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Calvino, Italo

A Beautiful March Day

Crikes, in the haste of a working week I’d completely forgotten that despite not wanting to go straight to Calvino (because let’s face it, everyone expects Miette to read Calvino, and when have I ever met something so vile as an expectation?), I had mentally dog-eared this one for yesterday. And yes, I could wait a year, but in another year, who’s to say we’ll still be podCASTing at all? I mean, damn, for all I know, the latest technology fad next year this time will be some synaesthetic browser plugin allowing us to virtually taste each other’s complexions, and then I’d be awfully sorry that we’d never gotten around to reading this one. Then I’d be sad. And we all know what happens when I get sad. And who wants that, really?

Besides, it’s rather appropriate, thematically, that this should be a near-miss, that due to aimless thoughts I, too, have come close to missing my shot. In fact, now that I think about it, if I were less honest, I’d say reading this a day late was entirely intentional, and you’d think I was the cleverest bedtime story podcastress this side of Herculaneum. But I’m honest, and therefore, just late.

(This is one of the better fabulistories from Numbers in the Dark)

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Categories
Walser, Robert

Basta

Here’s a nice short one to make up for yesterday’s nice long one. From Robert Walser, a master of the short-short story, and the closest anyone’s come to Swift since Kipling. Basta is one of those fine Italian words that the Germans have managed to appropriate (read: swipe), and I’ve long wished we would adopt it. We, English speakers, you know, not savages.

If you want to read the original in German, you can do so here. But I should point out that if you can read along in German while listening along in English, then maybe you don’t get the point of Basta… then again, if you can do so, or even if you try to do so, you probably get it exactly.

Basta can be found in this book. So, Basta!

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Categories
Nabokov, Vladimir

Gods

This is both perhaps just-too-long and read by a just-too-tired head; maybe just assume the intent is to separate the yolks from the hen’s asses… or something. Kudos to you if you make it…

Despite not wanting to overwhelm the Internet(s) with too many Russians in too short a time, Vlad is really a nomad, as we all know, no more or less a Russian than I am a humvee. And yes, I can refer to him as Vlad, just as I can spin that obscene metaphor: this is how tired I am, and these are the liberties bestowed on me by the potentate of the podcast alone. If not here, then where?

So then, Nabokov, the book can be found here if you want to buy it. The first hardcover edition came out, what, six, seven years ago, the jacket featuring the title (The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov) in blockish paper-cut-out letters, lepidoptery-pinned to a pale blue background. It was a fantastic effect, and I was sure it hadn’t been achieved digitally– it was that good. So good, in fact, that this was going to be the basis for a tattoo. But, elas, the jacket’s long-gone, before ink could be set to skin, and further printings have abandoned this design, and I can’t reproduce it. That said, the pages are all intact, and every word worth marking on my person, if only I had the girth (maybe one day). This, with the disclaimer noted that it’s too long to be read aloud (over TWENTY MINUTES!) and that I was too tired to try (but there’s nobody to stop me), is among the best.

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Categories
Breton, Andre

Nadja

I had wanted today to read Philip Lamantia (what was I thinking?), because he understood living more than I (and probably you, Internet, but that might be presumptuous) ever will, and because he’s now dead, so a tribute seems fitting. But, that said, I don’t think I can read his poetry, because I don’t think it will convey anything at all as it’s supposed to, and besides, Miette’s Bedtime Poetry Hour PodCAST is another project, isn’t it? But you should pay your own tribute to Lamarkin, on your own nickel: go here. And here too.

So then, since I couldn’t find anything I felt comfortable reading by Lamantia, I next thought naturally I should read Breton. I once had a copy of his prose poem “The Verb To Be,” but can only find it in French. Ah, but I know! (this is Miette’s inner voice speaking) I’ll commit a most selfish act and read the last chapter of Nadja! Which is redolent with the central tenets of surrealism that made Lamarkin swoon (“beauty will be convulsive or not at all.”), when it involved a deep awareness of the unconscious, before it became a synonym for indolence and an excuse for the dirty word of indifference. That would be perfect. But I can’t do that. Sure I can give away the last sentence; I just did. But I wouldn’t dare spoil it all for you– the obsessive spiral of desire and despair and embattled demons of hope that torture us all most of us. Instead, I think I’ll read just the first few pages, which can stand alone as a Quick Sunday Afternoon Naptime Story Podcast, I suppose, and maybe you’ll read the rest yourself. You can buy the book, if you want, here. It’s short, this bedtime story podcast, so you can go quickly and read Lamantia afterward.

PS: Thanks for sound quality suggestions. Miette is not much of an audiophile, as you might imagine, and this is admittedly a ghetto production for the time being. I’ll see what I can do.

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Categories
Kavan, Anna

At Night

A personal secret: I, like many, have long succumbed to seemingly endless bouts of insomnia. It’s not clinical, and I love sleep very much, but I often have a difficult time performing when called on to do so. Bedtime stories don’t help much, because once I find one I’m particularly fond of, I will read all night. Another personal secret: I, Miette, am a bit compulsive with the reading. This could well be clinical, but I’ve never been fond of DSM labels, as we all know.

That said, tales of psychological woe and emotional duress I could read ceaselessly, even rapaciously, with medicative effect. Anna Kavan’s one of the best there is in that regard: an insomniac, a junkie, as depressed as they come, and a master of self-actualisation through language to boot. So I couldn’t sleep again last night and woke up cranky, then read At Night, and no longer felt the hours spent tossing about last night were wasted. I mean, I don’t have it that bad.

“At Night” can be found here, in Asylum Piece, Kavan’s collection of short recollections on her time spent in various asylums.

Hopefully bedtime stories are more effective for you than they are for me. That’s the point, right? Sweet dreams.

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Categories
Orwell, George

Bookshop Memories

Some days, especially those in which my lack of tolerance for this city is only matched by my impatience with the job, I suffer the wildest joyriding fantasies of working at a used bookshop. To elucidate, the fantasy usually involves moving to smalltown Americana and opening up one next to a Wal-Mart, grabbing curiosity-seekers on their way out, and making recommendations based on their blue-light purchases. If they were frumpy housewives whose impulse buy was the latest People magazine to go with their two cartons of Virginia Slim 100s and sale-rack throw pillows, I’d toss a Flan O’Connor their way. Spotty boys with fresh camouflage trousers and a hunting licence bought off dad’s credit card? Siddartha ought to nip that in the bud. It goes on and on, saving every caricature and stereotype, one well-bound volume at a time, and this has been a very real fantasy for years.

And when that fantasy becomes a real desire, days like today, where the tolerance is spent and the work is so dull it’s not even good for a giggle in appreciation of its absurdity, I skim over this, which makes it okay to come home and have a cup of tea.

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Maupassant, Guy de

Dreams

Hypnalgiaphobia, the nightly quest for a real OOBE, learning to read more slowly and maybe with no accent, elas, these are the things that make us turn in the wee hours and if ether were the answer I’d be first in line. But maybe a new bed is a fine substitute? Maybe just a bedtime story? Tomorrow holds all the answers, as it always does. For now, wrap up warm and dampen the draft with a towel. Sleep tight.

Tonight: Guy de Maupassant’s “Dreams;” it’s in plenty of books and plenty of Web sites, should you want to follow along you could maybe download it from somewhere as a text file to your iPOD.

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Chekhov, Anton

A Work of Art

Welcome to this, the humble inaugural edition of Miette’s Bedtime Story Podcast, which is really nothing more than my excuse to have a podcast.

You see, I’ll bet that other people don’t read to you enough. I know that people don’t read to me enough. So this way I can read to you, and then later listen to it myself, and take care of all our problems. Or at least take care of this one. For all of us.

And, damn, in this epoch of soundbites and blurbs and headlines and lightspeed nanonews, maybe we could all take a break and just listen to a Miette read us a story? So whether you’re in bed waiting to doze off, or spinning on one of those elliptical machines at the company gymn, or on your way to work, maybe it’d be nice once in a while to sit back and close your eyes and let me read you a story from time to time?

Unless you get to your work by driving a car, in which case don’t close your eyes. If you take the train or other public transport, on the other hand (and you should if you can! But this isn’t a platform for my opinions on energy conservation), you can close your eyes, that’s fine, but stay alert and keep your possessions close to your cuffs. You know how people are these days (not everyone is the sort of person to PODCAST you bedtime stories. Some people would be more inclined to pinch your wallet, or take advantage of you and your closed eyes in even more nefarious ways). If this is all too complicated, you can keep your eyes open; that’s fine.

I’ll start with something short, so as not to try the patience of either of us, and since I’m starting with short fiction, it should go without saying that I’d start with Chekhov. This is Miette we’re talking about, after all.

Anyhow, there’s a big multi-volume, multi-coloured printing by Ecco Press of probably all of Chekhov’s short stories, simply called The Tales of Chehkov… tonight’s bedtime story podcast can be found in Volume 13, the lavender one if you’re now at the bookstore looking to read along, reading this blog from your blackberry while you listen. My god, that’d be wicked if you were.

Anyhow, if you’re still looking for the book, the lavender volume (volume 13) is appropriately titled Love and Other Stories, and this particular story is titled a Work of Art. It reads like O. Henkhov or something, and for that alone it’s worth a bedtime podcast.

Oh– here is that book, if your bookstore doesn’t carry it and you just want to order online through your blackberry (wow): Love and Other Stories

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