Thar She Blows!
The following poem was written by the great George Meyer, who, according to The New Yorker, is currently at work on a novel. You can hear him read this poem on this CD, which was recorded in Los Angeles in 2003 at Beth Lapides's Un-Cabaret show "Say the Word."

Desperate Flapper

Shivering, thrashing,
Quivering, lashing,
Gnashing, and twisting askew;
Flapping profanely,
Snapping insanely:
Car-mounted red, white, and blue.

Whipping along
On a white plastic schlong,
The buffeted banner of dreams.
Fluttering madly,
Jittering badly,
Down San Vicente it screams.

When was our flag
So rapidly dragged?
When was Old Glory
So undulatory?

"Hey there," says Flaggy,
"I hate to be braggy,
But Americans don't run in fear.
You're not gonna budge us,
Flip us over and fudge us,
'Cause all of our stuff is here.

"You envy our freedom,
Our films by Hal Needham,
Like Hooper and Cannonball Run
And Stroker and Smokey.
You lie like Pinocchi-
O if you deny their good fun."

Now Flaggy's battered,
Ripped up, and tattered,
Trailing its star-spangled dreds,
Looking bedeviled,
Wild, and disheveled,
Just like Anne Heche off her meds.

Can't bear to chuck it
In the trash bucket.
That almost seems like a sin.
Ah, hell, let's face it --
It's time to replace it:
The new Lakers pennants are in.


Craft Superstar

I first encountered the work of Steven Millhauser about 10 years ago, and, ever since, he's been my favorite living writer of fiction. He's rather a mysterious fellow. When, in 1997, his novel Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer won the Pulitzer Prize, the New York Times reported the story under the headline "Shy Author Likes to Live and Work in Obscurity." Despite his penchant for spotlight-shunning, he has, over the years, granted a handful of interviews, all of which are well worth reading. There's this one, with Jim Shepard, for Bomb; this one, for Transatlantica; and this one, for failbetter.com.

Here's how his conversation with Jim Shepard begins:

Jim Shepard: Perhaps as much as any American writer I can think of, you've been drawn to the novella. Are there aesthetic advantages and disadvantages peculiar to the form? Does it even have a form?

Steven Millhauser: Is it possible not to be drawn to the novella? Everything about it is immensely seductive. It demands the rigor of treatment associated with the short story, while at the same time it offers a liberating sense of expansiveness, of widening spaces. And it strikes me as having real advantages over its jealous rivals, the short story and the novel. The challenge and glory of the short story lie exactly there, in its shortness. But shortness encourages certain effects and not others. It encourages, for instance, the close-up view, the revelatory detail, the single significant moment. In the little world of the story, many kinds of desirable effect are inherently impossible—say, the gradual elaboration of a psychology, the demonstration of change over time. Think of the slowly unfolding drama of self-delusion and self-discovery in Death in Venice—a short story would have to proceed very differently. As for novels: in their dark hearts, don't they long to be exhaustive? Novels are hungry, monstrous. Their apparent delicacy is deceptive—they want to devour the world.

The novella wants nothing to do with the immense, the encyclopedic, the all-conquering all-devouring prose epic, which strikes it as an army moving relentlessly across the land. Its desires are more intimate, more selective. And when it looks at the short story, to which it's secretly akin, it says, with a certain cruelty, No, not for me this admirably exquisite, elegant, refined—perhaps overrefined?—delicately nuanced, perfect little world, whose perfection depends so much on artful exclusions. It says, Let me breathe! The attraction of the novella is that it lets the short story breathe. It invites the possibility of certain elaborations and complexities forbidden by a very short form, while at the same time it holds out the promise of formal perfection. It's enough to make a writer dizzy with exhilaration.

Brand Identity

Russell Brand talks about comedy and his autobiography, My Booky Wook, on this week's episode of The Treatment.


Regarding Henry

Thierry Henry is one of the greatest soccer players in the world. When he played for the English Premier League club Arsenal, the club went on a 49-game unbeaten streak, the longest unbeaten streak in the history of English professional soccer, which dates back to 1888. The previous record was 42 games. A Premier League season is 38 games. Arsenal's unbeaten streak included the entire 2003-2004 season. Soccer is a team sport, and Arsenal had several other great players at the time, but none was better than Thierry Henry. Like Tiger Woods or Michael Jordan or Louis Armstrong, he was simply an order of magnitude better than everyone else and everyone knew it. With catlike cunning and elegance, he'd dazzle and surprise, besting the world's best defenders and scoring astonishing goals.

Henry left Arsenal in 2007 to play for what is probably the best soccer team in the world right now, F.C. Barcelona, a team that, if they manage to beat Manchester United in the Champions League final in Rome next week, will have achieved a historic treble, proving themselves to be the best team in all of Europe after having already proven themselves to be the best in their league (La Liga) and, by winning the Spanish Cup, the best in their country.

Freddie Ljungberg left Arsenal the same year Henry did. Ljungberg had been with Arsenal since 1998, a year before Henry joined the club. Ljungberg now plays for my hometown club, Seattle Sounders F.C. On August 5, at Qwest Field, the Sounders will play a friendly against Barcelona. That means that in Seattle this summer, unless something unforeseen should happen, Freddie and Thierry will once again be sharing a soccer pitch.


Update: Barcelona did indeed beat Manchester United in the Champions League final, beat them 2-0, becoming the first Spanish team to achieve a continental treble.


Update: On August 5, Freddie and Thierry did end up sharing a soccer pitch. Here they are embracing before the game.


To the Manor Airborne
George Meyer has written another funny essay for The New Yorker:

The Privileged Few

Good afternoon. This is your pre-boarding announcement for Flight 505 to Milwaukee. All first-class and business-class passengers, passengers needing special assistance, and families travelling with small children may now board the aircraft.

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The rest of you? Beat it.


That's George's second New Yorker piece. His first, a little something called "My Undoing," was published almost exactly two years ago, in the May 28, 2007, issue.