Thursday, March 24, 2005

We [heart] Ren.

Once tried to get Lawrence "Ren" Weschler to write a book, back when I had a job that included among its responsibilities tasks that didn't necessarily squash one's self-respect every second of every day. The dude was nigh impossible to get in touch with; to this day, years later, I have no idea whether any of the letters reached him. So it surprised me recently to see that Ren is practically spray painted over the web. You can't sneeze and not hit a link to the man. Which is all good, because he wrote one of the great books of recent years, Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder, about the Museum of Jurassic Technology. Like Robert Caro's The Power Broker, with which it shares no other traits, it represents the perfect welding of form and content, of author and subject. It's a book that, as you're reading it and after, changes your experience of the world; the air around you seems to have a higher concentration of charged ions. Nothing seems quite as it was before. It's a book you press on people who otherwise don't want to be bothered by your mindless blatherings. I'd consult my copy for choice excerpts, but I gave it away, amid much drool and blather, to my mother-in-law.

Anyway, via Panops, noticed that Weschler held court at last fall. (Transom appears to be an organization that fosters creative approaches to public radio, and aids producers and Ira Glass wannabes in getting over [the transom], and on the air.) The entire conversation between Ren and a number of listeners makes up a complete Transom Review. It includes a number of longer pieces from Weschler, including a bit on why he can't write fiction, but the best item is a twenty-minute radio story Weschler filed from the MJT (scroll down to A Tour of the Jurassic; link amid two other audio downloads). This probably represents the best chance I have of (virtually) visiting the place over the next twenty years, and rekindled the fascination I felt on first reading the book. Definitely worthwhile.

Around the same time, Weschler also found enough spare moments to have a conversation with Jim Ruland, proprietor of The God Particle. There's not a lot of overlap with the Transom stuff, and LW goes into his early writing career in much detail, including an amusing Matt Groening anecdote.

We look forward to the day Weschler's mammoth collection Vermeer in Bosnia is published in paperback, and the day soon after when someone gives it to us.


Blogger Chilly Jay Chill said...

Finally had a chance to read through these links -- really fantastic stuff! Thanks for compiling them. Weschler offers some wonderfully practical and thought provoking advice about writing (strikes me as the anti-Dave Hickey in this regard, given your friend's experience). Makes me want to read all his books, too. And grab a copy of Omnivore. An interesting sidenote is that Breyten Breytenbach, who was profiled in "Calamities of Exile" and featured on one of the radio clips, was my teacher at NYU. And Weschler was on hand last year to discuss Breyten's visual art with him at an NYU forum.

11:27 AM  

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