1. Charlotte Brontë – Jane Eyre
2. William S. Burroughs – Port of Saints
3. Denis Johnson – Resuscitation of a Hanged Man
4. Mary Gaitskill – Veronica
5. William T. Vollman – The Royal Family
6. Jean Genet – Our Lady of the Flowers
7. Dennis Cooper – Period
8. Clive Barker – The Books of Blood (I-VI)
9. Anne Sexton – Transformations
10. Eileen Myles – Cool For You
11. Chester Himes – Lonely Crusade
12. William H. Gass – The World Within the Word
13. Kevin Killian – Shy
14. Dodie Bellamy – Pink Steam
15. James Baldwin – Giovanni’s Room
Elle magazine, December 2011
The Believer, November/December 2011
The New Yorker, November 14, 2011
Gutted by Justin Chin
Harmless Medicine by Justin Chin
98 Wounds by Justin Chin
Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories by Wanda Corn & Tirza Latimer
Modernest Cuisine Volume 4 by Nathan Myhrvold
Who’s that guy in the fuzzy, nondescript photograph? Just Ferran Adria, THE WORLD’S GREATEST CHEF who ran El Bulli, THE WORLD’S GREATEST RESTAURANT. This isn’t my hyperbole, either! Both the man and the place were crowned The Greatest by publications, people, and governing bodies who oversee such titles–multiple times. Last night, I sat in a sold out Castro Theatre to listen to The World’s Greatest Chef on his book tour. Something like 1400 people were there, shelling out $30 to hear this guy and he didn’t even pick up the book during the 90 minute event.
You never ate at El Bulli, in all likelihood, and you never will.* El Bulli, located on the coast of Catalonia, Spain, was open only 6 months of the year, costs upwards of $450 for the tasting menu, held a 3-star Michelin ranking for years, and had literally millions of requests for its 8,000 seats available per season. El Bulli closed on July 30 of this year so that Adria can build the El Bulli Foundation on the restaurant’s very spot. And, presumably, move on to a more financially lucrative career than running so costly a restaurant.
LAMENT. Like the scent of Guerlain’s original Eau de Cologne Impériale made for Napoleon III or watching stifled, jealous glances thrown at Gertrude Stein by Alice B. Toklas, I’ve missed out on something that the internet cannot recreate. Who knew there still were such things??
How often do we listen to someone who is definitively the greatest in the world at something? I asked this question of my girlfriend who picked me up after the reading. She laughed off and ridiculed my intellectual queries into watching Yo-Yo Ma or, I don’t know, some other undisputed greatest. The best part of Adria’s talk was that he started off the lecture insisting, ‘I know nothing about cuisine or cooking.’ He gave endless examples: if there are over 500 varieties of citrus and this is but one type of fruit which is but one ingredient, how can a person say they are an expert at cooking and cuisine? I saw the Queer Food For Love’s undisputed food genius Yasmin Golan outside the Castro following the event and she said it was really cool to hear such an un-American response to our chef-frenzied times. This guy was not about ego at all. Two things, Adria said and his interpreter held up her fingers: 1. We know nothing about cuisine. 2. Everything is subjective.
Besides the aforementioned descriptors, El Bulli and Adria are known for deconstructionist cuisine though he balked somewhat at the ‘molecular gastronomy’ label. (Molecular gastronomy chef, Grant Achatz, owns the Chicago’s famous Alinea restaurant and did a 3 week stint at El Bulli early in his career which sent him in this new direction.) Adria and El Bulli have many food and cookbooks written with or about them but his newest book, the one that I received signed last night at the Castro Theatre is The Family Meal: Home Cooking with Ferran Adria. Worth $30, bitches!
Adria told the crowd over and over his simple idea that created profound change: if cooks eat well, they cook well. Unlike simple leftover dishes at most restaurants (including fine dining, Michelin ranked), El Bulli served beautiful, delicious 3-course family meal for the 70+ staff each day. The cookbook includes those recipes: a month’s worth of 3-course meals, aimed at home cooks feeding people for less than $5/person per meal.
The book is exactly what I want in a cook-book. A clear, concise shopping list and instructions for making simple sauces and stocks to then freeze and use over the course of the month. (And permission to use bullion cubes if one must!) Each 3-course meal can be made in a few hours, tops. Many dishes can be made in no time at all and all are really fucking impressive. The instructions include a shopping list, cooking timeline, and are broken down into methods for 2, 6, 20 or 75 people!
I inhale food books and cookbooks the way you nerds do the same with The Hunger Games (next on my list.) Writing about food, though incredibly fashionable these days, is no simple task because of the inherent problems in describing the senses well. We cannot all be Diane Ackerman. The exciting thing about Adria’s new cookbook is the recipes themselves are so fascinating because -like the 40-course tasting menu at El Bulli- I would never have come up with the combinations, techniques or core belief that I can make this food on my own.
Call me if you want to try out some recipes together!
*Me neither. If you somehow ate a meal there, please contact me, you lucky jerk!
Tania Katan won me over forever when, after crushing her competition in round 1 of San Francisco’s Literary Death Match, she extended her hand to her squashed opponent and -just as he humbly reached toward her- she drew drew back in the Welcome Back, Kotter tough guy hair swipe. Humiliation for the guy! I was smitten! She’s an excellent writer, a stellar comedian, and a terrific performer. We’re excited to have her join us on the playa!
TK: Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. I HEART this book so much!
TK: I didn’t know it was a queer retreat. Well, in that case…the queer part.
TK: The initial process of writing involves vomiting up as many memories/ideas/themes as I can, then picking through the vomit to find chunks of clarity, stories, and threads that start to connect the pieces, make them part of a larger whole. Standing up in front of an audience involves vomiting before going on stage. So, I guess I’m really proficient in throwing up.
TK: The best thing about Arizona is that it invests no money in education. Na-da. That’s Spanish for Arrest me. This means that we get government officials who are uneducated, which means that we, the residents of Arizona, feel way smarter then we ever done!
TK: I’m not a planner, so I love being with women who are serious about the future. Whether it’s a One-Year Supply of food, or prepping for the Celestial Kingdom, I like my ladies hungry and thinking ahead. Oh, and you should see what my Mormon lady can do with a bonnet; there is nothing sexier! Check it out:http://www.lisasettegallery.com/a-ellsworth.htm
I had the pleasure of meeting Andrea Lawlor in April 2011 during the Sister Spit national tour’s U Mass Amherst stop. Andrea read a poem she’d recently written in response to Ali Liebegott’s call-for-submissions for her upcoming “Faggot Dinosaur” journal. Andrea surprised us with the paleontological-correct poem and blew us away with the reading!
She is the creator of Pocket Myths, a series of zines based on mythology. This is a massive undertaking and the edition entitled “The Odyssey” is comprised of both an impressive art and print zine with an accompanying DVD featuring shorts by 24 filmmakers tackling Homer’s epic. WHOA, Mary.
I can’t wait to talk Modern Jackass astrology with her!
I plan to work on my novel, which is about a young queer shapeshifter in the early 90s. My dream is to see the end of this novel, to write my way there. I’m also working on a series of poems (see here <http://mipoesias.com/2011/04/05/andrea-lawlor> and here <http://www.scribd.com/doc/53201841/OCHO-31>), a sort of busman’s holiday from the novel. I’m pretty excited about poetry right now, after taking workshops this year with Dara Weir and James Tate.
What’s interesting about a queer artists retreat?
I love being around queer people! It’s so relaxing. And of course I’m excited to talk about writing with queer writers. For instance, how are other people addressing issues of representation, gender, language? In a group of queer artists, there are higher odds of finding people who are facing similar challenges, who share culture and values.
People around the Bay Area are OBSESSED with Dani Leone’s food column “Cheap Eats” in the San Francisco Bay Guardian and with good reason. It’s smart, weird and unusual food writing that makes me feel listless and want to lay down on the grass and think about how food shapes my thought processes. I love that Dani said at a RADAR Reading that even though she is a longtime food writer, she never has any idea where to eat when she’s out with friends.
RADAR: Dani! What are you working on at the Lab?
Dani Leone: I’m working on a series of short stories with one common tie: each features a positive, entirely likable male character who is lucky, tough, brilliant, badass, great at sports, or heroic in some way, and who — coincidental to the story of the story — just happens to love a trans woman.
DL: Mark Twain. I grabbed “The Innocents Abroad” off a friend’s shelf almost literally on my way out of the country (I’m in France) and it’s been good to lose myself in some excellent English after a long hard day of understanding very little.
I LOVE LOVE LOVE listening to Danny’s novel-in-progress of a busted kid’s attempts to run away with the circus and, if you’ve heard him read from this work, you do too. He’s one of 3 Danny/Dani writers coming but we were smart and split them up among the two retreat sessions. Anyway, Danny is also a hairdresser and using this insider knowledge to write something that promises to be brilliant AND scathing!
RADAR: Hi Danny! What are you working on at the Lab?
I am excited to meet Noel Alumit not only because his acting credits include Beverly Hills 90210 and The Young and the Restless though I am titillated in the purest sense by these facts. He’s also written great award-winning books including his debut Letters to Montgomery Clift which is such an outstanding title! We adored reading a sample from the work he’s bringing to the retreat! It doesn’t hurt he’s a Capricorn like yours truly.
RADAR: Hi Noel, what are you working on at the Lab?
Noel: I’m working on my third novel, A Remarkable Boy. It’s a story about a spiritually gifted youth who disappeared in Los Angeles. I’m exploring themes like faith, dedication, and AIDS.
R: What are you reading these days?
NA: I’m reading books about atheism and humanism. A character in my book doesn’t beleive in God. I’m reading God is not Great by Christopher Hitchens and Good without God by Mark Epstein. They’re for research purposes, but they’re also fascinating conversations about morals, religion, the dangers of fundamentalism.
R: What’s interesting about a queer artists retreat?
NA: Well, I think some of the themes I’m exploring are important to the queer community. AIDS obviously devasted us, and it’s still on ongoing discussion. However, for alot of straight people, I think, it’s still a foreign conversation. When I tell queer people I work in AIDS, they’re like, Cool. When I tell straight people I work in AIDS, they look at me like: why?
I’m also looking at religion in my work. I encounter people of faith who honestly can’t see anything wrong with religion. Who think that religion has done no wrong. Queer people have been badly hurt by it. However, I also know queers who are uplifted by it. It’s a very complex issue, and I’m looking forward to exploring it.
R: What’s the LA writing community like?
I like to think that I’ll be adding lofty ideas to the retreat, and encouraging us to go higher, further.
Sarah Fran Wisby’s got a great voice in both her writing and her live readings. As you glean from her photo, she’s got a really tough, wry, seen-it-all-before-which-shaped-my-excellent-sense-of-humor style. She is sort of unflappable which I personally admire because I am so often flapped. Her first collection of work Viva Loss is -to quote one of Andy Warhol’s high school yearbook descriptions- genuine as a thumbprint.
RADAR: Sarah Fran, what are you working on at the Lab?
R: What are you reading these days?
SFW: Well, first of all, I want to thank RADAR for its inclusive definition of queerness, which has room for hasbians like me. Secondly, the great thing about being marginalized as an artist is the freedom to create without the pressures of success! That’s a snide way of saying something that is both bitter and sweet: when who or what you are is not valued, propped up by society, you must carve your own path with others like you. There is certainly a lot of fun to be had in the margins, on and off the page.
I need Leopoldine Core to finish the book that she submitted as her work sample in her Lab retreat application so I can BUY IT AND READ IT MANY TIMES. While I inhaled her 25 page work sample, I felt deeply understood and connected with her writing in a manner that made me feel like she were writing my brain down for me so I could know myself better. Such is her ability to capture the complex subtle weirdnesses of relationships and our awful human psyches.
RADAR: Hi Leopoldine, what are you working on at the Lab?
Leopoldine Core: I’ll be working on my collection of stories. I have this big crazy file of fragments. Just bits of dialogue, descriptions of rooms and bodies. So I’ll be bringing a big santa sack of tiny papers to arrange.
LC: Generally I’m more of an obsessive than a carnivore when it comes to reading. So I’m not hungry for the next book, I’m hungry for the same books over and over. Right now I’m re-reading Let It Come Down by Paul Bowles. It’s a masterpiece. He’s a looser miniaturist than Jane Bowles, so there’s a speed to his delivery I really enjoy. And there’s
a character in this book who is obviously based on Jane, so I feel I’m entering the private life they shared. Someone should really write a book about how their work overlaps.
LC: There’s a great street artist in my neighborhood who signs their work: Bortusk Leer. The work doesn’t look very good online (I just googled “Bortusk Leer”) but live its gorgeous, all these ghoulish sea creatures. On 10th street between avenue B and C, there’s an especially striking lobster, pink with blue eyes and a yellow smile. Also, someone is walking around writing YOU WOULD in really smart places. I think this is old news. But who is this person? You are so
cool, whoever you are. My friend Miranda found YOU WOULD written on a square white plank leaning against a trashcan. So she took it home and tacked it to her wall. It looks really great.
LC: The Monks, Useless Eaters, Dinosaur Jr, Gram Parsons. Thurston Moore’s new album Demolished Thoughts is really beautiful. And I love Jay Reatard, every stage of his music. What a fucking genius. His melodies are so good that I can sit listening to all the crackly live shows on youtube for hours. I have a little bit of a crush on him actually. His hair. And his life. He was poor growing up so he used a pickle bucket as a drum, obsessively recording songs in some little
shack instead of going to school.
Lastly, I love the new album Bones by Fenster. Until very recently, I was proofreading at an office and of course hated it but they let us listen to music and that was nice. I listened to Bones on repeat for DAYS and haven’t been the same since. It’s such a transporting set of songs. You can listen here: http://fenster.bandcamp.com/album/bones