Wednesday, 13 January 2010
New York to Buenos Aires
I saw two films that week, one, Up in the Air (based on my friend Walter Kirn's tragicomic novel), the other, Tom Ford’s cinematic debut as director of A Single Man. I’ve always liked Isherwood in general and this novel in particular, despite its reliance on a standard feature for gay fiction, i.e., that the main character dies at the end or at least comes to no good. Still, the characters are credible, and we don’t get the expected panoply of bar flies, transvestites, sadists, serial killers, convicted felons, furtive married men, or bitchily affected snobs that the popular imagination seems to regard as typical of contemporary gay experience. True, there is a student seduction of his teacher (the “single man” of the title), which doesn’t appeal to the ethicist in us, no matter how warmly depicted. But the flashback scenes in which the protagonist recalls his life with his late partner were unmelodramatic and touching. (Novelists and film-makers, take note.) It’s a problem that every “minority” faces, and I well understand African-Americans’ dislike of unvarying depictions of their experience in the guise of maids, stepinfetchits, thugs, prostitutes, addicts, convicted felons, hammed-up clowns, homewreckers and what not.
A blog post here back in October mentioned an evening spent with a group of young New York poets called “the Wilde Boys.” Since then I’ve begun to know several of the participants, including Alex Dimitrov and Zach Pace, both now completing their MFA’s at Sarah Lawrence, and Adam Fitzgerald doing the same at Columbia. Alex came by for coffee one afternoon during the week, I had lunch with Zach in the East Village, and then there was an invitation from Adam to attend his birthday party at the Café Loup. The party turned out to do double duty as a celebration of a new magazine Adam and two friends have launched. Maggy, it's called, and Adam had the inaugural issue in hand at the long table where he and friends were making birthday toasts. I met his co-editors, the poets Alison Power and Alina Gregorian, and several other friends. The history of poetry since the late 19th century is closely associated with little magazines; this one seems to be well on its way to becoming a bright light on the scene.
The change in title and URL of my blog makes for a real or only apparent coincidence with the arrival of the new year and my first trip to the Southern Hemisphere. I’m writing this in Buenos Aires, in high summer. I’ll be here for seven weeks, staying in the old neighborhood called Palermo, where Jorge Luis Borges spent part of his childhood and youth. Apart from the fact that I revere Borges, the idea of making the trip probably originated when Sam Hamill told me a while back that he’d begun coming down every year. He says that what he saves on heating costs for his house in Port Townsend, Washington, subsidizes the annual trip to relatively inexpensive Argentina. And, needless to say, avoiding cold weather is a health boost for anyone over sixty-five. He and Gray were waiting for me when I arrived, both looking well and content, Gray’s hair cut shorter now than the way she used to wear it, and attractive in her summer cottons. There have been several leisurely meals together, and it’s a stroke of luck that these friendly guides can make suggestions and issue words of caution about a city entirely new to me. In the coming days I’ll begin to talk about the sights and sounds I encounter, and thoughts about Argentine literature and art, or about “la vida de los porteños” [the life of the people of Buenos Aires].