Fri, 28 September 2012
Colin Marshall sits down in San Francisco's Mission with Ethan Nosowsky, Editorial Director at McSweeney's. They discuss security breaches at the McSweeney's office by overenthusiastic fans seeking a physical connection to their favorite publisher of physical books; his tendency to act as "the Joe Lieberman of publishing" in his editorial career, carrying unchanging tastes through changing times; Geoff Dyer, the writer with whom he has worked the longest, and how the subject-independence of Dyer's writing parallels the subject-independence of his editing; the counterintuitively un-self-indulgent qualities of "Dyeristic" prose; memoir booms vampire booms, and the eternal bad-book boom; how he finds the real action in hybrids of fiction and essay, and how those forms provide the surprises that all art should; his life in New York publishing before his homecoming to the San Francisco Bay area, and how he has come to regard the ecosystem/echo chamber of the New York literary scene at a distance; the dominance of food and technology over books in Bay Area culture; David Byrne's new How Music Works , and other books that you want certain authors to write; and the potential usefulness of the authorly switcheroo, as when Dyer planned to write a book about tennis but wrote a book about Andrei Tarkovsky's Stalker.
Mon, 24 September 2012
Colin Marshall sits down at downtown San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum with monologist Josh Kornbluth. They discuss the proper pronunciation of the word "monologist"; his simultaneous return to the practice of oboe-playing and late entry into things Jewish; the question of whether Andy Warhol is "good for the Jews," and how he spun it into a monologue; the qualities of faith shared by Judaism and the communism of his childhood, which still releases endorphins when he thinks about it; the difficulty of dragging beautiful, pure abstractions of any kind into the concrete human sphere; Haiku Tunnel, the "FUBU of office workers"; the implicit premise of perhaps most monologues that everything ultimately connects to everything; how to show you've put in the hours on a performance by presenting its artifice just right; building a career in the San Francisco Bay Area, and how the place ratchets the average New York Jew's stress level down from eleven to ten; New York as his own personal primordial ooze; how San Francisco tends to push out its aspirers, especially where theater is concerned; the outsider's longing to understand music, Judaism, or both, and how he's come to experience both as practices; and the wonder of trying, failing, and trying again at one's craft within a community.
Thu, 20 September 2012
Colin Marshall sits down in San Francisco's Castro with Daniel Levin Becker, member of the experimental literary group Oulipo, reviews editor at the Believer, and author of Many Subtle Channels: In Praise of Potential Literature. They discuss whether Oulipo membership impresses the ladies; his earlier, long pre-Oulipo days, when he would make mixtapes consisting entirely of songs without the letter "e" in the title; his fascination with taking mundane patterns, applying enough work to them, and making something pretty incredible; palindromes, beau présent, homophones, metro poems, mathematical constraints, and Greimas squares; his Fulbright-enabled stay in Paris to organize Oulipo's junk, which led to his writing a book on the group, and then to their offer of membership even before he thought he had accrued the necessary literary steez; whether Paris retains its status as a literary-minded young American's dream, and its status as a "literary mindfuck" nevertheless; what Paris legitimizes, including but not limited to sexy Orangina animals; "gamification," in the artistic, urban, and Silicon Valley senses; the possible use of Oulipian restrictions in Many Subtle Channels itself; what makes Oulipo distinctively French, and what its irony about the canon may have in common with the irony of D.A.R.E. shirts worn in the United States; the Believer as a representative of west coast United States literary culture, and how the scrappiness of Chicago stands in contrast; and when he suspends his Chicagoan-ness, and how much of that involves not eating spicy meats.
Wed, 12 September 2012
Colin Marshall sits down in a back room in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury with Christin Evans and Praveen Madan, owners and transformers of The Booksmith, and now Kepler's in Menlo Park. They discuss being deemed "corporate refugees" by their employees for their tech consulting past; creating a positive, aspirational experience that doesn't make bookstores seem like broccoli; what they learned from spending date nights in other cities, having dinner and then visiting the local independent bookstores; the importance of offering serendipity, deeply knowledgeable service, and a multisensory browsing experience; how they've come to hold 200 events a year, including their popular bookswaps, born of customers' desire to meet people in places other than bars; what makes Haight-Ashbury something more than a neighborhood where a lot of fun stuff happened a long time ago, and how they made it a first priority to connect with the local community; the parallel non-profit functions of community bookstores, including public education; what makes bookstores businesses, but not normal businesses; "matchmaking" books to readers such as Dwight, lover of Russian history; how they create an addiction to books, bearing in mind that half of America doesn't read a book afer high school; what the controversy about Yann Martel's Beatrice and Virgil illustrates about The Booksmith's "high-touch" business model; the abstraction of life in corporate consulting, and the total lack of abstraction of life in bookselling; bookstores as social networks when you want to unplug from social networks; and the mind-expanding books that running The Booksmith has brought into both of their lives.
Fri, 7 September 2012
Colin Marshall sits down in a Wallace Neff dome in Pasadena with visual and sound artist Steve Roden. They discuss whether art can exist without constraints; his enthusiasm for "dumb ideas," such as painting with his mouth; the influence of Buckminster Fuller's Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, which he found in a gutter as a kid; the inspiration a Jimi Hendrix impersonator gave him, and how he went on to enter the Los Angeles punk scene of the late seventies and early eighties; his punk band's catalog, including such songs as "Kill Reagan" and "Jesus Needs a Haircut"; his skill set consisting primarily of patience and the ability to evolve slowly; working in forms that admit the most failure, and thus produce the most interestingness; the days when he would hang out at the Westwood Tower Records until midnight, and the clerk that gave him an all-important copy of Brian Eno's Another Green World; the beauty of playing an instrument you know nothing about, and of other ideas born of incomplete information; his involvement with languages he doesn't speak, including researching Walter Benjamin without German, studying in Paris without French, and translating Swedish poetry without Swedish; finding the unknown in Los Angeles, and what it means to be able to traverse the city with ease or difficulty; the importance of maintaining a one-man practice; and his uncommonly fruitful experiences reading liner notes.
Sat, 1 September 2012
Colin Marshall sits down in Sliver Lake with Karina Longworth, film writer at the LA Weekly, co-founder of the film-culture blog Cinematical, and author of the upcoming Masters of Cinema: George Lucas. They discuss the public fascination with criticism versus blogging; J. Hoberman's notion of criticism as reporting what it feels like to be in the screening room; how she promoted a version of herself in her blogging days, and what she regrets about doing so; the pre-YouTube video essays she would create in school about Moonlighting, Judy Garland's apocryphal marriage proposal to Frank Sinatra, and Maury Povich; whether it makes sense to ask if we live in an interesting time for cinema, and whether she can even tell through the fog of writing about movies every week; time travel films and the oft-fumbled promise thereof, especially in the shadows of Back to the Future's pop mainstreaming of scientific devices; what she's learned about making Claire Denis and Sion Sono quickly relevant to readers who may well never have heard of them; how New York gets more movies than Los Angeles, how moviegoing means something different in the two cities, and her cover story about the whole dichotomy; her book on George Lucas, and the looming question of what, exactly, happened to him; her fears about her favorite directors getting too much budget, power, and freedom, and her greater fears about the Dodgers falling victim to the same; the strange fate of the rental collection at Kim's Video; her experience of cinematic burnout, and the subjectivity to which is may lead; Andrew Bujalski's Computer Chess, which is actually about computer chess; pictures like Sans Soleil and Kiss Me, Stupid, which so formed their cinematic consciousnesses as to become their representations in film form; and the magical, destructive, entrancing, awful myth of old Hollywood.