Argentina bans unhealthy books

Here’s something you won’t read everyday: The Argentine government has severely restricted the importation of books due to human health concerns*:

That’s right. According to the government, it can be dangerous to “page through” a book that has high lead quantities in its ink. “If you put you finger in your mouth after paging through a book, that can be dangerous,” said Juan Carlos Sacco, the vice-president of an industrialist organization that supports the measure.

The government claims that this is not a ban. However, since each buyer has to demonstrate at the airport’s customs office that the ink in the purchased book has lead quantities no higher than 0.006% in its chemical composition, the result is that all book imports into the country are stalled.

*(following that link will lead you to an unpleasantly partisan right wing site, so be warned.) (Via)

Harry Crews died

According to the Georgia Review this morning, the amazing Harry Crews died yesterday. One of the first reviews I ever wrote was of Harry Crews’ extraordinary A Feast of Snakes, and I always meant to dive deeper into his work, but somehow never came round to it.

Below there’s a short trailer for an incredible film about Crews called Survival is Triumph Enough. I started posting videos exclusively on my tumblr, but this needs to be here:

Edit: here is the NY TImes obit

The poem of my life

A poem by Adrienne Rich from the sequence “Twenty-One Love Poems”. This is poem #2

I wake up in your bed. I know I have been dreaming.
Much earlier, the alarm broke us from each other,
you’ve been at your desk for hours. I know what I dreamed:
our friend the poet comes into my room
where I’ve been writing for days,
drafts, carbons, poems are scattered everywhere,
and I want to show her one poem
which is the poem of my life. But I hesitate,
and wake. You’ve kissed my hair
to wake me. I dreamed you were a poem,
I say, a poem I wanted to show someone . . .
and I laugh and fall dreaming again
of the desire to show you to everyone I love,
to move openly together
in the pull of gravity, which is not simple,
which carried the feathered grass a long way down the upbreathing air.


Still more work to do: RIP Adrienne Rich

Since I learned that the great poet Adrienne Rich died yesterday, I’ve been mulling over a response, but I don’t think I’m capable of putting my grief over this loss into words, nor am I likely qualified. A year ago I posted a poem that seems strangely fitting. But what I would do is point to her remarkable essay on Elizabeth Bishop, and especially to a passage near its end, because it always appeared to sum up the force driving Rich’s magnificent work through all these past decades, and it’s the first thing I thought of when the terrible news of her death reached me:

It is important to me to know that, through most of her life, Bishop was critically and consciously trying to explore marginality, power and powerlessness, often in poetry of great beauty and sensuous power. That not all these poems are fully realized or satisfying simply means that the living who care that art should embody these questions have still more work to do.

Read Rich. There are many editions of her work out there and you really can’t go wrong.

Hunger Games & Racism

I read The Hunger Games last year, when I was in a non-reviewing slump, and so there is no review of the book, and given the insane amount of detail scattered over three medium size novels, I wouldn’t do these books any justice if I reviewed them now, but let me just state that the series is utterly fantastic and magnificent and impressively smart and I was very much looking forward to the movie. A lot of people were. And then this happened. On facebook (cf. this Racialicious post) and on twitter (cf. this Jezebel post), people shared their outrage over casting choices. And the outrage wasn’t directed at the fact that the director chose a pale white girl to play a character described as “olive skinned” (which is, in fact, upsetting (cf. Bitch Media and Julian Sanchez)) – the outrage was directed at the director correctly casting a black actress for a black character. The cries of outrage are eerie, but they do remind me of how cleverly the books are constructed, how the book makes use of class and race lines and provides strong and powerful images of exploitation on a surprising amount of levels. I highly, highly recommend these books.

So much sensitivity and pain in my voice

I was really touched by the emotion in my voice, especially with the Pinkerton songs. It struck me that there’s so much sensitivity and pain in my voice. (…) I don’t know. My voice, I think, has been pretty similar throughout my life. But yeah, little overtones – little changes in the weather are now reflected in my voice. I might be wrong, but on Pinkerton, it sounds like someone’s been in a lot of physical pain for a good year or two. And that was exactly my situation.

Rivers Cuomo in a 2010 SPIN interview on listening to Pinkerton-era Weezer Songs.

Something you investigate when everybody’s asleep

Stipe: Yeah. Now I think I can tell, listening to your music–this is just me as a fan, but also having done it for 31 years–I can see that you’re not a dark person, but I can see the darkness in there.

Hadreas: I’ve learned that that’s something you investigate when everybody’s asleep. You know what I mean? [laughs] Like going through my day, I try not to bother people with it, and plus it’s not like it’s always right underneath and seasoning everything that I do. I don’t know, some days it is, but–

Stipe: Yeah, but there’s a toughness, a real toughness there that I really admire, I have to say. I mean I think it makes the music. It adds another depth and another level to what you’re doing lyrically. And also melodically and the presentation, like the production that you do and blah blah blah. I’m not blowing smoke up your ass, but I mean that’s the thing with music, is that one projects oneself onto the work of someone else and it becomes yours.

Michael Stipe interviewing/talking to the wonderfully magnificent Mike Hadreas, also known as Perfume Genius (check out a live version of his songs Hood and Normal Song and of his song Dark Parts and the official video of “Hood”). Click here for part 1 of that interview. Click here for another interview on Q TV, where he also performs stuff from his first album.