Wednesday, May 14, 2008

playlist for finals week

Dear Arts staff, who keeps writing posts without signing them? You are so sly.

Here it is: the top 10 tracks spinning this week on the macbook. Quick, Rob, gimme some good tunez for finals week.

10. North American Scum- LCD Soundsystem
9. Creator- Santogold (aka the next MIA)
8. Sunfair- Creeper Lagoon
7. Watch My Feet- Dude & Nem (Jarrett's pick of the semester. don't watch me, watch my feet!)

6. Shut Up and Let Me Go- The Ting Tangs (shamelessly swiped from an iPod commercial. Goodbye, indie cred, goodbye.)
5. The Chauffeur- Deftones (Duran Duran cover)
4. Computer Camp Love- Datarock
3. What Is Love- Haddaway. This song is why 1993 was such a great year. Baby don't hurt me.

2. Puppets- Atmosphere (this album is 100% wicked awesome)
1. Who You Gonna Run To?- Solid Gold

No other set of 10 songs could describe me quite so well right now. This is me on May 14, 2008 at 1:51 p.m. OH crap. Portuguese final. like. now.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Netflix changed my life

Five reasons why Netflix is the best thing that ever happened to me:

1. Countless selection of foreign films (and helpful descriptions of them) not available at Blockbuster.

2. Unlimited watch-instantly viewing, which translates into watching The Office pretty much all the time.

3. My parents pay for it.

4. No late fees, so my parents don't get mad about having to pay for that, too.

5. They mail it right to me so I don't have to get out of my pajamas for an entire weekend (except to go to meeting).

Wow...I'm a living, breathing advertisement.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Upclose Q&A with Visiting Author, Keith Gessen

Keith Gessen’s just published his first novel, “All the Sad Literary Men” after nearly five years of workshopping, backburning and writing, writing, writing.

The Russian-born, 33-year-old, interchangeable novelist slash journalist, has hit the road, and hard traveling to Iowa City’s Prairie Lights Books, 15 S. Dubuque St., for his eighth reading tonight, May 5, at 7 p.m.

DI reporter Brigid Marshall caught the Harvard and Syracuse University-educated author in between Chicago and Iowa City, to pump the East Coast-native with questions.

BM: So, what is it really like to transition from writing for magazines and newspapers to having your first novel, out and published?
KG: It’s a real experience. But it’s still pretty early, and so far it’s been read, kind of, only by the reviewers. And the reviews of the book is kind of interesting, but after a while they all kind of start saying the same things as the first one.

BM: So how many places have you stopped at to promote the book?
KG: Seven cities down and seven more to go — There have really been a lot of stops.

BM: Now that you’ve had your first book published, do you think you’re going to stick just with novels or are you going to continue with N+1 and writing for other publications?
KG: There’s still some thing I want to do journalistically. [Writing] is something I’ve always wanted to do. I studied the history of literature [at Harvard] and, well, I didn’t do the newspaper. After graduation I refused to get a job and just worked odd jobs and wrote stories.

BM: When did you decide to go back to school and write the book?
KG: After a few years of [writing book reviews], I decided to go do the MFA program at Syracuse…I’ve never really liked being in school very much…The workshop is very useful for starting out and working out some of the problems in your fiction, but at some point you just have to forget about all those people. A good more than half of it went through a workshop environment.

BM: What was the most challenging, or difficult part of the book?
KG: Starting it was hard. It took me a while to figure out the voice. I went through sort of a lot of stories indicative of other writers’ work…Yeah, it took me a while to write this story. And when I was trying to finish it. I was writing about these three guys that messed up their lives, and I had to finish their stories. I could see how things would play out in their lives.

BM: Do you relate to your characters at all? Often authors’ first work of fiction has that tendency to be made of parts of their own life.
KG: They’re all kind of versions of me. They’re kind of these creative, goofier versions of me. I’m very sympathetic to them even though they’re not me completely.

BM: What part of the book are you going to read? Is there a particular passage that lends itself to certain audiences?
KG: It depends; I’ve been reading different things, like when I’m in New York reading I read a passage from one of the sections that takes place in New York. Some parts are a bit more straightforward and stick well. A lot of the book is set in contemporary life and deals with problems in contemporary life…it’s not quite literary in away. In the best readings people have responded to it being about contemporary issues like dating and being in your twenties, not having any money.

BM: So, what would you say, not to be cliché, but what would you say is the point, or “life lesson” of the book?
KG: I’m not uncomfortable with it having a life lesson. I think it’s totally fine for fiction to be moral. I think fiction ought to be. I believe in it. It’s about guys who are not necessarily bad guys, you’re not supposed to think if them as monsters, and yet, they hurt the people around them and mess up their lives because of their intellectual confusion, and this misinterpretation of what it means to be an intellectual, thinking person. It’s a field guide. In a way it’s kind of a journey to that. It might serve as a warning.

BM: What do you want audiences to take away from it?
KG: I wanted it to be as honest as possible about this stage, about what it means to be in your 20s in Boston, New York, and not have any money — what it’s like to go through and have various relationships. I wanted it to be as honest as I could make it, which meant not exaggerating how bad these guys were.

BM: With this honesty and it being fiction, while the characters are in some ways you, do you ever find yourself wanting to fall into nonfiction?
KG: Fiction is not doing as much of the lives of these people and just fictionalizing them. I made them more interesting than me, than my life. With fiction, paradoxically you can be more honest, partly because there’s a fiction in the fiction. If this were a memoir I’d be tempted to justify myself. You can be harder on the characters, and it can be darker. For the moment, I’m staying with fiction.

BM: Who are you aiming your audience to be at this reading?
KG: I hope students come because this is a book for young people who are about to launch themselves out into the world.