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Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn
Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn [New York Times]

  • Biblio-intrigue! Clandestine underground rare books black markets! Bold-faced theft of manuscripts uncovered by a "brother-and-sister team of whistle-blower librarians"! In Italy! (Naturally.) It could bring palpitations to the hardest of hearts:
Using techniques perfected in international organized-crime cases, Naples prosecutors are now focusing on rare-book dealers and collectors who may have bought works they probably knew had been taken from the library. They are slowly exposing the practices of the rare-book market, where deception sometimes reigns, prices can reach into the millions of dollars, and the trail often goes dead at the Swiss border.

Mr. De Caro, 39, is a character who seems to have been conjured jointly by Jorge Luis Borges and the Italian crime novelist Andrea Camilleri: a rare-book lover; a figure in the nebulous orbit of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi; a sometime consultant in the renewable-energy field; and, by his own admission to prosecutors in official court documents, the architect of the most successful forgery of a book by Galileo ever executed.
  • After the record sale of Francis Bacon's Lucian Freud triptych (still no word on who bought it; the suspense is killing me), the art world is all the rage - art dealers in particular. The New Yorker profiles dealer David Zwirner; the New York Times focuses on dealer Jeanne Greenberg Rohatyn, who seems notable for, in addition to art dealy stuff, working with musicians, like Jay Z (for his 'Picasso Baby' video), and athletes (says Alex Rodriguez, mind-bogglingly: "I first came to Jeanne's uptown space to view several monochrome Richard Prince 'Joke' paintings. Our real conversation happened upstairs looking at a Nate Lowman 'Smile' painting."). On the non-art dealer front, did Vermeer use an 'optical device' to help in the production of his paintings? Vanity Fair investigates. Other art mysteries, of the Jackson Pollock variety. Also in the New York Times: Vermeer groupies, your time is come.
  • Books: I thought myself finally beyond the "pill popping liberal arts college kids engaged in murderous intrigue in late-80s/early-90s New England" literary genre, but apparently I was mistaken. Donna Tartt's The Secret History has been consumed, and it's all I can do to not pretend I can speak Greek. Worrisome.
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It is almost certain that I will die without ever having understood the appeal of Loki/Tony Stark.
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As far as reading in 2012, here is the sum total of my efforts this year:

Read: 89

Fiction (including SF/F; excluding comics): 58

Non-Fiction: 18

Science Fiction/Fantasy: 29

Comic Books/Graphic Novels (excluding single issues, incomplete arcs, and anything less than 50 pages in length): 13

Books by Women: 21

Biographical Works: 10

Books Read as a Direct Result of Spielberg “Lincoln”: 4

‘Young Adult’ Science Fiction/Fantasy: 1

Ugh, Why Did I Even: 3



Herein: My Top 5 )


Books That Were So Terrible I Gave Them Two Stars or Less on Goodreads and Didn’t Even Feel Guilty.


1.       Delirium, Lauren Oliver. This is a young adult novel, the first in a series, set in a dystopian future where love is considered a disease that every citizen is ‘immunized’ against once they reach the age of majority. Having gleaned that much after the first chapter, I cannot for the life of me understand why I didn’t abandon ship immediately. The thing of it is simple – Protagonist is on the verge of her coming of age; she has an embarrassing love-related family history involving her mother, which has prompted her to value social conformity significantly more than her beautiful, vivacious best friend, who insists on petty rebellions, much to Protagonist’s dismay; Protagonist meets a Boy; Boy is of the rebellious persuasion, to a much higher degree; they fall in love; their forbidden love is discovered; whatever. I just can’t.


2.       Someone thought it would be a good sort of idea to collect some of comedian Steve Martin’s tweets into something resembling a book, and publish it. In a moment of pure self loathing, I am sure, I read the thing. No further comment will be made.


3.       Lucy, Laurence Gonzales. I cannot remember much of this, but I remember I didn’t like it. It was melodramatic.


4.       All the Sad Young Literary Men, Keith Gessen. This is a book. It is the sort of book too mundane to even inspire vitriol. Rather, one is consume by… what? Agitation? Acrimony? Resentment borne purely from the fact that one is being forced to once again consider its existence? To properly frame my emotional reaction to This Book, I was compelled to trawl through book reviews of the mid-to-high brow variety. Joyce Carol Oates! Her reputation precedes, though I confess to never having read any of her work. Joyce Carol Oates reviewed This Book for the New York Review of Books, and enjoyed it. Preposterous! Here are some things Joyce Carol Oates had to say:

Beginning with its risky yet playful title, All the Sad Young Literary Men is a rueful, undramatic, mordantly funny, and frequently poignant sequence of sketch-like stories loosely organized by chronology and place and the prevailing theme of youthful literary ideals vis-à-vis literary accomplishment. In its seriocomic depiction of post-adolescent ennui it will remind some readers of Indecision (2005), the first novel by Benjamin Kunkel, Keith Gessen’s co-editor at n+1; clearly, both young writers speak the same language, if not precisely the same dialect. Its cover art suggests a witty New Yorker cartoon: a small male figure at the very bottom of a page bearing on his back and shoulders an immense black tombstone of a book titled ALL THE SAD YOUNG LITERARY MEN.

Everything about this paragraph is wrong. Except perhaps the bits about Indecision. I know nothing about Indecision. And also maybe the bit about it being undramatic. But rest assured, All the Sad Young Literary Men is not rueful (though it aspires to be); it is not “mordantly funny” (on account of how it is not funny at all); it is not poignant (and I do not say this just because I hate the word); it’s cover art does not suggest a witty New Yorker cartoon (unless perhaps we are talking about a New Yorker cartoon that is not at all witty, and was probably rejected). Let’s try again. This fellow Tim Martin at The Independent seems to share my point of view on very nearly every level, but particularly of the tiresome redundancy of the young literary men in question:

“You’ll recognise these guys from elsewhere in contemporary American fiction: over-smart, bad with women in a lit-but-you-know-it sort of way, brooding earnestly over their PhD subjects and the situation in Israel, wearyingly enamoured of bullet-pointed lists and dorky cracks about obscure Russian dissidents.”


It’s the cracks about obscure Russian dissidents that truly get my goat, in honesty. But this withering review was not enough to sooth my agitated soul. I resort to goodreads reviews for further solace: “Gessen clearly illustrates everything wrong with his generation of writers: an awkward desire to be vicious, but without the skill or introspection to do any real damage.” Bingo! Bingo? “Also, all the lady characters are underdeveloped and horribly irritating.” Yup.



My reading resolution for 2013 is to read at least one science fiction/fantasy novel with a stupid cover. It is currently 1726 hrs, GMT+3, and already I feel my resolve crumbling.

My actual reading resolution for 2013 is to read at least 10 books from a shockingly long list of works I feel ashamed to never have attempted. That number, ten, has been scaled back, incrementally, pitifully, from forty-five over the last two weeks. I am nothing if not irresolute.


anathemadelight: (FIVE)
Lana Turner has collapsed!
I was trotting along and suddenly
it started raining and snowing
and you said it was hailing
but hailing hits you on the head
hard so that it was really snowing and
raining and I was in such a hurry
to meet you but the traffic
was acting exactly like the sky
and suddenly I see a headline
there is no snow in Hollywood
there is no rain in California
I have been to lots of parties
and acted perfectly disgraceful
but I never actually collapsed
oh Lana Turner we love you get up.

-- Frank O'Hara, "Lana Turner Has Collapsed"
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Things Left Half Unread: Week of July 05

Excerpts from the forthcoming book of Kerouac/Ginsberg correspondences, posted on the Granta blog. Being neither a fan of Ginsberg or Kerouac, especially Kerouac, I’m surprised how much I enjoy it before it descends into politics and a flagrant disregard for punctuation. Kerouac has found Buddhism, Ginsberg has found Neal (again):

“Please be reassured, angel, I think dearly of you whenever I do think of you, which is often, as I’m sure you do think of me often and dearly, naturally, and I’m not trying to be mysterious, or quiet, or anything, but just have reached the essence center of things where nothingness resides and does not absolutely nothing, and this is my Chinese position.”

“I haven’t said much about Neal but will in next letter whenever it is. At the moment my greatest pleasure has been in looking at him as in a great dream, the unreality of it, that we are in the same space-time room again. As if resurrection from dead past, fresh and full of life, though with the drag of old knowledge, but we have not yet begun to talk. I don’t know what it is I want to tell him. Or he me yet.”

In Vanity Fair, Cary in the Sky with Diamonds, on the use of LSD in 1950s Hollywood. And from Jonah Lehrer, more on LSD, the scientific search for an understanding of nature of consciousness, and where the two would meet if LSD wasn’t illegal. In The Economist, a special report on gambling. No, I haven’t a clue why I’m interested either. In Artforum, a re/consideration of Battlestar Galactica.

“Without the communist oppression," he says, quite seriously, "I am absolutely sure I would now be a local stupid professor of philosophy in Ljubljana." -- Slovenly, sweaty, quotable Slavoj Zizek has a new book out and is profiled in both The Observer and (I think) The Independent. I have lost the links to both, but was inadvertently led to the archives of The International Journal of Zizek Studies and the contemplation (but not actual reading) of an essay entitled ‘Spectator Sports as Desire Engine’. I do have the link for Der Speigel’s profile, which is quite good. Zizek is no fan of Bernard Henri-Levy, partly as a result of his “tendency to show too much chest hair”. Truer words, et cetera.

Finally, catching up on The Paris Review’s Culture Diaries series and their 1998 interview with Jose Saramago
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The sunny arrangements act in counterpoint to the reality of the Marcos' increasingly repressive regime, reflecting the imagined inner life of the glamour-obsessed Imelda. "For me, the darker side of the excesses are, for the most part, a matter of record. A lot of the audience is going to come with that knowledge already. What's more of a challenge is to get inside the head of the person who was behind all of that, and understand what made them tick"
David Byrne and Fatboy Slim's new album, Here Lies Love, is a chronicle of the rise and fall of Imelda Marcos. Yes. Imelda Marcos.

Having listened to a handful of the songs, which are quite upbeat and disco-inspired, I haven't a thing to say. "Improbably poignant, decidedly surreal, surprisingly thought provoking" sums it up nicely enough. The title track, 'Here Lies Love' is excellent. Many of the lyrics are actual Imelda quotes, if anything she definitely has a way with words, that woman, and the album features everyone from Florence & The Machine, Tori Amos, Martha Wainwright, Sia, Santigold, and Roison Murphy.

If curiosity has gotten the better of you, you can download it here.
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In this month's GQ, Andrew Corsello profiles Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao - The Biggest Little Man in the World:
It is difficult for an American to comprehend the degree to which Manny Pacquiao keeps his disciples close. Not just emotionally but bodily. When training in Los Angeles, where Roach's gym is located, Pacquiao rarely stays in the home he recently purchased. Instead, some fifteen members of Team Pacquiao—an ever metastasizing organism currently comprising about three dozen men—stays in a dingy two-room apartment.

"Whoever's on the best terms with Manny at that moment sleeps closest to him, at the foot of his bed," Roach says. "You think I'm joking? The first time I went to the Philippines, they put four guys in my room. I said, 'What is this bullshit? I want my own room.' And they were like, 'Team Pacquiao likes to be together!' So I wound up in the bed, and these…guys, helpers, sparring partners, Manny's brother, Bobby, slept on the floor."

Why is it that the closer Manny Pacquiao brings his people to his bosom, the more incapable they become of speaking for him, representing him, even knowing him?

"Because they're scared," Roach says. "Nobody wants to be the guy who asks Manny the question that might irritate him on a particular day. If you're the guy who says, 'Manny, you're supposed to fly to Manila today,' and Manny doesn't want to hear it, you might not be the guy who gets to fluff his rice."
I don't even know.

Last week's NYT Magazine's article on Human Flesh Search Engines - China's Cyberposse - coincided nicely with me being sucked into the world of ChinaSMACK, a website dedicated to translations of "popular stories, pictures, and videos from China's internet".
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Vanity Fair's feature on the 'rise and sudden death of The Exile, Russia's angriest newspaper' is everything you would expect from a profile of The Exile, whose mission statement was basically "sermonizing laced with smut". That is to say, it is amazing, and doubly amazing because it's in Vanity Fair. And triply amazing because it will convince you that VF is worth reading on a regular basis.

Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi were both excessively talented, brave, frustrated, angry young men who achieved so much in their 20s that, I should warn you right now, they will make you hate your entire pathetic existence. They're no longer young, but every other adjective continues to apply. I don't know, but maybe "How can I get this into a story without mainlining cocaine?" should be every investigative reporter's motto.

Of course they basically were mainlining cocaine, and speed, and whatever else. But the sentiment still stands.

After being shut down in Russia, The Exile resurrected itself online as The Exiled, and they have very helpfully put together a 'cheat sheet' for new readers, as well as some archived The Exile content.
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Pitchfork has two great features up right now - Africa 100: The Indestructible Beat, a reprint of a 2005 introduction to African music - which revolves heavily on west African music from the 1960s and 1970s - and Killin' the Game: New Music From West Africa, which does what it says on the tin, mostly - Nigerian pop, Ivorien rap, and Ghanaian hip hop.


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December 2013



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