No doubt that the Vivan S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series — which kicks off Feb. 8 with a visit by poet and Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics co-founder Anne Waldman — is excellent and well-tenured and adventurous and such. But there can always be more.
And thus we have the inaugural series of visiting writers and speakers coordinated by the Efroymson Center for Creative Writing, the newly-constructed home for all things creative writing on the Butler campus. The series includes visits by novelists (graphic and otherwise), a local game designer and a literary blogger. All events, free and open to the public, will take place at the Efroymson Center, 530 W. Hampton Drive. Here's the lineup, with possibly out of context quotes from each writer:
Feb. 15, 7 p.m. — Karen Maezen Miller: Memoirs of a Zen priest
"The view that there is higher ground apart from the place we occupy is based entirely on ignorance. It perpetuates fear and, worse, enlarges it. There is only one place. The one you’re in. You can never leave, but you can turn it inside out. Do you want to live in friendship or fear? Paradise or paranoia? We are each citizens of the place we make, so make it a better place.
At the grocery store, give your place in line to the person behind you.
Ask the checker how her day is going, and mean it.
On the way out, give your pocket money to the solicitor at the card table no matter what the cause.
Buy a cup of lemonade from the kids on the sidewalk stand. Tell them to keep the change." (from Miller's 2010 memoir, Hand Wash Cold: Care Instructions for an Ordinary Life)
March 6, 2 p.m. — A conversation with novelist Nicole Krauss
"Where are you, Dov? It’s past dawn already. God knows what you do out there among the grasses and the nettles. Any moment now you’ll appear at the gate covered in burrs. For ten days we’ve lived together under the same roof as we have not for twenty-five years, and you’ve hardly said a thing. No, that isn’t true. There was the one long monologue about the construction down the road, something about drainpipes and sinkholes. I began to suspect it was a code for something else you were trying to tell me. About your health, perhaps? Or our collective health, father and son’s? I tried to follow but you lost me. I was thrown from the horse, my boy. Left behind in the sewage..." (from Krauss's 2010 novel, Great House; Krauss will make a more formal presentation March 6 at 7:30 p.m. in the Atherton Union Reilly Room as part of the Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series)
March 22, 7 p.m. — Ariel Schrag and the graphic novel
March 28, 7 p.m. — Maud Newton and the art of the literary blog
"Of course, Wallace’s slangy approachability was part of his appeal, and these quirks are more than compensated for by his roving intelligence and the tireless force of his writing. The trouble is that his style is also, as Dyer says, 'catching, highly infectious.' And if, even from Wallace, the aw-shucks, I-could-be-wrong-here, I’m-just-a-supersincere-regular-guy-who-happens-to-have-written-a-book-on-infinity approach grates, it is vastly more exasperating in the hands of lesser thinkers. In the Internet era, Wallace’s moves have been adopted and further slackerized by a legion of opinion-mongers who not only lack his quick mind but seem not to have mastered the idea that to make an argument, you must, amid all the tap-dancing and hedging, actually lodge an argument." (from Newton's 2011 New York Times Magazine article "Another Thing to Sort of Pin on David Foster Wallace")
April 3, 9:30 a.m. — Q&A with Maile Meloy
"I was seven and living in Los Angeles when Japan surrendered at the end of World War II, and my first vivid memories are of how happy and excited everyone was. My parents took me to a parade on Fairfax Avenue, where my father hoisted me onto his shoulders and sailors kissed girls in the streets. In school we made little paper flags to wave and learned that an evil force — two evil forces — had been defeated. We weren’t going to have wars anymore." (from Meloy's 2011 YA novel, The Apothecary; Meloy will make a more formal presentation April 3 at 7:30 p.m. in the Atherton Union Reilly Room as part of the Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series)
April 14, 2 p.m. — Book club: Jhumpa Lahiri (a faculty-led discussion concerning Lahiri's work; Lahiri will read April 16 at 7:30 p.m. in the Atherton Union Reilly Room as part of the Vivian S. Delbrook Visiting Writers Series)
"After her mother's death, Ruma's father retired from the pharmaceutical company where he had worked for many decades and began traveling in Europe, a continent he'd never seen. In the past year he had visited France, Holland, and most recently Italy. They were package tours, traveling in the company of strangers, riding by bus through the countryside, each meal and museum and hotel prearranged. He was gone for two, three, sometimes four weeks at a time. When he was away Ruma did not hear from him. Each time, she kept the printout of his flight information behind a magnet on the door of the refrigerator, and on the days he was scheduled to fly she watched the news, to make sure there hadn't been a plane crash anywhere in the world." (from Lahiri's 2008 novel, Unaccustomed Earth)
April 27, 7 p.m. — Narrative in a virtual world: John Gosney
We are quoteless for Gosney; here's the official description for the event: "Local game designer and cultural theorist John Gosney will discuss the intersection of technology and contemporary storytelling. Gosney is the author of Beyond Reality: A Guide to Alternate Reality Gaming and Blogging For Teens. He received an M.A. in English from Butler University and currently is faculty liaison for the Learning Technologies Division of Indiana University."
Here's the catch: The deadline to sign up is Feb. 1, so get on over to worldbooknight.org post-haste. Volunteers will be selected based on their pitch for where and why they're participating and to whom they plan to give books.
Those selected by World Book Night poohbahs will be notified by mid-February if they're in or out. Big Hat Books has a pick-up party planned for April 16 from 6-9 p.m.; book givers will then have until April 23 — UNESCO's World Book Day, as well as the anniversary of Shakespeare's birth and death and Cervantes's death — to distribute their lot. No monetary investment is required on the part of volunteers, who must be aged 16 and older and able to pick up and distribute books.
Here's the list of the 2012 World Book Night titles.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson
I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
Friday Night Lights by H.G. Bissinger
Kindred by Octavia Butler
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
Little Bee by Chris Cleave
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Blood Work by Michael Connelly
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
Peace Like a River by Leif Enger
A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
Q is for Quarry by Sue Grafton
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
The Stand by Stephen King
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
The History of Love by Nicole Krauss
The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri
The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien
Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
Just Kids by Patti Smith
The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Being a new resident of Indianapolis and a Los Angeles refugee, I've noticed that folks around here are very religious. They’re religious about football, drinking, their lawns — and sometimes even God. My opinions on the first three are pretty solid, with only God remained “undecided.” My formative years were spent as an atheist, until I realized that what bothered me about “religions” was their claim to truth. Being an atheist seemed like committing the same error as those religions so confident in their belief; merely saying “Nuh-uh” to the faithful’s “Yuh-huh” feels less than constructive.
Behold! My commitment to agnosticism continues apace with Hair of the God, an ongoing series of church and sermon reviews. As with much of my life, this began as a joke and became a true truth investigation. I’m heading into the wilderness in search of peace and love, but mostly understanding. Starting with church seemed like a good a place as any. Hope to see you there.
Rev. Stephen Sinclair, Unitarian Universalist Church of Indianapolis
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ (out of 5)
Have you always wanted the sense of belonging and shared faith that comes with belonging to a church, but without all the churchiness? Let the speed with which you beat a path to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Indianapolis (615 W. 43rd St.) cause your route to erupt in flame, thereby lighting the way for others.
Full disclosure: As a child, my mother took me to a Unitarian Universalist church a few times. I remember being bored, resentful of missing Sunday morning cartoons and confused by the “Jesus Without the Jesus” message. One morning I locked myself in the bathroom and declared, "I'm not going, and you can't make me!" A mere 20 years later I found myself pulling up a hand brake at the UUI and casting an eye at the significant volume of colorful bumper stickers in the parking lot.
Maybe it’s because “Unitarian” makes me think of “Librarian,” but I was not expecting this to be the noisiest and most vibrant group of people. Behold! They were! To kick off the service we had a band in full swing, a crowd alive in song, and a minister clapping and bouncing around like a child who is next in line for the big ride. The Parish Minister, Rev. Stephen Sinclair, is 58 years old, but he carries the eager enthusiasm of spirit outside time.
I loved this place. A lot of churches discuss the cultivation of diversity and acceptance as polite concepts, but this house of worship is in full flower. Lesbians in the front row, the gay minister with an admitted affinity for AA, a cabaret-style song break ("Is That All There Is?"), and “black drag queen wisdom” from a documentary (Paris is Burning) to highlight the week's theme of personal acceptance. This place had it all — and a daycare to boot.
Here, the plate was not passed around at the end of the service like an afterthought. Giving happened right at the beginning and was framed by a palpable sense that these people were all truly building something together by choice. No pulpit, no pews, no pretense. From behind a music stand, Rev. Stephen laid forth his ecstatic exhortation for wild and precious understanding. His words came easily, naked and fun. The man is a natural comic. He owns his truth, without a need to possess yours. Sweet Lordee Geezus, did I appreciate the hell out of that.
I laughed in this church—out loud, frequently, and with a lot of company. We laughed together when an associate told us we could sit, and then said, “Whoops! Could you all stand again?” We cried together as Rev. Sinclair listed the names and ages of service people who died in the last week in Afghanistan, and reminded us of the unknown names of the dead Afghani men, women and children. The simple bravery of this remembrance pushed on my insides, and again I was not alone. This minister is a natural force, and the service he provides is quite a ride. One need not seek fellowship here, for it has been found.
The night kicked off with the Warning Belles, Naptown Roller Girls' B squad, defeating Windy City Roller Girls team The Fury, 150-115.
In the "varsity" match, the Tornado Sirens overcame a slow first half to roundly defeat the Midwest Mega-Team, an irregular outfit comprised of members of several Midwest teams, by the score of 131-41.
Slideshow: Naptown Roller Girls vs. Midwest MegaTeam
Scenes from a January 2012 Naptown Roller Girls doubleheader at the Pepsi Coliseum.
TURF: IDADA Art Pavilion opening night (slideshow)
TURF, IDADA's installation art pavilion, opened with a ticketed party Jan. 13. The pavilion remains open — and free — through the Super Bowl.
At last IndyFringe has a venue it can all its own: The organization announced last week that it would be acquiring and making improvements to its longtime St. Clair Street theater space. Call it a celebration then that Intimate Opera of Indianapolis is using the newly-owned Fringe space to present two operas, "A Childhood Miracle" and "Three Sisters Who Are not Sisters," both with music by veteran Hoosier composer Ned Rorem (b. 1923). These are "fringe" operas in that they are not well known, are short and require minimum production effort, are in English and directed at younger audiences who are driven by newer arts genres and who don't wish to pay a ticket premium. Intimate Opera fills that bill nicely.
"A Childhood Miracle," the one I attended, lasts about 45 minutes, with lyrics by Elliot Stein and features a generic family with a mother and father, an aunt and two sisters, the latter dominating the singing. Of the two: Peony and Violet (flower children?), sung respectively by Danielle Steele and Ellen Denham, Steele delivers the most controlled voice, but they blend well in duet. Being lonely and desiring more attention, they build a male snowman in their front yard; he comes to life, giving them much cheer and comfort. The snowman is mellowly sung by Lucas Wassmer. Their father comes home. Jealous of his girls' attention to the snowman, he brings him into the house where he melts away. The girls run away - and apparently no one lives happily ever after.
Those sensitive to cold might have found the small auditorium a bit on the chilly side, especially with the front door open in the half hour before the production started. Hopefully this is a startup issue that will be resolved by the Jan. 13 and 15 productions.
Jimmy Fallon will head out Indianapolis for Super Bowl festivities. Fallon will be recording a special Super Bowl edition of his show live from the Hilbert Circle Theatre in Downtown Indianapolis.
The show will be broadcast February 1-3 and 5 at 12:35 am. Attendance of the live recording is free and open to the public, however tickets are required.
Recording will take place February 1-3 at 4pm and February 5 after the Super Bowl, following the broadcasts of NBC's "The Voice" and the late local news. The public can apply for tickets at Jimmy Fallon's website. Tickets will be announced on January 23.
NUVO: How does your family background — growing up in Germany and Ecuador to a Chilean mother and Austrian father — inform your work?
Vanessa Monfreda: My Chilean mother always spoke Spanish to me, and my Austrian father, in German. Naturally, sometimes that was a little confusing and could lead to occasional identity crisis. I ended up in Indy in 1997. After I had been living in Quito, Ecuador, I really missed the winters and four seasons, which I experienced growing up as a child in Bergisch Gladbach, a small town in Germany.
NUVO: Can you unpack your artist's statement for me: "I focus on using discarded materials or whatever is around me...I recycle not just out of environmental reasons, but also economic reasons and availability." Are there aesthetic reasons as well for why you use discarded materials?
Monfreda: Living the “recycle way” became more integrated into my life when my husband and I bought an abandoned fixer-upper in 2009. We jokingly refer to our neighborhood as So-So-Bro (the hoods of Sobro). It’s amazing how an average family discards trash. I collect objects like lids, toilet rolls, milk caps, cardboard boxes, pasta boxes and everyday items that have an aesthetic for me, which I might incorporate into an assemblage or mixed media piece. During my childhood in Germany I was influenced by Sesame Strasse (Sesame Street), “flower power,” Kraftwerk, Joseph Beuys, the German lifestyle of recycling and living green; and later, in middle school, by the art of collage. I started using found materials when my family moved to Quito in 1986. There were few art stores and the materials were very expensive.
NUVO: What drew you to paper mache?
Monfreda: Three years ago I decided to make a handmade piñata out of paper mache for my son and daughter's birthday party. I instantly became hooked. The materials of paper mache are simple and inexpensive: flour, old newspaper, water and glue. Anybody can do it — even a kid. Soon enough our living room was invaded by imaginary friends' piñatas, which I decided to sell at INDIEana Handicraft Exchange, Handmade Promenade and Homespun: Modern Handmade. Children seem to respond best to my colorful paper mache creatures. Adults' reactions seems to be usually the same: “Oh, I did paper mache while I was in grade school!” I am still experimenting with the many possibilities of paper mache. I am still exploring whether it could be more than just a craft or folk art.
NUVO: How did Criaturas come about?
Monfreda: After I met ceramist Lori Leaumont and papel picado artist Beatriz Vasquez-Schlebecker, we decided to host a three-woman show at the Earth House Collective where each artist would present on the theme of “criaturas,” or "creatures" in Spanish, using our respective mediums. Our main mission was for this First Friday show to be kid friendly; that’s why we chose to include a piñata bash.
The publication of this 925-page behemoth by prolific Japanese author Haruki Murakami was a sensation of the 2011 literary world.
It took me until 2012 to finish it.
The task was not without its rewards, but it sometimes felt like toil, if for no other reason than adjusting the sheer weight of a hardback book on my stomach or in my lap.
I first fell for Murakami with his 1997 book, The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, a mysterious and magical tale of a passive protagonist, Toru Okada, who loses his wife’s cat and in the process of looking for it, loses his wife as well, falling down a Tokyo proverbial rabbit hole. I proceeded to read a number of his novels, including A Wild Sheep Chase and Norwegian Wood (soon to be a major motion picture!). And you can hardly pick up a New Yorker without stumbling into one of his short stories.
His work explores surrealistic territory; one part science fiction (without the science), one part fantasy (without the dragons). It can be enraging at times, as you grow impatient for answers; but the results are quite worth the struggle.
But when the equation includes schlepping around a 900-page book, stakes are raised. And, for a while at least, 1Q84 is as beguiling a work as any Murakami has published.
The story follows two distinct narrative paths; one is Aomame, a 30-year-old woman who — in the year 1984 — discovers a parallel world, a world she dubs 1Q84. Meanwhile, an aspiring novelist (and passive protagonist) named Tengo finds himself pulled into 1Q84, as he gets too close to a dangerous religious cult. Aomame and Tengo were elementary schoolmates, and so the novel spends some 850 pages keeping them apart.
The beginning of the book reminded me of Philip K. Dick’s Flow My Tears the Policeman Said, and Dick and Murakami share a similar stature in the world of letters: eschewed by the literary establishment, but embraced by readers — and Hollywood producers.
Dick is not the only shadow looming over this book. I couldn’t help but think of Don DeLillo’s massive tome, Underworld. Underworld, like The Wind Up Bird Chronicle, was published in 1997, and at 827 pages is nearly as colossal as 1Q84.
DeLillo’s Underworld did not win the National Book Award that year. Inexplicably, Charles Frazier’s Cold Mountain won; I daresay Cold Mountain has not stood the test of time, while DeLillo’s book is now considered a masterwork of contemporary fiction.
Thing is, DeLillo’s work since Underworld has been, well, underwhelming. I was concerned at the time that this author — who had already crafted such extraordinary books as White Noise and, my personal favorite, The Names was in danger of blowing his literary wad with Underworld, and his small, terse novels since then have reinforced that concern. It’s not just the size of his novels, of course; it’s the overly familiar terrain — language and imagination.
And don’t get me started on David Foster Wallace and Infinite Jest. One can surmise DFW blew his allotted existential wad on that one.
I don’t want 1Q84 to be the 62 year-old Murakami’s blown wad, because it is no Underworld-scale masterwork.
Well into the second half of the book, I began to skim entire passages. Some chapters seemed downright gratuitous; not much happens at all. Especially irritating are chapters focused on a third major character, an antagonist named Ushikawa, introduced two-thirds into the narrative. It’s unknown why Murakami spends so much time straining to build character nuances into Ushikawa. He could have easily trimmed his narrative by spending less time on Ushikawa.
Even more irritating is the way Murakami shorthand-names his characters, like The Dowager, The Professor and Ponytail, or the magical creatures in the story, the Little People. It’s one thing to rely on these naming conventions in a traditional-sized narrative, but 900 pages of reading about The Dowager and Ponytail and Buzzcut becomes downright silly.
Ultimately the title of the book tells all. It’s… well, it’s awkward. Who knows how to pronounce it? It’s supposed to evoke Orwell’s 1984, and the Q stands for the word “question,” but the “1” looks like an “I” and thus looks like “IQ” — um, Intelligence Quotient? Does someone in the book have an IQ of 84? Nope.
Fascinating, compelling and sometimes annoying, 1Q84 ends up buried beneath its own weight.
NUVO: Why do you think people fear/shy away from opera?
Intimate Opera tag team: Most people tend to think that opera is strictly performed in grand halls, in foreign languages, over hours and hours, about topics they can’t relate to. Normally, people have very little exposure to opera and their only opportunity to see it performed by true professionals is initially intimidating.
NUVO: What are you doing to address that fear?
IO: We remove opera’s fear factor by performing pieces that were written in a non-threatening style. We perform mostly English works which typically range between 45 minutes to an hour. We eliminate massive sets and costuming which often distance the audience from the action and emotion on stage. Most importantly, our troupe members are very close to the audience so that they are more “real”, not just big voices on a stage. They are people who make connections with our audiences before, during and after performances.
NUVO: Is anything lost in the attempt to make a performance more user-friendly or less imposing to the average listener?
IO: Most Intimate Opera productions are short in length, for small casts and small spaces. Nothing is lost because they are performed as they were intended. When we choose to perform a larger opera, we reduce it to its essence, only cutting those parts which distract the audience from its core. Nothing is lost because we aren’t cutting just to make it shorter. One of Intimate Opera’s goals is to introduce variety into the opera/music scene in Indianapolis because, just as there are different genres of movies and books, there are many different styles of opera.
NUVO: What other contemporary opera do you enjoy and might you perform in the future?
IO: We know we'll be a fixture in Indianapolis when we perform Dominick Argento’s Postcard from Morocco, but that is a larger piece, at 70 minutes, than we are looking perform right now. We are currently casting for Maya:Illusions, which utilizes various works by Gustav Holst. While we will never turn completely away from foreign language pieces by commonly known composers, we are drawn to contemporary, still living composers who write in English.
[A+E] Sports + Recreation
[A+E] Festivals + Parties
[A+E] Classical Music
[A+E] Sports + Recreation
[A+E] Visual Arts + Museums