Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Austria--here I come!

Durable, sexy and fun. The pants are nice too!
So I'm going to follow the Sisi Trail next summer -- my very own version of it, anyway, and I'm dragging Kirk along with me, and last night I got like two hours of sleep because I'm so pumped about it. Nice problem to have, yeah?

I'm pretty set on the idea of flying in to Munich--Elisabeth's birthplace, and the very first Oktoberfest--and then off to Innsbruck, Salzburg and Vienna (my own birthplace, btw). Then it's off to Italy: Venice, Grosseto, and a Tuscan Beach near Castiglione della Pescaia where I stayed for a week several years ago. But the highlight of our trip, at least from a fantasy perspective, is a stay in Bad Ischl, the mountain-spa town of Sisi-Franz engagement lore.

Yesterday, I took the first step in turning this fantasy into real life and booked a room here. Can't you just see me frolicking on a hillside carrying my wimple and offering that the hills are alive with the sound of music? Too bad I can't sing. I think that's why I'm bringing Kirk. He's got the pipes, I've got the vision. I may even have to buy him some Lederhosen for his birthday.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Awards were announced and mistakes were made

one of these books is not like the others...
So I'm sure y'all have heard that Portland is the literary center of the universe this year? Pretty awesome that the NBA finalists were announced in the Rose City earlier this week. No, Blazer fans, I'm not talking lock-out...

Seriously, it was terrific news that they chose Portland as the coming out city (But a little scary that the Oregonian featured the story right next to an article on suicide. Connection? You be the judge...)

In case you missed it, here are the finalists. As homework, I'd like you all to read every single one of these books, and make a diorama of your favorite one!

"The Sojourn" by Andrew Krivak (editorial note, repped by the fabulous Betsy Lerner)
"The Tiger's Wife" by Tea Obreht
"The Buddha in the Attic" by Julie Otsuka
"Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories" by Edith Pearlman
"Salvage the Bones" by Jesmyn Ward

"The Convert: A Tale of Exile and Extremism" by Deborah Baker
"Love and Capital: Karl and Jenny Marx and the Birth of a Revolution" by Mary Gabriel
"Swerve" by Stephen Greenblatt
"Malcolm X" by Manning Marable
"Radioactive: Marie & Pierre Curie: A Tale of Love and Fallout" by Lauren Redniss

"Head Off & Spill" by Nikky Finney
"The Chameleon Couch" by Yusef Komunyakaa
"Double Shadow" by Carl Phillips
"Tonight No Poetry Will Serve" by Adrienne Rich
"Devotions": by Bruce Smith

"Chime" by Franny Billingsley*
"My Name is Not Easy" by Debbie Dahl Edwardson
"Inside Out and Back Again" by Thanhha Lai
"Flesh and Blood So Cheap" by Albert Marrin
"Shine" by Lauren Myracle*
"Okay for Now" by Gary D. Schmidt

*there was some controversy over "Chime," and like-sounding "Shine." One of them was on the list by mistake, but the National Book Foundation has decided to save face and keep both on the finalist list.

So, let's play a game. What would be the first thing you'd do if your book were nominated. I'll start: shit my pants.

P.S. and update: "Shine" author withdraws under pressure.What do you all think of that?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

the watch hill frog

Going through my online scrapbook the other day. This is a photo my daughter took in a Rhode Island bog. I can so relate to this photo... I think it's my totem creature...

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

death and its structures

Am I obsessed with death, or just this crypt?
Today, while doing some research for the Sisi blog, I came across this photo on the left and I couldn't get the image out of my head. Maybe because Steve Jobs died today; maybe because it's October, the month of ghouls and skeletons; maybe because I've been thinking a lot about what we leave behind, us writers and artists. I don't know, but all day long this mausoleum imprinted itself on me the way characters often do in prelude to embarking on a new project.

I was born in the city where this mausoleum lives, five or so districts away from this homage to Wilhelmine and her husband, the Prince of Montleart. When I look at this picture there is something spookily reminiscent. Like maybe I was rolled by it in my pram or perhaps I trundled alongside it on my way to school. I'm guessing it's the wrought iron gate that looks so familiar. Vienna is big on iron curlicues.

Next summer when I do my lemming-salmon-return to the scene of the crime, I want to stay in the adjoining castle-turned-bed-and-breakfast. I have this fantasy that, first thing one morning, I'll skip out into the forest dressed in white gauzy nightgownish material and rub up against this gothic mini-schloss. Like a bear rubbing its back against tree bark.

Maybe it's all these 50-something people that keep dropping dead of horrible diseases. Maybe it's that nobody gets to be laid to rest in structures like these anymore. Maybe it's that I still believe the fairy tale.

Hey, Steve, here's to staying hungry and foolish. RIP.