Hola, Hello, Bonjour and Bienvenue

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What a wee little part of a person’s life are his acts and his words! His real life is led in his head, and is known to none but himself.

                                           — Mark Twain

Greetings!

I’m artist and author M.T. Karthik, known as Karthik or MTK

and though I agree with Twain, I’ve put together this mid-career archive of many of my acts, thoughts and ideas. Here you’ll find writing and documentation of many things I made and performances I gave until the age of 50.

Existence is beyond our capacity to define,” is something Lao-Tzu is said to have taught,

and though I agree with the great Chinese teacher, my active, human, mortal mind generates absurdities, abstractions and concrete expressions and I travel, attempting to organize it all, to put it all together, to label and name parts of it and to understand how others name and label parts of it. I study the taxonomy of species around me.

In the four decades covered here, I circled the world four times, living for years mostly in California – the San Francisco Bay AreaLos Angeles – but also in New York City, New Orleans, Austin, San Antonio, Japan, India and Taiwan.

I have not landed. I don’t own property. I am mostly of nowhere and homeless. Neither my birth nation nor the nation to which I am naturalized cares for me – I am unknown in both. I’m most like ash on the wind or a stone skipping across a lake. But I’ve attempted to weave an expression of some things I saw and understood, for unknown readers.

To that end, I wrote everything on this site – the poetry, essays, fiction and reviews – and produced all the video and photographs (all the images in the headers above) and, in 2017, occupied the node mtkarthik dot org and removed advertising so you can peruse free of distractions.

You can follow me currently on my Youtube site where I post videos.

Thanks to all visitors. You are always welcome.

I’m happy The MTK Independent is visited by people all over the world. Feel free to translate and post elsewhere, and if you use anything I’d appreciate a credit as M.T. Karthik or MTK.

If you want to say hello or comment otherwise here’s a contact form:

 

 

 

 

Love,

M.T. Karthik

Oakland, 2012 and San Antonio, 2017

Book Review: Midnight Mass by Paul Bowles

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I believed I had read all the fiction Paul Bowles ever published in these 18 years since his death. The discovery last week of the short story collection Midnight Mass, with the familiar Black Sparrow paperback binding – earthy tan with green and purple block print – was thus a very emotional experience.

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Immediately I was flooded by memories and thoughts of the man I considered my favorite author from the time I discovered him in ’87, the summer I got my first tattoo, until his death at the end of the last century.

Instantly, too, in that powerful way that great literature connects us with the world we are in, I remembered myself experiencing his works: where I was, the effect it had upon me. The empowerment and awe I felt after finishing one of his short stories or novels: blown away.

Paul Bowles was a huge influence on me as a writer and thinker. He was one of the most powerful allies in my struggle with immigration to the United States and in philosophical discourse in Europe. That he wrote from the subconscious as described by his wife, Jane, was the most romantic and amazing concept to me when I was young and I longed to be able to do that – not to understand it, but to do it.

The utter irrationality of the Western project, the neoliberal insanity we have all endured so long, was exposed by Bowles and then swiftly and violently shattered by the reality of life among the desert people of North Africa. In other works, a slow and seemingly disconnected series of events between locals in a village would be described with such lucidity and simplicity that the differences in thinking between east and west were made suddenly crystalline in the end – hits you like a koan.

The collision of culture was total and instead of Coca-Cola and the Golden Arches mowing down the village, the puny, minuscule westerners melted away in the heat of the Saharan sun, driven mad.

Midnight Mass is the last collection of Bowles’ short stories published by Black Sparrow and features at its center the elegant, drifting, rootless novella Here To Learn, a gorgeous story about a girl from North Africa who just keeps moving buoyed by her beauty, her wit and her ability to learn quickly how to negotiate the West.

The collection starts with the titular story, Midnight Mass, one of Bowles’ incredible parties; the Nazarenes careening around in their expatriated stupor of drinking, carousing and complaining, the locals bursting with romance only to become suddenly something else – the change of face.

There are stories about the locals and their fantastic, sometimes circuitous logic and its culmination in a kind of basic justice. There are tales about the utter undoing of our perception of a shared understanding of this world.

At the Krungthep Plaza is an amazing story set as the U.S. President is due to pass through a certain North African village. The machinations behind the scenes and the conflicts between locals, expats and the security teams are expertly related, culminating in a wild effusion of emotions that I can only described as angst against the way things are now.

It’s all just so great. I miss Paul Bowles.

(sigh)

Paul Bowles, 18 years after he died, was the best writer I read this year.

 

 

 

Plug/Unplug and The First Contact Project

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Between 2005 and 2011, I collected interviews with people about their first experiences with a computer (The First Contact Project) and

wrote a book about our intersection with technology and how I grew up with it and how it became a part of policy and society (Plug/Unplug)

Here I mix them together for a final expression.

7 Years Filling WP Sites

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Post Script

On December 6th, 2017 I received this:

7 Year Anniversary Achievement
Happy Anniversary with WordPress.com!
You registered on WordPress.com 7 years ago
 which corresponds to my first WP site
covering the 2010 NCAA March Madness Men’s Basketball Tournament.
The coming out year for the mid-majors culminating in an epic Final between Duke and Butler, if you enjoy college basketball or want a reminder of that March Madness, you should read my takes.
Anyway, it lets ya know how many years I’ve been filling WP with content.

Review: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

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I’d never read a single word of Jennifer Egan’s work until Manhattan Beach, released by Scribner this month, despite that Egan has published four previous novels and won the Pulitzer and a National Book Critics Award for A Visit From the Goon Squad (2010), a novel that has been acclaimed in effusive terms for its inventiveness and originality in all quarters of the literary community.

Everything I read about Goon Squad makes it seem like my type of book. Weird, futuristic, made-up languages; character-POV-shifting chapters … I don’t know how I missed it. Trust me it’s on deck.

Though I’m late to the party, I think it might give me a different perspective on Manhattan Beach. I read it as a straightforward, third-person novel set in the mid-20th century.

Nearly all the early reviews of this novel mention how different it is from Jennifer Egan’s previous work and in specific, often quite vociferously, from Goon Squad. For an author who has been exploratory and inventive with form, Manhattan Beach is a contrast, a historical period piece.

But it turns out Egan worked on this novel considerably longer than any others. She told Alexandra Schwartz in a long form interview for the New Yorker last week she had been working on it for the last 15 years, struggling to put together a story “anybody is going to want to read.”

I recommend it.

Manhattan Beach is an extremely well-researched and fast-paced story set predominantly in Brooklyn near the end of World War II that transports the reader to New York City in the mid-1940’s and fills it with presence and character. Egan has crafted an intriguing family story with which to reveal the city and the times, with particular focus on life in and around the Brooklyn Naval Yards.

The protagonists Anna Kerrigan and her father Eddie, and their family, friends, colleagues and enemies carve out their lives cast in the meager circumstances of a wartime economy that we know from history is coming to a close. Manhattan Beach takes us on a richly detailed tour of the corruption and culture of Brooklyn, New York, the Mafia and the Navy in a very particular period in history: the handful of years before the end of the war, between Pearl Harbor and the fateful flight of the Enola Gay.

It’s an American story about a Brooklyn family and how their life is changed in a tumult. The war hangs at a distance and we see the city – and in particular the Navy Yard and its surroundings as most young, able-bodied Americans are being sent abroad to fight.

Anna is a tremendously likable character and her journey at the Navy Yard to become a diver is a fascinating and well-detailed arc that weaves through the mystery and intrigue of her father’s disappearance and the nefarious underworld of the gangster Dexter Styles.

Egan’s style is crisp, well-researched and yet poetic when necessary. Balanced in approach, one doesn’t get a nostalgic feeling for this period, but rather a view of it as if through a veil. The story unfolds, characters slowly discover things and we get to see something we haven’t been able to see.

The sea – riding upon it, staying alive in it, walking in divers gear and trying to see  through it – plays a significant role in this work and yet it, like the war in the distance functions more as a powerful medium for the development of the characters.

By contrast, the plumbing of Egan’s characters – their thoughts and emotions buffeted about by war, crime and sea change – is lucid and clear. Egan is excellent at interior monologue and reflection by her characters. She gets at rooted feelings with wide-open eyes. This often results in gorgeous passages.

The story includes a brilliantly imagined voyage on a merchant marine vessel named the Elizabeth Seaman. The nod to Nellie Bly goes unmentioned, a subtlety at which Egan is graceful – letting history fall into place where it belongs.

Egan captures the longing and isolation of Eddie Kerrigan, in his stateroom 47 days at sea, suddenly gripped by the notion that he has forgotten the face of his beloved –

” – could hardly picture her anymore. Faraway things became theoretical, then imaginary, then hard to imagine. They ceased to exist.”

Then, almost immediately, a torrent of thoughts pour through him about the first time they met, about her children and their times together. Finally he concludes,

“It was all still there, everything he’d left behind. Its vanishing had been only a trick.”

The story here, of a child and father separated by fateful decisions who alternate between avoiding and seeking one another out, is woven expertly and filled with surprises that emerge, unfolding until events feel inevitable. That’s good storytelling. The characters have a weight and realness to them because they endure and grow. There are deaths and children and gangsters and action.

But the story takes place in a different America, a different New York and it’s glaring on occasion. Characters deliberate over ethically conservative matters with earnestness but it never escalates. How women are perceived, how abortions and unwanted children are handled; these matters are described but never raise up into full blown issues. Racial hierarchies are described with the vernacular of the day: “micks,” “wops” and “Negroes” but racism never emerges enough to be addressed as an issue. It’s just how things were is the feeling one gets.

Manhattan Beach faithfully portrays some Brooklynites, in particular Irish-American, Italian-American and Naval families during World War II and an era of transition from a more sexist, racist and somewhat naive past just up to the doorstep of a future we live in today.

I review without spoilers, so I’ll conclude by saying Manhattan Beach is a great book. New Yorkers will love it and Egan will be helped during awards season by that. But more, I enjoyed Jennifer Egan’s language – lovely turns of phrase – and her character’s introspections. She has managed to create a compelling tale from immense research.

3/5 stars

 

 

 

 

What You Can Find Here

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Hi everybody,

On this page you will find:

a series of Book Reviews I wrote in 2017

documentary footage of the RPRZ – Rocky Point Recharge Zone, an ecosystem I’ve been studying

and below those posts, a blog that stretches back all the way to my youth.

The ABOUT page explains how this archive of much of my work as an artist and author came into being in 2012.

I’ve at last paid to remove the ads and this update brings the archive up to age 50.

Use the category cloud, search tool, tabs and archives to check stuff out.

Best,

MTK

Final GBC Reader – Thanks for Following

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The Giants are having an historically terrible year. So it seems a good time to end this project and call it an archive.

Thank you for reading Giants Baseball Corner and engaging with me these seven years from August 2010 to August 2017. It has been a lot of fun.

This site‘s now my archive of the San Francisco Giants during their historic run to three World Series Championships in five years. It was an incredible time to be a Giant fan – filled with relief and joyous wonderment.

Every word, image or thought herein was produced by M.T. Karthik, your MC and host.

Go Giants!

Love,

MTK