It's great to return to virtual Portland via Powells.com! (It's my understanding that punctuation one would not normally use in prose is acceptable on the blog, for instance, the exclamation point! Which I rarely use! More on the exclamation point later!) I first visited Powell's in 1995 on a road trip from Sacramento to Vancouver with my girlfriend at the time, Sachiko Tamura, who worked for me on my novel Exit A
as a research assistant. On that first trip I bought three Dennis Schmitz
poetry collections, only one of which I can remember the title, String
is such a great title for a book. Someday I will write a book called String
Sachiko's father's butcher shop makes a cameo in Exit A. It's actually located in Chiba City, but in the novel I place it in Tachikawa. Speaking of butchers and meat, I spent most of the weekend cooking. Saturday I made pasta from scratch and a lamb Ragu from a Mario Batali cookbook. I find cooking nearly as satisfying as writing and much easier, with the added bonus of feeding oneself and others. A novel takes three years, a lamb Ragu takes three hours. I have tried eating paper and after a few chews it totally lacks flavor. Last night I used Batali again for a monkfish scallopini. Quite good. Speaking of Portland, I'm in upstate New York and the morning is much like a Portland winter morning, as in, it is raining and gray. On Saturday it was nearly 70 degrees up here. In the farmhouse I'm renting I go without Internet, so right now World War III could be commencing and I'd have no idea what was going on. In an hour or so I'll drive to a café nearby and use their WiFi to send this to the good people at Powells.com.
Teresa and I watched Bergman's Cries and Whispers last night. What a lovely and disturbing movie. When watching Agnes suffer through her sickness and death it was like watching a real sickness and a real death. And Ingmar, what's up with all of the cleavage and the not so subtle lesbian overtones? Some of that felt completely fabricated for a 1970s avant-garde crowd, but there were times that it felt like the totally authentic and deep bond between sisters, and between Agnes and Anna, the maid, who was the most emotionally grounded character. Not to diminish the film, but in terms of housing it was kind of like watching a Woody Allen film and leaving with deep apartment envy: I now suffer serious Swedish manor envy. The set was amazing. I want to live there in a red room. I want to wear white full-length pajamas to bed.
Also watched The Conformist, Bertolucci's adaptation of the Moravia novel. The mental institution scene might have been my favorite scene, as well the killing of the professor. In the bonus interview Betolucci admitted that when he went to the studio to tell them he wanted to adapt the novel he had never read it. The woman he was with at the time read the book and told him about it and he liked the story. What a life.
Rereading James Salter's Light Years. This is the third time I've read it in the last year. His mastery of time and point-of-view in this novel is unmatched. His movement between characters is flawless, and between chapters a few years can pass and it feels totally natural. If you haven't yet, you should read this book.
Tonight I'm making agnolotti! Wish me luck!