentence, which I think are two apt comparisons, and which I think explain why I like Fried's story so much.  I would probably also include Kevin Brockmeier and Shirley Jackson in the mix.  [KIND-OF-BUT-NOT-REALLY-SPOILER ALERT WHERE I PRETTY MUCH COVER THE WHOLE PLOT OF THE STORY BUT IT DOESN'T MATTER ALL THAT MUCH BECAUSE IT'S NOT REALLY A PLOT-DRIVEN STORY ANYWAY] "Frost Mountain" is a little perfect piece of magical realism (I'm almost certain about that, anyway, though it's been suggested once or twice that I'm not exactly perfectly clear about what is and isn't magical realism (but, again, I'm pretty sure "Frost Mountain" is in fact a model of magical realism (like, 90% sure))).  It's about a town in which all the residents attend a yearly picnic--the Frost Mountain Picnic, in fact--where terrible shit is inflicted on them by a sort of governmental entity, and many of them are killed--like some kind of massacre. Some kind of picnic massacre, even. . . .

And they keep going back each year for various totally-recognizable-yet-totally-nonsensical reasons, and almost nobody seems happy about it, and that's kind of it.

Clever conceit, yeah.  But, the details, though.  The details are everything, and they pull together in just the right kind of wrong way.  I was just thinking about "Frost Mountain" today, and it kind of aimlessly occurred to me to type it into Google.  I came across this collage by a mixed-media/collage artist named Brandi Strickland:

Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre

It's titled "Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre, and, as you can see a bit more clearly in the close up photos included on Ms. Strickland's page for the work itself, she gets the details down.  I told her in a comment I left on her website that if I saw this collage without knowing anything about it I would've thought, "Hey!  That looks like "Frost Mountain Picnic Massacre!"

Because it really does.

There's more on the collage here.  Apparently, it was featured in One Story's Literary Debutante Ball sometime around late 2010, and then it was auctioned off online.  I should do more aimless Googling, I think.

First Sentence I Can Find New Yorker Caption Contest!

. . . (wherein I caption the New Yorker Caption Contest cartoon with whatever sentence I first see in whatever book is nearest to me)

To gain room for manoeuvre, actors court and even create ambiguity.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

18th Century Dog Censuses of Questionable Validity

Dance by Iowa Indians
Are you entertained?

This week's selection from the Library of America's "Story of the Week" collection is George Catlin's mid-19th century account of accompanying some Iowa Natives (as in Native Americans from the Iowa tribe) around Paris to, among other things, meet the King and talk about how many effing dogs there are in his capitol city.  The Iowan medicine man, whom Catlin refers to as "Doctor," and the warrior, "Jim," are flummoxed by the sight of so many women walking around the city with dogs.  The Doctor more so:
The Doctor seemed puzzled about the custom of the women leading so many dogs, and although he did not in any direct way censure them for doing it, it seemed to perplex him, and he would sit and smile and talk about it for hours together. He and Jim had at first supposed, after they found that the ladies were not blind, that they cooked and ate them, but they were soon corrected in this notion, and always after remained at a loss to know what they could do with them.
Later, during a carriage ride through the city, the two men decided to keep a detailed account of how many women with dogs they saw:
They had been absent near an hour, and driving through many of the principal streets of the city, and their list stood thus:
Women leading one little dog . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. .432
Women leading two little dogs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . .71
Women leading three little dogs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . .5
Women with big dogs following (no string) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . .80
Women carrying little dogs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . .20
Women with little dogs in carriages . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . .31
The poor fellows insisted on it that the above was a correct account, and Jim, in his droll way (but I have no doubt quite honestly), said that “it was not a very good day either.”
What's not to get?
I love the ambiguity of Jim's droll declaration that "it was not a very good day either."  He might be suggesting that it was boring to have to count dogs while being carted around Parisian city streets, but he's most likely suggesting that those numbers don't even accurately reflecting the sheer number of dogs they see on a regular basis.

Either way, it's a lot of ladies with dogs.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

First Sentence I Can Find New Yorker Caption Contest!

. . . (wherein I caption the New Yorker Caption Contest cartoon with whatever sentence I first see in whatever book is nearest to me)

Nannie suddenly realized that the old man was making signs at her, and understood that she was to lift the infant up in the air as though he were a specimen, or something to be auctioned.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Cloud Contest!

 Some man-made clouds I've come across lately:

In Michael Chabon's short story "A Model World," from his collection of the same title, a student plagiarizes a pretty much unknown piece of scholarship on cloud formation over the Antarctic. When he suspects his professor might suspect his attempted deception, things get tense, and that tension is likely amplified by the grass they're passing between each other:
"As he inhaled, the professor raised his eyebrows, and lowered them as he blew out.  He and Levine passed the pipe in near-silence for several minutes.  The room filled with miniature cumulonimbus clouds."
And the last line of the story (in a way that doesn't give anything away):
". . . the human race is now only a few years away, by most reckonings, from total dominion over the clouds."
Lastly, a poem by Dean Young, titled "Frottage":

How goofy and horrible is life. Just

look into the faces of the lovers
as they near their drastic destinations,
the horses lathered and fagged. Just
look at them handling the vase
priced beyond the rational beneath
the sign stating the store’s breakage
policy, and what is the rational but
a thing we must always break? I am not
the only one composed of fractious murmurs.
From the point of view of the clouds,
it is all inevitable and dispersed—
they vanish over the lands to reconstitute
over the seas, themselves again
but no longer themselves, what they wanted
they no longer want, daylight fidgets
across the frothy waves. Most days
you can’t even rub a piece of charcoal
across paper laid on some rough wood
without a lion appearing, a fish’s umbrella
skeleton. Once we believed it told us
something of ourselves. Once we even believed
in the diagnostic power of ants. Upon
the eyelids of the touched and suffering,
they’d exchange their secretive packets
like notes folded smaller than chemicals.
They told us nearly nothing, which
may have been enough now that we know
so much more. From the point of view
of the ant, the entire planet is a dream
quivering beneath an eyelid, and who’s to say
the planet isn’t. From the point of view
of the sufferer, it seems everything will
be taken from us except the sensation
of being crawled over. I believe everything
will be taken from us. Then given back
when it’s no longer what we want. We
are clouds, and terrible things happen
in clouds. The wolf’s mouth is full
of strawberries, the morning’s a phantom
hum of glories, morning glories.

We / are clouds, and terrible things happen / in clouds.

It was close, but Dean Young wins the cloud contest.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

First Sentence I Can Find New Yorker Caption Contest!

. . . (wherein I caption the New Yorker Caption Contest cartoon with whatever sentence I first see in whatever book is nearest to me)

Although specific contact between the two men is undocumented, Vesalius was undoubtedly familiar with Serlio's treatise on architecture.