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Posts Tagged ‘Summer’

TPR vs. Vanity Fair: Literary Softball Bullshit

June 30, 2011 | by

Team    |1|2|3|4|5|6|7|8  Total

VF      |0|1|0|0|0|1|1|1   4
TPR     |2|1|0|0|0|0|0|0   3

There’s no easy way to say this, so I’ll just come out with it: yesterday we lost to Vanity Fair in softball. I know, I know—we’re embarrassed, we’re heartbroken, and to say that we were demoralized after the game is an understatement. (Oh, how we wept!) If life were a sports movie, this would be the game right before our turnaround, the low point that brings us back together, spurring us on to greatness. Our grizzled coach would make a passionate speech, and our distracted star player would wake up and dedicate himself to the team. Cut to the montage where we hit home runs and laugh at our practical jokes, topped off by a spinning newspaper with a headline like: “TPR ONLY ONE GAME OUT OF FIRST!” This isn’t a movie though, and thinking about those Vanity Fair hooligans pouring champagne all over each other after the game kept me awake last night, and probably will for weeks.

It started off well enough: after two innings we were up three to one, and it seemed like the rest of the game would be a walk in the park or a day at the beach or a peach on a beach or something like that. I started thinking about what I would write, certain I would preface it with “Not to be mean, but Vanity Fair really isn’t good at softball.” What hubris. From the third inning on, our bats were silent, our mitts were loose, and before you could say “Siddhartha Finch” we were in extra innings. After holding us at no runs in the top half of the eighth, they scored the winning run on a sharp single into right field. C’est la vie.

In the end, we let our—dare I say vanity?—get the best of us. We also let their third baseman—a big bald guy wearing jorts (jean shorts) and drinking a Coors Light—get the best of us when he told us to quit with our “literary softball bullshit.” He reminded me of my seventh grade gym teacher. He might actually have been my seventh grade gym teacher.

In a game like this there aren’t many highlights, but it would seem like adding salt to the wound if I failed to mention a spectacular catch by our right fielder Karen “The Franchise” Maine and the equally spectacular pitching performance by Devin “Meal Ticket” McIntyre. Meal Ticket, we should have pulled you an inning earlier; this loss isn’t on you, so don’t beat yourself up. You two surely can hold your heads high; the rest of us can remind ourselves that even though we lost, our mothers still love us.

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Steak and Poetry from the Rooftops

June 28, 2011 | by

The Academy of American Poets promised youth. “All very hip, young, cool poets,” said the invite for a recent Thursday-night reading on the rooftop of the Arsenal Building in Central Park. And it wasn’t just that night’s reading. “The entire reading series,” the e-mail emphasized, “features hip, cool poets.”

On the evening of the hip, cool reading on the rooftop, the clouds hung low and threatened precipitation. The workers of Manhattan, newly released from their cubicles, surged up Fifth Avenue to Central Park, breathing in the cultivated scents of high-end retail that punctuated the doorway of each storefront.

“I’m sick of hearing about Barack Obama,” said someone walking behind me on Fifth Avenue, as I, newly released from my cubicle, inhaled the spicy, luxurious air that poured out the doorway of Henri Bendel. “You know?” she said to her companion. “I’m sick of the jokes.”

The skyscrapers all had trees growing from their atria or complex terraces of ferns sprouting beneath their glass panes. They looked like magazine ads for oil companies. Mr. Softee trucks lined 59th Street, which was also seething with joggers. Around the stoplights the young joggers clustered, running in place. They all wore T-shirts that read “The J. P. Morgan Corporate Challenge.” They jogged to and fro on some sort of athletic scavenger hunt; hip, young, cool corporate types on what appeared to be a fitness mission that promised team building but also possibly resulted in charitable contributions. (I looked it up later: “Forty companies celebrated fitness and camaraderie in one of the world’s greatest urban parks, while raising funds for the Central Park Conservancy.”)

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Girl Crazy, Lame Book Blurbing

July 9, 2010 | by

Girls. I'm girl crazy. It's 'cause it's summer. I'd like to calm myself down. What should I do? —Ronnie

Oh, Ronnie. One feels you. I take it you’ve tried self-love and cold showers? If all else fails and you hear the first garbage trucks and all you want is a moment of oblivion—of surcease—what you need is boring books. I keep a stash for just such occasions:

A History of the United States During the Administration of Thomas Jefferson, by Henry Adams. My intellectual friends tell me it’s a masterpiece. I have never got past page six.

The Education of a Gardener, by Russell Page: “Were I working out a rectangular theme, for instance, I would not hesitate to introduce diagonals or curves if these were justified by expediency, or if their introduction contributed to reinforce that same theme by contrast. On the contrary, a composition all curves and irregular forms might well demand certain rigidities, certain angularities in detail are you listening to me ronnie no you are not because you are fast asleep.”

The Complete Guide to Furniture Styles, by Louise Ade Boger. This one is new to my collection. I got it off the two-dollar cart at the Strand last week and already I have found it an indispensible settler of the mind. I know what you’re thinking: for a diseased one-track Bonobo like yourself, it’s only the tiniest baby-step from furniture to sex. Trust me. Ms. Boger is an artist. She was bored writing the thing, bored shitless from sentence one, and she manages to communicate that feeling to the reader in real time. To say The Complete Guide to Furniture Styles is 427 pages long is to say nothing. The pages are giant; the text bicolumniar; the black-and-white plates, for all intents and purposes, useless. Reading The Complete Guide is like popping six Ambien and hitting yourself on the head with a brick.

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Department of Corrections

June 8, 2010 | by

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Even Roth once dreamed of the jackpot.

Thank you, Mike Leaverton, for your notice in SF Weekly about our event at The Booksmith in San Francisco next Monday, June 14. (Hope to see you there!) And thank you, too, for the opportunity to clarify a few things about the legend of the Paris Review slush pile. Your version went like this:

The Paris Review throws all unsolicited submissions, three-pointer style, into an ancient, fire-belching potbellied stove, which a soot-covered intern, such as Philip Roth (Summer, 1946) or Don DeLillo (Fall, 1952), keeps eternally lit for this very purpose.

While we do receive more than a thousand fiction submissions every month, we don’t use them to heat our office, or to play trash-can basketball. We read them all, every single one, before burning (or sending back via SASE).

In fact, the summer issue, which hits newsstands and mailboxes next week, includes a story, “Elk Stalled in Snow,” by Chaz Reetz-Laiolo, who came to our attention through a slush submission. Mr. Reetz-Laiolo will join me at The Booksmith on Monday night, along with photographer Jeff Antebi and poet Matthew Zapruder.

And just one more thing: Philip Roth was never a Paris Review intern. But his story, “Conversion of the Jews,” was plucked from, yes, the slush pile, by Rose Styron in 1958. The odds might be long but, like you, we’re always dreaming of the jackpot.

 

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