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Barthelme, Donald

The Balloon, Donald Barthelme

If you’ve been listening for a while, you may know that I have an unfortunate habit of whining, incessantly and irrepressibly, in those months when the cold has rendered my extremities indistinguishable from assorted varieties of freezer section meats. It’s a problem I’ve known about, it’s one that those around me suffer in kind on behalf of all of you, and it’s one that I’d love to kick, if only I inject some lock de-icer into these knees. Maybe anti-freeze would work?

Someone on iTunes recently remarked that he suspects I may be mentally insane. You may be correct, anonymish commentator. Or, I may be cold, is all.

But this should warm us right up, regardless its effect on our mental state.

(ps: for those of you who are made of time, I’ve been tossing some petals to the wind on tumblr. Unsure if it’ll stick. But come say hello.)

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Poe, Edgar Allan

The Masque of the Red Death, Edgar Allan Poe

This story is brought to you by a very nice man named Jake, who requested it a while ago, and when I read Philip K Dick instead last week, expressed some disappointment.

People of the internet and listeners of these stories, please know that I don’t handle disappointment well. If you ever want to bully me into giving you my lunch money, just tell me how disappointed in me you are.

Now that I think about it, given that it’s a big travel week in the land of the Great Grope, tonight’s story is all kinds of topical. While it’s widely understood as an allegory on the inevitability of the touch of death, I think instead one should think of the inevitability of, you know, the touching of, erm, junk.

Jake, my friend, you’re a genius.

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Dick, Philip K.

Roog, Philip K. Dick

I got kicked in the inspiration after that bit of Nabokov (he has that effect), and was determined to give you new stories at least weekly. I’d cleared my schedule to dedicate more time to only these more self-satisfying projects, and then, disaster struck, in the name of green-biled phlegm and rancor of bronchitis.

So, I’ve spent the past few weeks dorking off, quietly (<-- likely to the great relief of those who have to tolerate me daily). As with so many things, my voice eventually came roaring back, and so at long last, here's some PKDick, in the hopes that another hard kick comes with it. (This is a metaphor. I will kick you back.)

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Nabokov, Vladimir

The Vane Sisters, Vladimir Nabokov

It had been some years since I’ve read any Nabokov, which I can only blame a youthful use of mind-shrinking substances or a two-mile-long to-read list. But recently, I made a full-length audiobook of Dustin Long’s Icelander, whose completion set me on a mission. I’m not going to shill Icelander too much (ahem, only five bucks! And I get a piece!), but there was no way for any reasonable person — or even myself — to finish it and not start thumbing through the old master’s treasures, all of which I’ve loved plenty at some point or other. You’ll see what I mean if you listen to Icelander (ahem: Iambik Audiobooks, who released it, features plenty other Miette-approved titles in its inaugural selection).

So there I was, splayed out on the floor surrounded by cracked copies of Pnin and Pale Fire and Ada and all the rest, just madly paging through a title, locating its place within the vast underworld of my memory, enjoying the moment of recognition, then putting it aside and grabbing the next… and then I reached for the stories.

One of the nicer books in my library of the beaten and battered is a lovely hard-cover of the collected stories, and toward the end of it, the Vane Sisters, which proved to be the reminiscent equivalent of a half-ton of Madeleines force-fed by aliens. Not only had I forgotten how imbued this story was with everything I love about literature, but in its way, it seemed to be a sort of Ur-text for Icelander. No fooling: if you’ll pardon the connect-the-dots of the subject matter, this was not unlike being poked in the neck by the very ghosts the story conjures. Spooky stuff, for a girl on the floor of her own dusty library.

Two clues to solving the story’s puzzle:

1> You may need to listen to it twice.
2> You may need to see this, the final paragraph, to make sense of things:

I could isolate, consciously, little. Everything seemed blurred, yellow-clouded, yielding nothing tangible. Her inept acrostics, maudlin evasions, theopathies – every recollection formed ripples of mysterious meaning. Everything seemed yellowly blurred, illusive, lost.

#####

PS: Wanna hear some of Icelander
by Dustin Long? The entire first chapter is ready for your ears.

#####

Okay, done shilling. Back to Nabokov:

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Chester, Alfred

Here Be Dragons, Alfred Chester

The very first words of Gore Vidal’s foreword to Alfred Chester’s collected stories (Head of a Sad Angel):

Although it has been my misfortune to have at practically all the noted American writers of the last half century, I did have the great good luck never to have so much as glimpsed Alfred Chester. He was, by every account, a genuine monster whose life comprises one of those Cautionary Tales that tend to over-excite journalists and school-teachers. Drink and drugs, paranoia and sinister pieces of trade did him in early, and the chronicle of his descent is as fascinating to read about in these pages as it must have been pretty grim to live.

I gave away two copies of this book to summer birthday friends this year, figuring that those are BruceLee fighting words if I’ve ever heard them applied to an author. Haven’t heard the report back, and I shook the piggybank or I’d ply you all with copies as well, but in the meantime, there’s this for an appetite whetter.

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Greenman, Ben

Helpmate, Ben Greenman

Not long ago, I found myself in the unfortunate position of being deeply ensconced in a marvelous book while on a crowded public transportation system. “Nothing unfortunate about that, Miette,” you’ve said. I heard you.

The unfortunate thing was that the title of the book, when viewed from across a subway car, can seem offensive. And was seen as offensive, based on the shuffling and shifting and awkward faux-coughing that I only noticed later.

Which reminded me that a month or two prior, I was reading this in one of the world’s most busily trafficked airports. Which also offended lots of people, visibly, but I didn’t care. The book was too good.

I don’t have any other such books in my Leaning Tower of Books to Read Soon, but now I’m a little saddened by that. There’s something powerful in reading a double-take-inducing book. Even if people find it foul or offensive (but then again, I’m one who hasn’t minded being considered either of these things. So here’s my plea to you for the day. You know the movie trope involving the geeky comix kid, the one we learn is a geeky comix kid because he tucks the comic book inside his school book? I’m looking some equally offensive book titles, into which I can sandwich the actual books I’ll be reading. Unless those offensively titled books are good, in which case I’ll just add to my Tower. Any ideas?

Meanwhile, Ben Greenman’s book doesn’t have an offensive title, unless you’re poised to do nothing. It, however, should be read all the same.

TECHNICAL NOTE: my megafancy headphones developed a bad case of psoriasis during the editing of this piece, so the sound quality may itself be offensive. Hopefully not too much… hopefully.

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Wood, Monica

Disappearing

It’s that time of year, my dears, where I’m about to head off to foreign parts for what’s known in various circles as “vacation,” “holidays,” or “days spent without LCD bathing.” I can’t believe it, either, actually, and am not sure I’ll be able to pull off things like “relaxing” and “not having much of anything to do,” which have only existed as very high level concepts in my foggy head. And there are so many things lined up when I return that I’ll probably never ever take time off again, which could be good for you, if your ears are burning. I’ll do the big reveal of a few of those things as soon as I return.

In the meantime, if you really need some sort of morbid fix, here are a few other scattered places where I’ve littered the internet with my sonant scraps. There’s a reading of Stella of the Angels at The Urban Sherpa. A recording of an Amy Meckler original poem at Revolving Floor. I can’t stress enough how pleased I am with the serial reading of The Man Who Can’t Die, which you’ll be able to catch up on while I’m away… And if long form’s your game, I still drop in and have a drink with Librivox from time to time. Have a listen to The Decameron or Moll Flanders, and honestly, if that doesn’t keep you busy for the next couple of weeks, you really should be reading to ME.

See you next month. Run through a sprinkler or open fire hydrant vicariously for me in the meantime.

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Shepard, Sam

A Small Circle of Friends

I know; this is two posts in a row that make direct mention of ladies’ underthings. I have three very good reasons for this:

1> the last post was James Joyce, who can hardly be noted without mention of underthings OR orificial expulsions. And underthings are far pleasanter for that particular task.

2> this post features a rare appearance by my friend Patrick, who has a tendency to tease us all with the hope and promise of starting his very own regular microphone-purring habit. Patrick is, if memory serves, the only other living person to have made a narrator’s appearance here, and once you listen, you’ll understand why. If you don’t, ask Christine. You’ll want to lap him up out of your headphones, and if you figure out how to do so, tell me.

3> it’s hot where I am, and quite likely where you are too. Too hot for underthings. Too hot for overthings. Too hot for anything other than the barest of skin. And headphones.

I’m back next week, if we and our underclad selves survive. (For those following, there’re also new chapters at The Man Who Can’t Die)

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Joyce, James

After the Race

Looking at the Bloomsday readings I’ve done to date, it’s evident that my written prefaces have become an absurd equivalent of squealing fangirlish bra-tossing. I may (OR MAY NOT!) be an excellent bra-tosser with perfect aim and pitch, and we all know that Joyce wouldn’t be one to have a problem with women’s undergarments tossed his way. But my first exposure to Joyce was in a sleepy little black shoebox theatre, where a troupe of mild-mannered turtlenecked barnstormers read from Dubliners from a stage decorated with high stools, and where I, underexposed and underage and over my head, had too much to drink and fell asleep in mid-performance.

It’s a confession I was embarrassed to make for years and years, but now I think it wasn’t so bad (my young indiscretion, that is; to this day, I still think the performance could’ve benefited from a little bra-tossing). If you’ve used the Joyce readings to-date successfully as soporific, here’s where we are, in reverse chronological order:

An Encounter, Eveline, Araby, The Sisters, and The Boarding House.

As you can see, only another few hundred years until I’m reading annual chapters of the Wake to you. Whether you snooze or send your undergarments airbound, Happy Bloomsday.

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Emshwiller, Carol

Sex and/or Mr. Morrison

A disclaimer for you on this happy June that will become self-evident soon enough: I love this story. I could read it a thousand times over and give you a thousand different insights. I love it in the peepish and borderline obsessive way its narratrice experiences love. Love it, in its own words, “as a mouse might love the hand that cleans the cage, and as uncomprehendingly, too, for surely I see only a part of him here.”

(Except the story doesn’t have a gender, so swap the pronoun for the more appropriate in that quote.)

I first read this story while obdurately at the beach with a friend on a cold, wet day. The only other beach-trawler was an Australian man, whistling and playing football by himself and wearing nothing but a floppy hat. This guy belonged perfectly with this collection of stories.

In fact, if story’s author is one whose writings (long and short) you haven’t yet read, I can tell you authoritatively that they’re perfect reading for rivers and hammocks and beaches and other June-type reading.

Speaking of June reading, by this daymarker it’s just about Bloomsday…

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