Archive for the 'literature' Category

Hotel Folding Star

I’ve started a Swimming Pool Library by Alan Hollinghurst back when I was at Amherst, but I wasn’t able to finish before the book was due back at Frost. So last week, I went to the Brooklyn Public Library to finish what I started. Unfortunately, Swimming Pool wasn’t there, but Hollinghurst’s The Folding Star was.

It isn’t a perfect novel; I hated the way everything got resolved, and I was not particularly fond the protagonist’s object of affection. But I grew very comfortable with living in this obsessive little Flemish town. Now I feel as if I’ve been evicted. The writing was so enviably beautiful and lofty, yet very warm and engaging. And the sex scenes are incredible! After attempting to write some sex scenes this year, I’ve gained a new found respect for well written sex scenes. Even a painful unsexy yet well written scene is very hard to do. (See the sex scene in On Beauty by Zadie Smith. Yijks.)

I’ve started Slow Man by Coetzee, but it’s so stipped down and sharply written compared to Folding Star. It’s like leaving a luxurious Carribbean resort to go on a hike in a beautiful yet remote part of Iceland. Their both worth the visit, yet the drop in temperature can be startling.

No spoilers here:

(Stolen from Koreanish, and he took it from someone else.) This is a wordle rendering of my thesis. It’s odd viewing a piece of work like this. It’s like all those months of work boil down to a bunch of keywords. There’s something sad about how easily is can be reduced to a pile of words, but I love neat little cells, so it’s also strangely appealing about this.

After this summer’s revision, I want to watch the words shift. Some of them need to get smaller, and others need to get larger.

Joseph O’Neill: He’s alright!

I went to a reading of (aforementioned) Netherland at McNally-Robinson tonight. I’m a quarter through the book, and I love it. O’Neill signed it, and we commiserated about the DMV (read the book and find out). So far, I absolutely love this novel, particularly this little patch of writing right here:

…Later that night, she said, “Talk to me in Dutch,” and I did. Lekker stuk van me, I growled. “On second thoughts,” she said, “don’t talk to me in Dutch.”

Continue reading ‘Joseph O’Neill: He’s alright!’


Hey all! I just finished my finals. Now I can do some leisure reading. Netherland by Joseph O’Neill looks like a good start, after:

1. New Kings of Nonfiction edited by Ira Glass

2. Amsterdam by Ian McEwan (Still need to finish it!)

3. The God Delusion

Alison Bechdel at Amherst College

I’ve worked very hard on this, so do come if you’re in the area–

An Evening with Alison Bechdel
April 2nd, 8:00 PM
Converse Hall Red Room
Amherst College

Alison Bechdel, author of the critically acclaimed Fun Home (called “one of the very best graphic novels ever” in Booklist) and of the syndicated comic strip Dykes to Watch Out For (DTWOF), has become a cultural institution for lesbians and discerning non-lesbians all over the planet. At the podium, Bechdel redefines race and gender roles while taking aim at some of the most controversial topics of the day.

In addition to her comic strip, Bechdel has also done exclusive work for a slew of publications including Ms., Slate, The Village Voice, The Advocate, Out, and many other newspapers, web sites, comic books, and ‘zines. Her work has been widely anthologized and translated.


Please come and support this wonderful LGBTQ author/cartoonist and hear her wonderful thoughts!!ADMISSION TO THIS EVENT IS FREE (so bring your friends)!Please check out her website here:

It’s been a quiet week in Amherst, my (NON) home town

Time to put the L in AWOL. I’ve been rather busy lately, as I am wont to do. There’s the Proj Awkward stuff, a large Amsterdamse thesis, and school work in general. I’m going to try to post this week, but I can’t make any promises.

The thesis in question (see the related library books) has to do with the Bijlmerramp, male and female prostitution, immigration to Holland, and 1992. If anyone knows about any of these things, (and how we do in XR2) do let me know.

Beautiful Books

The Selexyz Dominicanen in Maastrict was voted the world’s most beautiful bookstore by the English paper The Guardian. It’s in a deconsecrated church. I might have to visit it one day. It combines my nerdy loves of books and great architecture. It’s probably not nearly as cheap as Strand but I’m sure it’s worth the look. At least they didn’t stick (yet another) trance club in there. I wish old church buildings were used in more interesting ways.

I also wish I bought kiddie books at the Kinderboekwinkel to help me with my dutch. A picture dictionary would be been great. It’s at the top of my list for whenever I get to go there next time.

Murder in Amsterdam: still good.

Murder on the Bike Path

I’m about thirty pages into a Murder in Amsterdam by Ian Buruma. So far, it’s very good. It’s mostly about the 2004 stabbing of Theo van Gogh, as well as the killing of Pim Fortuyn, the wacky, openly gay right wing politician who had a huge following. They were friends and very anti-Muslim. Van Gogh was killed by a Muslim fundamentalist, but Fortuyn had been killed by a Dutch animal rights activist.

Only in the Netherlands.

I’m still looking for a more 1992 centric source for daily life in Amsterdam. And I’m not finding enough English language resources about the daily lives/roles of foreigners in Amsterdam. Until I do, I’m sure I can just make some stuff up, polder it out and create ground to stand on where there was none before. It’s a very Dutch thing to do.


Someone on the train had a Sony reader that was gray (I selected this photo for the graphics) and the screen was shockingly easy on the eyes. I got horribly motion sick the one time I watched a DVD in a car, so when I heard that electronic books were being made, I kind of cringed. It’s a relief to see that they got it right.

This would’ve been on my Christmas list, but I know that it’ll be $40 in less than 5 years. It’ll probably be a few ounces less. It’s currently $300 at J&R, which is one of the best places for good electronics prices. I don’t know if it’s as dynamic as Amazon Kindle sounds.

Whatever happens, I’m glad that there’s an potentially environmentally sound alternative to paper media. It’ll be so much easier for people to get published if paper costs aren’t a huge deal. One catch: I hope the battery life is decent. My iPod battery life makes me angry as it is, but using a Walkman for all those years prepared me for audio disappointment. (Brought to you by Duracell.) Unless I sleep while reading, I’ve never had a shutdown in the middle of a book. That would just piss me off.

Politically Correct Netherlands

The Politically Correct Netherlands: Since the 1960s

Very useful book from Strand. It was originally $99 but I got it for $30. Nearly everything that I’ve found in the library is from below 1992. It was written in 2000 and is an overview/criticism of when the Netherlands’ liberal policy. Surprisingly, there are no mentions of prostitution. It does not explain the Bijlmer crash as extensively as I want, but there is a useful part about it. It does touch on a lot of things that I wanted to know about; race relations, AIDS politics, all of the social taboos. Except prostitution. But it’s decently comprehensive. Does anyone have any book suggestions for:

-The Bijlmer Crash
-Surinamese Immigration to the Netherlands
-Prostitution in the Netherlands (and I want it for BOTH ALL sexes)
-Dutch Schooling
-Anything in the Netherlands in 1992

Verworpen Mooi

Dutch Word of the Day
Waaroom was zij verwopen?

Why was she rejected?

OK, so Ms. Anneliese Marie Frank is a very obvious choice for any Monday or in this case, a Sunday Mooi Vrouw; widely published Dutch writer (yup, the original book was in Dutch, NOT German) and all around thoughtful person living at a terrible time. I also had the distinct privilege of living down the street from her house for four months. I miss that.

But here’s another reason to love her: big time publishers, with the exception of Doubleday, freakin’ hated her. Apparently, the book was “a dreary record of typical family bickering, petty annoyances and adolescent emotions.” It took about 16 rejections until someone figured it out. And the rest is canon.

That’s the funny thing about rejection. Most of the time, the critic is seeing something problematic in there that needs some sorting out. Sometimes, that something is utter crap. In this case, the adolescent tone was caused is because the author was 12. C’mon buddy.

Then there are erroneous critiques stemming from weird misunderstandings about the U.S. book market and just flat out racism. (Although for The Good Earth example: I hated that book. So many Asian stereotypes it made my skin crawl.)

Usually it is up to the author to locate what generated the critique, objectively evaluate the validity, and act. The danger of this New York Times article is that potential authors can be lulled into a sense of not having to change and revise. “But I’ve been working on this for 12 years! How could it possibly be called trite? Oh, well. Anne Frank wasn’t published in a day!”

This is dangerous ammunition in the hands of people who get so “emotionally connected” to their work that they can barely seek any outside help, especially when they need the most help. I’ve been around people like this. It hurts.

They’ll talk on and on about the process and finally, after a long period of drama, insist on showing you their work. Then, after you’ve been subjected to their little Crapsody in Blue, you try to say something nice, but you can’t. Then you take a deep breath and try the constructive track, carefully starting with the “It’d be cool to see more of this” comments before you get to the “Maybe you should cut this” comments. But by then, it’s too late. You’ve questioned their opus and the friendship is over.

See, this is why I love Anne Frank. She’s one of the very few writers who can pull off a “I got rejected a million times and it didn’t mean a thing.” It leads to a great story behind a great story. Here’s to her.

Between the 2 Ians and the 2 Amsterdams

Dutch Word of the Day
stem: vote
Stem voor een boek.
Vote for a book.

For the sake of continued Dutch- themed ridiculousness, I’ve decided that I will read either A Murder in Amsterdam by Ian Baruma or Amsterdam by Ian McEwan. The fact that these two are both named Ian is completely coincidental, but it adds to the fun. I just want some feedback on which one. Here are the descriptions from

A Murder in Amsterdam by Ian Baruma
Returning to his homeland of the Netherlands, acclaimed author Ian Buruma brings readers the enigmatic story of the death of Theo van Gogh. Great-grandnephew of the famed artist and a European film provocateur, Theo would be murdered by an angry young Muslim man striking out against the director’s latest political documentary. A vocal proponent of free speech, van Gogh would make many enemies, but his death would send a shock wave across Europe’s artistic and political community. Ian Buruma investigates the event in this ‘true crime’ narrative that explores the crime and its larger context in the cultural battle with the secular West.

Amsterdam by Ian McEwan
On a chilly February day, two old friends meet in the throng outside a London crematorium to pay their last respects to Molly Lane. Both had been her lovers in the days before they reached their current eminence: Clive Linley is Britain’s most successful modern composer, and Vernon Halliday is editor of the newspaper, The Judge. Gorgeous, feisty Molly had had other lovers, too, notably, Julian Garmony, Foreign Secretary, a notorious right-winger tipped to be the next prime minister. In the days that follow Molly’s funeral, Clive and Vernon make a pact with consequences that neither could have forseen. Winner of the Booker Prize.

As you can see, these are completely different options. One is non-fiction, the other’s fiction. One’s written by a Dutchman, the other by an Englishman. One has everything to do with Amsterdam, the other definitely does not. You can give an opinion based on the reviews or if you’ve read them before. I’ll have the results later this week. Happy voting!

November 2021
The Hype Machine mp3 blogs Questions? Comments? Post suggestions? Leave a comment or mail me at: amherstdam....(at)