Library of Babble
New podcast w/Willard Spiegelman, reconfiguring your space, & more
Thanks for the well-wishes, prayers, etc. for my pal I wrote about last week. I can’t tell you any more about that just now, but as a sign of how my psyche copes with this sorta event, after getting the initial bad news about my pal 2 weeks ago, I spent that weekend cleaning and rearranging my office/library.
See, I was going to replace my computer, but while I was at it, why shouldn’t I clean off my standing-desk and flip it over so I can tighten the bolts that were making it a little wobbly, and while it was flipped over, why shouldn’t I look around and figure out if there’s a configuration that would open up or clear out space? Repeat that last step several times (after Amy helped me flip the desk back upright).
Despite the strain on my back from moving this stuff around again and again, I worked through a bunch of iterations and found something that seems to work. There are certain length/width parameters that limited my choices, and then there’s the sofa at the far end of the room, which our dog Bendico owns and thus cannot be moved.
The new setup puts my Eames lounge chair in a nicer corner (from which I took the pic below, feet up on the ottoman), opens up space for my workout routines, and lets in more light, which was really important. I also managed to throw out a ton of stuff in the process, the accretion of which was mirroring the arterial plaque that may someday do me in (I kid!).
There are still a couple corners that need to be cleaned out, but I felt better when it was done, and it took my mind off my pal’s circumstances for a bit.
I’ve lived in this house for most of my 52 years, so it’s nice to make it feel a little new. The big version of that was 12-13 years ago, when we gutted two not-so-nice rooms to build this office/library.
This pic doesn't do it justice, so maybe when I finally finish cleaning out those last areas, I'll shoot a little video walk-through and bore you silly with that.
And now, on with The Virtual Memories Show!
This week, I posted Episode 528 of The Virtual Memories Show, featuring Willard Spiegelman as he rejoins the show to talk about his amazing new book, NOTHING STAYS PUT: The Life and Poetry of Amy Clampitt (Knopf). We get into his winding history with Amy Clampitt, why he thought a biography of her would be impossible and why he decided to write it anyway, what made her poems so special, and what it was like for her to have such a late-blooming career (she first published at 58). We talk about the learning curve of writing his first biography, why he thinks Clampitt stubbornly stuck with prose instead of poetry for decades, and how coastal Maine helped her write about her home prairies of Iowa (and points beyond). Plus we discuss the epiphany she had at the Cloisters that started her on the path to poetry, her spiritual and political engagement and how they fed her art, how she felt about being a “female poet”, Willard’s look back at the 10 years since we first recorded, and plenty more. Give it a listen! And go get Nothing Stays Put! (And go listen to our 2013, 2016, and 2018 conversations.)
Last week, I posted Episode 527 of The Virtual Memories Show, featuring author Matt Ruff as we celebrate his fantastic new book, THE DESTROYER OF WORLDS: A Return To Lovecraft Country (Harper). We talk about his reason for doing a sequel to his best-known novel, Lovecraft Country, and why he’d love to continue the story for a few more books. We also get into the experience of seeing Lovecraft Country adapted into an HBO series and how its departure from his book thrilled him, how this novel’s structure differs from its predecessor’s, why the quiet moments of conversation are the most important in the book, whether it’s unfair that it takes him 3-4 years to write a book that takes me 3-4 hours to read/devour, and a lot more. Give it a listen! (And go listen to our 2017 and 2020 conversations!) And go get The Destroyer of Worlds!
Other recent episodes: James McMullan • Paul B. Rainey • Thomas Woodruff • Dawn Raffel
Links & Such
RIP Gill Man . . . RIP Tom Whitlock . . . RIP Jack Macrae
Eddy Portnoy writes about why Richard Belzer’s obits didn’t mention his Jewishness.
This Jerry Saltz piece about MoMA’s blob-screen AI reminds me a little of the ‘sculpture’ at Storm King that drew the most people: a mirrored picket fence that people sat in front of, looking at themselves and taking pictures.
OTOH, I’m up for a virtual chautauqua along with Old Boonton Line here in northern NJ.
It’s okay NPR; we've all blamed podcasts for ruining people’s lives.
Christopher Brown (2018, 2019, 2020) is back with a beautiful new installment of his FIELD NOTES Substack, on Entwives & the most perfect specimen of any tree in North America (among other things).
Not to be confused with FEELD NOTES, the most recent installment of which is, um, quite something.
Abraham Josephine Riesman writes about how post-fake pro wrestling has warped the world.
Hayley Campbell (2016, 2022) writes about the pernicious evil of chasing social media likes/followers, performative outrage, and gender relations, through the lens of gym-video etiquette.
I have neither read nor watched Fleishman Is In Trouble, nor could I get through more than 2 paragraphs of the piece about NYC women and their status chase, but I did enjoy this piece by Rachel Connolly about all that, and the anhedonia of chasing status. (Which is a natural segue to listening to my conversation with W. David Marx about his Status & Culture.) I’m not sure her male analogue — men paying out the wazoo to attend an Andrew Tate event where they expect to get punched out by an MMA fighter — works that well as a parallel, because I suspect the men’s motivation is something along the lines of “I just want to feel something, even if it’s an ass-whupping.”
But that article did get me wondering where I developed my values. Which, at 52, is a weird thing to be contemplating, I admit. Not chasing, or at least not chasing too hard, is deeply ingrained in me, and I’m not sure where it comes from. Maybe it’s a species of defeatism, or maybe it’s a carryover of my parents’ childhoods in the shadow of WWII — Mom raised in the Blitz, growing up under rationing, Dad a refugee in a country that didn’t exist when he was born —, or maybe something else. I was happy to read that Amy Clampitt used the same the term I use for my own approach to life — extreme moderation — when I was prepping for this week’s podcast, and —
— oh, whatever: KUNG FU NUNS!
On the Road - by Jack Kerouac
The Lost Americans - Christopher Bollen
I made a bunch of sketches and I started to draw some sunflowers, but couldn’t figure out what I wanted to do with them that’d be any different from sunflowers I drew & painted before. Which is maybe the root of my artistic not-so-active phase, the desire to do something different and the lack of talent-skill-practice-self-belief to do so. They’ve wilted now, so maybe what’ll make them different is painting them from memory. You should go to the Flickr album of all the art I’ve made & find something you like.
Sound Body, Fractured Mind
I made it through another 5-day cycle of weights & yoga, Friday-Tuesday. Because of travel, that schedule will get screwed up this week, but I can skip a day here & there & not beat myself up about it. The morning routine now includes 20 pushups and 3x12 clamshells w/resistance band (12 left, 12 right = 1 set). Also, bigger, stronger, harder Gil can shovel wet snow off the driveway for 40 minutes straight without a break and feel fine after. And I can hold a funny yoga-pose for a few seconds.
Until Next Week
Thanks for reading this far! I’ll be back next with a new podcast, fun links, maybe some art, & maybe a little profundity or something.
I get so lonely when she’s not there,
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