Not to be confused with the Brooklyn Zine Fest, which is a larger and much more hectic event, Pete’s Mini Zine Fest will be taking place tomorrow at Pete’s Candy Store, a really charming little bar in Williamsburg with a garden out back, which is where I always set up my table. We plan to get there early so we can claim a space out there and get a beer, then get ready to shoot the breeze with zine folk all day. I’ll have both of my books for sale, as well as a poetry book I made with Joe last year, a series of postcards I’ve been making out of found photographs, and a few cute $1 zines. If you’re in the area, come say hello and buy some zines!
I reviewed philosopher Susan Neiman’s fine nonfiction book Why Grow Up? for the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer. Have a look here. (Susan was kind enough to comment on the review on this blog, under the post “Go Forth,” to which I have responded.) Neiman’s book is a kind of critique of our youth-obsessed culture, with several of the main ideas of the Enlightenment explained in plain English and illustrated with personal and contemporary examples. Highly recommended, especially to anyone who sometimes suspects that growing up is synonymous with giving up.
My interview with my pen-pal and friend Sacha Mardou is up on The Believer magazine’s blog today. She’s so interesting to talk to. As the interview went on we started to have a side conversation about herbalism, among other things that weren’t quite fitting for the interview, which was about comics and music, mostly. Ya know, art. But we enjoyed having that other conversation so much that we’ve decided to keep on having it and turn that into a zine. I’m excited for the results of that collaboration; the projects she and I have worked on together are always things I’m especially proud of. Meantime, give Go Forth: An Interview with Comics Artist Sacha Mardou a look!
I went to sleep last night clutching Ann Beattie’s new book of short stories (The State We’re In), with the sound of fireworks popping loudly outside the window behind my bed. When I woke up I finished the first story, “What Magical Realism Would Be.” It wasn’t bad. On the surface, it’s about a “troubled” teenager who’s trying to write a story for a summer school program, and the girl has to include elements of magical realism, which she thinks is stupid. (I’ve never especially cared for magical realism myself.) What the story is really about is how strange life can be, even without any added fictional weirdness. I reflected on the story over my morning coffee and realized that this, actually, is what I like best about short fiction, as opposed to novels, which so often seem to me to be weighed down with unnecessary detail and “story.” With a shorter piece, every descriptive word matters. Something about providing just a few vivid details–like a loud storm of broken glass that rains down after some teenagers throw tons of beer bottles out the window of their moving car, which is the scene that ends this particular story–and necessarily leaving out a lot of the more mundane stuff due to the form’s shorter length, serves to highlight how eerie, surprising, or odd life can seem. And as a way of looking at things, this makes sense to me. I enjoy the quieter domestic details of a Tessa Hadley novel too, but sometimes what I want is a piece of fiction that really crackles with life, and wastes no time in getting to the good stuff–the broken glass glittering like stars in an upside-down night sky–the beauty that’s everywhere around us, if you let yourself look at it the right way.
Eighty-eight thousand six-hundred
different species in North America. In the trees, the grasses
around us. Maybe more, maybe
several million on each acre of earth. This one
as well as any other. Where you are standing
at dusk. Where the moon
appears to be climbing the eastern sky. Where the wind
seems to be traveling through the trees, and the frogs
are content in their black ponds or else
why do they sing? Where you feel
a power that is not you but flows
into you like a river. Where you lie down and breathe
the sweet honey of the grass and count
the stars; where you fall asleep listening
to the simple chords repeated, repeated.
Where, resting, you feel
the perfection, the rising, the happiness
of their dark wings.
Found this in a book of poems by Mary Oliver that I took out of the library last week when I was feeling blue. The volume is called Twelve Moons, which I liked for its witchy sound. And the poems are as witchy as Mary Oliver’s poems ever are, which is to say–fairly witchy, in the most earthy, natural sense of the word.
I’m sitting at my kitchen table as I write this little blog post. It’s my favorite place to sit in the whole house, in any house. We have a small kitchen but it’s big enough, with two huge windows and a back door onto the yard. The windows have deep sills that I have crammed with houseplants in pots: a snake plant (Sansevieria trifasciata), with its sharp, shapely long leaves; a sprig of the huge begonia, stuck into black dirt, that broke off when I repotted it the other day; an African violet with tiny white flowers, a housewarming gift from my mother-in-law that I potted in a polished-ceramic pot that a former tenant left behind in the basement when they moved out. I have two cactuses and several cuttings from a rich purple Setcreasea pallida plant (Purple Heart) that I’ve had for years. I remember seeing it growing wild in Mexico last summer and feeling the thrill of recognition: I never knew where it came from! There’s a paddle plant too, and a palm of some kind that I bought when it was only about 8 inches high and is now so tall and full it has to sit on the floor in a great big pot.
We have a small yard, also big enough. Through the windows, behind my houseplants, I can see the herb garden I’m growing in pots. Short and bushy oregano, tall and bouncy basil, fluffy dill stalks that were temporarily tamped down by last night’s freak hail storm. As I looked out just now to describe it, I saw the lady cardinal on the fence, her beak bright orange as ever. She’s one half of the cardinal couple that lives in the back of our yard somewhere. Joe identified them as a couple and as permanent residents, and now we love to spot them, probably because we’re a couple too, recently married and still new to setting up a household this way.
Dozens of tiny praying mantises were born out back a few weeks ago, and now one of them lives in this kitchen. Yesterday in the morning it was standing upside down on the ceiling, next to a ladybug–both good-luck insects. Later, I found a penny on the street, heads-up.
I get restless this time of year, as well as at any other time that I feel sad. I’m not sad right this moment though, just full of squirmy energy (and good luck, I guess). I want to go swimming in the secret swimming hole in the creek near here, but I hear it’s too polluted to go in anymore. I want to put on my old sneakers and tramp through the woods or, like I did yesterday, walk five miles through the city, over broken sidewalks and ducking under kudzu and pricker bushes that no one’s cut back. It’s wild everywhere in July, even in the city. Especially in the city, because it’s people-wild here too. Everyone is restless and no one wants to work. I think I’ll try to finish my chores/jobs/tasks by early afternoon so I can go roaming around again, and see what I can see.
Tonight it’s the full moon, the full buck moon–lowest full moon of the calendar year. I need to get drunk on wine, play my music loud, prowl around the streets. Break something, climb something, make something. There’s a good place to swim in a state park outside of Philly; if I can wait till Friday, Joe will take me there, and we can pretend to be ten years old again, the age I return to every summer. I can let the power that is not me, flow into me like a river.