Monthly Archives: April 2018
Dearborn Street Sketch
Looking for something else entirely, I went down the rabbit hole of my external hard drive, which had been a labyrinthine dumping ground of folders and files and enough potential writing and design projects to keep me busy for years if I had the time to organize it all into something manageable and accessible.
While fishing around, I came across this Photoshop sketch that I’d worked up off a photo or Google maps shot three or four years ago in a similar onslaught of nostalgia.
I’d wanted to put together maybe a dozen or so sketches like this to breakup a story I was trying to figure out. I had a short story that I was working off of and wanted to make it into something else, something longer.
I had come up with this idea after reading Edouard Levé’s novel, “Suicide”. It was his last book, as shortly after turning in the completed manuscript to his editor, Levé took his own life. The novel is interesting as it’s narrated to the main character, essentially turning the reader into the victim of the title suicide. It’s haunting and puzzling, infectious and entirely successful in calling into question what it means to exist.
I didn’t suddenly want to write every book I had in my head in this style forever now, but there are two ideas that have followed me around for several years that lend themselves to the style. Oddly enough, both deal with death, just as Levé’s work did, although in my case, one is a violent death at another’s hand, and the other is a tragic accidental one.
I wonder what about this writing style, this voice, that lends itself to tragic subject material? The ability to so easily accuse and question within the unfolding of the narrative? The way in which it immediately makes the reader a character, and can borrow their own prejudices and experiences, their fears and doubts, without needing to put those words on the page? Both ideas are a collection of photographs and written scenes, but are barely more then bones and bullet points, and a few odd fragments. I’m not sure how the stories will work out yet, or whether they will at all. For now, at least for this story, this is all I have.
Reading Howard’s End, Forever
Howard’s End: Spent a Week There One Night
Yesterday Starz premiered a new miniseries adapting E.M. Forster’s eternal classic, “Howard’s End.” Eternal as a descriptor is not used here in a positive way. Don’t be fooled by the title, this book never actually ends.
To celebrate the premiere, Penguin Classics posted to Instagram, “Don’t mind us while we spend our Saturday re-reading Howards End for the millionth time before the new mini-series premieres on Starz tomorrow night 📖🌿 Raise your hand if you plan to watch! 🙋🏼♀️🙋🏻♀️🙋🏾♀️”
As a refresher, I just tried reading the plot synopsis on Wikipedia that could probably be published as a novella in itself. It alone felt longer than any of James Patterson’s BookShots™.
It’s the first time on Wikipedia that I haven’t gotten pulled down the rabbit’s hole, that was how needlessly boring and unending the plot of this book feels. For a novel that’s only around 340 pages, I can’t imagine it taking less time to read than “War and Peace”, which is four times the page count, give or take. I can’t imagine it taking less time to read than the Napoleonic Wars themselves, for that matter. Of course, I’ve been reading “Hell to Pay” for three months, so what do I know?
Here’s an actual short summary: nothing happens and continues to not happen in a mindnumbingly, Edwardian-dressed, ‘Groundhog Day’ sort of way, punctuated with the revelations that Henry Wilcox has ruined the lives of several women across a few decades, just so it seems like there’s a reason to keep reading.
There isn’t. And yet, if multiple adaptations are any indication, we do.
Once a year or so I wake up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat and ask myself if I ever actually finished that book.
I try to remember what it was about, or anything definitive about the plot, what was the last thing I remember, even just a character’s name; anything substantial at all about the story or characters to anchor my fragile midnight reality upon. Then I remind myself that no one ever has finished it.
EM Forester has defied the laws of time and space in writing this novel. ‘Howard’s End’ is a literary wormhole, a black hole of indecent and apathetic people that attempts to repackage itself in a redeeming bow when Henry finally does something not awful, and we’re all still reading it.
Somewhere, no doubt, despite claims it was completed in 1910, Forster is still writing it, his own picture of Dorian Gray on the printed page; stealing the souls of those naïve enough to believe the could ever find resolution in its story, and keeping him alive throughout the turning pages of history. But is a cursed existence worth experiencing? And aren’t we all cursed now, from the moment we laid eyes on that damned title page?
This isn’t the millionth time you’re reading it, poor Penguin, it’s the first. You’ve never finished reading it, and you never will. None of us will. We are all Henry Wilcoxes now, forever repeating the same mistakes, unable to learn, to change our attitude with time, or consider others as we push blindly forward in our righteous, vainglorious manner. We turn the page, believing we are nearing the end. But we never do. We will always be reading it. For us, “Howard’sEnd” never will.
Village Green Bookstore
Village Green Bookstore opened in 1972 in a 600-square-foot basement store at 766 Monroe Avenue in Rochester, New York, before its reputation among the community’s book lovers spread and it expanded into the larger storefront upstairs.
The store had a coffee bar before they became common in bookstores and despite starting out by selling only the local Sunday edition, would offer more than 100 newspapers and 2,400 magazines. Eventually, while books were still a staple of the business, they became lost behind their rapidly expanding merchandise line.
By 1992, Village Green had added as many as eight new stores throughout Central and Western New York, including locations at 1089 Niagara Falls Boulevard in Amherst and 765 Elmwood Avenue in the Elmwood Village. But the growth for the company had become troublesome. Hoping to solve their financial problems, the chain continued to expand locations and product offerings. In doing so, as tends to happen when a company forces growth in order to dominate the market, Village Green forgot their purpose and mission. The company had forgotten what one of the founders, John Borek, had said not long after opening; their intention was to cater to “people who were hungry for books.” Instead, they were selling ice cream and inflatable bagels.
Within a few years they had added stores in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, but with a series of catastrophic financial decisions that involved lawsuits, criminal charges and SEC investigations, the company began closing “underperforming” stores, including a third location in Western New York, in the McKinley Plaza in Blasdell. The closures and merchandise sell offs could not keep the company afloat however and in 1998 they had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
The following year, the flagship store on Monroe closed it doors for good, eventually becoming a Pizza Hut.