Sunday, December 18, 2011

Best of 2011

• Best novel: The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill. (Actually published in 2001, I believe, but what a wonderful story. The minotaur of Greek mythology is alive and lonely in the American South, living in a small trailer park (where he likes to work on cars in his spare time) and working at a restaurant (where the manager has the brilliant idea of taking M.—as everyone calls him—out of the kitchen to carve prime rib for customers in the dining area). There is plenty here to make a grotesque southern gothic novel—a half man half bull protagonist; a hirsute woman; a gay civil war re-enactor; a jealous weightlifting husband of an underdressed, attractive, and flirtatious neighbor; a dead dog; aimless young men looking for a fight—but what’s amazing about this book is its tone and tempo: a calm and somewhat bemused loneliness even as various threats loom ahead.)

• Biggest book read: A Moment in the Sun by John Sayles (968 pages).

• Best book of poetry: At Lake Scugog by Troy Jollimore. (How did this book not get more attention? I just assumed it would be up for the National Book Award and a Pulitzer and so on. This guy has as big a brain as anyone else writing poetry today. A professor of philosophy, he writes formal, funny, musical poems that engage rather than intimidate the reader.)

• Favorite new cookbook: Trout Caviar: Recipes From a Northern Forager by Brett Laidlaw. (Laidlaw wrote a couple of interesting novels back in the 80s and 90s. Though they were realistic stories set in the Midwest, their Berrymanesque circumlocutions flew in the face of the plain-spoken minimalism that was au courant at the time. When I met him and mentioned the novels, he seemed genuinely surprised that anyone read and remembered them. Now, without warning, and nearly 20 years after his last book of fiction, a cookbook full of hearty recipes and good, clear writing.)

• Best New Yorker Article: “Dr. Don” by Peter Hessler in the September 26 issue. This profile of a small-town pharmacist in Western Colorado is like McPhee at his best.

• Favorite new band: Avett Brothers.

• Favorite new solo artist: Sharon Van Etten.

• Single of the year: “Miss K” by Dear Tick.

• Best movie: Bill Cunningham NYC.

• Best television series on DVD: Slings & Arrows. (Three seasons of a Canadian series about the goings-on behind the scenes at a Stratford-on-Avon type theater. Wonderfully combines Shakespeare, humor, and poignant drama. I actually watched these at the end of 2010, but certainly haven’t seen anything better since then.)

• Best online video: Ultimate Dog Tease.

• Favorite new restaurant: Cajun Potluck in Shoreview, MN.

• Favorite spice: prosciutto.

• Favorite new breakfast food: smoothies.

• Most awesome national landmark visited this year: Crater Lake in Oregon.

• Biggest fish caught: A twelve-inch brown trout in Hay Creek.

• Prettiest fish caught: A couple small brookies in the Poplar River.

• States I attempted to catch trout in this summer: Minnesota, Iowa, Oregon, and California.

• States I was skunked in: 0.

Please note: "New" means new to me; "best" means favorite; "favorite" is self-explanatory.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Friday, November 25, 2011

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Line of the Week (Or Month) (Or Season) (Or Whatever)

Texas sportswriter Blackie Sherrod on first seeing University of Kansas sophomore Wilt Chamberlain: "If they're going to let him play basketball . . . they ought to let the Grand Canyon play ditch."

—according to Gary Cartwright in the 1968 article "Confessions of a Washed-up Sportswriter," and reprinted in Rules of the Game: The Best Sports Writing from Harper's Magazine

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Now It Really Is Everywhere in the Twin Cities

Last night there was road construction in my dream.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Poetry Has Its Day in Court

Poetry is news that stays news and people die for lack of it every day and so on, but sometimes in its small way poetry makes news. That’s the case with a book of poems I reviewed a few years ago, 67 Mixed Messages by Ed Allen, a series of infatuated sonnets about a student named Suzi Grace. Turns out the subject of the poems is a real person, and she didn’t appreciate being the subject. On the other hand, it doesn’t sound like she has much of a case. There’s a long history of poets writing about unrequited love (Dante had Beatrice, Yeats had Maud Gonne, and the mid-century confessional poets made de facto fair use of various people in their lives), and it’s hard to imagine a world in which the poet has to fulfill some Antioch-style contract with his or her muse (Honey, is at all right if I say your eyes are nothing like the sun?). On the third hand, methinks the poet doth protest too much when he claims that making the speaker of the poems bisexual lessens his creepiness.

Monday, September 12, 2011

This Thing of Darkness

Old virus ain’t quite done with Mr. Daddy yet. Still got a thing or two to teach him. Gonna pick him out of his bed and toss him on the bathroom floor where he’ll heave and wretch, his knotted guts exploding out of him. He’ll shake and shiver under five blankets and all his winter clothes. He’s known some pain in his time—Vietnam, working in the fields, his daddy’s belt—but nothing like this. This fever has Mr. Daddy like the whale had Jonah, and it’s going to take him deeper than he’s ever been, so deep he thinks he’s not coming back. He has fever dreams and waking visions, unable to distinguish which is which: he sees himself dying here alone, unmourned by wife or children. He swears to God: no more drinking, no more carrying on. But when the fever spits him back out, Mr. Daddy picks himself up off the floor, checks himself over—no breaks, no lasting injuries—cackles: If I can handle that, I can handle anything.

—Dallas Crow

"This Thing of Darkness" originally appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of Red Rock Review.


Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Question I Never Imagined

"What's your favorite kind of ground-rule double?"
—W. (8 years old)

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Line of the Week (Or Month) (Or Season) (Or Whatever)

"It is an honor / to learn to replace one hope with another."
—Denis Johnson

Monday, June 20, 2011

On Liking "On Disliking God"

It's rare that a blog post approaches the realm of literature, but I think Eric Treanor may have pulled it off in this brief poignant essay.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

New Lynx

I have been a desultory blogger at best during 2011 so far, but I have just cleaned up and updated the Lynx! at right. I have taken down some old ones that have been quieter than Corvus this year, and I've added three new ones: Ephemeral Firmament, Grantland, and Long Form.

Ephemeral Firmament replaces Omnivoracious, and it is as brainy and literate as the names indicate, and the new version is probably a little quirkier than the previous one as there is no longer corporate editorial oversight of an any kind.

I have my doubts about Grantland, especially after reading the recent Bill Simmons profile in the New York Times Magazine, but the Chuck Klosterman piece I read first, "Three-Man Weave," about a 1988 North Dakota junior college basketball game was pretty charming, though not as transcendent as I had hoped it would be. The note at the end of it crediting additional reporting to four other people (one of them a Klosterman) has me wondering what kind of reporting factory Chuck K. is running these days. Kinda like the idea of a reporter doing his own legwork, especially on a piece that has a personal angle as this one does. An additional reporter count of four sounds like something the Times might use to cover a major international event like an earthquake or a terrorist attack that requires reporters on different continents piecing things together. I am also a fan of the name, which according to the Times, comes more from the folks at ESPN than Simmons. Corporate oversight might help reign in Simmons the way that Andy Summers and Stewart Copeland helped make Sting bearable.

Long Form could be my biggest time sink on the interwebs since I learned you could find things like 1977 Patti Smith concert footage on YouTube. Nearly endless offerings of literary journalism from the most recent (there was a prominent link to "Three-Man Weave") to the depths of the archives. I've already picked out my next article: "Papa," a profile of the dead godfather of soul that appeared in GQ in 2009. Check out this teaser:

"When James Brown died on Christmas Day 2006, he left behind a fortune worth tens, maybe hundreds, of millions of dollars. The problem is, he also left behind fourteen children, sixteen grandchildren, eight mothers of his children, several mistresses, thirty lawyers, a former manager, an aging dancer, a longtime valet, and a sister who’s really not a sister but calls herself the Godsister of Soul anyway."

Yeah, I'm in.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Why I Am Not Frank O'Hara

Today I'm feeling very Frank O'Hara in my new chartreuse shirt.
Of course, I lack his rakish widow's peak and almost Roman profile.
I lack his Manhattan address and his avant-garde coterie.
I will never pose for Larry Rivers or Alice Neel, never
(much as I'd like to) own a Fairfield Porter or Jane Freilicher.

I will never saunter into a typewriter shop on my lunch break
and tap out a new poem to accompany that evening's cocktails.
I lack a certain savoir-faire, a certain je ne sais quoi.
I'm a straight Midwesterner, a secondary school teacher
with two sons in tow, but my step is jaunty nonetheless.

I've got the summer off, and today we're going on vacation!
I've packed my fly rod and my Du Fu. Nothing
can bring me down, not even standing in shuffling
line after shuffling line for ticketing, baggage check-in,
and security. Don't they get tired? They look tired.

For nearly eight years they've been on orange alert!
In front of these uniformed strangers I take off my belt
and shoes, offer up my cellphone, my house and car keys,
then slip through their metal detectors undetected.
My only identifying traits: a jaunty step and a chartreuse shirt.

—Dallas Crow

"Why I Am Not Frank O'Hara" originally appeared in the 2010 issue of Off Channel.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Frank O'Hara in Iowa, 1980

In their bedrooms teen boys prance
a la Freddie Mercury, fancying
themselves in tights and ballet slippers—
so tres charmant, my dear—but
to avoid post-school pummelings
their apparel proclaims allegiance
to Aerosmith, Zep, the home team.

Kids who have never heard of James Dean,
the adults' autumnal rectitude:
I've never been so happy to be dead!
Mothers, you only see some of what you see.

Amid the corn and soybeans and tv glow,
we are approaching the pole of inaccessibility,
where summer brings with it a kind of despair,
as do winter, spring, and fall.
Future farmwives of America, prepare
yourselves: you only see some of what you see.

—Dallas Crow

"Frank O'Hara in Iowa, 1980" originally appeared in issue #42 of Cairn.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Hiatus

The unofficial hiatus is now official. I haven't written anything of substance for this blog in a long time, and subsequently—and quite reasonably—readership has dropped. And I'm not feeling much that seems blog-worthy these days, and when I do, I don't have time to write it. So . . . it's time to give this thing a break. How long? Who knows? It's been fun, but it's time to take it off my list of things to think about for a while. If you want some good blog reading, this is the one that I've been enjoying lately. This one, too.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Line of the Week

"You know, when I drink alone,
I prefer to be by myself."
—George Thorogood

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Dept. of Shameless Self Promotion

Sometimes a guy's gotta do what a guy's gotta do: toot his own horn. I have a short article on teaching a poem by Campbell McGrath in the new issue of Minnesota English Journal.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Line of the Week

"I wanted to make a dessert that would re-create the emotions Lionel Messi feels when he scores a goal."

—Jordi Roca, in Adam Gopnik's article, "Sweet Revolution," in the January 3, 2011 New Yorker

Three Novels I Did Not Finish Reading in 2010

• The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. by Robert Coover

• Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris

• The Story of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroblewski