By no means is it Curtis Jest’s best performance, nor is it his finest moment as a songwriter. The lyrics are (it must be said) rather trite, mainly about the transformative powers of love. In truth, most love songs are exactly the same way.
-Gabrielle Zevin, Elsewhere

Been a long time since I’ve thought about Curtis Jest. Nice to see him again. 

tuesday hijinks no. 10: Printers Row Book Festival in Chicago, suitcase postmortem


1. I packed my red shoes but did not wear them. They make the photo because they go well with the ARC of Because It Is My Blood.

2. I bought the print at the festival. The verse reads:

Lady Tulip, stately dame,

From across the ocean came;

Liked this country very much,

Although she only spoke in Dutch.

This puts me in mind of a few lyrics I like from a Bright Eyes song called “Road to Joy.”

I could have been a famous singer

If I had someone else’s voice

But failure always sounded better

Let’s f*** it up, boys, make some noise.

the writing life #7 & song for jay reatard

An interview with me about my new book, The Hole We’re In, in last week’s Publisher’s Weekly*:

In aforementioned interview, I referenced Jay Reatard, who I’m sad to report died last week at the age of twenty-nine. (I gave the interview over a month ago.) Anyway, I didn’t know Jay Reatard personally, but I was a fan of his music and we’re even using a couple of his songs on the Japanese Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac movie soundtrack. My favorite song of his is probably “No Time” which seems an appropriate title given how prolific he was and how relatively short his life.

Below, the video for the song I mentioned in the interview, “It Ain’t Gonna Save Me.” In it, Reatard is looking very Clockwork Orange-y, and I dig that about him.

*The interview is by Greg Changnon, and his questions were extremely clever and thoughtful.

song for the health care debate

“I Don’t Want to Die (In the Hospital)” by Conor Oberst from his eponymous album

The thing is, though, I kind of do want to die in the hospital. That is to say, as a self-employed person who pays a significant portion of my income for a shockingly meagre health plan, dying in a hospital seems pretty darn luxurious.

song for people who think the rise of twitter may mean the end of the world is nigh

“Oh Yoshimi, they don’t believe me
but you won’t let those robots eat me”
–“Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Part I”
The Flaming Lips

I hate Twitter. I won’t say I’ll never be on it but only because I’ve learned to not make grand proclamations on Things I’ll Never Do. (Hello there, Gabrielle version 2006 who swore she’d never blog — how ya like me now?) But I actually do feel a revulsion toward Twitter that I’ve never felt toward any other social networking website or related technology, and that I’m not sure I can fully explain.

Our song comes from the year 2002 and everyone who knows me will know that it’s one of my favorites.* I happen to like robots, though. One of the saddest things I read about the global economic crisis was that the recession in Japan was devestating the robot industry. It wasn’t all going to be building robot girlfriends for the socially inept either. There were going to be robots to care for old people, and you know, we could really use those.

*It is also one of Will Landsman’s favorites as readers of Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac will surely know.

Song for Anxieties about the Escalation of Troops to Afghanistan

Ah, so many songs to choose from. It could have been “Road to Joy” by Bright Eyes or “Gimme Shelter” by the Rolling Stones (though that’s about Vietnam and last night President Obama swore that Afghanistan is not Vietnam, right?…) or “It’s a Hit” by Rilo Kiley. But we’ll save all those for another day. I think I’m going with “Intervention” by Arcade Fire. (That’s why it’s sporting the bold, see.) I wrote half of my next book, The Hole We’re In, listening to this one, by the way — if you could wear out a digital file, I would have. I remember hearing that song for the first time in a hotel room in Santa Monica several years ago and thinking that I needed to get on writing better books.

Song for the Last Monday in November

It’s rainy and coldish, and we can’t go to the park*, and this is the perfect song for today, trust me.

“i am young and getting wiser,
soon i will grow old”

–“Lovers Without Love”
By Joshua James

It’s reductive to sum up songs this way, but this one has the wistfulness of “First Day of My Life” by Bright Eyes and some of the outrage of “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” By Bob Dylan. But hey, go ahead and listen to it yourself:

*This reminds me of the opening line of Jane Eyre: “There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.”

Last Lines #3 & The Writing Life #2: Action-Packed, All-Starred, Double-Featured, One Week Anniversary Edition

Just so there’s no question whether I’m a complete nerd or not, one of my very favorite television programs is American Masters on PBS. Mainly, I like it because it has to do with how it is hard (not like soldier hard or being born with a terrible disease hard, but hard nonetheless) to be an artist and all that self-indulgent hooey AKA the kind of hooey in which I very much like to indulge. Last night, there was a very good & inspirational one on Leonard Bernstein who would have been ninety years old this week. Among other things, the program talked about how it was hard for him to want to be alone & write when there were so many other interesting things to pursue like conducting & teaching & traveling & peacemaking & hosting fundraisers for the Black Panthers & having a most exhausting social life, etc., etc. This is something I relate to aside from the conducting, teaching, peacemaking, Black Panthers fundraising, & exhausting social life parts. So, Maestro, wherever you are, these last lines go out to you:

“It is enough, it is to be blessed enough, to live from day to day and to hear such music – not too much, or the soul could not sustain it – from time to time.”
An Equal Music by Vikram Seth*

*An Equal Music is probably one of my favorite books published in the last ten years or so.

**The photograph is of young Leonard Bernstein, who was definitely hot. It’s one I took of my television as you can tell by the subtly embossed Thirteen logo…

Re: Conversations with Other Women

What does the title Conversations with Other Women mean?

It refers to THE WOMAN’s line of dialogue that she has “no interest in other women.” It is the idea that THE MAN is talking to a version of THE WOMAN from the past, a version that no longer exists in the present. THE WOMAN, then, becomes the “other woman” to herself. 

What does the ending of Conversations with Other Women mean?
Whatever you think it means is what it means. I meant it to be ambiguous.

THE WOMAN is either in a cab back to London by herself OR she is in a cab with THE MAN.
They have either been playing an elaborate game with each other in order to spice up their marriage OR she’s a cheater.
Etc., etc.
And, of course, this doesn’t account for what the director thought or the actors thought or what you thought. All are certainly as valid as what I thought. Cineaste, you may take your pick.

In Conversations with Other Women, are the children THE WOMAN’s?
I will tell you that Helena Bonham Carter, who played the WOMAN, thought they were. 

In Conversations with Other Women, are any of the children THE WOMAN’S and THE MAN’S together?
Only if you believe THE MAN and THE WOMAN are in the cab together at the end. If you don’t think they’re together, then I would have to say no.

Is a soundtrack available for Conversations with Other Women?
No, but all the songs are on iTunes: “Ripchord” by Rilo Kiley; “L’excessive,” “Le plus beau du quartier,” and “J’en connais” by Carla Bruni.