norbert blei | finding a novel in a newspaper

23 03 2011

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 212 | March 22, 2011

Finding a Novel in a Newspaper

by
Norbert Blei

So it’s late night. I pick up the New York Times, read and glance over page one.

Maybe I follow an intriguing story’s jump to another page, another section. Maybe I doggedly pursue today’s paper page by page, section by section. Maybe I’m in a fragmented frame of mind (or the news of the day suddenly puts me there), allowing a bold heading, a dramatic photograph, perhaps an appealing font capture my attention and lead me into and beyond whatever a story has to tell.

Some days or nights everything becomes such a jumble I may momentarily pause an wonder: am I reading a newspaper or a work of fiction? Is this the news or a novel assembling itself in my head? Should I laugh? Should I cry? Should I remember as a child on my grandmother’s farm, the warm eggs I once held in my hand?

Case in point. The New York Times, Sunday, March 13, 2011: All three excerpts below, “What I Wore”, “Quotation of the Day”, and “The Rural Life”, appearing in the same issue.

WHAT I WORE

by
Amanda Hearst

DECISIONS, DECISIONS

Amanda Hearst 27, is an associate market editor and a blogger at Marie Claire magazine, one o the publications of the Hears Corporation, which was founded by her great-grandfather, William Randolph Hearst. She lives in the West Village and is active on the boards of several charities. —CHLOE MALLE

THURSDAY, MARCH 3

I was still kind of groggy from being in Europe for the shows, so I woke up trying to figure out a way to incorporate flats into my outfit. I just can’t deal with heels anymore. So I put on black Chanel boots over ribbed DKNY tights and then a blue and white batik-print Zara tulip skirt with an ivory short-sleeved turtleneck sweater from Michael Kors. After a day of working on my blog, I headed to a Core Fusion class at Exhale, for which I wore black Lululemon leggings with a white American Apparel tank top. I love these tanks because they have a built-in bra, so I wear them to work out in, under sweaters. I even ended up wearing a black one later that day under this sheer black Valentino top that I borrowed. I paired the top with black Yigal Azrouel shorts, tights and Prada booties, and headed uptown to the Gagosian Gallery’s opening of “Malevich and the American Legacy.” The only problem is that there was so much traffic that I missed the show! So I turned around and headed to dinner at Palma with a few friends. Nobody commented on my outfit. Should I have worn Zara again?

FRIDAY, MARCH 4

I woke up and threw on a Christian Dior lace top with leather Vena Cava shorts, Wolford tights and Prada booties. As I was pulling on my boots, the shirt ripped on the sleeve’s hem! I tried to see if I could get away with the rip, but finally decided that I couldn’t. So I kept the booties and tights and put on a Catherine Malandrino dress with an Hermes belt and a black, leather ruffled YSL purse. The belt was a gift from my ex-boyfriend and is probably the best gift I have ever received, period.

After work I headed to the Gagosian Gallery and then met a friend for a drink at the Carlyle Hotel. One drink led to three, so we decided to go out for a bit, dinner and then the Boom Boom Room.

SATURDAY, MARCH 5

I wore my usual weekend uniform: leggings, T-shirt, oversize sweater. It’s all about comfort on the weekends. I read “Shanta-ram” for a bit (an incredible book about the Mumbai underworld), took my Chiweenie Finn (he’s half Chihuahua, half Dachshund) to Washington Square Park and then watched “Paranormal Activity.” I proceeded to have nightmares all night in my Ralph Lauren flannel button-down.

SUNDAY, MARCH 6

Rebecca Beeson leggings, my boyfriend’s JDC striped top and a Bodkin gray knit sweater. Because of the rain, I threw on a Patagonia puffer and Finn wore his red parka by Canine Styles. We looked like drowned rats by the time we got back from our walk. We stayed in the house for the rest of the day, officially the laziest weekend ever.

MONDAY, MARCH 7

I’m a big fan of J. Crew. I usually buy outfits directly off the mannequins. The styling is just so good! So while I normally wouldn’t have given this blue-and-white checked Oxford shirt a second glance, when I saw it with a camel colored cardigan and green shorts, I bought the whole ensemble. I wore the blouse with a brown Ralph Lauren suede skirt, DKNY stockings and black Ralph Lauren knee-high boots. My goal getting dressed for work is to be as casual as possible while still looking professional, so I’m a big fan of J. Crew and Ralph Lauren for work wear. I’m not really a jeans person, so I wear a lot of shorts and skirts with tights in the winter. Today I wore DKNY stockings, but I usually buy my tights at Duane Reade because they’re $6 and they last a surprisingly long time.

TUESDAY, MARCH 8

I put on an Urban Outfitters brown and black patterned miniskirt with a black Calvin Klein shirt, Wolford tights and black Chanel knee-high boots. I added a necklace by my friend Prince Dimitri, a watch by Franck Muller and small Tiffany gold hoop earrings. I spent most of the day researching ideas for my blog, but squeezed in a coffee break at Le Pain Quotidien on West 58th Street with my friend Luigi Tadini. After work, I changed into a Topshop by Christopher Kane black dress with black beading on it and black Chanel booties. (I’m such a New Yorker — I wear black all the time!)

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 9

One of those mornings where I couldn’t decide what to wear. I tried on a YSL, cowl-neck top with black 7 for All Mankind jeans (nope), a Catherine Malandrino blue floral dress (still not working), and ended up in an off-white Ramblers Way T-shirt, a black and white Chanel tweed blazer, Rag and Bone jeans and purple Miu Miu flats. I went to a market appointment for Matt & Nat bags, a vegan accessories line that is super stylish. In the afternoon I met my mom at Doubles for coffee. She was, as usual, wearing Ralph Lauren.


~ Quotation of the Day ~

“I have no electricity, no water, no cell phone, no telephone. I have no idea what’s happening.”

–Chiyako Ito, a 72-year-old rice farmer whose farm was hit by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami

THE RURAL LIFE

by
Verlyn Klinkenborg

Marvel and Persistence

Again and again I’m struck by he persistence of objects. I go out to do the chores wearing a blue plaid wool coat. I have no idea how old it is, because it’s a hand-me-down, and yet every day it’s waiting on the hook. I fed the horses and reflect that Remedy, the retired cutting horse, is at least 31 years old, still sultanic in his majesty. The sun comes up, and here we all are every day—animate and inanimate—persisting together.

There’s nothing very surprising about it, and yet, I can’t help but keep marveling at it. The farm and everything in it seem wonderfully solid, and it all reports for duty, unbidden, every day. This is just a way of countering the other feeling I commonly have—that we’ve all been loaded aboard a planet streaking through time.

….The sunlight feels new and ancient, both. I put on my chore coat, slip on my muck boots and go out to the chicken house my dad and I built after 9/11…When I go out later, there will be something new and fresh, nine or 10 eggs still warm from the hens that laid them.

[from THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 13, 2011]





norbert blei | a packet from henry denander | kamini press

29 01 2011

PoetryDispatch No. 341 | January 28, 2011

A PACKET FROM HENRY DENANDER
KAMINI PRESS

by
Norbert Blei

This makes my day, something new in the mail from Henry’s extraordinary small press, Kamini Press. www.kaminipress.com

One notices immediately the care he takes in the tight packaging alone. The parcel (usually cardboard, sometimes paper) a minor work of art in itself, enhanced with beautiful Swedish stamps, his own unique rubber stamps (planes, jazz musicians, musical instruments, the KAMINI PRESS logo, etc.); the blue foreign label: PRIORITAIRE 1:a-klassbrev… All of it. Everything, a joy to behold. You’re almost afraid to open it, mess it up in any way. It’s so satisfying as it is.

Should I look to see what little beauty of a book he’s put together now? Wait till later…this afternoon? Maybe tonight…treat myself in the late hours? Save it for tomorrow…or the next time I need a particular lift, since I know whatever Kamini Press does will make my day, my night…make everything in my writing world worthwhile?

Like that time one night I opened a packet from Henry and held BIRD EFFORT by Ronald Baatz in my hand…read it once, twice…three times, four times, five times…God, how many times? Till I fell asleep with a warm feeling like good red wine in me, the poet’s words still murmuring in my mouth:

So much light
so much darkness—
the earth crying out
like a clarinet
left behind

O lord
let me
stay drunk somehow
without all this drinking
now and forever amen

Digging
the canary’s grave
she catches the reflection
of lovely orange feathers
in the spoon

The stars over the lake
so old and brittle looking—
I stop rowing, rest my back
and think of how soft
my ashes will be.

Henry Denander…a one-man band. A singular focus. A testament to just how good, conscientious, a little press publisher can be if he has the vision, passion, energy, direction to publish a book for someone that he, the publisher-writer, would want for himself. It all comes down to that. The secret to successful small press publishing not enough publishers grasp. Would I want my name on this book? Would I love the way it looks, feels? Would I be anxious to put it in the hands of friends and strangers with a bit of a glow on my face? Would it hold a reader’s attention cover to cover in design, content, form?

Instinct. Insight. Style. Aesthetics. Not to publish anybody or anything for whatever or no reason except to be considered a publisher…slap any old crappy art or photo on the cover that says nothing. Some books, poorly envisioned, you almost don’t want to touch, let alone open and try to read. Contrary to old beliefs, you can judge a book by its cover… especially a Kamini Press cover, usually graced by one of Henry’s throbbing little watercolors.

Once you finally invade the perfect packaging I described, once you find each book carefully wrapped and taped tightly in white paper, once you unfold the paper in your hands…and hold the little book (all of them about 4”x6”) it seems to come alive to one’s touch. And there you have it: from Henry in Sweden to wherever you are in the world…the book feels like a good handshake. Welcome. Thank you. How beautiful the cover. Now, what’s going on inside?

How to Make a Rainbow on a Rainy Day

Locate, in the overcast, some thread of
involvement with backlit sheets of crayoned
manila paper vacuum sealed to the yellow
eyes of an elementary school. Open up the
floodgates to the eccentricities of leaves; find
an alcove, an unused entrance, to lean in,
noting the widening concentric circles in
standing water on pavements commissioned
by raindrops. Take the coins out of your
pocket and throw them, one at a time,
into the fountains of Trevi made by the
intersecting arcs of traffic and rainfall; permit
silver spray to have its way with your face.
Wonder at the beaded pearlescence at the
sides of warm Styrofoam. Internalize
windshield wipers and the lift of umbrellas.
Without going overboard, initiate eye
contact, return the wave.

–Tom Kryss

[from SKETCH BOOK]

72nd Birthday

Sitting on
the hill at
sunrise with
my coffee &
cigarettes
thinking
fond thoughts
of all those who
hate my guts.

–John Bennett

[from BATTLE SCARS]

Two Torch Singers (excerpt)

In high school, when I was discovering
That music could be sexy,
There were two torch singers
(Besides Judy Garland, of course)
Whose albums I played until the vinyl wore thin
And the needles went blunt
I don’t know whether I was more riveted
By Julie London’s throaty rendition
Of “Cry Me a River”
Or by her incredible rocket-launcher, film-noir,
Tightly sweatered bust on the album cover,
Not to mention her wasp-cinctured waist.
But she was too much woman for me,
Even in my fantasies. Scary!

–Gerald Locklin

[from TWO TORCH SINGERS]

False Starts

The birds have
already begun
their morning song
and I haven’t
yet been to sleep
the night
a series of false
starts, like the
many journals
I’ve kept over
the years—
one after another
abandoned before
anything was
ever said.

–Glenn W. Cooper

[from SOME NATURAL THINGS]

Childhood

Something out of childhood –
orange streetcars on
Ellsworth Avenue,
and every fifteen minutes an
orange earthquake
rattling my unsteady bed.

–Samuel Charters

[from THE POET SEES HIS FAMILY SLEEPING]

last clarksville train

washing down aspirins
warm blue ribbon suds
damp gray first light
jerry lee’s cassettes silent
black terminal loneliness
yesterday wife saying
“things got to change’
squeeze the trigger
gain methodist salvation
promised better life

–t. kilgore splake

[from THE POET TREE]

Unwritten poems—
so many of them
hanging like bats
inside the darkness
of me

–Ronald Baatz

[from BIRD EFFORT]

Confession. I truly envy what Henry Denander is doing. This is the way I intended to go when I got into small press publishing back in 1995. Do the little book, the little work, and do it well. Make is beautiful to behold. Something to glow in the dark.

Then I reflected on all the new and old writers with bigger appetites seeking, needing pages and pages for larger works. Novelists, short story writers, poets with books of poems…essayists, experimental writers, artists, photographers. They needed to be honored as well. There was not enough attention paid them.

Lately, given all I’ve done so far, thirty-four books, given my present circumstances–age factor, health issues, financial circumstances, limited time to write my own stories and books–I see again the beauty and attraction of publishing the little gift, and may in time (“simplify, simplify…”) honor that first dream…find my way down that road of small, fluttering white pages, words enough to lift the spirit in short, deep breaths. –Norbert Blei

Finally
winter is losing its grip—
in my sleep
I hear the pond’s spine
cracking

–Ronald Baatz, BIRD EFFORT





norbert blei | mark twain revised

10 01 2011

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 211 | January 10, 2011

MARK TWAIN——-REVISED

by
Norbert Blei

“It is better to keep your mouth shut and appear stupid than to open it and remove all doubt.”—Mark Twain

If he’s not our greatest American writer, he’s certainly our most beloved. His legacy to American letters runs deep. Old Hem drew the line in the sand in his beautiful book, GREEN HILLS OF AFRICA (1935) when he stated in chapter one: “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn. If you read it you must stop where the Nigger Jim is stolen from the boys. That is the real end. The rest is cheating. But it’s the best book we’ve had. All American writing comes from that. There was nothing before. There’s been nothing as good since.”

Enter the academics of today, the ‘politically correct’ to revise our literary history. Make it safe. Twain dealt with enough stupidity of this sort in his own time and made a career of mocking it in talks and print, in a style uniquely his own. Tell it as it is (and have fun telling it).

Midwestern. American. Real.

(No bullshit.)

His defense rests—in all his works.

On the plus side of this new, revised edition of “Huckleberry Finn” that substitutes the word “slave” for “nigger” (edited by Prof. Alan Gribben for NewSouth Books, to be released in February) is that no school yet has expressed an interest in teaching it. On the minus side, the publisher’s comment that Barnes & Noble, Borders, and other bookstores have registered advanced orders—and that she was expecting orders from schools and libraries.

Here’s hoping the book bombs. Here’s hoping schools and libraries, especially, see the light of day: the truth of Twain.
Here’s hoping Prof. Gribben finds work editing romance novels.

If academia deems it necessary to protect our culture from Mark Twain, just imagine who? what? next.

And if a high school English teacher (who admires Twain) declines to teach “Huckleberry Finn”… “because it is too long” I suggest she relieve herself from the serious work of educating our youth.

Mr. Twain, I leave you the last word:

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.,”—Mark Twain

Norbert Blei

A recent, short, and best biography of Twain in a long time. Packed with pertinent information, reads like a novel. From: The Library of American Biography. Author, David W. Levy, Prentice Hall, 2010.

PUBLISHER TINKERS WITH TWAIN

by
Julie Bosman (with Tamar Lewin)

A new edition of “Adven¬tures of Huckleberry Finn” is missing something: the n-word.

In its place, 219 times throughout the book, is the word “slave,” a substitution that was made by NewSouth Books, a publisher based in Alabama, which plans to release the edition in February.

Alan Gribben, a professor of English at Auburn University at Montgomery, approached the publisher with the idea in July. Mr. Gribben said Tuesday that he had been teaching Mark Twain for decades and always hesitated before reading aloud the common racial epithet, which is used liberally throughout the book, a reflection of social attitudes in the mid-19th century.

“I found myself right out of graduate school at Berkeley not wanting to pronounce that word when I was teaching either ‘Huckleberry Finn’ or ‘Tom Sawyer’ ” he said. “And I don’t think I’m alone.”

Mr. Gribben, who combined “Huckleberry Finn” with “Tom Sawyer” in a single volume and also supplied an introduction, said he worried that “Huckleberry Finn” had fallen off reading lists, and wanted to offer an edition that is not for scholars, but for younger people and general readers.

“I’m by no means sanitizing Mark Twain,” Mr. Gribben said. “The sharp social critiques are in there. The humor is intact. I just had the idea to get us away from obsessing about this one word, and just let the stories stand alone.” (The book also substitutes “Indian” for “injun.”)

Since the publisher discussed plans for the book this week with Publishers Weekly, it has been “assaulted” with negative e-mails and phone calls, said Suzanne La Rosa, the co-founder and publisher of NewSouth Books.

“We didn’t undertake this lightly,” Ms. La Rosa said. “If our publication fosters good discussion about how language affects learning and certainly the nature of censorship, then difficult as it is likely to be, it’s a good thing.”

The news set off a storm of angry online commentary, scolding the publisher for “censorship” and “political correctness,” or simply for the perceived sin of altering the words of a literary icon. Twain admirers have turned his hefty “Autobiography of Mark Twain,” published last year, into a best seller.

An initial print run of 7,500 copies has been planned for the revised “Huckleberry Finn.” The print edition is scheduled for publication in February, and a digital edition could go on sale as early as next week.

Mr. Gribben said no schools had expressed interest yet in teaching the book — nor did he say what ages he thought the edition appropriate for. In his introduction, however, he writes that “even at the level of college and graduate school, students are capable of resenting textual encounters with this racial appellative.”

Ms. La Rosa said the publisher has had advance orders from Barnes & Noble, Borders and other bookstores, and she expected more orders from schools and libraries.

Some English teachers were less than thrilled about the idea of cleaning up a classic.

“I’m not offended by anything in ‘Huck Finn” said Elizabeth Absher, an English teacher at South Mountain High School in Arizona. “I am a big fan of Mark Twain, and I hear a lot worse in the hallway in front of my class.”

Ms. Absher teaches Twain short stories and makes “Huck Finn” available but does not teach it because it is too long — not because of the language.

“I think authors’ language should be left alone,” she said. “If it’s too offensive, it doesn’t belong in school, but if it expresses the way people felt about race or slavery in the context of their time, that’s something I’d talk about in teaching it.”

[from THE NEW YORK TIMES Jan. 5, 2011]

THAT’S NOT TWAIN

Next month, you will be able to buy the single-volume NewSouth Edition of Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” edited by Professor Alan Gribben of Auburn University at Montgomery. It differs from other editions o those books because Mr. Gribben has turned the word “nigger” — as used by Tom and Huck — into “slave.” Mr. Gribben has also changed “Injun” to Indian, Mr. Gribben says he wants to make these American classics readable again — for young readers and for anyone who is hurt by the use of an epithet that would have been ubiquitous in Missouri in the 1830s and 1840s, which is when both books are set. He says he discovered how much Twain’s language offended readers when he began giving talks about “Tom Sawyer” all across Alabama in 2009. He has also acknowledged that what he calls “textual purists” will be horrified by his sanitized versions of the two classics.

We are horrified, and we think most readers, textual purists or not, will be horrified too. The trouble isn’t merely adulterating Twain’s text. It’s also adulterating social, economic and linguistic history. Substituting the word “slave” makes it sound as though all the offense lies in the “n-word” and has nothing to do with the institution of slavery. Worse, it suggests that understanding the truth of the past corrupts modern readers, when, in fact, this new edition is busy corrupting the past.

When “Huckleberry Finn” was published, Mark Twain appended a note on his effort to reproduce “painstakingly” the dialects in the book, including several backwoods dialects and “the Missouri negro dialect.” What makes “Huckleberry Finn” so important in American literature isn’t just the story, it’s the richness, the detail, the unprecedented accuracy of its spoken language. There is no way to “clean up” Twain without doing irreparable harm to the truth of his work. I

[from: The editorial page of The New York Times, January 6, 2011]





norbert blei | readings by norbert blei & music by jim spector

12 05 2010

Readings by Norb Blei & Music by Jim Spector

Tracklist: Door in Winter: December Entries: 1. 29th Going for Milk 2. 30th A Remberance of Red 3. 31th The White Path 4. Christmas Eve in Door

All selections from DOOR STEPS © 1996 ELLIS PRESS, P.O. Box 6, Granite Falls, MN 56241

The Quiet Time: Door County in Winter. Readings from Norb Blei’s DOOR STEPS (The Days, The Seasons) Original music for guitar by Jim Spector.

In five seasonal essays and a daybook of 365 entries, Norbert Blei records the passing of days and seasons in Door County, in his life, in our lives.

A delicate balance between the rugged Door terrain and the author’s inner landscape, the entries of DOOR STEPS (the second book in Blei’s Door County trilogy, which also includes DOOR WAY and DOOR TO DOOR) range from objective, almost naturalistic observations to pure poetry.

Jim Spector is best known for his passionate solo flamenco recordings and his inspired concert performances. He has arranged, composed and recorded the soundtracks to award-winning documentary films and music from his compact disc recording “Flamenco Passions” (DCV002, Door Couniy Voices) has been featured on American Airlines. In this collaboration with Norbert Blei, the text provided the images to inspire a musical setting for sensitive, evocative readings.

Produced by Door County Voices, a division of Open Door Productions, Inc., P.O. Box 517, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235. Readings performed by Norbert Blei. Original music composed and recorded by Jim Spector. Recorded at Sound Fanners, Sturgeon Bay, WI. Produced by Mark Thiede. Executive Producer: Cy Rosenthal. Photography by Dan Hatton.

Much more on Norbert Blei can be found on his web sites: Norbert Blei & Basho’s Road & N.B. Coop News

Editors note: This recording was originally released as cassette and is not longer available. Norbert Blei was so kind to send me one of the very last un-played tapes. Digitalized as mp3 in 320kps | 44100hz | Stereo quality by Markus Mayer in Vienna, Austria.

If you are interested in buying this digitalized tape, please click here…





norbert blei | variations on the theme of april

19 04 2010

Poetry Dispatch No. 319 | April 19, 2010

Variations on the Theme of April

Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote
The droghte of March hath perced to the
roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licour
Of which vertu engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halve cours yronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye
(So priketh hem nature in hir corages);
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,

(excerpt from Chaucer’s General Prologue to THE CANTERBURY TALES)

April is the cruellest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.

(excerpt from T.S. Eliot’s, THE WASTE LAND)

in Just-
spring when the world is mud-
luscious the little
lame balloonman

whistles far and wee

and eddieandbill come
running from marbles and
piracies and it’s
spring

when the world is puddle-wonderful

the queer
old balloonman whistles
far and wee
and bettyandisbel come dancing

from hop-scotch and jump-rope and

it’s
spring
and
the
goat-footed

balloonMan whistles
far
and
wee

(from e.e. cummings, a selection of poems)





norbert blei | die mauer

9 11 2009

NOTES from the UNDERGROUND No. 201 | November 9, 2009

Die Mauer
The 20th Anniversary of The Berlin Wall
IN MEMORIAM

46 Meditations on the Berlin Wall
by
Norbert Blei

LewAllen Gallery, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1993








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