Friday, December 19, 2008

2008 Gestures in Literacy Champion: PDX Writer Daily

Now that was a titanic battle--another instant classic, we say. (The action took place here.) Chris always gets his points--you can't stop him, you can only hope to contain him--and Ms. Swift came out of nowhere to hit shots from waaaaaay downtown, but without the help of past stalwarts like Miss Malaprop, Keri and Co., Ben, or the mysterious Matthew, PDX Writer Daily was able to hold on and win Gestures in Literacy #6. And because of the sports narrative we've fallen into, that means we are also declaring ourselves winners of the series, four games to two. So now we hoist the imaginary GiL Cup, the symbol of our 2008 Championship, while not actually showering each other with cheap champagne, on account of we are just making this up.

Except for the part about winning. We really are claiming to have won this game that has few rules and almost no oversight or consistency. But of course those aspects of the sport only further made this a truly, truly special season for our team.

But you probably just want the answers to Gesture 6:

Star Wars light saber building kit
pocket knife
Indiana Jones costume
Spiderman costume
Ironman toy
All of the Pokemon Level X's
10 packs of Bakugan
rocket launcher dart gun
one golden Pokemon card
machine gun dart shooter
an iPod
a Pokemon pack of cards
the Ironman movie
a web shooter
some pants and some shirts
from Ethan
Nintendo DS game "Pokemon"
and more, too

Yep. That's it. "Some pants and some shirts," right? That one would have taken a couple levels of literacy backtracking for you to solve. You have to imagine a scribe who not only sometimes switches up "th" and "sh," but who also often transposes the letters, so that "ht" can actually mean "sh". And you would also have to imagine a culture in which the correct spelling of "pants" is [Weird P]-E-S.

Not fair. We know. But that's the breaks, kids.

So we would like to thank all players for a lovely 2008 Gestures in Literacy season. God bless you, every one. We will cherish this title forever, and no one will ever be able to take it away from us. Mostly, yes, because it doesn't exist. But still. But still!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Poverty Holidays Gift #14: The sports fiction of Matt Christopher

The classic is Catcher With a Glass Arm, but any number of Matt Christopher's original sports fictions for young readers are delightful. Some sample copy:

Catcher With a Glass Arm: "Just when he thinks he'll spend the rest of the season on the bench nursing his weak throwing arm, Jody learns what it takes to come through in a pinch."

The Kid Who Only Hit Homers: "When a mysterious man promises to make him a great player, Sylvester accepts and begins a phenomenal home-run streak."

Look Who's Playing First Base: "Mike Hagin offers his new friend from Russia the first baseman's position on the little league team before he finds out the boy can't play baseball."

There's more where those came from, folks--over a hundred more, according to an unnamed source. And it's not just baseball--Christopher covered all sports. And the books still sell at a price that is just right for the impoverished shopper.

Gesture #6 deadline tonight, midnight

PDXWD Readers have stalled on their deciphering of Gesture in Literacy #6, while the clock continues to tick.

Can you pitch in? Can you unlock the code? Santa's elves desperately need you to help them understand what is on the list...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Poverty Holidays Gift #12: Rick Bass, "The Hermit's Story"

Bass's The Hermit's Story is a short story collection. Of the title story, a reviewer earlier this fall said:

"'The Hermit's Story' is a story of the North, where once the boldest, most thrilling adventure stories were set. (The otherworlds we most commonly imagine today are farther off, in galaxies far, far away. Only the residue of polar glamour is left in our cultural memory, nostalgized now and then by McSweeney's). Bass's North is an unfamiliar North, though: a nighttime North, oddly warm and wet and cold at once, both frozen and so alive, ice-blue and fire-orange, of-the-earth and full of the smells of lake and mud."

The book has been seen around town.

We know everyone is curled in front of a fire reading books, but

Gestures in Literacy #6 is still open, and despite reader attempts, it continues to withhold many of its secrets...

Update 12/16: Okay, it continues to withhold four of its secrets...

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Poverty Holidays Gift #9: Philip Roth's "The Counterlife"

Back in July, a PDXWD reviewer said of this novel:

"What was particularly impressive to this reader was the degree to which the shifts in reality and reflections-upon-writing in The Counterlife did not lessen the effects of the novel's realism. Roth's characters are vivid, their situations specific. He allows them to speak: when upset, his characters sometimes speak for pages. He allows them equality: the characters are intelligent, and when arguing, characters on opposing sides of arguments--whether those arguments are political or emotional--each make compelling points. He allows them honesty: his characters are frank about sex, about their most conflicted feelings, about the things they have done and why they have done them. And in this novel, he allows them the particular reflectivity built into a novel that features a novelist as the narrator: they discuss, quite naturally, the degree to which perhaps the narrator and main character, Nathan Zuckerman, likes to get himself into arguments and conflicts primarily because he thinks they will make for good source material for his fiction writing. Zuckerman responds to these thoughts. The novel proceeds."

It is available kind of close to our city.

Gestures in Literacy #6: The Christmas List Gesture

Series summary: PDXWD took games one and two, but then the Readers roared back to take an incredible, classic game three and then a game four that had PDXWD talking to itself. PDXWD offered what seemed a less-challenging gesture in game five, so many expected the Readers to take that game, as well. But in a stunning turnabout, the Readers stole defeat from the jaws of victory, and PDXWD took game five--and then also, somewhere in there, began narrating as if the whole thing were a pro sports playoff series in the 2-3-2 format.

Which means that now you're back in OUR house, Readers! Game six, baby! A sellout crowd in the arena, our discourse community basically shut down, all eyes on the Gesture--and just kind of comma-splicing fragments at this point, so damn excited!

BOOM BOOM shoof. BOOM BOOM shoof. BOOM BOOM shoof. BOOM BOOM shoof. Singing: We. Will. We. Will. Rock you.

Sing it!

We. Will. We. Will--[Oh! Interrupted by shockingly tasty guitar lick!] All right! [Super-70's guitar solo! Shredding as if to end all shredding!]

You have one week. And every time we say something tough like that, you solve it in an afternoon, so who knows what will happen? That's why we play the games, baby!

Monday, December 8, 2008

Gestures in Literacy #5: "It is a great day for bi birthing"

Gesture #5 is over. Here is how it played out:

Chris said...

"It is a good day for bike riding", I guess, although maybe there's a reading that doesn't require taking "b" for "d".

I'm glad you don't think "it's a good day for berating" your readers for solving these quickly.

December 4, 2008 6:16 AMDelete

The PSU Writing Center said...

"It is a good day for bike riding" is not correct. The contest is still open.

December 4, 2008 11:58 AMDelete

Miss Malaprop said...

"It is a Jar Jar for tie fighting"
That might be wrong, but I'm guessing it has something to do with Star Wars and Gungans.

December 6, 2008 4:16 PMDelete

Matthew said...

"IT is a gift bag
4 bi birthing"

is a comment on California's recent passage of Proposition 8. as well as Prince Rogers Nelson's support of said Prop.

December 8, 2008 1:33 PM

Each of those is an excellent answer, and Miss Malaprop's would probably be very popular with the young-man-about-the-schoolyard demographic that produces some of our gestures. But the winner is "It is a gift bag 4 bi birthing," because that is the best answer.

Though it's not correct. But it kind of looks like it is, right? And maybe it should be.
Chris, we know you are disappointed. But it's not a good day for bike riding. "It is a great day for bike riding."

And so, in a shocking turn of events, it is actually PDX Writer Daily that wins, and that now leads Gestures in Literacy by a score of 3 games to 2. They say a series doesn't start until the home team loses, so let us claim that since we thought you Writer readers would solve this in twenty minutes, and yet since you didn't solve it at all: now we have a series. You are going to have to take it one Gesture at a time, and leave it all on the floor next game, so that you can claw and scrape your way back in, & etc.

Game 6 will be posted soon. And fair warning: we are bringing the thunder. It will be the most almost-readable-but-totally-not Gesture we have ever unleashed on this fair blogspace. Cower. Tremble. enter the Gesture!

Poverty Holidays Gift #6: Coupland's "Life After God"

Hello there, down-on-your-luck present-searcher. In installment six of PovHoGeeGuy, we reach back to a book recommendation one of the nuts, bolts, and mitochondria that make up PDXWD made way back in May: Douglas Coupland's story collection Life After God. As the mighty mitochondrian wrote:
The greatest moments of Life After God occur when Coupland puts words to those many thoughts we've all had about where we are versus where we hoped we would be. "When you're young, you always feel that life hasn't yet begun--that 'life' is always scheduled to begin next week, next month, next year, after the holidays," and it's true. It's tempting to consider, for example, what may have happened differently had this reviewer read that line earlier in life.

But alas, that's not the way it works, and Coupland is wise to that fact. It's so difficult to heed the advice of other, older people because there is a belief innate to us all, especially in our youth, that everything is really yet to come. We don't need to worry that much because it doesn't quite count yet, right? "But then," Coupland writes, "suddenly you're old and the scheduled life didn't arrive. You find yourself asking, 'Well then, exactly what was it I was having--that interlude--the scrambly madness--all that time I had before?'"

The book is available at Powell's, bargain-hunter. See you tomorrow.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Gestures in Literacy #5: Speed Round!

Forwarded to us by a reader with an alert eye, Gesture in Literacy #5 was rescued from annihilation at a local elementary school. We expect you'll solve this Gesture quickly, so consider GiL5 a sprint.

And we promise not to complain this time about your proficiency. Though maybe we're just in a good mood because we've got a doozy of a Gesture for you already lined up for next week...

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

From the Impoverished Holidays Gift Guide Library: Rilke's "Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge"

Welcome to the Down-on-My-Luck Token of Holiday Acknowledgment From the Library Gift Guide #3! Today, a mitochondrian in the PDXWD corpus recommends Rilke's Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge:

Compared to many writers who publish fifty volumes in a lifetime, Rainer Maria Rilke's body of work is a slender one: several volumes of poetry, a book of letters, and one book of fiction. But the power of Rilke lives in his ability to say everything by saying nothing. More widely-known for The Sonnets to Orpheus or The Duino Elegies or Letters to a Young Poet, fewer discuss his Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge. Some critics have mistakenly called this book autobiographical because of its fragmentary nature, reliance on memory, and Parisian setting, but it is no more autobiographical than is Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises because it is set in Spain, or Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury because of its roots in the South. If you were to construct a span of Rilke’s life out of the events that occur in Notebooks, you would be left only shards of a broken mirror reflecting the image of the reader rather than the writer.

What is the novel about? One shouldn’t read Rilke looking for suspense or plot driven narrative anymore than one should read Proust and then be disappointed four hundred pages in to learn that Odette simply wasn’t Swann’s type. Rilke’s Notebooks has no ostensible plot, but rather fluidly moves through memories of Malte’s childhood, a woman he loved from afar, the ghost of things in the world, and the passing of time. Early on, Malte asks himself:
I sit here and am nothing. And never the less this nothing begins to think and thinks, five flights up on a grey Parisian afternoon these thoughts: Is it possible, it thinks that one has not yet seen known and said anything real or important? It is possible that one has had millennia of time to observe and reflect and note down, and that one has let those millennia slip way like a recess interval at school in which one eats one’s sandwich and an apple?

Yes, it is possible.

Is it possible that despite our discoveries and advances, despite culture, religion, and science, we have remained on the surface of life? Is it possible that even this surface which might still have been something, has been covered with an incredibly tedious material, which makes it look like living room furniture during a summer vacation?

Yes, it is possible.

Is it possible that the whole history of the world has been misunderstood? Is it possible that the past is false, because we have always spoken about its masses, just as if we were telling about a gathering of many people, instead of talking about a person they were standing around because he was a stranger and was dying?

Yes, it is possible.

Despite Malte’s affirmation here, ultimately, no questions are answered. The threads that hold together Rilke’s tapestry of fragments are death and love, but we are asked to forget everything we thought we knew about either of those terms. For Malte death is everywhere, not simply at the end of life in the room of his dying uncle, but in the faces of strangers on the street, in the wall of a waiting room, and in the memory of an ancient burnt-down mansion. Love, real love, exists only in solitude and in the independence of both the self and the beloved, for love used otherwise becomes almost a violence. These themes are familiar in many of Rilke’s works and are discussed in Letters to a Young Poet, but here they take on the scope and solidarity of objects and events in the world that speak because of their simplicity of existence.

It is a danger to think that because this book is small that it can be read quickly. Rilke’s descriptions should be carried in one’s pocket for a long time, read in solitude, read in crowded places, and re-read again because of the sound and sense a passages gives, and then, like a painting in a museum that one passes by many times until one sees it, the book will begin to speak. To quote Wallace Stevens, “There is a nothing that is and a nothing that isn’t.” Rilke’s prose draws from his ability to see both.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Poverty Holidays Gift #2: Luc Sante's "Kill All Your Darlings"

If you buy this Verse Chorus Press collection of Sante's brilliant and entertaining essays on New York, smoking, H.G. Wells's Ouija board, and other sundry topics, you get to feel three nice things: the joy of giving an excellent book; the joy of supporting one of America's talented living writers; and the joy of supporting a publisher located right here in Portland. (And who knows what else you might be doing or feeling at the time you buy or gift the book? Maybe you'll be feeling even more than three nice things in that moment. We don't know you. We don't know how you buy or give books. Who's to say?)

We claimed some time ago that we had read this book and liked it so much that we were soon going to write a proper positive review about it. Then we never did. That is because we are doing this blog on. The. Clock. People! But in that original post we had spoken positively about the book, and now here we are, singing its praises again. So maybe we actually have given that positive review. Right? Kind of? Totally.

Or, if that's not enough, Peter Schjeldahl of The New Yorker called Sante “One of the handful of living masters of the American language, as well as a singular historian and philosopher of American experience.”

Tomorrow: Probably some other book or something. God, whose idea was it to do this every day of the holiday season? This was a bad idea! But like all of our bad ideas, we will see this through to its full badness. If that's even a word. Whatever. [muttering something] [complaint-sounding muttering]

Monday, December 1, 2008

PDX Writer Daily brings you: The Poverty Holidays Gift Guide

As a service to the community, this December we offer you, our loyal readers, the PDX Writer Daily Poverty Holidays Gift Guide, wherein each working day of December, we resolve to offer you one inexpensive literary gift suggestion.

You may consider the Poverty Holidays Gift Guide to be PDX Writer Daily's gift to you this holiday season. This means that this very feature of this very blog--perhaps, indeed, this very post--is already the best poverty holiday gift, inasmuch as the cost to us, for giving you this gift, is: zero dollars. And yet the true value of this gift, it can truly be said, is: also zero dollars.

But we now forge ahead to the useful information. Let us turn to page one of our lovely, virtual catalog, where we find:

A Coffin for Dimitrios by Eric Ambler

In a recent review, an anonymous cog in the PDXWD machine said of this novel of spies and intrigue:

All of the characters are intelligent, and when they seem not to be, we find we have been misdirected. For example, there's this passage where one of the characters is getting into some purple prose, saying stuff like "International big business may conduct its operations with scraps of paper, but the ink it uses is human blood!" -- and just as the character bangs his fist on the table, and the reader begins to get really sick of the character's histrionics, the narrator comes in and tells us that the protagonist, too, "could never quite get over his distaste for other people's rhetoric." We grin. We feel like we are on the side of the good, intelligent character and the wise narrator, and we are all scoffing discreetly together at this blowhard character.... at which point said character says: "Of course I was exaggerating. But it is agreeable sometimes to talk in primary colors even if you have to think in greys." And we are forced to agree, and we see that we have been silly to condemn him.

The beauty of a novel like A Coffin for Dimitrios, it seems to us, is that it can satisfy so many different reader-types on your holiday-style list. Your Tom Clancy-loving uncle will be pleased to read about Dimitrios's coffin. Your very, very, liter-ary girlfriend will feel hip and cool carrying the tome wherein we learn of the coffin intended for Dimitrios. If you give it to your friend, you might be able to steal it back when he or she is done. And your mom? Well of course your mother appreciates anything you get her. You know that.

Though she hasn't heard of this writer. And this book looks kind of weird. Is this another one of your weird books?

Hold it. Sorry. That's not your mom. That's some other mom. Not yours.

Anyway. A Coffin for Dimitrios is available at your finer local bookstores in lovely, flexible paperback.

And don't miss the next installment of the Impoverished Special Time of Year Present List! Many times you've thought, "I, too, like Ahab, would enjoy raising and owning my very own white whale, but certainly that's not possible." Wrong you are, my friend. With the right tank and the right breed of whale, evenings of Melvillean cetacean enjoyment lie no further than your local pet store. Details tomorrow!