5/16/2003

read my first ever issue of the paris review yesterday, this one themed
crime: a feature in which thuggery muggery skulduggery saturnalia malfeasance slaughter regicide pesticide burking croaking jugulating garroting marplotting and other high crimes are discussed and analyzed.
we love it already, no? there's also an excellent short piece at the beginning of this issue, "the installation," by brian evenson. truly a macabre little work and well crafted. but the highlight of the whole thing has to be italo calvino's "american diary: 1959-1960." here, the author has recorded his [very amusing] exploits as a ford foundation scholar living for the first time in the U.S. -- and, more specifically, new york city. he ends up setting up residence in the village and hangs out with fellow luminaries and contemporaries. it's really fascinating to examine history through his observations -- i never really thought about what an exciting time the late 1950s must have been, a veritable hotbed of intellectual and creative activity. he visits giancarlo menotti at home in mt. kisco (and menotti, i did not know, actually lived with samuel barber! apparently they collaborated on operas and the like.), runs in the same circles as william styron and erich maria remarque, and parties with the beats, commenting that ginsberg and the posse are filthy and have disgusting beards. he hears later from another ford scholar, the spanish poet arrabel, that at home, the beatniks are very clean, "they have a beautiful house complete with a refrigerator and television, and they live as a quiet bourgeois menage and dress up in dirty clothes only to go out." i love the part where calvino checks out wall st. and is very impressed by the ibm 705 at merrill-lynch, marvelling over its ability to "read all of gone with the wind in three minutes and copy the book on a tape as wide as your finger." (later, he visits the ibm headquarters and sees some of the prototypes that mark the beginning of the computer age. very nerdy and very cool.) calvino also watches color tv for the first time and gets all excited about a commercial hawking spaghetti sauce. he gets upset that his latest book, the baron in the trees, isn't getting much support in the U.S., and notes that the three top-selling books out at this time are the new faulkner, the new penn warren, and some book about hawaii by a guy named michener (ha). i dunno why, but i feel like it would be so incredible to be living at a time when faulkner's putting out books. (it's sort of difficult to realize the worth of something unless it's proved itself through the test of time, i think. hard to determine whether jonathan safran foer or michael chabon will make as important a contribution to literature as, well, calvino or faulkner.) oh, and one of the best entries in this diary recounts how he and another writer get these hot actresses to take them home after a party (and are, naturally, so psyched about getting some ass) but nothing comes of it. the girls turn out to be russian-jewish actresses and lesbians. all things that don't bode well for calvino, apparently. okay, now that i've laid down the synopsis here, i'm sure you'll go run out an find a copy of the PR straightaway. lifted for the first time in 6 months and i am so laughably weak. i had trouble dressing this morning and my butt has been clenched for like the past 12 hours. continual butt-clenching is a very strange sensation, i must say. dinner and a movie, wang-style: so for joyce's birthday (and arthur and taymour and max), austin organized a little shindig with "matrix, reloaded," followed by dinner at mantra, the french-indian place in the ladder district. (the last and only time i've been there was for a review i was writing for the tech, and that was maybe 2.5 years ago.) we had a limited menu since the party was pretty sizeable, but i got the seared scallops with black trumpet mushrooms, endive, and red pepper chutney (which tasted remarkably like this sauce my mom makes for shrimp out of heinz ketchup); seared veal tenderlon on (a very sweet) truffle sauce with some tiny asparagus spears, shallots, and a "potato thoran," which, i guess is a medium dice of the tuber, all glommed together by a really strong, really turmeric-y curry; and the white peach creme brulee with a few orange, grapefruit, and lime supremes. all of it was very ehhh. and service was awful. i mean, i know most of the 26 people present looked like kids (and i guess are, given that a great many are still under 21), and it was a very late (10:20) seating, but just because we're young and because everything is pre-paid doesn't mean that the food should be rushed and the waitstaff so fucking snotty and inattentive. it was really unacceptable. but to compensate, i revisited my new favorite boston diner this morning with mark, charlie's sandwich shoppe, and got their down 'n' dirty steak 'n' cheese omelet. a big tasty huge mess on the plate and probably not so good for me, but shit, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

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