Category Archives: kultur

A Poem by GM Quinte

International Call

You can see in the early light of dawn
Facing the noise of the so-called Twilight
Bright stars through the perilous fight, and a wide range of his lines and
Flow because we are bold, fluttering looking at the wall?
The rockets red light, and bombs, and the explosion in the air,
Evidence throughout the night that we learned he was still;
O Star Spangled Banner still wave
Fluttering bravest of the land of the free world?

(“The Star Spangled Banner” first stanza, Google translated from English to Chinese to Russian to Korean to Arabic to English.)

“It’s a kind of totemistic thing, you know.”


A long time ago, when I was just a tadpole, I read a book called V. by Thomas Pynchon, and it helped me decide–along with The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster and Another Country by James Baldwin–to set aside my premed studies and pursue writing exclusively.

And so way back then, when I saw a first edition of V. at Brentwood’s (now gone) Vagabond Books, with a torn and faded dust jacket, I saved up the $100 to buy it.

I couldn’t really afford it, and I doubted it would grow much in value, considering the condition, but it’s a purchase I have never regretted.

a 40 oz for 40 yo

40oz by dontoine
40oz, a photo by dontoine on Flickr.

I’m turning 40 on Friday.

And so naturally I just spent a few days scouring the web for a good image of someone pouring out a 40 oz of malt liquor, as a sort of memento mori.

Or, I should say, as a variation on the old school pouring of libations in memory of the dead, a tradition that goes back at least as far as Ancient Greece. You might remember it from 1990s rap videos.

I was shocked (shocked, people!) at the dearth of images. And so I made my own. Feel free to borrow it, if you like.

One for me, one for my homies…

Why I Love Your Book Group

One of the pleasures of publishing a book is getting to hold a reading at your local bookshop. Family and friends show up, along with a few fans, former students, and, if it’s been promoted well, a handful of curious strangers.

You sell books, which is nice. And no matter how modest your advance, or how small your pin on the publishing map, a good bookstore reading can make you feel, for one night, like your writing habit has resulted in something other than narrowing career options, crushing debt, and a dwindling social life.

But, to be frank, it’s only a blip.

The thing you’ve labored over for years, and are now trying to sell to as many people as possible, has become a ten or fifteen minute excerpt, a brief Q & A, a cover, and a title page held open for signing.

The real experience, the real purpose behind all of it only starts when someone gets home and opens the book and starts reading, alone.

Just like you wrote it, alone.

It could happen that night, or in two years, or a hundred, or never.

The book party, the reading, the signing–it’s the flashy liftoff moment. Everyone gathers to watch the thing take off. Then what? It’s in space, doing its thing.

Sometimes you hear back; usually you don’t.

I was recently invited to participate in a book group hosted by Diane Leslie, at Diesel, a Bookstore in Brentwood, for my novel The Interloper.

It had been a while since I’d done an Interloper event, so I brushed up on the book, tried to remember what I’d had to say about this book four years before.

I even went so far as listening to an old recording of the Q & A from my Prairie Lights Bookstore reading. It didn’t really end up helping, preparation-wise. Rather, it only highlighted how the book group wasn’t like a reading at all.

There were no vague questions about premise and background, no need for the usual meta-narrative about how the novel came to be, or the elevator pitch, or awkward introductions of fragments to be read. No fragments to be read.

Everyone had already done the reading, and everyone had something to say about it–about the content of the book, the characters, the language, the plotting. The real stuff. They had tough questions, too, only some of which I could answer. Half of them even disagreed with me on a fundamental “what-if” scenario. (What if CJ’s brother had never been killed? Would Owen have been able to lead a semblance of a normal life?)

This wasn’t selling, this was engaging with readers.

And it was awesome.

Blammo! New Tab!

I’ve added a tab over there on the right (“NEIGHBORS’) to spruce things up around here.

Now Starring…

  • The temporary home of poet G.M. Quinte, currently residing in his cousin’s guesthouse and on my server. Stunningly opaque free verse.
  • The Slow Paparazzo. His motto: “Right Place + Wrong Time = 100% Fame.”
  • Jean-Jacques Arsenault’s inspirational self-published coffee table book, Shopping Carts of Panorama City
  • there’s something for everyone*

    * except fans of BOOKS.

    On the back page of today’s LA Times Business Section, there’s an ad for the upcoming (and generally awesome) Festival of Books. It features an illustration of a bunch of books flying overhead as some kids try to reach up to grab them (and fail, ha ha). The main line is “Don’t let this festival fly by,” which seems like a fairly effective reminder for the “damn, I missed it again this year” crowd.

    The line below is “There’s something for everyone.”

    Well, almost everyone.

    Pictures running down the right side, from top to bottom:

  • Julie Andrews, circa 1901.
  • Dylan & Cole Sprouse, twin brothers best known for playing twin brothers named Zack & Cody.*
  • Maria Shriver, first lady of California, Starbucks frequenter.
  • DaShaun Morris. “In the darkness of the streets, my childhood is murdered…. I am reborn — a gangster.”*
  • Padma Lakshmi, hawt, often scantily clad, ex-wife of Sir Salman. Author of memoir cookbook Easy Exotic (aww, snap!), among others.
  • Ben Barnes. Handsome actor. Prince Caspian.*
  • * required googling on my part…I had no idea.

    Something for everyone?

    Um, except maybe fans of BOOKS.

    I get it. You’ve got to draw people in, appeal to the general public. And celebrities are good for that. A headshot strip of (to pick some random examples) Marvin Bell, Patricia Hampl, Jay Parini, and Tod Goldberg (gotcha!), might warrant a second look in Poets & Writers, but in the Business Section would be greeted by a 1/3 second WTF on the way to the big blue bin.

    So, you might ask, what’s my damage umbrage?

    It’s the copy. 450 + authors, it says, and then goes on to list:

  • Julie Andrews: Yeah, I saw her picture already.
  • Ben Barnes: Ditto.
  • Mike Farrell: B.J. Hunnicut from M*A*S*H*, political activist.
  • Tommy Lasorda: Baseball, spaghetti sauce, Slim Fast, tirades.
  • Padma Lakshmi: Pictured (right).
  • Kenny Mayne: I am sorry, but who? Oh, this guy. Wait, who?*
  • Maria Shriver: Pictured (right).
  • Aly & AJ: Authors? WTF????*
  • and more: I hope so!
  • * again, thank you google.

    There is exactly one name on this page best known for writing books: Ray Bradbury. Basically the most popular American writer of sci-fi / speculative fiction still alive. He’s a huge draw. The line outside his reading snakes all over creation. If there has to be only one “author-author” named in the ad, Ray Bradbury’s a good choice.

    But why is there only one “author-author”?

    Wouldn’t FANS OF BOOKS want to see who else is going to be there? Some more names from the website’s author list: TC Boyle, Gore Vidal, Maxine Hong Kingston, Gay Talese, Walter Mosley, Aimee Bender, Richard Price, Tobias Wolff, Robert Pinsky, Jane Smiley, Sherman Alexie.

    For the record, I’ve got no beef with the FoB’s catholicity. I’m moderating a panel on Surf Culture, after all. The ad is weak not because it tries to target a bunch of different niches, or even because it features “celebrities” for whom books are simply part of a merchandising/marketing package.

    It is weak because it ignores the FoB’s ostensible raison d’etre: the celebration of good writing and good books.

    Or is my head in the clouds on this one?